September 13, 2013 6:27 pm

The Inventory: Kanya King

‘When I think back to my careers advice, I was just written off,’ says the founder of the Mobo Awards
Kanya King©Getty

Kanya King started the Mobo Awards in 1996, taking urban music to the UK mainstream. The awards now reach more than 400 million viewers in some 200 countries. She was appointed MBE in 1999 for services to the music industry.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be an actress. I always remember in primary school they had a production of Snow White. They asked the class who wanted to play Snow White and I put up my hand – then realised I wasn’t white.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

State school: South Kilburn High School. Then English and drama at Goldsmiths College – but I was asked to leave because I wasn’t attending enough lectures. I was trying to make ends meet, juggling jobs, I had a young son. But I enjoyed my time there – I got to specialise in TV and went to work for a TV production company.

Who was your mentor?

I don’t have one. I would have loved one! But sometimes you learn by doing.

How physically fit are you?

I would like to be a lot fitter. I work long hours sitting at a desk but I try to walk a lot.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

What matters most is having the right attitude.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

I haven’t – probably just as well.

How politically committed are you?

I’m interested and aware, and on certain issues such as cultural enterprise and causes that mean a lot to me, I’m passionate.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I try to. I don’t have a car; I recycle.

Do you have more than one home?

I do – I have a few that I rent out. I was fortunate to get on the property ladder at an early age.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A dog. And, of course, more time.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Nothing material. I always try to find time with friends, time in beautiful parks in the sun.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

Everything I do is done with passion, so a passion flower with the unity symbol in the middle – the rings. The petals would look like mountains; reaching a mountain top you see another one to climb.

In what place are you happiest?

I love the tranquillity of home.

What ambitions do you still have?

Besides writing a book, I want to expand the Mobo brand by creating more live events, groundbreaking shows and international media platforms for artists we champion.

What drives you on?

My parents’ lack of opportunities. My father died when I was 13 and was ill for a lot of my life; my mother was concerned about keeping a roof over our heads and they suffered a lot of discrimination when they came here. I’m very fortunate to have had opportunities that my parents just didn’t have.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Mobo turning 18 this year is a huge achievement. Starting an award that changed the industry is something to be proud of.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

I try to see setbacks as a chance to learn, not an obstacle.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

“Who’d have thought?” When I think back to my careers advice, I was just written off.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I would allow myself a moment of self-pity and then I would use my skills and tenacity to start again as something in business.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes. I believe in quality of life, not quantity.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I live in hope. I’m an optimist.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Eight and a half. I’m in good health, content but not complacent.

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The 18th anniversary Mobo Awards take place at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on October 19. Tickets from www.mobo.com

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