Avery Kelley is a name to keep in mind. Ms. Kelley is an up and coming writer, director and producer from the Southside of Chicago. Avery is 12 years old and entering the seventh grade. Since a little girl, she has loved everything about the Arts; dancing, singing, and her passion being writing.
While extremely talented, Avery thinks of herself as an average kid. She loves to hang out with friends, eat pizza and have sleepovers with her besties on the weekend. Ms. Kelley is an honor student at Keller Regional Gifted Center, embracing all facets of school, earning straight A’s since kindergarten. Avery has placed in her schools Science Fair, Speech Arts Competitions and Spelling Bee throughout the years. During the previous school year, Avery participated in the History Fair competition, creating the documentary “Soul Train, Soul Change”, which spoke to how Soul Train broke barriers in the entertainment industry, while being a significant part of the civil rights movement. Avery’s documentary, placed in the school, city and state competitions, advancing to nationals and winning the outstanding entry for the State of Illinois. Her documentary was also recognized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, exhibited in their digital showcase.
As hard as Ms. Kelley works on her schoolwork during the week, she just as passionately pursues her love for the Arts on the weekend. Avery has studied dance at Studio One Dance Theatre for the past 10 years, taking Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Modern, Hip Hop and African dance. Avery has also participated in the Chicago Children’s Choir for two years. Singing and dancing have always made Avery happy, but her passion is writing. In the words of Ms. Kelley, “I write with every emotion, when I am happy, sad, afraid or mad. My outlet is my journal, telling stories that I want the world to see. It is my dream to have one of my scripts someday turned into a television series.”
Most recently Ms. Kelley has penned a dramatic comedy, which she states is inspired by some of her life experiences. Avery began writing this series during Spring Break of 2018. Ms. Kelley states, “I decided to write a script for a television series, because I wanted to see a show with a different concept than many of the shows you see today. So, I decided to create my own.” In Spring 2019, Ms. Kelley filmed a short episode of her series, entering it into the Mustard Seed Vision Youth Film Festival. At this festival, Ms. Kelley was awarded the Leadership award for her work. Since then she has been writing full speed ahead, working on various creative projects, and continuing to take classes to hone her craft.
Avery Kelley’s entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, drive and perseverance has her shooting for the stars. Her sentiments are that “many writers start small, growing their work into award winning pieces. This is the dream I have for my work. Although young in age, I know I can have BIG dreams. And with commitment and dedication, those dreams can turn into a reality. I am committed, I am dedicated, I am history in the making.”
GO BANG! Magazine: How did you get involved in so much business and entertainment activity at such a young age?
Avery Kelley: I’ve always loved entertainment. My parents say that when I was younger, I would say “when I grow up I want to be in there” (pointing at the TV). In the summer of 2018, I got in trouble with my parents for abusing my phone privileges (texting non-stop) and the punishment was I couldn’t use my phone for a week. To help me find an alternative outlet, my mom bought me a writing journal. Initially, I loved it because it was pink and had my favorite animal, a flamingo, all over. But the upcoming days, revealed a passion that I hadn’t realized was there. This was the summer that I started writing my first scripted series. Fast forward a couple months later, I started practicing the script with my friends at school during recess.
At the beginning of the new year, my mom asked how were things going and I responded “you are hindering my life dreams.” I explained this passion I had for writing to my parents and let them read my journal. They were impressed and said, we will help you as much as we can and try to help you connect with people who have more expertise. They suggested for me to contact a local talent agency and tell them my story. I did, and the agency responded telling me about a Youth Film Festival that was being hosted by Mustard Seed Vision. I created a short film, as a preview for my series for the festival. It was all I ever dreamed of. My parents saw my commitment and excitement in this process and decided to help me pursue my dream of becoming the youngest screenwriter of a scripted television series or feature film on a major platform/network. I work hard daily, every extra moment I get from school work, to make this dream come true. I’m just getting started.
GO BANG! Magazine: Mom, (Amy Kelley) please describe Avery to our readers who may not be familiar with her.
Amy Kelley: “We are blessed to have Avery as our child. Don’t get me wrong, she still is a 12-year old girl. However, she is a great kid. Avery is fun loving, hardworking, and compassionate. She loves to talk…loves…to…talk!!! She is passionate about all things that mean something to her, like her family, her friends…HER WRITING. Avery has a work ethic that is truly amazing. I have watched her in the past two years, commit to learning about being a screenwriter and director. She has taken classes, attended seminars, even asked for books on the topic for Christmas. Often, when we ask her what she is doing (when she is super quiet in her room), she will say…WRITING. Her passion to succeed in this field in undeniable, and even at 12 years old, she is willing to put in the work.”
“But she also has a passion for others. She believes there is a star in the sky for everyone, and loves to see others shine. Her passion, work ethic and drive make me proud, but her heart and caring for others, let me know I am so blessed to be her mom.”
GO BANG? Magazine: Dad, (Charles Kelley, Jr.) how does it feel to have your little girl growing up and becoming a young, black businesswoman?
Charles Kelley, Jr.: “It is a really cool process to see on a daily basis. I feel extremely happy or simply full of joy to see my daughter Avery work so hard to be good at what she chooses to do. As a parent, you want the best for your children, so you offer opportunities and you sacrifice your wants so they can have their needs. What Avery is really good at is the hard work in her preparation, the little things that many will never know about, but I see it daily.”
“My joy is to see Avery perform or the performance. I love seeing the finished product because I know how hard she worked to get to that point. My daughter, my heart, is all I ever wanted and I am extremely happy with the Lords blessing, to witness her growth, development and her gifts to this world.”
GO BANG! Magazine: I first became familiar with you after seeing you on television on ABC7 Chicago’s “Windy City Live” this past July. Many others may know you from your “Tweendom” online talk show on the Restream.io platform. For our readers that may not be familiar with the show, please describe your show and what Restream.io is.
Avery Kelley: “Tweendom Talk Show” is a talk show I created for the kids, the teens, and everyone in between. The mission of this show is to inspire youth to be creative, live outside the box, and have fun while doing it. I had the idea for a similar concept for this show prior to COVID. However, when the pandemic struck, I felt like it would never become a reality. I discussed my anxieties with my friends, family and came up with a way to make it work during a pandemic. The show is livestreamed every Friday night at 6:30pm CST on YouTube and Facebook. It has been a great way to reach an audience during the pandemic, and has allowed me to get a better understanding of production. I produce the entire show myself, coming up with weekly topics, finding guests, creating advertisements and other tasks. I am having a blast and have met a lot of great people along the way.
“Restream.io” is a platform that allows me to multi-stream “Tweendom Talk Show”. Restream.io provides multi-streaming services, allowing a live broadcast to stream to more than one social media platform at a time. Without using Restream, I would not be able to stream the show to both YouTube and Facebook. It makes things work, just the way I envisioned.
GO BANG! Magazine: Your short documentary “Soul Train Soul Change” is a tribute to the legendary “Soul Train” television show, and was originally a school project, but it went national. Please explain what motivated you to create the film, how it went national, and how has your life changed since bringing it to the public.
Avery Kelley: My documentary “Soul Train, Soul Change” began as a school project. Every year the 6th grade class at my school has to participate in the “Chicago Metro History Fair” which is a part of the “National History Day” competition. This year’s theme was Breaking Barriers in History, but our teacher required that our topic have Chicago historical context. The competition allows you to submit your project in the form of a paper, exhibit, website, performance, or documentary. Considering my passion for film, I decided to create a documentary.
My inspiration came from watching the television series American Soul on BET. In watching this show, I realized the barriers “Soul Train” broke in the entertainment industry and in doing research, learned of its Chicago historical ties, and therefore selected “Soul Train” as the topic for my History Fair project. After months of hard work, I finally finished the project. It went from winning the school wide competition all the way to placing in the national competition. At nationals I was awarded the Outstanding Entry for the State of Illinois and my project was also selected to be highlighted at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s virtual showcase. I am so blessed that my project was recognized in this manner.
GO BANG! Magazine: You write for television and for film. Where do the ideas for your writing come from?
Avery Kelley: My ideas for my writing mainly come from my real-life experiences. I am inspired often by day to day occurrences with friends and family. There will often be situations that stick out in my mind and from there my mind drifts off, my imagination kicks in, and I create entire story lines based on one small funny thing that has occurred. I think it’s my way of communication. I write at all times. When I get excited, I run to write…when I am sad, I run and write and when I am frustrated…you guessed it, I grab my journal. The ideas and inspirations can come at the strangest times, but it makes me so happy.
GO BANG! Magazine: Who inspires or motivates you to create?
Avery Kelley: My parents and my grandma inspire and motivate me to create. They are supportive in all that I do and that is motivating and inspiring for me. I have a few favorite creators that I find truly inspiring. A couple of those are Ava DuVernay and Tyler Perry.
