KEY HAS A TV SHOW!!!! I wish I deserved to feel the pride that I feel currently, but I had nothing to do with this beyond a lot of know-it-all production and life advice:) That’s right, Keyanna Bowen (aka East & Lane) – my first official mentee, an EHD contributor, a stellar designer, self-taught photographer, and on-camera wonder, has booked and shot a pilot for Magnolia Network that starts streaming tomorrow on Discovery+. I’m going to let her tell you what she did to lead up to this outrageous opportunity (spoiler – years of hard work), but before I turn it over to her I want to emphasize how important it is that you tune in over the weekend. TV pilots often don’t get picked up to actually create a series if the viewership numbers aren’t high and I know that this weekend will be a busy one with the holidays. But PLEASE, put it on in the background if you don’t have time to watch it till next week, every view counts and share it on social, even if you have a tiny following. Not only do I want this for Key because she deserves it, but because we need more representation, faces of color in the design world and in design TV. She’s incredible, full of so much talent and grace – in a really down-to-earth and humble way. These are the people we need as examples on TV.
OK real quick – it’s called Rental Redo, on Magnolia Network on Discovery+. I asked Key a few burning questions. Take it away, Key.
Q: How did you book your own TV show? Walk us through the steps that made this possible.
Having a design tv show has been a lifelong dream of mine, and my journey to get here has been a thoughtfully planned, yet serendipitous course of events that started back in 2016. Well, actually, 2009–when I graduated college with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and dreams of becoming the next Genevieve Gorder (then later, Joanna Gaines). But no need to recap my post-grad days when I lived with my parents and had no real responsibilities, or direction in life…those were fun years. Oh! to be young with no bills, again…
For the sake of time, let’s start in 2016.
Wait, wait! Actually, we need to start in 2012. That’s when I really set the goal to be on TV and started my “FIRST” blog…
2012: Set Goal – Living on the eastern shore of Maryland, I quickly realized the lack of creative opportunities in my small town. I had two options: move to a big city with more opportunities, or create my own. I chose the latter and started a blog, as jobless creatives do. Not East & Lane. It was called “The Blend TV” ::cringe:: I don’t talk about it much. It was short-lived, with mostly fashion and DIY videos, because I still lived with my parents and didn’t have a home of my own to decorate. But, I knew if I wanted to be on TV one day, I needed to start practicing. And boy did I need practice…
I found some circa 2013 “Blend TV” videos over on YouTube. I’m 100% going to regret resurfacing these, but my embarrassment is your enjoyment…cheers!
Shout out to my hubs (then boyfriend) Daniel, who filmed all these videos (and still shoots all my videos to this day… started from the bottom, now we’re here! And by here, I mean 2014, our wedding year!
2014: Bloom Where You Are Planted – I married Daniel, obviously for his skillsets ( j/k ;-)) and we move into our first rental home together. A small, 2 bedroom, builder-grade condo. It was my first time having a place of my own to decorate. My passion for design grew even deeper and I wanted to showcase my love for all things home. So in 2015, I taught myself how to use a DSLR camera, rebranded The Blend to East & Lane, and started positioning myself as a design enthusiast. The only problem was/is, design isn’t really a thing when you live in a small, rural town. Farming is…punkin chunkin is… spending thousands of dollars on design services, not so much. And a lot of people (especially Black people) simply can’t afford it where I live. And that bothered me. So my mission was to have East & Lane be a resource that could inspire people to create a home and a life they love no matter where they live, or economic status. Hence my motto, “bloom where you are planted.”
2016: Never Stop Believing – This is where serendipity comes in… I’m sure you all are familiar with Erin & Ben Napier. They are stars of the show Home Town on HGTV. Well, prior to them having a show and becoming big-time celebrities, we were following each other on social. I don’t even really recall seeing their posts much, but somehow I saw their post about the premiere of their show, Home Town. I commented with congratulations and how excited I was about the show, since I also lived in a small town. And went back to scrolling…
The next day, I received an email from the production company that made their show. Apparently, their executive producer saw my comment, checked out my blog, and wanted to know if I had any interest in making an HGTV show. I could not believe it! I was for sure this was my “big break”.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.
The production company asked us (Daniel & I) to send some iPhone videos. At that time, husband and wife renovation/flipper shows were very popular, and that’s what Network’s wanted. But my husband and I were not home flippers…we were renters. And the network was not interested in rental shows (at that time), so they turned us down.
But even after hearing “no thanks” from the network, I never stopped believing…for the most part 😉
2017: Create Your Own Thing – I became tired of renters being a forgotten population on design TV, and the blogosphere, so I took matters into my own hands and instead of waiting for a network to give me a show, I would create my own renter-centered content. At that time, the lease to our condo was ending and we needed to find another rental. You guys may have read a little bit of this backstory on my office makeover post, but as a refresher, I searched for what I called a “fixer-upper” rental. Similar to how people buy and makeover an old home, I would rent and makeover a dated rental and document the whole process on my blog and YouTube. My hope was that it would allow me to flex my design muscle and inspire renters that we too can have beautiful homes… and show these tv networks that #RentersLivesMatter!
