Lena Horne, The Notorious B.I.G., Nora Jones, Jackie Robinson, Mos Def, Jay Z, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Jordan, Samuel L. Jackson, Shirley Chisholm... the list of notables who have lived in Bed-Stuy can fill an entire chapter of a book written by Walt Whitman (who also happens to be from Bed-Stuy)! And as Brooklyn's popularity swells, the list of changemakers and tastemakers taking up residence in the neighborhood continues to grow!
One of the more recent additions to that list of notables is a singer named Kim Hill.
Some might remember Hill from the mid-90s, as a member of the Grammy Award-winning hip hop group "The Black Eyed Peas." Hill's entrée onto the national music scene at that time can be attributed to a winning combination of honey-laced vocals, skillful lyricism, coupled with the sort of campy showmanship that was a perfect complement to "The Peas's" soulful, yet playful, appeal.
[perfectpullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]"Forgiving yourself for just being human... for just being vulnerable, available, idealistic is so important."[/perfectpullquote]
However, in 2000, Hill severed ties with The Peas to pursue her solo career full-time. Soon after, the Twin Towers fell; the Dot.com Bubble burst; the Black Eyed Peas brought on Fergie; Kim Hill got married, then divorced; the country went to war with Iraq; and everything for everyone, it seemed, changed...
So where is Kim Hill now? After 18 years as a Los Angeles resident, Kim Hill-- a native of Syracuse, NY-- in 2011 moved to Brooklyn. Today, she is the proud mother of a 6-year-old son, named Cassius. She has settled into a life as a thriving licensed real estate broker with a lip stain and shoe game every urban style mavin would dream of.
Despite her most recent challenge of breaking both of her wrists-- yes, both-- while rollerskating, she smiles through every lesson, still working, still laughing, still singing. And yes, still a knockout.
In this BK Reader "Face Time" interview, Kim Hill shares some vital, personal lessons on what it means to stay present and stay lifted... while her pages in the book called "Life" continue to turn.
BK Reader: So Ms. Hill, let's start with the most obvious question: So what's up with the-- not one, but two-- broken wrists?
Kim Hill: *Laughing* When I broke my wrists, I was [at the rollerskating rink] with my son and two other parents, and they didn't encourage me to go to the hospital because I wasn't freaking out. I was just sort of doing this rocking back and forth thing *laughing* But I knew something was wrong; I knew at least my right wrist was broken. So when I went to the hospital, I only had them x-ray my right hand; and it was broken in two places. So they put a cast on it. The next morning, I got up, made breakfast, drove my son to school, although I was still in a lot of pain in my left wrist.
So I went to NYU Hospital and found out I had broken my left wrist too! So the point is, you get accustomed to a certain level or threshold for pain, that when something is really crazy, you're so used to managing and navigating around it that you don't even know. And that's crazy. But for women, our life is like [holding] scales, we're constantly having to manage and balance weight, we don't always realize how bad it really is. But beyond all of that, my other lesson was, here I was yelling at Cassius to put on his helmet and while I was doing that I fell back and ended up breaking both of my wrists because I didn't have on wrist guards.
BKR: Who is 'Kim Hill in Brooklyn,' versus 'Kim Hill of Los Angeles?'
KH: The Kim Hill in Brooklyn is older, edgier, and there has been nothing more amazing than raising my son here in Brooklyn. I love the mother I get to be here and have my family (from Syracuse) bear witness to his development. And I have my cat. I would have never had a cat in Los Angeles ever In the last two years, I've been most proud of getting my son into an amazing school, Little Red School House, because this whole New York School thing is no joke, and I did it! I mean Angela Davis graduated from Little Red! And if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me. Another thing I'm very proud of is getting on the Carte Blanche Team of Compass Real Estate Agency. The transition into real estate came during my custody case. I couldn't risk the court equating a traveling musician with instability. Real estate's grind, competition and griminess is akin to the music business. My success in both is in maintaining my integrity and being of service to my audience. I may not be a household name, but I'm always welcomed in any house I choose.
BKR: You've mentioned before how winning full custody of your son last year was a huge accomplishment for you. As a single mother, what's your advice to other single mothers on how to deal with something as big and looming as a custody battle?
KH: Well, I'm way over the custody stuff now. So I can really talk about it in a way that's almost unaffected, because for so long, it consumed everything: It was court, therapists, attorneys, money, and how you make the money... So there were so many things that went into trying to keep that train on the track. So when I finally hit home and rolled out of it, and I realized it didn't kill me, I had to forgive myself. When we stumble and we get in a relationship that goes bad, people ask, 'Well didn't you see this about to happen?' But it puts so much onus on women, and we're not always thinking so far down the line of consequences; we're just loving... But forgiving yourself for just being human... for just being vulnerable, available, idealistic is so important, because otherwise it's crippling and you turn bitter. You have to just know when to step back and say, "If I had known better at the time, I would have done better. But I did the best I could under the circumstances."
BKR: You've been a woman in pursuit of so many different talents. As a child you studied gymnastics and the violin; as an adult, you were a dancer, then a singer, then a DJ, and now a real estate broker... What is Kim Hill up to today? And what is your current relationship to music?
KH: My relationship to music is rooted in having a natural attraction to it and also being gifted at it. And I almost feel like I'd be further along if I had solely focused on it. But I didn't, because sometimes when you're gifted with certain talents, you take them for granted. I never said, music's my life. My life has always been my life. The deadlines have never been more important to me than the living part, which is what drives my agents crazy sometimes. For some people, being able to produce a product is self preservation. But self preservation for me is far more important than any product.
BKR: What what does self-preservation mean for you?
KH: Allowing myself to live, to laugh or to hurt or mourn. Because during the time I need to shed it, I shed it until I get over it. But that's why I don't cry about stuff 10, 15 years later. And it's not as though I go looking for challenges. I like breathing room. I like solace. I like peace. There's this misconception that I do like challenge. But I think it's because my coping mechanism for dealing with challenges is so focused that to other people, I seem detached and like it's no big deal. But that's where the fight is. I don't fight the challenge; there's always a lesson in the challenge. I fight to keep the peace. That means work. That means you gotta get up; you gotta pray; you gotta meditate; you gotta tithe... you've got to do good by people.