Kontrol Exclusive: Candace Smith Talks First Lead Role in New Movie, Million Dollar Matchmaker, Growing Up in Dayton and Her Love Life

From Miss Ohio to Million Dollar Matchmaker and everything in between, Candace Smith has always been successful with her plethora of talents. She’s made countless TV appearances like CBS’ Hawaii Five-0, TBS’s “Conan”, NBC’s “Heroes” and “Joey”, and starred in films alongside Hollywood’s most respected actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena in the film End of Watch, which debut at No. 1 opening weekend. However, what many may not know is that when you Google search Candace’s name, one of the first things to pop up is that she’s actually a lawyer.

“Yeah, I’m sure the most important thing if you ask my mother,” Smith said.  

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Candace attended Northwestern Law School in Chicago after graduating from the University of Dayton with a psychology degree. She later took the LSAT and the bar and passed both of her first attempts. Many acquire, how did she go from practicing real estate law, to acting and becoming a TV personality.

“It’s really interesting. People try to understand my career paths,” said Smith. “I was never passionate about law. It was something my family pressured me to explore because I was smart. It was either law or medicine.”

Coming from a lower, middle class family from Dayton, Ohio, the importance of education was stressed and because Smith was doing so well in school, she the pressure to pursue one of those professions that her family found to be so impressive.

“I found myself at law school. The process was really simple and easy as far as taking the LSAT. At first I wanted to be a doctor but I hated organic chemistry. So it was suggested I get a psychology degree and become a lawyer and I was like ‘okay cool’. Nobody wanted to be in my study group because they didn’t think I was taking it seriously. [I] took the LSAT, passed it. I had no idea which law school to go to so I just picked one in my favorite city; Got in. I don’t know how.  Then I graduated and moved back to Ohio and passed the bar the first time. I worked at a law firm and I was practicing law when I became Miss Ohio.”

Candace Smith was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio which she proudly reps to this day. She’s so proud to be from the Ohio and feels there is a special aura that surrounds those born and raised in the Midwest and actually contributes her upbringing to her present success.

“Good people are from the Midwest,” Smith said. “People try to figure out why people from the Midwest are so great. I rep Ohio and the Midwest all the time and I try to explain, it’s just something about the core of people from the Midwest. We’re the salt of the Earth. We’re very down-to-earth, honest, genuine, hardworking, loyal, good people. Period. There’s a certain kind of, whether it’s New York, LA, the South, it’s different. There’s a certain level of in-authenticity, opportunistic energy where people are always trying to maneuver and get over on somebody. When you talk to someone from the Midwest, what they say is what they mean. When they say they’re going to do something, they just do it. We’re not out for self.”

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Though she’s honors being from Dayton, Ohio, growing up there wasn’t the easiest. Dayton consistently has had one of the highest crime rates among US cities, despite crime declining 40% in the last year.  As a young black girl growing up, Candace was exposed to two different sides of life, one with hardship and another with opportunities not many in her family were able to take advantage of.

“My childhood was not at all like the Huxtables, which surprises a lot of people because they assume because of my accomplishments and being Miss Ohio, that I grew up in some privileged family and had this two parent household,” Smith said.  “That’s not even close to how I grew up but I wouldn’t change it for the world. The woman I am today is because of all that I experienced and endured in Dayton. Struggling at times, dealing with uncomfortable situations as a young girl in Dayton but I have an amazing family.  So we’re a large close knit family and they really instilled in me the importance of work ethic, family, values, and putting God first. I think that if I had a more of a privileged childhood I wouldn’t have been as resilient as I’ve been.”

It hasn’t been easy for Candace. From moving out to LA by herself, starting her career in entertainment and having to learn the ins and outs of the business, Candace has had her fair share of challenges. However, Candace was taught resilience at an early age. She feels had she not been raised in Dayton and trained to become this very strong, independent woman that doesn’t understand the word ‘no’ and have the strength to jump back up when life knocked her down, she wouldn’t be where she is today. Fortunately for Candace, her intellect afforded a scholarship to a private Catholic school where she was exposed to a new perspective on life living in Dayton.

