Written by: Featured News

K.I.S.H. Magazine Exclusive Interview with Karen Arrington!

KISH:Tell us About You

Karen Arrington is Winner of a 2020 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for her book Your Next Level Life:  7 Rules of Power, Confidence & Opportunity for Black Women in America, Founder of Miss Black USA, the first scholarship pageant for African American women, Goodwill Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Global Philanthropist, Wing-woman, believer in resilience and you too!

Over the past 20 years, Karen has personally mentored over 1,000 women guiding them into powerful careers in media, business, medicine + law — transcending hardship, abuse + financial limitations, and transforming their lives + communities.

Karen’s coaching, mentoring + philanthropic work spans over 100,000 hours of service — including her work as the co- founder of the first Diabetes Awareness Day in West Africa.  She has been honored by The Lifetime Network, Jones New York + other major media outlets for her tireless advocacy for women’s health, success + empowerment — including a Red Dress Award from Woman’s Day Magazine for her efforts in the fight against heart disease, the #1 killer of women..  

KISH: What is your dream and how will accomplishing your dream benefit you and others?  

Karen: While my work has taken many forms over the years, my goal is always the same: To help black women claim their power, redefine their destinies, and rewrite the rules of power and opportunity.  My question for you is:  How BIG do you want to live? As a mentor to thousands of confident, successful young black women, I’m here to provide them with the tools, and inspiration they need to facilitate their dreams, and leave a legacy of Black excellence.  With the seven simple rules of success that have been tried and tested in my award-winning book, Your Next Level Life, you’ll learn how to bring your lifestyle to that next level, find all the money you need through grants and entrepreneurial gold, reach for bigger opportunities, and step into your next level life.

KISH: Who or what inspired you to pursue this dream?

Karen: I was there—a little girl with chubby toddler cheeks, standing next to my parents—when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  I was too young to fully grasp the immensity of what was happening that day. But on some level, I know it impacted me and seeds were planted. Because for as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of a better world—a world of opportunity and limitless possibility. 

At age 15, I led a protest to change the name of my middle school. Several years later, the county school board approved a petition to change the name from Roger B. Taney Jr. High School to Thurgood Marshall Middle School. As a college student, I found my voice in the literary pages of works about African American sheroes like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Their stories ignited a passion within me that I couldn’t rid myself from—to empower myself, empower my sisters, and help them reach their wildest dreams.  To be a voice for the silenced, marginalized and unheard voices of women of color.

And so, the seeds were planted and watered. I embraced my calling—a calling that has led me to empower myself. Empower my sisters. Help them reach their wildest dreams.  

KISH: What challenges have you encountered while pursuing your dream? 

Karen: Life is full of challenges, but when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  I don’t call them challenges, I call them tests.  It’s like a relay race, you have to jump  over each hurdle to get to the finish line.  You get better, you get stronger, and eventually you will claim the victory.  I believe that many of the tests that I faced were God’s way of redirecting me.  The no’s were not rejection, but often redirection or protection.  I have learned to be thankful for the closed doors, which almost always lead to new, bigger doors of opportunity.  

KISH: Who or what inspired you to keep pushing regardless of the challenges you’ve encountered? 

Karen: God, faith, and my power entourage.  Cue “Never Would Have Made It Without You” by Marvin Sapp.  As women, we spend our lives witnessing our mothers, matriarchs and mentors be strong and sturdy, like rocks. And we aspire to be like them daily. But, women need support—practically, emotionally, and spiritually.  When I began to cultivate my inner circle, it was as if the clouds parted in my favor.  Challenges seemingly disappeared.  This is what happens when you stop hanging with people who have your problem and hang with people who have your solution.  It’s powerful to have a circle of sisters who will lift you, elevate you, and help you articulate your dreams, weigh in on ways you can get there, and encourage you to step into a life full of impact and adventure. Sisters hold sacred space for you—and hold you accountable for your expansion into it. Sisters keep you going when you’re ready to give in. Sisters see YOU as you are and as you are meant to be.  And if you need a lil devotion too, they’ll pray for you too.

KISH: Please provide final thoughts/advice for others by finishing this sentence… dream.

Karen: It’s time to dream bigger, think bigger, and live bigger. It’s time to rise into what I call: Your Next Level Life. With my book, I want to help you clarify what your Next Level Life looks like and feels like, and how to create it. 

As you read it, I hope you will feel a spark igniting inside of you. The same spark that compelled me to protest at my high school, and start the Miss Black USA Pageant, and write this book. The spark that burns with optimism and possibility, and that says, “It’s time to live bigger and light the way for other women, too.”  Because when one woman wins, we all win.

Last modified: June 21, 2021