Many know award-winning actor, producer, singer, and television personality, Kalen Allen, from his presence across social media. The YouTuber turned on-air talent captured hearts and laughs online with his “Kalen Reacts” videos, featuring entertaining commentary on culinary concoctions. His humor and wit eventually landed him on the Ellen DeGeneres show, however, his talents reach far beyond daytime television.

The multi-hyphenate talent is proudly working on his master’s degree in journalism while juggling his rising star. When you’re on the go like Allen, it’s only natural that your travel game will also experience an uptick. Travel Noire spoke with the co-host of the inaugural Honeyland Festival about his travel tips, favorite hometown spots, and representation in media.

Travel Noire: What are one or two travel hacks that make being on the go easier? 

Kalen Allen: I don’t know if you know this, but I’m practically on a plane every week for work. So, I’ve really gotten down how to make it happen. When I think of hacks and tips, please get rid of those big old suitcases for every trip. I have mastered the art of being able to take a carry-on and only taking what I need. That’s a skill you need. 

[Also,] this may sound crazy to some people, [but] I only take two pairs of socks, no matter how long the trip is because I’m just wasting space. My feet don’t stink. I clean them every day. [Unless] I’m hiking, then I have different kinds of socks for that. 

TN: What has it been like to be a rising star in the public eye while also navigating your 20s?

KA: For me, especially as a Black Queer person, it is very important and I don’t take it lightly. Everything that I do is for representation and visibility. I strive to break every barrier, to do everything that I want to do, all for the sole purpose of being able to show little boys and other people from my community that it is possible.

When you are Black and Queer, you are often only told of your limitations and not how you can exceed expectations. I believe that my existence alone is revolutionary. So I enter every single space and every opportunity as 100% myself. I never assimilate [or] tone myself down. I am very strategic in how I present [myself] because I know that my presence alone can open up doors to so many people that they don’t have to go through the struggles of who they are. 

TN: As a Kansas City native, what one dish and or Black-owned restaurant is your go-to spot when touching down at home? 

KA: I have the privilege [of] me and Janelle Monae [being] from the same place. We’re both from Wanda County, which is a predominantly Black county in Kansas City. The majority of the restaurants are Black-owned. For me, immediately it’s barbecue. I think of Gates Bar-B-Q [and] Jones Bar-B-Q. When you go to Kansas City, that’s where you go. 

I am so fortunate that I grew up in Kansas City around so many Black people; Blackness is kind of almost all that I know. I think that’s why I always want to celebrate that.

This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.