“I was living in two worlds,” Smith explained. “I had my family, the real part of Dayton. Then I had the more affluent, white friends at the private Catholic school. So I had a very unique upbringing. I was exposed to so much, the streets, school, everything, that all shaped who I was.” 

By the time she was 17, Candace was ready to see the world. She headed to Spain with her Spanish class while she was still in high school. Then while enrolled in college, she studied abroad and spent four months in London alone while studying media and communications. Even while attending law school, Candace went to Cuba for almost three months. Through all her travels across the globe, her heart will forever stay in Dayton, Ohio.

“I took off and wanted to explore every horizon,” said Smith. “I’m definitely the unicorn/black sheep of my family. They can’t figure me out and now I’m moving to Hawaii. But, that’s who I am, Dayton, Ohio. I rep it all day, every day so much that people make fun of me. I’m still hood like that. I wear t-shirts that say 937. I wear a baseball cap that says Dayton. If something is going down I’m like ‘Yo!  I’m from Dayton!’ They’re like what does that mean? Research it. Google it. Don’t play with me. I’m from Dayton.”

Candace left to become a lawyer and carry out her family’s wishes but wasn’t satisfied. She wasn’t professionally fulfilled practicing real estate law despite the fact she was working at one of the largest law firms in the country.  She began life coaching and being a matchmaker on the weekends. She had a passion for entertainment and loved theater and comedy. Her love for performing brought her back to her pageants where she used to compete at a young age and eventually lead her to become Miss Ohio 2003.

“While I was practicing law, one weekend I went to compete for Miss Ohio USA and won and came back to the office like ‘Okay, now I’m going to Miss USA,’” Smith reminisced. “It was unexpected and slightly surreal. I hadn’t been in a pageant since I was six when I won Miss Sunshine and Miss Snowbird. My old pageant coach that I had when I was five years old was still coaching pageants and she convinced me to enter Miss Ohio and then I won.”

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Candace went to represent Ohio and compete in Miss USA2003 in San Antonio, Texas. As Miss Ohio USA 2003, Candace dedicated her time to several charities including the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Artemis House and the USO. Though she did not place, Candace has gone to do great things since then but has an idea as to why the title Miss USA wasn’t in the cards for her.

“I’m a little bit too outspoken when it comes to socioeconomic issues and race issues in this country and Donald Trump owned the pageant and he didn’t really like that,” Smith said. “So I would get pulled aside at times, like ‘Candace can we keep this conversations light? Maybe talk about your favorite flower and color’.”

After winning Miss Ohio, it opened up opportunities for Candace in LA and gave her the catalyst she needed to finally pursue her passion. At the time, Candace had a few life coaching clients and she realized she enjoyed interacting with people but was tired of only doing it on the weekends. So she decided to move to L.A.

 “I got to a point where I was tired of sitting in the office with contracts all day like it was so unfulfilling,” said Smith. “People always ask how do you go from that to this. I don’t think there are crazy jumps in life. I’ve been in theater since I was 10. I was at the Dayton Playhouse and always studied. Even when I was in law, I studied acting at Act One Studios. I started modeling while I was in college. I always loved performing in some kind of way. I even loved comedy at a young age. I was doing open mic stand up. Performing was always a passion of mine. I’ve just had two separate live, always.”

With the move to L.A., Candace quickly transition from beauty queen to the movie screen and her love for comedy led to her performing stand-up, studying at Upright Citizens Brigade and appearing in three of the comedy troupe, Broken Lizard’s films; including her film debut as Naomi in Warner Brothers’ Beerfest, Slammin Salmon and the Babymakers. She also made various TV appearances and got her first dose of reality TV as a contestant on the eighteenth season of the American CBS competitive series Survivor: Tocantins — The Brazilian Highlands.

I forget that I was on that show. I’ve lived many lives,” said Smith. “I never had any desire to be on Survivor. I was asked to be on it out of nowhere. I never watched it. I had no idea what I was signing up for and if you blinked you missed me so obviously I had no idea what I was doing.”

