KalaLea has worked in video and graphic design, web production, photography and publishing. She has trained in yoga and Reiki, and she has pursued organic farming in Brazil. She has taught cooking classes, started a catering business and opened a cafe in Brooklyn. But once she found radio, it stuck.
Now she is a producer at The New Yorker Radio Hour. Her work ranges from pitching story ideas to doing pre-interviews to finding music. Eventually, she puts all the pieces together: “I’m cutting tape and making the thing,” she said. KalaLea, who has gone by a single name since 2003, is 51, and lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
WAKE UP AND READ I never set an alarm but, for some reason, my body clock always wakes me up eight hours after I go to sleep, so I’ll wake up between 7 and 8 a.m. I go through the whole New York Times first thing. I look through The New Yorker. I also usually have four to five books next to my bed and I’ll read one or sometimes go through all of them. One I have is “The Cross of Redemption” by James Baldwin. I always like to pull from James Baldwin when I’m working on something.
COOKING, LISTENING I’ll get up after that and start thinking about food. Somebody is generally in town — a friend might be visiting and I might have them come over for a late lunch, because it motivates me to prepare food for the week. Breakfast could be hash browns, turkey bacon, stewed peaches, bok choy and avocado. I know it sounds crazy, but those are the kinds of breakfasts I make. This year, the first thing I put in my mouth, I try to make it raw. Raw fruit or vegetables, mostly. By this point, I’ll probably also have lunch going, so I might be boiling black beans or lentils, or something is in the oven, or I’m marinating things, like fish. Any time I’m cooking, I’m listening to a podcast. I might listen to WNYC, like On the Media and Death Sex & Money, or catch up on Reveal, This American Life, Criminal or Throughline.
MULTIPURPOSE JOURNAL Then I’ll look at my to-do list. There will be things I didn’t get done on Saturday and I’ll have a mild panic attack at that point. I have a journal where I write, but in the back I put to-do lists and work my way forward from the last page until the writing and to-do lists meet. Then it’s time to get a new journal.
EXPLORING If the weather’s lovely, I try to go for a bike ride somewhere, maybe to a neighborhood I don’t know very well, or to Prospect Park. Not long ago, I went foraging in Prospect Park with Wildman Steve. He and his daughter do a tour there. I’m still really nervous about what I can eat. I wish I would have taken better notes.
SAVASANA I come back home, and one of the things on my to-do list is to rest. So I have a 30-minute rest session at minimum. I’ll have a yoga mat in my living room, and I just take it as an opportunity to boil water because I’ve been drinking certain teas, like nettle and hibiscus, to help manage my blood pressure. I’ll lie on my mat and set my timer and have a blanket over me and do savasana.
FRIENDS Then it might be time for someone to come over. They come into the kitchen and we catch up, and then we take it to the living room, where we eat and talk. I have friends who do a lot of very different things. The last friend who visited me was from Sydney, Australia, an artist and a Buddhist who teaches meditation. I had a friend from London, he’s a psychotherapist. A friend came for lunch from Jamaica who used to work in fashion. With all of my friends, I feel like we have very intense conversations. For music, I love to play Virginia Rodrigues. I think she has a voice like an angel. Like a silky angel.
LOW-KEY LISTEN At home, I’ll start preparing dinner and food for the week. I have a radio in my kitchen. Also, our show, The New Yorker Radio Hour, comes on WNYC. It’s a nice way to listen one more time without headphones on. There’s a lot of things I might pick up on, technically or sound design-wise. Something may have felt too loud before but, on the radio, I’m cooking and running water and it totally makes sense.
TENACITY OF SPIRIT I might go for a walk. There’s this certain tenacity of spirit that starts at Nostrand and continues throughout Bed-Stuy. The trees, the brownstones and the brown people. The community feels really homegrown. If dusk is upon us, especially since I’m teaching now at CUNY, I am hyper-aware that my week is going to be insane so I need to get home by like 7 at the latest.
LETTERS Sometimes I write cards or letters for friends or my partner, as surprises for him. I’ve been writing a letter to my mom for a few months. I think becoming 51, I realized there was so much that she was going through at this age. I’m wanting to show gratitude and compassion for her.
NIGHT NOURISHMENT I sometimes like to water the plants in the evening because I think that, while I’m sleeping, the plants are soaking up the water and the fertilizer and the love that I gave them. I get in bed around 8 or 9. I invested in sheets and nice pajamas.
ALL CONNECTED I love to end the evening by watching something. People text me and ask me what I’m watching, and I have this list ready to send out. “Welcome to Chippendales”; “The White Lotus”; “Fleishman Is in Trouble”; “Kindred,” Octavia Butler’s adaptation; “Riches,” it’s kind of extra. Extra drama. Television and filmmaking definitely inspire the work I’m doing. I’m listening when music cues come in. I’m thinking about the structure. I grew up this way. Television, film, music, it’s all connected. Next year one of my goals is to write a television pilot. I’ll turn the TV off by 11. I’ll take the weekly New York Times News Quiz, just to see, and I’ll think, ‘Oh, I was really listening.’