There are particular characteristics that encompass themselves inside an individual who once graced the Highest of Seven Hills. No matter the occasion, a Rattler can be spotted a mile away. Whether it be the confidence in their stride, their personal mission to represent the underrepresented, or the family feel you get from them, even in your first encounter. These qualities all exist in the iconic and hype (literally, but we’ll get to that later) FAMUan, Keanna “KJ Rose” Henson.
KJ has coached some of the most influential talent in the entertainment industry including, Lil Nas X, named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential people on the Internet. Lil Nas X was also nominated for a record breaking 6 Grammy awards, which include one for “Best Music Video,” where KJ was the young star’s performance coach. She has consistently made an impact on young creatives, encouraging them to find their voice and empowering them to know the endless possibilities that await them.
As the founder and creator of The Rose Effect, KJ is a performance and H.Y.P.E. coach to countless entertainers and mega corporations, including Adidas, BET and Google. H.Y.P.E. is not just a state of being, but an acronym that perfectly captures KJ’s personal mission, which beautifully means to “HONE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.”
Before KJ began coaching some of Hollywood’s hottest talent, she had first-hand experience in the spotlight. KJ got her start in Hollywood as a singer, where her unforgettable sound and impossible to ignore presence landed her on the stage with some of the greatest performers of our time. As a singer, KJ has performed with P. Diddy, Carl Thomas, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson and more.
A conversation with KJ felt like a miniature masterclass for success; she shared jewels about the exciting and unique direction that her career has taken throughout the years. “Had I not experienced the journey as a performer, I would not understand the language of the artists I work with now. God makes sure that it all counts.” KJ shared, in reference to the organic pivot that her career took as she leaped from performer to performance coach. “The coaching was a natural progression of my artistry.” As a performance coach, KJ shares a special connection with her clients because she can clearly recall what it feels like to be on the other side.
Not a stranger to the spotlight, KJ made her talents known years before hitting the Hollywood scene. Known as Keanna Henson while at FAMU, she competed in numerous pageants winning many titles. In her campaign for “Miss Junior Attendant” she captivated the campus with her slogan “use the power of the pen and write Keanna Henson in.” KJ would have been crowned Miss Junior Attendant, had a large number of students not mistakenly misspelled her name when casting their votes; she instead won first runner up. She learned some performance tips early on that still remain with her, “this is a KJ fun fact: do not lock your knees, or you will pass out,” she jokingly said as she recalled the time she fainted while competing in FAMU’s Candidate’s Pageant.
Being active on campus allowed KJ to fully revel in her outgoing and high-spirited nature. When auditioning for Epicurean, the on-campus modeling troupe, she was selected to be the makeup artist instead. The reason for this, was due to her “dancing strut” down the runway, which may have been a bit foreshadowing. KJ accredits her fortitude and tenacity to being an initiate of the Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Her involvement on campus and relationships with her peers have leveraged themselves on and off of The Hill. As classmate and friend of mega-producers Will Packer and Rob Hardy, KJ landed a role in the duos classic film Trois, just another testament to the abundance of talent that exists at FAMU.
As every Rattler knows, a true FAMUan honors their privilege and their duty to pass on knowledge as they receive it. After speaking with KJ, here are some gems that she so gracefully dropped for us all to treasure.
Why did you choose FAMU? The first answer is that it was imperative that I attended SBI (FAMU’s School of Business and Industry.) The second answer is that I needed to go somewhere that my parents could not make surprise visits and Florida seemed like a safe bet!
Why are HBCU’s important to you? HBCU’s are built to embolden, challenge and champion us as students and individuals – it allows you to reconcile your character daily – it’s where I understood very early that I’m surrounded by a surfeit of masterful geniuses – it humbles you, pushes you, and allows you to explore other areas of your dopeness until you can become distinguished by your talent.
What is your daily mantra? Or what do you use to keep you motivated and focused every day? 1.) I was not born for mediocrity. 2.) “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time, it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” – Sydney Harris
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Don’t abandon yourself! Pre-approve yourself…you possess all that you need to fulfill your assignment, trust your instincts because they have merit! Your opinion counts and you are the validation!
With the focus on diversity and inclusion, what role do you feel Black creatives play in this industry? My role is to make a conscious and deliberate effort to partner with and educate other young Black creatives that I encounter in my industry. It is also important that I acknowledge and welcome their uniqueness while making sure they are equipped to demand the same from others as they matriculate throughout their respective field.
How has being an alum of FAMU aided in your successful career? There is an uncanny level of encouragement that FAMUans provide one another. Mere Support does not cover it – you truly have family that want to see you win – I learned how to be Courageous, A Team Player, and a Force!
What advice would you give to students considering FAMU? Your FAMU experience is based on your degree of investment – be proactive – do things that stretch your comfort zone – navigate your community by building and cultivating relationships. Don’t waste time nor the opportunity!
What advice would you give to young Rattlers? Learn to continuously make pivots – don’t get locked into anything because you fear starting over…don’t even get locked into a “way of being” if you desire Change, it’s ok to Change for the better! Pivoting is not failure, every time you recalibrate – it gets you closer to identifying your “sweet spots”. Each shift will assist you with figuring out what makes you special and what you can truly offer the world. Make choices that push you to explore new things about yourself every single day!
When KJ isn’t coaching Grammy nominated artists, she is working as a Casting Associate at TriDestined Studios alongside Rattler Alumni. Her fellow BADST Soror, Nikaya “ND” Brown, functions as the Chief Executive Officer. Greg Anderson, serves as the Executive Producer and Veronica Nichols as a Producer. Rattlers are truly taking over Hollywood!
By Chelsea Drew Maloney