Candace’s Dayton sass and wit cost her the competition and was unfortunately the second voted out on that season. She feels her realness was no match for the show and says her leaving early was better than staying until the end.

“I thought I could keep it real and be a beast in the challenges. I was one of the strongest competitors even though Tajh from SWV almost killed me and choked me under water but I handled her. And then I couldn’t deal with a misogynist man who asked everyone to refer to him as “Coach” and when it got dark at night, would want to cuddle next to me and lick on my neck,” Smith continued. “Everybody was confused when they got rid of me because I was strong and smart, putting puzzles together. I’m an athlete. I ran junior Olympics track, I was captain of the soccer team, and I played basketball. So I was one of the strongest competitors physically and mentally.  So I thought being a good competitor was all you needed to do. I missed the part about ass kissing. I keep missing that memo. I when I got voted off I got to backpack in Brazil which I think is better. I didn’t care about money or fame. I didn’t have to deal with all the fake bullshit. I’m not a fake person period which has hurt me plenty of times, I’m sure.”

When ask would she do anything differently to better impact her time on Survivor, Smith replied with no remorse.

“Being from Dayton, when people be like ‘don’t burn that bridge’, I be like “Burn it? I blew it up! I don’t really care.’ If you do me wrong or disrespect me and then you want me to have drinks at your house to get this job or movie, that’s not happening. If I could turn back in time and do it again, I would do it all the same but I would turn up, go out with a bang, and let everybody know exactly how I felt before I left.”

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Candace soon progressed from small screen to silver screen and starred in successful movies. One in particular that she loved the most was her role in the movie Gimme Shelter. Candace reflected on what it was like to star alongside Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Hudgens.

“That project was such a beautiful opportunity for several reasons,” said Smith. “It’s based on a true story. It’s so touching. The message of the film, I felt like was so important. Then to get the opportunity to play a real person who’s alive today, Maria, to get to know who she is as I develop this character and the accent and everything. It was one scene but it was a big scene and it was very important and that meant a lot to me. Then she be happy with my performance, it’s definitely one of my biggest accomplishments in my theatrical career, for sure.”

Candace felt honored to work with both Hudgens and Dawson but Dawson made an impact on Candace way before they were on set together.

“I’ve been a fan of hers since I was a little girl. Working with her, I was in awe of this woman,” Smith continued. “She’s such a strong powerful force and she was so humble and so sweet and so giving in the scene. And would be concern if she stepped on my lines and if she wasn’t giving me what I needed. She would be apologetic and I’m doing my best to stay in the moment, to be present and stay in character but there’s this little voice in the back of my head like ‘You’re Rosario Dawson! You don’t have to say anything to me! I’m just happy to be here!’ Working with someone on her level, I wasn’t accustom to it. For these two beautiful actresses to transform and “uglify” themselves and go to a gritty raw place, to be in the presence of that was a blessing.”

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Candace has now moved from minor roles to starring in her first female lead role in the new film, My Father, Die written by Sean Brosnan. Candace’s character, Nana, is the essentially the heroine in the film whom she feels is nothing like any other character ever played before. The movie is set to hit theatre later this year and is Candace’s best role to date.

“That movie is my biggest accomplishment of my life, thus far. I had not yet had an experience in my life where I could make that blanket of a statement and felt comfortable making until I starred in My Father, Die,” said Smith. “To get an opportunity like this to play a character like Nana in Hollywood being at the level that I was at is just unheard of.”

Candace continues on to describe who Nana is, how she identifies with her and what steps she had to take to bring the character to life.

“I don’t think when people see this film they will ever think of another character that she reminds them of. They’re going to have to get really creative and the reason why is Nana is this beautiful woman from the South who has lived this very colorful troubled life. She’s a survivor. She’s the heroine of this really gritty dark, action film. Sean Brosnan developed these characters and created this world that was so real that it blew my mind. It was almost if he knew me growing up in Dayton. My faith is very strong and I think everything happens and comes to me or doesn’t come to me for a reason. And I believe that this project came to me for a reason. It just resonated with me,” Smith continued. “It’s pretty evident that Nana’s gorgeous but there’s something else here that deeps down inside of a woman’s soul that you’re going to have to have playing Nana. And I had that. I’m from Dayton. Can’t nobody do what I’m about to do.”

