In our latest SHIFTER Boss feature we talk to Montreal-based entertainment publicist and former Miss Universe Canada contestant Kalika Hastings.
SHIFTER: Before we get into industry talk, you were a finalist for Miss Universe Canada 2020? What led you to get into beauty pageants and is it something you would do again?
Kalika: In 2019, the year before I auditioned for Miss Universe Canada, Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica was crowned Miss World, marking the first time in history that Black women had simultaneously held the titles of five of the world’s top beauty pageants, including Miss Teen USA, Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Universe, and Miss World. I was inspired by all of them. I wanted to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone.
When I was a teen, I signed with a local modeling agency and I enjoyed it. For a while, I thought about being a professional model as a career. But I never had the confidence to enter into pageants because I’m naturally introverted and quite shy. There was a lot of preparation that went into the pageant competition from fitness to public speaking, runway and community involvement. It was a great experience overall. I met some amazing and accomplished women from across Canada. Although I didn’t win, I was super proud of my sister, Nova Stevens, who was the second Black titleholder in Canadian history!
SHIFTER: So let’s get into PR. What first attracted you to get into PR, especially in entertainment?
Kalika: It’s funny, I majored in Communication Studies in university and I took one public relations course as an elective. I got the worst grade in all of my years in university in that class (it was a C+). I was super distracted that semester and clearly I didn’t give it the attention I should have. But there was something about the material that I was drawn to. After graduating with a Bachelor’s, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I decided to pursue a Graduate Diploma in Public Relations and I absolutely loved it. I got a position as an Account Executive for a boutique PR agency with clients in the tech and AI space and was promoted to PR Director shortly after. That’s where I learned everything I know today. As for the entertainment focus, when I graduated from university in 2015 I founded a creative agency called B Scene Media with a partner and we would cover local lifestyle and fashion events, also working with a few notable names and athletes. I was always drawn to entertainment but officially pivoted to entertainment PR in 2020 when I became an independent publicist and full-time entrepreneur.
SHIFTER: Who are some of the clients you work with right now?
Kalika: I’m super grateful to have the opportunity to work with talented artists, athletes and corporate executives across North America. I have some long-term clients and others that will circle back for specific projects or events when they’re in need of my services throughout the year. Some of my clients include American businesswoman, model, socialite and inventor, Shantel Jackson; she invented the world’s first out-sole for high heel comfort called Shoe Gummi. It’s a game-changer for high heel wearers!
My first artist client was hip-hop artist A$AP 12vy from A$AP Mob. We met at an event in New York through a mutual friend and began working together on numerous projects and activations. I also work with some incredible Canadian artists―a multi-award winning R&B/Pop singer and songwriter named Stephen Voyce, and another R&B singer/gamer from Toronto named Pisceze. I recently began working with a music label from Atlanta who signed an emerging rapper named J Lock. He’s young and very talented. As for sports, I work with Playmaker, a sports media and athlete management brand with a social media influence of over 30M. They create original content and have over 50+ athletes like Nate Robinson, Tracy McGrady, Xavien Howard & others signed to their roster. I do media relations for the executives of the brand as well as various athletes on their roster. In addition, I partner with trusted PR professionals and we collaborate on mandates and other clients.
SHIFTER: How do you decide whether you’re going to take on a new client? What are some of the things you look for?
Kalika: I’m selective of the clients that I chose to represent. Some things I look for are talent, influence and a sense of their work ethic. It’s important to have a brand identity before seeking PR services. We can build and improve on it together but the foundation should be there. I’m looking for someone with impact or outstanding potential. I’m a big believer in quality over quantity. I’d rather focus on a select set of clients than attempt to service too many at once. As I build my team, I’ll be able to take on more clients. I’m ambitious by nature and I enjoy working with women and men who excel in their respective spaces.
SHIFTER: Any dream clients you wanna manifest right now?
Kalika: I totally believe in manifestation. To be honest, I consider the clients I have right now to be my dream clients! But, I would love to work with Rihanna, Kris Jenner or Rick Ross in some way. Also, powerful women in the industry, like Miss Diddy, Emma Grede and Milano di Rouge. I’m sure I’ll meet them along the way and hopefully we’ll collaborate somehow.
