Alumni Profile: Kayla ShaDay – Making Waves in the Entertainment Industry


Kayla ShaDay defies categorization. A 2020 alum of The Los Angeles Film School’s Entertainment Business program, Kayla’s career path winds through film, music, and photography—a testament to her boundless creativity. We asked Kayla to tell us about the industry from her point of view, from her days at The L.A. Film School to her current role managing the punk-adjacent K-Pop band Merry Hey Day.

We’ll explore the invaluable skills she’s honed while juggling her passions and skills, and how she uses them to navigate the ever-shifting landscape of artist management. But Kayla’s story goes beyond professional success. She’s a champion for dismantling stereotypes and championing the diverse tapestry of Asian and Asian-American artists. She also offers insightful advice for aspiring artists hoping to enter the emerging and competitive K-Pop landscape.

Get ready to be inspired by Kayla’s energy, creativity, and dedication to making waves in the entertainment industry. Read our full interview below!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Will you give us an overview of your career since you graduated from L.A. Film School in 2020?

Kayla ShaDay
Photo credit: Kayla ShaDay (@kaylashaday on Instagram)

Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. I actually started my career really while I was enrolled at the L.A. Film School. During my enrollment, I worked much more on the film side of entertainment than the music side. So while I was enrolled, I was pulled on as assistant director and co-producer for a couple of Amazon projects that did pretty well called Finding Miles and Some Things Private.

I was also the manager for a former K-Pop idol while he was in the States, helped him produce his first shows, a few meet and greets as well as a new EP. And I worked as a freelance photographer while I was enrolled.

I graduated in October of 2020, and it was kind of at the height of the pandemic and the lockdowns in Southern California. I worked as the marketing and events coordinator for a startup K-Pop company based out of Southern California. I was also a freelance consultant for other artists that would seek me out online as far as brand development marketing plans for them. And I have been doing photography for a lot of other artists, especially those within the AAPI community.

I’ve also been working on a photography book. It’s an immersive phototherapy book based on my travels throughout South Korea. It’s aimed to help people like myself that struggle with issues like ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, that aren’t able to really face it in the way that I have been fortunate enough to do. Currently I split my time between Los Angeles, California and Seoul, South Korea, where I am liaison and Sync Coordinator for a small company here in Korea called WDI. I’m also the artist manager for a punk-adjacent pop punk indie band called Merry Hey Day.

In your current role as a manager for Merry Hey Day, what does a typical day or week look like for you?

Merry Hey Day
Photo credit: Merry Hey Day  (@merry_hey_day on Instagram)

As manager for Merry Hey Day, it changes very much on a day to day and a week to week schedule. It’s never really the same thing each day. On the daily, I am looking for tour spots for them throughout the United States. That was one of my big goals when I first met them was to be able to bring them on a tour throughout the United States, and we’re doing that this coming August. I’m really excited about it.

But day to day I would say that I look at their analytics, make sure that all of their things are organized. That was one thing that I really wanted to make sure that we nailed and dialed in when I first started working with them. So really developing a cohesive look, logo, branding and an image for them.

But I also check their analytics, see what their demographics are, how they’re changing, where we think they are versus where they actually are, and see what kind of steps we can take to get them where they want to go. So I will communicate with the lead singer, JJ, pretty much on the daily about different shows that they have coming up, different opportunities, whether that be through television, podcasts, branding, appearances, those kinds of things, and working on different marketing strategies for them. That’s really where I spend a lot of my time, and also seeing where we can find more engagement for their existing fan base and how to grow that.

Have you always known this was the path you wanted to follow?

I actually did not have any real clue what I wanted to do in entertainment. I am the founder and CEO of a very small company called FITC Entertainment, and I branded it as a production company because there’s so much you can do in the world of production without actually having to determine one set role or artery that you really wanted to be in.

During my time at L.A. Film, I really found myself sinking my teeth into marketing and into the artist management side. But if you’d asked me before L.A. Film, I would have never said that I wanted to go into marketing. However, it was through my professors at L.A. Film during my [Entertainment Business] program that I realized how creative and fun marketing actually can be. It’s not just all crunching numbers and spreadsheets. It’s actually really diving into and finding out some of the personality of the artists or the clients that you’re working with and finding a way to make that translate into what works for them as well as their fan base.

During my time at L.A. Film I also did manage a former K-Pop idol, and that is where I really decided that I fit much more with the Asian community in the Asian-American community than I do really the Los Angeles and Hollywood based communities. I really felt like it resonated more, and I identified a lot more with them based on some of the common threads that we have. I did manage an American act with a former associate of mine and they were really good, don’t get me wrong. They were absolutely fantastic. However, they didn’t really excite me the way that my current artist does, and I wake up every day extremely excited to find out new ways to take them to the next level.

Reflecting on your time at The L.A. Film School, what specific skills or insights did you gain that have proven most valuable in your current role as a manager for Merry Hey Day?

During my time at L.A. Film, I really came to appreciate the insight that it’s okay not to have all of the answers, and that when you don’t have the answers or the skill set available, you really need to be able to communicate where you are with that and you also need to be able to identify which roles need to be filled as a priority.

For myself, PR is not my wheelhouse. I tried as hard as I could, but as my professor told me, “Kayla, you are a natural born marketer.” I couldn’t grasp the concept of PR to save my life. However, what that did teach me is how to identify what I needed in a PR representative since I was unable to fit that bill. Really being able to identify my strengths and weaknesses and communicate that with my artist is something that I was really grateful for.

So it’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to need help from outside sources or individuals, and it’s okay to literally let go of being a perfectionist and giving what you’ve got at the time. Because if you’re going to wait for it to be perfect, you’re never going to get it right.