In so many ways, the character Nana is much like Candace in real life. Nana is a sultry black woman from the south who has had to overcome many obstacles but still has a beautiful soul. Candace very much related to that and it showed when she asked what she loved most about her role.

“What I love about Nana, she has so many layers to her and you see them throughout the film. They don’t make her into some caricature of a Southern black woman. She doesn’t become like this ghetto, angry, or promiscuous black woman. She’s a mother. She’s nurturing, she’s loving, she’s hardworking. She’s a beast. She’s a survivor. She has all of these layers and Sean allows them to be revealed in a very organic way.

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Candace describes the movie as “just gangster” and she was allowed to do a lot of her own stunts while filming. Of course, Candace had a stunt double, a white girl who had to get spray tanned and cornrows done every day. Candace was able to relive her childhood when it came to working with firearms in the movie.

“I’ve been working with firearms since I was a little girl. My dad is from Alabama so I’ve been shooting guns since I was 14. So it was very comfortable for me to work with an AR-15 and I ended up doing a lot of my own stunts that were quite dangerous, dangerous enough to where my stunt double would get angry with me because she would have to go repeat and do what I just did.”

Candace said her role was physically demanding and highly emotionally demanding because of the dark material written in the script. Without giving too much away, the film takes place on a very dramatic day for Candace’s character, Nana. Due to where the film was shot and what her character had to go through, Candace looks at this film as one of life’s biggest challenges.

“To be in that place emotionally and spiritually for two months,  filming in Hammond, LA, this small racist town, staying in a bed and breakfast I know used to be a plantation for slaves, bed moving at five in the morning. I know it was haunted,” Smith recalled. “Sleeping by a railroad track; and this is one of those towns where there’s nothing there. There are three restaurants in the entire town and I would go to one and sit there for an hour. All the waiters would ignore me because I’m black. And I’m in these cornrows so I stand out, nonstop. I’m isolated and because of how challenging this role was going to be for me because I star opposite to Joe Anderson, who’s deaf and mute in the film, it was a lot for me to carry in our scenes. He has no dialogue. This is why this was the biggest challenge of my life.”

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Candace later discussed her well being and how she had to internally battle her psyche in order to put out her best performance.

“To be in that place and deal with the emotional, physical, mental demands, I just told my friends and family to not contact me the entire time I was there,” Smith said. “I focused in on giving everything I had, everything in me, everyday to this character. All I knew was who knows if I ever get an opportunity like this as a pretty black woman, to play a woman who I can essentially tap into the heart of who I really am versus always being the cute girl next door. Because I’m not and I get tired of it. I don’t think I will ever get it again so I gave it 120%.”

Candace admitted that the role took such a toll on her, so much so, that it took nearly three months to return to her normal routine. The film ended up premiering at South by Southwest with a standing ovation. It was there that Candace saw the movie for the first time. Afterwards, the film was picked up for theatrical distribution and it will be in theaters sometime in November of this year. Candace feels it will make a great impact on people everywhere but more specifically, black women.

“I get so tired of films that have characters that are remotely like Nana because they get stereotyped and tainted,” said Smith. “Like black women in the South don’t talk like that. Like why are you playing us like that? Even though I’m from Dayton, my family is from Knoxville, TN so I spent my entire childhood in the South and if I’m angry, tired, and or drunk you’ll hear it. Nana is real authentic. I cannot wait for black women around America to see me as Nana. I think a lot of them are going to say Thank You.

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While waiting for that movie to premiere, fans can catch Candace on tonight on their small screen. The dynamic matchmaking duo Patti Stanger and Candace Smith return to WEtv with the new series Million Dollar Matchmaker. The show airs this Friday, July 8th at 10pm ET. Candace originally premiered two years ago during the show’s 8th season and that premiere was the most watched in the history of the show. Candace dished on what it’s like working with Miss Patti.

