The award-winning actor, producer, singer and TV personality spoke to Blavity and reminisced on everything about the season that had him ready to be #BlackOutside
Allen recalled his memories of summer, TV and how the lack of queer representation helped mold him into who he is today.
“I think we all have to take into account that I was born in 1996. And so, that was really in the time of the AIDS epidemic,” he said to Blavity. “So when you ask me who were the queer people in media I looked up to, I would say the lack thereof.”
The content creator said he saw the representation when personality and runway coach Miss J. Alexander stormed network television on America’s Next Top Model and media mogul RuPaul began breaking down doors by presenting himself as an open LGBTQ individual on mainstream TV.
“I think the fact that RuPaul was able to be on all these different shows and have all these guest spots as a drag queen during that time is absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “And I would love to one day be able to unpack that with Ru, but those are the people I immediately think of in my mind.”
While Allen attributes the lack of representation as his fuel to fill the void, he’s excited to see today’s media landscape has changed. However, he believes the final level to “break the glass ceiling” is uplifting and helping one another.”
“I think sometimes when you are so used to living in scarcity, it gets very frightening that you get scared that if somebody else comes, they’re going to take your spot,” he said.
He added that we could take notes from our white counterparts and help each other get into rooms and take over.
“We need to start promoting and pushing for us to be able to occupy spaces as well in a mass amount of representation and visibility,” he said.
Allen’s infectious personality was introduced to millions over five years ago when Ellen DeGeneres shared his hilarious “Kalen Reacts” videos. His funny take on people making unconventional dishes led him to appear on the long-running talk show and then transition into a regular correspondent. The gig would be ideal for anyone, but in true Capricorn fashion, Allen stayed “about his business” and used it as a catapult for the next step.
“From the beginning, I was already starting to pivot and do other things instead of staying solely at the show. In my first year, I was already filming An American Pickle, with Seth Rogen,” he said.
The 26-year-old expanded his network by moving to New York and taking a position with the Food Network.
Allen’s deep love of creativity was nurtured as a child in Kansas City, Missouri. Along with television, his favorite summer memories were the Fourth of July festivities.
“[In Kansas City], we would go to where it was called Riverside. It was all these tents, and it’d be like 20 fireworks stands. We would go there and get all our fireworks, and I absolutely loved it.”
The anticipation of the sky show would have Allen waiting in the grass for the sun to go down. He has pleasant memories of home videos of him handling his favorite sparklers and smoke bombs.
A kid at heart, Allen’s favorite summer activity as an adult is partaking in anything Disney.
“I love to go to Disney World. I can go on a Disney Cruise or go to Disney Land.”
As lively as his personality is, Allen is all about enjoying the ease of the summertime. A good afternoon of people-watching, sitting by the creek, and eating crepes is just fine with him.
Watch the full interview below: