Kayla Monteiro is the Special Projects and Events Manager for DoSomething.org. We've asked her 7 questions about her work and her life to share with us. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and is a contributing writer for Teen Vogue. Instagram: @kaylanmonteiro
1. How did your big move to New York and your job at DoSomething begin? Can you tell us a little bit about the organization?
I realized that there were not a lot of safe spaces that existed for me in Florida as a queer black woman, and knew that I needed to find that somewhere. I left Florida and moved to New York by myself, and without knowing anyone at 19. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever done, and by far the best thing I have ever done for myself.
I applied to DoSomething with zero experience or college degree, and did not think I had a chance. I did THEE most to get an interview- I created a mock DoSomething.org website called HireKayla.org (which, thank god, no longer exists)— and it worked! At the time, I was applying to be our COO’s assistant. After I joined the team, my boss ended up transitioning into the role of CEO and I began working on events and special projects.
DoSomething is the largest organization for young people and social change in the world. Through our web platform (dosomething.org), our 6 million+ members all around the world are able to take instant action on any cause they care deeply about. We exist to make social change accessible, scaleable, and fun.
2. What is your typical workday like, and what are the most rewarding and challenging parts about your job?
I don’t really have a typical work day, which I love. The projects and events I work on change constantly and that diversity of work keeps things exciting and allows me the chance to continually learn and grow.
The most rewarding part of my job is without a doubt the people I work with, and the people we work for.
I know that I will never work in another office like DoSomething. The people here are honestly the most kind, brilliant, talented, and strange people I know. It is a privilege to get to come into an office every day and assume the best from every person you work with. I know every time I step into my office, I am walking into a safe environment, with people who want to make the world a more just and inclusive place. And everything we do is for the 6 million young people who have joined our movement and also strive to make this world a better place.
The most challenging part of my job is having a lack of resources to get things done. As a non-profit it is important that we utilize our funds sparingly and that means most of the events I run are done on an incredibly low budget and with a small team. I am a scrappier and more efficient person now, which is a plus!
3. How have your ideas of love evolved since moving to New York? Would you mind giving us a quick summary of your latest love story?
Ha! What a loaded question. Well, for one, being in New York gave me the safe space I needed to explore my queer identity. The freedom to stand in that identity without being worried about my environment has been monumental. And when I was in Florida, I saw a very specific type of romance continually play out- you grow up in the church and get married young to someone you met at church. I assumed that was my only option, but also knew it never felt right for me. I am happy I was able to move and see different types of love manifest, it was the first time I could really see myself and my desires displayed through others. I never had the language or the understanding to ask for the things I wanted, and I do now.
I am very lucky to be in love with my best friend (fedora king, Jason Mraz knew what he was talking about). We have been together for a little over a year and it has unquestionably been the healthiest and best relationship I have had. We were best friends for years before we started dating and it is amazing to go into a relationship already knowing the person you are committing to. I am fortunate to be with someone who motivates me professionally and personally, and also wants to watch Missy Elliot music videos on loop for days.
4. What are some positive changes that you have noticed within yourself over the last few years?
I am learning how to take up space and assert myself, when I should. As a woman, as a black woman, and especially as a black woman with no college degree, I had a very difficult time believing the ideas I have are valuable and worth sharing. I have been able to see so many projects I have thought of or worked on executed brilliantly, and that has given me the confidence to run rooms and meetings well.
Most significantly, I feel like I am really starting to learn how to listen to myself and respect the things I want and deserve, which is something I never knew I could have.
5. What are some of your daily rituals? What items can you not live a day without?
I talk to my mom all day every day and feel incomplete when that does not happen. I cannot mash a potato or drag anyone without first consulting her. She is my best friend and the smartest person I know.
I cannot go a day without coffee (i hate how basic i am), google calendar, checking my Slack notifications, moisturizing, or listening to Beychella—I made my girlfriend download the audio and video file.
6. What are some things that you are looking forward to in the future?
Midterm elections!! DoSomething is putting all of our effort behind getting young people registered to vote and at the polls this November. I am so, so hopeful that we will start to see more young people running for office, and more accountability for elected officials.
And in the immediate future, I am looking forward to seeing Beyonce and her husband perform during their On The Run Tour! I am really praying for a Blue Ivy sighting.
7. What is your favorite part about helping others?
I sincerely love people. My favorite part of helping others is prioritizing the humanity in everyone. I care about the histories and lived experiences of others and think it is important to contextualize those things and share those stories to build empathy and understanding for people different from you.
Interview by Katryn Macko