“We do make a good team. Patti is hands down one of the most interesting women I’ve ever met in my life. She’s a true Gemini. She has this wealth of knowledge and her brain goes 5,000 miles per hour and if you can’t keep up just get out.”

Patti has had a lot of people come in and out of her life and the show over the years, but after working with Patti during her first season, Candace earned another level of respect from Miss Stanger and she feels it’s because she’s not the type to “kiss ass” or “maneuver a situation to her benefit.”

“I just put my head down and do the work and I took the job very seriously,” said Smith. “I already prided myself on my ability to match make. One couple just celebrated their 12 year anniversary with two kids. I had knowledge when it came to compatibility and she [Patti] was impressed when I could get a word in edgewise and I wasn’t being talked over.”

Candace felt above the lights and ratings, the most important aspect of being on the show is the ability to learn from Patti. Candace felt that by the end of her first season, she learned so much from Patti that they were in sync.

“A lot of people don’t come into situations humble.  I honestly wanted to learn from her. I paid attention to everything she would say so by the time I finished the first season I could finish her sentences. I already knew. We just knew that this season we would click like we never have before and the level of respect from her [Patti] that she normally does not give would allow me to have a bigger role this season. I’m the only matchmaker in all ten episodes and that speaks to my work ethic and Patti’s respect for me.”

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Candace is excited for the premiere and says fans should get ready for an action packed season. She is confident she’ll beat her record of having the highest rating of this season’s debut.

This season is going to be the most watched in the history of the show,” said Smith. “You can let everybody know, I’m going to do it again. I’m not the robotic TV girl. Fans are going to surprise at how much bigger my role is and they’ll be able to see my personality a lot more. The drama does not need to be orchestrated, the tears, the laughs, and the sexy time all just flows and a lot flows. I think everybody should watch it.”

For those who have been long time fans of the show, they can rejoice in Rachel and Destin making a return this season as well but it’s not all fun and games for them.

Rachel and Destin come back. They got put on time out but they come back in an interesting way and it ain’t all love off top”

Overall though, Candace feels that moving to WEtv allowed for more creative control and with this new format that’s so loose, it’s really going to have a dramatic impact on the show.

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While Candace help people find love on Million Dollar Matchmaker, many wonder what’s going on in her personal love life. She’s been rumored to be with a variety of different men in the entertainment world but Candace put the rumors to rest. She’s in fact “in love and have a man.”

“He’s on my personal Facebook and there’s a photo of him on my Instagram. He’s the Asian Clark Kent,” said Smith as she gushed over her new beau. “He hasn’t had a social media coming out party and I’m waiting for that ring which I know is coming very soon.”

Candace has always been a private person. She discussed how everyone in her personal life freaked out when she first posted a photo of her man.

“I live such an amazing full life, which I think it’s important for everyone that you should be nurturing your friendships, family and community. So I never felt that I needed someone,” Smith said. “In the last 8 years I’ve had like 3 serious relationships but a year ago I decided I was ready and I coached myself and step back and reevaluated my life.

Candace went through a little life coaching of her own and realized she was happy in all aspects of her life: emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, and professionally.  She knew though that with great power, like marriage, comes great responsibility and she was confident that she was in a prime place in her life to carry that load.

Being the best you leads to the best relationship. One thing you have to acknowledge in your life if you’re ready for a relationship is there must be change. You can’t go about your life like you always did and think you’re going to be able to enter into a long term, exclusive, healthy, fulfilling relationship. There’s sacrifices and adjustments that have to be made in your social life, professional life, everything. I was ready to make these changes.

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Candace reflected on her love life and the different men she’s came in contact with. In order for her to have the relationship she wanted, she had to analyze exactly what was missing in her past flares and what she really wanted in her next mate. After much thought, she came to one trait her old flings different have that her new man must possess in order for the relationship to last.

“Character. I have to sit across from a man I respect, respect that I’ve always had for the men in my family,” said Smith. “Then men in my family are hardworking, salt of the Earth, reliable, real men. They don’t go get manicures every week and there not metro sexual taking selfies on Instagram and they know how to change oil, they can fix plumbing, they’re a real man. And I had to go all the way to Hawaii in Waimanalo in the country to find him. He’s amazing.  I’m in love. This is it.

One of the things Candace likes most about her boyfriend is that not only is he private, but more importantly he doesn’t care about Candace’s career and all the things that comes with being in the entertainment business.

“He’s so secure in himself. He’s like a breath of fresh air,”Smith said.

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The two met last August, while Candace was in Hawaii for Miss Hawaii’s birthday. She met him the second day she was visiting and she ended up extending her stay there for a month. The couple kept things light between them during their courtship which led Candace to believe this was just a summer fling initially.

“I thought it was going to be a Stella Got Your Groove Back moment and we kept it casual and we became amazing friends,” said Smith. “But like I tell my clients, be open. We grew up so much alike, it’s like a ghetto country thing. I immediately felt comfortable with his family. I spent thanksgiving with his family and he just came to Ohio and had a barbeque with mine. We just click. I’m just so happy.”

Being in love in Hollywood is an everyday headline and not many pairs are able to withstand the test of time. We see celeb couples here today, gone tomorrow and some make up to break up but Candace says the key to a successful relationship is discretion.

“In the Entertainment world, unfortunately I think people showcase their relationship for the wrong reasons, to impress others and put on this public display of having this beautiful healthy relationship to kind of fill a void they haven’t addressed,” Smith continued. “I always think it’s a bad idea to reveal someone you’re dating too soon on social media because what I think happens is you’re not putting your energy on what’s truly important in that relationship. You have to build the foundation of your relationship way beyond a superficial level. You have to put the time in understanding who this person is and asking the uncomfortable questions.

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Candace thankfully dropped a few more gems on how to get to the heart of the one you love.

“This is what I find, to truly understand the heart of the person you’re dating, you stay away from posting on social media because it’s a distraction and it becomes a false crutch in the relationship,” said Smith. “My man’s affirmation from this relationship shouldn’t come from a IG post and I shouldn’t rely on that post to make him feel comfortable and secure in this relationship. If we’re going to build a really strong foundation everything we need to do is in the lab, between you and me. No one else needs to be involved in this.

Candace even touched on the reason why many celebrities stay in relationship, even if it means sacrificing their happiness and self worth.

People get too caught up on what other people think and other people’s opinions of them versus living an independently happy life and making decisions they want and being in control of their life,” Smith said.

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What it ends up happening is a lot of people stay in the relationship because they want to avoid humiliation and when they do, they’re giving a play by play of their own soap opera when they change relationship statuses or post some meme or spiritual quote about “the love within myself,” Smith continued.

 

“Set all of that aside. Get strong, you two, on your own. Develop a strong respect, admiration for one another, friendship, empathy, and knowledge of who your mate is and leave the rest alone because it backfires. Me and my boo are slowly having a come out on social media.”

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With everything she has going on you would think Candace would want to slow down, but she has more in store for the near future.She has a line of t-shirts that are coming out soon and a portion of the proceeds go to the Downtown Women’s Center where Candace volunteers.

“It’s a female empowerment t-shirt. The theme of the shirt is that there’s a lady in every warrior and a warrior in every lady. We all have it in us. They will be available in a couple of weeks.”

She’s hoping to continue her life as a TV personality and desires to have her own show which might be in the works sooner than she anticipated.

“I think that’s the direction we’re heading. I think that Patti and the network are very happy with me and would like to see me branch off on my own. So we’ve discussed me opening an office in Honolulu,” said Smith. “We will see.  My agents are contacting me about starting to film other scripted shows. I feel Million Dollar Matchmaker will be a huge success and we will film another season. I’m like water right now, I’m flowing and happy and so blessed.”

To stay updated with Candace Smith and all her entrepreneurial endeavors visit her website at www.candacesmith.com and follow her on Instagram @thecandacesmith.

Kyree Shockley

Lifestyle Writer

Kyree Shockley is a published lifestyle writer for Kontrol Magazine. Hailing from the Midwest, Kyree is putting her writing skills to great use in the heart of Atlanta. Her work has been featured in various publications. Kyree is a lover of good wine, great food, Drake, and all things pink.

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