Ebby Magazine




Meet Kimleigh Smith, award-winning solo performer & founder of Embrace Your Cape! philosophy. Get ready to be inspired by her must-see one-woman show, T-O-T-A-L-L-Y! 



We had the opportunity to interview Kimleigh Smith, an award-winning solo performer who has acted in acclaimed productions at renowned theatres such as The Goodman, Lookingglass, Garry Marshall, and Steppenwolf. Her multi-award-winning solo show, T-O-T-A-L-L-Y!, has been featured in television shows like S.W.A.T., DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Shameless, 9-1-1, Everything's Gonna Be Okay, Criminal Minds, Scandal, Castle, Bones, The Mentalist, Parenthood, Key and Peele, Law and Order: LA, and Heroes, as well as films such as Wildflowers, Bad Words, The Discovery, and The Princess Diaries.

Smith is an advocate for sex positivity and sexual assault awareness and the founder of Embrace Your Cape! philosophy. Through her powerful, transformational stories that focus on turning trauma into triumph, she highlights the strength of female voices with a combination of humor, vulnerability, and authenticity. Her must-see one-woman show, T-O-T-A-L-L-Y, takes the audience and herself on a journey of transformation and growth, giving them the chance to experience something bigger and magical. They can connect with her story and feel like they too can overcome anything.

Her stories are sure to empower and inspire everyone who has the opportunity to experience them.


Tell us about your journey—the person you were and the person you have become.  What inspired you to write it and bring that story to the stage?

Totally means wholly: to a complete degree or to the full or entire extent of something if I’m completely committed. To become my own true hero was a childhood dream that always motivated me to excel in everything I did in life.

I had an amazing acting career while living in Chicago, performing at the Steppenwolf, the Goodman, and the Lookingglass Theatres and booking commercials and voice-overs. Yet I felt the urge to push my career in a new direction, so I moved to Los Angeles to try out the film and television industries.

About a month after I got to L.A., I became an organ donor. Family love and the chance to save a life carried me past the fears and worries. As relatives gathered at the hospital to bring comfort during recovery, I found myself telling funny stories without any inhibitions. When a few insisted that I should mount a one-person show, I initially dismissed the idea, but the suggestion did plant a seed.

Back in Los Angeles, things started to change. Becoming a writer was a big leap into the unknown. I’d initially pushed away the advice people gave me to do a one-person show. I was scared that I would not be up to the task of writing my own show. Still, I remained confident in my abilities as a performer. I’ve had a lot of success in that area. After years of running away from what scared me, I realized that the time had come to face my fear and tell the story of the lessons I’d learned. The universe kept trying to tell me. Finally, I listened.

The journey to this show has been full of twists and turns, but I came through it all. I stand tall and feel better than ever! I pushed through the boundaries and found a way to express the joy and zest for life that humor brings to each situation. I have redefined myself and my art! I realized I am a true-born storyteller, in writing as well as performance. My show allowed me to put all the things I love—acting, singing, dancing, and psychology—into a vehicle that also expresses my life philosophy (Embrace Your Cape). That now keeps me fulfilled and happy.

When I wrote, directed, and finally performed my show, I knew I’d overcome any fear and doubt I’d felt by putting a hundred percent of myself into what I did, reclaiming who I really am. That was a heroic effort for me, and the response was amazing. So many people told me to keep going. I got great feedback from some very successful festival runs. I also worked with an incredible director, Paula Killen, whose honesty and insight helped take the show to the next level.

I am told that my show speaks to everyone. We have all been through things in life that hold us back, but we can come through to the other side. My story is about overcoming anything by telling your story. By owning your story, you can own your life, and by putting on your superhero cape, you can take flight and embrace who and what you are, never letting anything get in your way!


How do you become a better version of yourself every time you tell your story?

The day I wrote my show and told my story to the audience for the first time, I was changed forever. Now every time I tell my story, I am free. The freer I become, the better I become. I had written my ending further along than where I was. I could see the future, but I was not there yet. Now, I have surpassed that ending and added to my show because I have grown so much. I fully embrace my cape, which is my good, my bad, and my ugly. I own all of me, and owning my story has allowed me to own my life.


What is your inspiration to keep you moving forward so you can continue healing?

Truly, my biggest inspiration to keep moving forward so I can continue healing is my mother, Betty Lou Smith. She is the Queen of all Queens, from a family of 12. Born black in 1940, she has seen it all and been through it all. From her, I am constantly reminded of what real strength and courage look like. She is a natural caretaker and healer. This was born into me, and I am honored to say that it is my destiny.

My mother taught me how to stand tall no matter what. She taught me how to fight for what I believe in and never give up. I have never let things go or given up on myself. My mother told me that there is nothing I can’t do if I give 200%. When I was born the youngest of three, my mother looked down at me and said, "This one is going to be a star." I will always have something to live for and live up to. I will always heal and hopefully inspire people to be all that they can be.

In the past, you have directed multiple powerful and transformational stories that are universal. Sometimes these are painful stories, but they are also full of humor, vulnerability, and authenticity, such as in I Never Met a Jerk I Didn't Like, Traveling with Angels, and Second Nature.


What inspired you to direct these real-life superheroes to turn their greatest traumas into their greatest gifts?

People would always come up to me and tell me their own deepest stories, saying that they had never told them to anyone before. I would listen, take it in, and the magic would happen. I somehow helped them heal. They kept coming, and I kept helping. I honestly never knew it would take me to where I am today.

When I wrote my one-woman show, many people asked if I could help them with theirs. At the time, I was not a director. I had no idea what that could look like. All I knew was that I had a story, and I knew that story had changed my life. I wanted to help others do the same.

That’s when I knew I had to find a way to change lives by helping others own their trauma and transform their lives.

With great trauma comes great responsibility... I accepted the challenge!


How do you direct people to take full ownership of their stories and share them without fear or shame?

The magic was given to me by my mom, and that magic was given to her by our ancestors. It is a gift. I just see it, even before I work with someone. I have a process that allows them to dig deep. As I hear them, I see it clearer and clearer, and then the magic takes over, and a show is born. It takes bravery and truth. It is not for the faint of heart. But if you work with me, trust me, and trust the process, the magic happens.

Anyone who has ever written anything powerful will tell you that it is like the story all of a sudden comes out of you, and you have truly given birth to it. Truth, honesty, and authenticity are what it is all about. For some reason, people see my ability to speak the truth, and it inspires them to do the same. "Don’t squander your gift. It is yours to share with the world, and I will never stop sharing my gifts."


How is Embrace Your Cape, your production company, shifting the paradigm in the entertainment industry?

I created Embrace Your Cape to help artists, speakers, and creators expand on their creativity, their ability to determine their own artistic path, and understand they have a RIGHT to influence social change for themselves and others. My main goal is empowerment with boundless creativity so that we can change the way the world sees things. I am creating a paradigm shift in the entertainment industry, something that has never been done before. The system was not built to empower people but to make them compete. We build people up as a collective. Embrace Your Cape opens doors. When the doors won’t open, we build the doors.


What is your luxury for your soul?

My luxury to the soul is Embracing My Cape and helping others Embrace their own.


How do you take care of yourself so you can take care of others?

Self-care, self-care, self-care.

I have scheduled it in so that I never have a chance to forget. I have a daily ritual that starts with meditation, visualization, and a daily mantra that I say to myself in the mirror the moment I step out of bed. I write my morning pages. I keep a workbook to always better myself. I work out, hike, and stretch daily. I do a vocal warm-up, breathing exercises, and work on my voice-over and on-camera work for my acting. Every few weeks, I get a manicure and pedicure. Every month, I do a facial and massage. I also have a life coach/therapist that I work with anytime I need to get fueled or work through something.

My other practice of healing is writing. It’s how I wrote my show and the process that I use with all my clients that work for me in a way nothing else can. It’s life-changing. Lastly, Fun. I have fun. If you don’t have fun, your cup is all work, and that dries you up real fast. The fun fuels me and reminds me not to take life too seriously—that no matter what, we have to laugh even at the hard stuff and the pain. That is the only way to truly embrace your cape and fly.