We had the good fortune of connecting with Kenneth Lesley and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kenneth, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking

Risk, in my opinion, has always felt “black and white”; nonetheless, there are many factors to consider. I was fortunate to have been raised with both of my parents growing up. Their advice and effort to provide a foundation for my sister and me is pretty much what I built my life on. Study hard, get good grades, go to college, secure a job, etc. So what did I do? Just that, checking off every measure as I grew up. I received a degree in Hospitality Management from Florida International University in 2016; Immediately after, I began applying to jobs within the industry and working my way up the ladder. I started as a busboy, cleaning tables, food runner, and then a server. My end goal was to become a General Manager at a restaurant or a hotel. I was elated when news traveled to me about relocating to a Luxury Hotel in Miami for a potential Manager in training position. Alas, all my hard work was starting to pay off, or so I thought! After two weeks into this program, the company told me that this position was no longer available. So much for that hard work, right? So what came next? Well, immediate disappointment, frustration, etc. Shortly after this setback, I decided to leave this job and take a gap year to figure out my next move.

In between trying to navigate a degree, understand the scope and field of Hospitality, I developed a photography hobby. It was fun, distracting, and had absolutely nothing to do with what I was studying, which made it all the better. When I decided my next move would be making photography a reality, I felt like all odds were against me. Everyone began to give unsolicited advice, from my ex-manager, family, etc. Nevertheless, I was already determined to at least try. “What if I fail?” felt replaced by, “Well, what if you don’t?”

That decision changed everything. I dove right into research, watching videos, messaging photographers on Instagram, etc. I began to shadow people and offered compensation (what was I thinking?) I just wanted to get my foot in the door, a taste of what this really could be like. One of the first people I shadowed was Andrew Bonilla (@Andrew.creative). I went from watching videos to having hands-on experience on shoots and different sets. My willingness to learn, take a year off, and dive into this new craft was what helped me prepare for the next chapter.

About a year later, from just centering on all things photo, I began working at TFC Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency in Miami. I’ve been blessed to be a part of this team alongside another public relations agency, Carma Connected, for about three years now. I’ve collaborated with multiple clients, people, and events such as Rolling Loud, SBE Hotels, The Goodtime Hotel, and more. Some of my work has been published in Forbes magazine, GQ France, and Ocean Drive Magazine. It’s incredible to think this all happened with that door that felt slammed on my face. I feel honored and privileged to be a part of something bigger, meaningful, and ever-evolving. I have not reached the “end” of this journey and do not have all the answers. However, I hope my platform encourages people to set goals, take risks, and make the move that will change your life. The timing becomes “right” when you are ready for it to be. People and external things are moving at their own pace, so you have to be moving at yours.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am not sure there is a concise way to answer these questions. However, I will say that my work and passion are driven by excitement. This career in itself was not initially planned, which I believe is one of the reasons I cherish it the most. Every day holds something different, and no two days are ever alike. I enjoy that this career is ever-evolving, and embracing that self-awareness to continue growing as a professional and as an individual is compelling. It’s pretty great to reflect on that Kenneth from 2014 with a used Canon camera and compare him to now. Still a regular guy with a camera, but always searching for the next challenge and adapting to a growth mindset. I believe we stop producing if there is a moment we feel we “have it all” or have reached our “peak.” Initially, I got to where I am by taking the risk of giving this hobby a try. My plan out of college was re-routed when I realized there had to be more than just settling. Fun fact, one of my last days working in a hotel I worked in had a giant quote that read, “Never Settle.” What can I say? It stuck to me! It wasn’t an easy transition, and there are days where I struggle with adapting to the shifts this career has had. A quote that resonates with me is, “It’s not because we’re better than anyone, it’s because we care.” Pharell shared this quote in his 2013 skateboarding video, “Team Ice Cream Vol. 1.” I believe genuinely caring about what you do and how you do it is the essential part of it all. I center my work on caring about what I do to the fullest and making sure the passion is at the forefront of everything. In return, I’ve been blessed with people who recognize that drive and admiring my work. In terms of what I’d want the world to know about my brand and story, the answer is, the story is still being written. I am constantly seeking purpose in my future and focusing on how my work can better serve others who haven’t had these opportunities and share their stories. To be continued

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Living in Miami there are so many places to go to. I like the classic spots like Versailles in Little Havana and Domino Park. Another spot would be Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. It has been there since 1924. It is a beautiful place. Lastly a personal favorite pizza spot would be Frankie’s Pizza on Bird Road.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
They say true friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evil. I have to give this shoutout to one of my best friends, Cesar Toirac. He is currently the Associate Director of Marketing Services at Warner Music Group but, more importantly than that, my best friend for more than ten years. We’ve been friends since high school, and going through life with him has been a blessing. He is one of the most ambitious people I know, and I’m thankful to have had him pushing me to keep going throughout this entire process. Cesar and I always reciprocated encouragement, motivation, and desire to be good people in this roller coaster life. Our life motto is “keep pushing.” Those two powerful words have gotten us through dark days.

Website: www.kennethlesley.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/k.lez

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutMiami is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.