SHIFTER: What does your job look like week to week, and what do you like most about what you do?
Kalika: Every week is different depending on the unique client’s priorities, but there are some activities that I do on a consistent basis like media outreach and media relations, checking emails, planning and strategizing upcoming events or milestones, writing press releases or working on social media campaigns. I like the fact that my job is versatile and I’m always doing something different. It keeps things fresh and challenging at the same time.
SHIFTER: What are some of the challenges you face as a publicist, and what keeps you motivated in times when you face these challenges or things aren’t moving as fast as you’d like?
Kalika: I’ve faced a few challenges as a publicist. Sometimes not being taken seriously by men in positions of power as a woman in business or being undervalued can be a challenge in this industry. But I like to see it as motivation and fuel to go harder and achieve my goals. When things aren’t moving as fast as I’d like, I try to remain patient and remember that anything great takes time. Achieving my fullest potential here on earth is my ultimate motivation.
SHIFTER: I see you’re in the U.S. a lot. Washington DC, Los Angeles, Atlanta. I saw you were at a party recently with Usher, Tyga and French Montana. What are the differences between working in Canada and the U.S.?
Kalika: It’s true, I have been traveling quite a bit lately. I was in Los Angeles for a few weeks, it was nice to escape the cold Montreal winter for a bit. Grammy week was epic. We attended Usher’s Grammy after-party at a roller-blading venue with music and drinks. There were so many celebrities in attendance, including the ones you mentioned and many more from Chris Brown to Teyana Taylor, Kevin Gates, Winnie Harlow, you name it. The U.S. has more opportunities in the entertainment space. Sadly, many Canadian celebrities end up moving to the U.S. because of this. That’s why platforms like SHIFTER are so great. It’s important to give our local talent their flowers while they are still here.
SHIFTER: Do you still get “pinch me” moments when you’re at these events? Girl from Montreal getting to be in places the average person would dream of?
Kalika: Of course! I attended another Grammy after-party at a museum in Beverly Hills and I actually met Madonna! I was completely starstruck. She’s such an icon. That same night we saw Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, Jermaine Dupri AND many others. Being in these rooms opens my eyes to the fact that anything is really possible. If you can dream it, have faith and work hard you can do anything. But also, celebrities are just human beings like us all.
SHIFTER: Let’s talk about being a woman in the industry. Some of your clients are hip-hop artists and athletes. Do you feel like you have to work extra hard to gain respect in the industry?
Kalika: Over the years, I’ve built a reputation of being resourceful and I’m known for my work ethic and drive. I believe that’s the best way to gain respect in any industry.
SHIFTER: Any advice for women looking to get into the industry?
Kalika: I would strongly recommend working for a PR agency initially. You will learn the ropes and hone your skills that way. Also, don’t compromise your reputation for anything. As women, we may be offered some opportunities that sound too good to be true, and sometimes there are hidden agendas to be cautious about. Carry yourself with respect and professionalism if you want to go far.
SHIFTER: That brings me to my next question. Even though you’re doing big things, you’re still big on receiving mentorship. Can you talk about why mentorship is so important to you and the role it has played in your career?
Kalika: I am always inspired by the people around me and industry moguls who are paving the way. I think mentorship can give you a sense of direction when you may be feeling overwhelmed or unclear of the exact path you want to take. I love watching YouTube interviews or podcasts like Earn Your Leisure to get motivation throughout the day.
SHIFTER: Before we go, any big goals or things coming down the pike you want to tell us about?
Kalika: I do have some big goals. I recently made my 2023 vision board and put everything on it. I use it as a screensaver on my laptop so I’m reminded of them everyday. Professionally, my aim is to grow my company and continue to deliver great results and connect the dots for my clients in a major way. I want to see everyone win. And personally, I hope to have a family of my own someday and an overall fulfilling relationship and life.
To connect with Kalika Hastings follow her on Instagram at @kalikahastings.