Ava DuVernay is a huge inspiration for my work. This is because she uses her platform and her craft to show her audience empowering stories about Black people in America. Her projects such as “Selma”, “Queen Sugar”, “Cherish the Day” and “A Wrinkle In Time” are projects highlighting African Americans that is used to entertain, but also shows them in a positive light. These are types of work I would like to create. The work that she is creating is inspiring an entire generation and I hope to be able to do the same.
I am also inspired by Tyler Perry. He came from the ground up, when building a name for himself. He went from being homeless, to having one of the largest movie studios in the United States. To see his projects featuring primarily an African American cast, is very empowering to watch. I strive to one day create projects that show minorities in a positive light and become the youngest screenwriter of a scripted series or feature film on a major platform. To see Tyler Perry reaching his goals, expand his craft and continuously branching out in the entertainment field is very inspiring, and lets me know that I can achieve my goals too.
GO BANG! Magazine: You are also the CEO of a corporation named Inspired Melanin, LLC…your own company. Tell us how you started a company and what is its purpose?
Avery Kelley: In August 2019, I established the production company “Inspired Melanin”. The mission of this company is to create projects positively highlighting people of color, their journey and experiences. As I began writing and creating, I realized that I wanted to establish a production company that would allow me and others to create programs highlighting our community in a positive light, hence the name, “Inspired Melanin”. My parents assisted with getting all of the legal stuff done to form the company. They are very instrumental in making sure my vision is illustrated in the works of this corporation.
GO BANG! Magazine: Unfortunately, the Arts have been eliminated in many schools, due to budget restraints and underfunding of schools. Please describe how important it is to you to keep arts in schools and in your life as a teenager.
Avery Kelley: The Arts have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Knowing that so many programs have been eliminated from schools is very disturbing to me. Art programs in schools expose many talented students to a variety of opportunities. It is a shame to know that schools around the country have been eliminating these programs.
For me, like many other students, the Arts are an outlet that highlights the various skills I learn in the classroom. My passion for writing is an extension of skills I gained in school, my love for dance is only improved by concepts I learned in math class. They go hand in hand, one enhances the other. I hope that the schools will find the proper funding to put these Art programs back into the picture for kids to experience, learn from and explore.
GO BANG! Magazine: When you’re not working or writing, what type of things do you like to do for fun?
Avery Kelley: When I’m not working and writing, I love to dance. I have been a dancer at “Studio One Dance Theatre” for the past 10 years and training in dance is one of my favorite things to do! I look at myself as a normal preteen. I like to talk to my friends on the phone or FaceTime, ride my bike and of course, go on social media…especially Tik Tok.
Since starting to write, I enjoy watching television a lot more. I now find myself dissecting shows, watching the editing, the costumes, the lighting, and other facets of a show. Writing has made watching television a much different experience for me now. Now, watching television is like taking a truly fun class.
GO BANG! Magazine: The COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off guard. How are you dealing with it personally?
Avery Kelley: Socially, I am having a hard time during the pandemic. I am an extrovert and love interacting with people. Not being able to see my friends and family has been hard. I also miss activities like dance class, and going to the beach with friends. But I recognize that for my parents and me, social distancing is the right thing to do, to keep ourselves and others safe.
GO BANG! Magazine: What is next on the agenda for you? Do you have any projects lined up for later in the future, after the COVID-19 pandemic that you can tell our readers about?
Avery Kelley: During the pandemic I have written a ton. I have brand new projects coming up. Unfortunately, I cannot say much about it. However, I am working with my parents on creating a philanthropic piece to Inspired Melanin. I love to serve others and want to make sure that passion is also incorporated into my business.
I’m excited about the future, during the pandemic and beyond. I always plan on reaching for the stars.
GO BANG! Magazine: On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.” This incident has caused civil unrest and massive protests across the world. How do you feel about this unfortunate situation and call for police reform due to the horrible treatment of minorities by the police?
Avery Kelley: This situation has been very difficult for me. I watched some of the news clips with my parents. As a 12-year-old black girl, it was difficult to see someone who was a similar build to my dad, harmed by people who are meant to protect us. Luckily my parents have had conversations with me to soothe my fears. I mentioned to them that I don’t ever want to see people judged just because of the color of their skin. They told me that my hopes were similar to those of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, where “people one day would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” So, I continue to move forward, hoping in the near future that this dream will be realized.
Social Media Links:
Facebook: Inspired Melanin LLC
(See the “Soul Train Soul Change” video on the website)
Tweendom Talk Show
Youtube: Tweendom Talk Show
ABC7 Chicago news spot:
Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram