Kim Coles has had a diverse career in the entertainment business. From performing to hosting at the Apollo, starring on “In Living Color” and later on “Living Single,” she’s put in the work. But as with most entertainers, the behind the scenes story wasn’t all that glamorous. In fact, on Netflix’s “Strong Black Lead” podcast, Coles shared that when her career first began she developed an eating disorder trying to be what she thought the industry desired.
Kim Coles: Someone had said to me, the manager of the Comic Strip, which is where Eddie Murphy came out of–he said to me, ‘You need do one of two things. You either need to gain 40 pounds and become the next big, fluffy Nell Carter, like really gain the weight .. Or you need to lose 40 pounds and become like a babe. You’re too in between. You’re too fat to be skinny and too skinny to be fat. So, I went on an active campaign to drop a great amount of weight. I was actually anorexic during that time. I started out healthy but to maintain it, I ended up hopped up on diet pills. Diet pills ain’t got nothing on any other drug. She mimics frantic, erratic behavior. I got really unhealthy with this weight loss because I was like, ‘I need to look this way. I need to be this thing. I need to do this thing.’ It’s funny because when people see me now, this is how I started out. I started out like this. I ended up losing a great deal of weight. And when people first started seeing me on The Apollo and then on “In Living Color” that was new to me. I didn’t even know what this body was. Hopped up on pills and I was an exercise-a-holic.
Janelle James: I went through that. And I remember like laying on the floor one day and my heart was beating so…and then that juxtaposed with everyone telling you you look amazing. They’re like ‘What are you doing?’ You’re like, ‘I am dying!’
Kim Coles: Oh my goodness, yes. I am dying and speeding on these pills right now. So the trick is to now find a healthy balance. And I’m looking for that now and I’ve been looking for it for years. But yeah, I thought that I needed to look a particular way. I was told I needed to be one or the other. That was naive. I think I was maybe 25-26 years old.
Coles also spoke about the importance of comedy and the ups and downs of being in the industry.
Comedy is healing
It’s an art form. It’s actually a healing art form. We all know that laughter is the best medicine. We, as comedians, are actually healers. Haven’t you been on stage and you felt the vibe of the audience. They were changed because you performed. It is a superpower and it is to be respected and nurtured in a beautiful way. It’s huge.
Ebbs and flows of your career
Something that someone told me early in my career—and I wish I could remember who it was because I need to kiss their feet. It was such a good piece of advice. It works for show business but it works for anything else too. They said, ‘This is how your career’s going to go. Who is Kim Coles? Introducing Kim Coles. Get me Kim Coles. Get me a Kim Coles type. Get me a cheaper Kim Coles. Get me a younger Kim Coles. Who is Kim Coles?’ So that’s the cycle. So, it’s just sort of knowing what stage you’re at or experiencing whatever stage you’re at. And just go it’s not like I’m a loser. It’s not like I’m no longer funny. It’s not like I’m no longer beautiful. There’s these stages that come. And I’ll never forget auditioning for something against the younger Kim Coles. And I think it flows that way. They go looking for the version of you that’s like you but not you and it’s like, ‘I’m still here.’
You can listen to Kim Coles’ full interview in the video below. The portion about the eating disorder begins around the 22-minute mark.