I found this adorable 1950s cape cod, in a great neighborhood, but super dated inside, and the landlord agreed to let me make updates (which he would pay for). I made a 3-part kitchen makeover video series for my YouTube/blog. Little did I know that this video series would catch the eye of a Magnolia Network Executive 4 years later…yet at the same time it’s exactly what I had hoped would happen.
2018-2019: Grow While You Wait – During these interim years, my interior photography business was really taking off, but I tried to find as many ways as I could to grow in design. Again, living in rural America, there aren’t hundreds of people knocking down your door for design services, but I wanted to have as much experience under my belt as possible so I could be a resource for others and if/when a design show dropped in my lap. I started working as an assistant project manager for a high-end design + build firm, located over an hour away from my house. The commute was dreadful, but I knew it was the best way for me to really learn all the facets of construction and renovations. And then, in 2019, I went to carpentry training school. The training was a two-semester course offered at my local community college. The final project was to build a shed (which teaches you the basics of home building). Unfortunately, our class didn’t get to finish because of covid shutdowns, but they still let us graduate. Again, it was all about finding ways to grow while I waited for my dream to manifest.
2020: When One Door Closes Another Will Open – I think it goes without saying that 2020 is a year that most people don’t wish to recall, but for me, it will go down as one of the most memorable years of my life. Despite the tragedies, so many businesses and people were looking for diversity. My photography and design business blew up. I had the honor of being selected as the EHD mentee (and my goodness, Em could not have come into my life at a more perfect time because not only has she been able to mentor me on my blog, but she’s been an absolute godsend in helping me navigate the tv biz).
In the Fall of 2020, a production company that makes digital content for Lowes hired me to host a rental makeover show for Lowe’s YouTube Channel. This was my first official hosting gig! And even though it was only for YouTube and not actual television, I felt like it was the universe preparing me for the real thing. I was also ecstatic that brands were FINALLY interested in the renter space. We filmed and aired one episode (here). It got great reviews and we had plans to film more. But then, sadly I received news that Lowe’s had decided to shelf the series due to covid shutdowns/concerns ::ughhh:: Needless to say, I was super bummed.
And then, here comes serendipity again…
Within this same timeframe, I received an email, but this time it wasn’t from a production company, but rather an executive from an actual tv network. Magnolia Network. He had seen my kitchen makeover video series (from 4 years ago) on YouTube, and loved the idea about making a show for renters! Funny how all of a sudden everyone was interested in renter content…
From there, things moved super fast. I guess because I was dealing directly with a network exec, versus a production company. Typically it can take months and even years for a show to be greenlit. But I received that email in November 2020, had a few zoom calls in December, and by February the show was greenlit.
2021: Manifestation – Magnolia officially greenlit the pilot on February 16th, which also happens to be my husband’s birthday. We joke that it was his gift for all the years he put in being my videographer. There were several months of legal stuff, and pre-production, and then we finally started filming the pilot end of August through mid-September.
For the sake of time, I’ll leave all the nitty-gritty details for another post, but let’s just say filming a tv show is NOT glamorous, AT ALL. There were several times my sister (who helped me on the show) asked me why anyone would ever want to be a design tv host –the days are extremely long, stressful, and production budgets for the design/renovation are in no way sufficient, and you definitely can’t survive off the talent rate… and yet, call me crazy, but I still loved doing it and so grateful for the opportunity, and know it is what I’m meant to do in life.
Sheesh! I know that was an earful, or should I say eyeful 😉! But what may seem like overnight success has been almost 10 years in the making. Which is why you should never give up on your dream(s). Delay is not denial!
2. Why did you want to have a show? We all know that it’s a lot of work and tv shows don’t pay nearly as much as people assume that they do, so why was it something you wanted to do?
Ha! You are absolutely right, there is very little money to be made from TV. Especially when you are “new talent”… let’s just say I won’t be quitting photography anytime soon lol. But for me, it was never about the money, but rather the desire to be a hope and inspiration for all, but especially my community. It’s no secret of the lack of Black representation on design tv, and I want to be a part of that change so black girls (young and old alike) know that they are talented enough, beautiful enough, smart enough to achieve the same opportunities as their White counterparts.
Here’s the trailer! just wait for the ad to play:)
3. What next?
Welllll, I hope more episodes! This is just a pilot, so ratings will determine whether the Network orders a full season. Which is why I would love (read: NEED!!) for you all to tune in tomorrow…and the next day…and the next day. I’ve been told that ratings from the first 3-7 days are the most important! That’s one good thing about it streaming on Discovery+, it will be available for your viewing pleasure 24/7, so you can’t miss it! So please tune in at your convenience (but preferably between tomorrow and Monday :-))
Opening Photo Credits: Design and Photo by Keyanna Bowen