The entertainment industry is known for its fast-paced and demanding nature. How do you maintain a balance between creative expression and business acumen when managing the affairs of artists?

The fast paced nature of the business is just the same no matter which market, whether it be the North American market, or the Asian market. It is very, very fast paced, go, go, go. And one of the keys that I really found to maintain the creative balance, as well as the business acumen, is trusting the artist and their creative process, because their creative process is very different from my creative process as a creator.

So while they’re doing their creative thing, writing new music, creating new arrangements, or just really recharging their batteries, that’s when I take the time to look more at the business side and see where we can go from there. Whether it be creating a new TIkTok, a new Instagram post, or hyping up one of their upcoming shows, an event that they have.

So I think really the key to maintaining that balance is to just be flexible and trust that the artist knows what they’re doing in regards to them still being people. They still need to take a break. They’re not machines. They’re not designed to just produce anything and everything all the time. They need breaks and trusting them when they say they need breaks is really something that I find keeps the balance pretty stable between the business and the creative side.

Asian representation in Western media and entertainment has been a topic of discussion in recent years. How do you see your role as both an artist and manager contributing to the broader conversation of diversity and inclusion in the industry?

Asian representation has certainly come a long way, especially within recent years. I’m originally from a very small town—very, very small town in the Midwest—and growing up I did not have a lot of representation in media. There weren’t even a lot of people that looked like me. My mom was adopted during the Vietnam War, so the people that looked like me were my mom and my sister. That was it. And in this small town, there really wasn’t a lot of diversity, so to speak. And I really never even actually recognized that I was actually Asian until I got to be older because I was raised so deeply ingrained in those American roots and values. And I think what I really see my role as being is further breaking away from those stereotypes.

I grew up watching individuals like Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Li. But when you hear those names, you always think of a certain niche, whether it be the martial arts, whether it be the “sexy Asian woman,” they always fit the same stereotype and niche. So for me, I’m smart, but I’m not sexy. I can do martial arts, but I’m not as strong or as fast or as capable as I used to be. So while those things can apply, that’s not really who I am as an Asian, and they don’t really apply to me as an entertainer.

For me, I think it’s more of the diversity that Asian and Asian Americans still come from every single walk of life. I was raised on a farm. I learned how to count by counting cattle. I learned how to drive on a tractor. So we are able to bring so many different voices and so many different stories from every walk of life. And it also furthers the conversation of just because we’re Asian-American, it doesn’t mean we’re all the same different type of Asian American. Being half-Vietnamese. I don’t really have a lot of connection to my Vietnamese roots. I have a lot more connection to Korean forms of heritage, just because of my time and my experiences in Korea and learning from my Korean friends taking me under their wing and teaching me more about the cultures. And I think that really goes to show that you really cannot judge a book by its cover because the contents inside could be super insightful; they could also be super hollow as well.

As someone deeply involved in the K-Pop music scene, what advice would you offer to aspiring artists or industry professionals looking to break into this highly competitive and rapidly evolving market?

I consider myself to be very fortunate having been in the position I was when I first found K-Pop. It was shown to me in December of 2016, and I was actually first introduced by hearing BTS. I sat down, watched a few of their videos. And for me, that was the first time I really saw Asians being represented as a majority, as something cool and popular that wasn’t the stereotypical tropes that I saw growing up. I did see a lot of PSY when he first moved Los Angeles in 2013, but it was very much tongue in cheek. He’s a fantastic artist and I absolutely love what he has done for the industry.

For me, I think it is important because I remember finding out about BTS and I told everybody. I was like, “You need to watch them, they’re going to be huge. They’re going to be big. You need to pay attention to them.” And no one really believed me until the summer of 2017 when they exploded and people came to me and they’re like, “How’d you do that?” It’s like, I don’t know. I just kind of looked at the climate and the environment for change that we were in at that time, and it just felt right to me that they were going to be the next big thing.

And when you look at it, I would tell people, “Yeah, now BTS is big. However, you need to look at the trend because if you’re looking at the trend and you’re trying to capitalize on what’s happening right then and there, you’re too late. You’re already done.” And I would tell people that in South Korea, military enlistment is compulsory. They don’t have a choice. It is something they have to do. And eventually BTS is going to have to go to military as they are right now. So what you need to do is you need to look at the ones that are coming up behind them. So you need to identify the trend and then look behind. See who is coming up on their heels, what is kind of bubbling, causing a stir, and maybe something that is adjacent to it because it’s much more niche and it’ll be much easier to find a way in if you’re not looking in the same place that everyone’s already looking.

Find out what is up and coming and find a way that you can enhance it. Don’t anticipate anyone doing it for you. Don’t anticipate anyone to just let you in. You need to be able to come in ready. And if that’s not with experience, then you need to come in with a plan. For instance, you need to come in with a vision.

So if you don’t have the experience, you need to come in with a vision and a plan on how you can help them achieve what they’re wanting to achieve while still being authentic and genuine to yourself.

And finally, also just be yourself, authentically yourself. Because if you’re trying to put on a mask on what you think you should be and what you think everyone expects of you, it’s going to become too heavy. It’s going to crack and it’s going to break.

Be honest with yourself. Work within the means of what you have and be flexible and willing enough to learn as you go, especially if you’re going into a foreign market that you’re not familiar with because you don’t know how the industry works. You don’t know their ins and outs like you do in your home industry, but also realize that because you know your industry in your home market so well, you can add value to those that are looking to make their way into your market. So be flexible. Just be authentically yourself and know that you’re not going to have all the answers, but be willing to learn.

Does the entertainment business sounds like something you’d love to be a part of? We’re here to help.

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