Kristen Elizabeth, a.k.a. K Money the Poet, performs as part of the Art A'Fair Poetry Exhibition tonight at the Luminary.
St. Louis creative and self-described jack-of-all-trades Kristen Elizabeth went out in late December 2021 expecting to see a poetry show, but by the end of the night she found herself reading to a live audience for the first time since before the start of the pandemic. The 25-year-old actress and model is no stranger to the stage, or a camera lens, but she’ll be the first to admit that she’s still a newcomer to the vibrant poetry community in St. Louis.
Under the moniker K Money the Poet, Elizabeth has produced a number of written pieces and videos that address taboo subjects such as body shaming, self-harm and abortion, to name a few. The scope of her work also includes illness awareness and dealing with the warped health-care system — topics that are nearly universally relatable but often difficult to discuss. She aims to start conversations by encouraging readers and listeners to lean into their discomfort and educate themselves.
“I’ve always been interested in doing poetry, as far back as third or fourth grade. I was always kind of afraid to share,” Elizabeth says.
She first confronted that fear in February 2020 after being asked to read at a poetry event organized by Molly P, a student at Harris-Stowe State University where Elizabeth serves as assistant director of communications and marketing.
“I try to go to students’ events and I give them advice about school or life. That’s my favorite part of my job,” Elizabeth says.
Her role at HSSU includes running several social media accounts, web editing and writing spotlights on graduates while providing support to current students. Elizabeth’s contributions go so far beyond her job description that she was recently recognized for her work at the Salute to Young Leaders Awards reception where she was named one of 25 outstanding African-American professionals under the age of 40 by the St. Louis American Foundation.
“Working at a university and encouraging students to go for their wildest dreams all the time made me want to do that same thing,” she says.
The pandemic hit only one month after Elizabeth’s first public reading, so she pivoted to making videos and even served as a panelist for UrbArts’ Poetry Showcase Virtual Event in April 2021. She also spent 2021 deeply involved in local pageantry as Miss Spirit of St. Louis — a Miss Missouri USA contestant — while running on the platform of “Not Your Traditional Pageant Girl.”
In collaboration with the R. Whittington Foundation, Elizabeth used her platform to create the Spirit of St. Louis Scholarship, a fund that has helped clear the balances of multiple HSSU seniors on the cusp of graduation. From running workshops to serving as a judge for HSSU’s 2021 Royal Pageant, Elizabeth funneled her passion for pageantry into significant community outreach. While she spent most of 2021 in a support role for others, another traumatic event changed Elizabeth’s artistic trajectory.
“I got in a really bad car accident in the beginning of this year and it made me realize how short life was. I asked myself ‘you wanna model?’ Like, we’re gonna go for it full throttle this year,” Elizabeth says.
Whether she’s dreaming up ideas for a shoot or collaborating with a local photographer to help manifest someone else’s vision, Elizabeth takes a conscious, multidisciplinary approach to modeling. She has modeled for several publications including Wedding Day Magazine, Vigour Magazine and Selin Magazine, to name a few. If her face is starting to look familiar, that might be because she was part of a brand shoot for supermarket chain store Save a Lot, and she just recently appeared on KMOV 4 News as a live model for Patrice J. Bridal earlier this month.
“Being the non-traditional model that people aren't used to seeing but still doing it and doing it well. That is the accomplishment for me,” Elizabeth says.
Elizabeth admits that her acting career is just starting, but she’s excited to build on her resume with future opportunities in commercials, print ads and TV. She’s currently signed with three agencies and she recently landed a role in an anti-gun violence project with the city of Saint Louis.
“[Acting] is also a great tool for poetry. I’ve learned that being animated when acting out and reading your poems really gets the audience to tune in and engage with you,” she says.
Since returning to the stage in late 2021, Elizabeth has racked up victories at the Pen Up or Shut Up Poetry Battles and the Saint Louis Poetry Slam’s Grand Slam events. She credits Gregory Maurice, a stalwart member of the local poetry community, with convincing her to take the stage on that fateful night back in December.
“St. Louis has so much freaking talent. This is the most talented city ever. If everybody really helped shout each other out and put each other on the map, we really would be the next New York or Atlanta or Los Angeles because so many great people come out of here,” Elizabeth says. She names several members of the local community as vital to her success with her mother at the top of the list.
“I remember the first slam my mom went to on February 27. And that was the first slam that I won,” she says. From driving to gigs to cooking dinner and being at nearly every event, Elizabeth describes her mother as her number one supporter.
When the Riverfront Times announced the inaugural edition of Art A’Fair earlier this year, Elizabeth reached out with a unique proposal: an Art A’Fair Poetry Exhibition featuring 10 of St. Louis’ most hard-hitting, talented wordsmiths including Shy The Poet, Leethal the Poet, Phree, Louis Conphliction, Ray Lay Down the Truth, Who is Ardimus, Gray, T-Spirit and Gregory Maurice.
“I am definitely new on the poetry scene in St. Louis. There are so many great poets here so I personally felt the need to invite them along and pay homage to them with the opportunity,” Elizabeth says.
Suffice to say, the Riverfront Times jumped at the chance to collaborate with K Money the Poet. As a result, poetry is now a featured part of tonight’s Art A’Fair, our new celebration of St. Louis arts and music happening on Cherokee Street at multiple venues including the Golden Record, Earthbound Beer and more. The poetry exhibition will take place at the Luminary with two half-hour blocks starting at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Grab your tickets to the event here.
“It sounds like a lot is going on, but I’m so passionate about all of it that I have to find ways to make it all work,” she says.
After Art A’Fair, Elizabeth plans to build on her momentum with a number of projects currently in the works, including a new book titled Y’all Not Ready for that Conversation. Keep up with all of Elizabeth’s artistic endeavors at @thekristenelizabethh on Instagram and her website.
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