When Clayton resident Makenzie Lee-Foster (Kenzie) was just 7 years old, the avid reader told her mom, Shakondi Lee, that she wanted to write a book.
“I just kept asking my mom if I could write a book, and she kept saying no,” Lee-Foster recalls.
Finally her mom conceded, and together they brainstormed ideas for a book. Kenzie decided to write about following your dreams and doing the hard work that it takes to make them come true. The message is inspired by her own life.
The actress, who plays young Deja on the Emmy-nominated TV series “This is Us,” was going on lots of auditions at that time in her life – but not getting any callbacks. The feedback was that she needed to work on her speech. After already having quite a few acting credits to her name, she began to doubt what was next for her.
From this experience came the book “Kickin’ It with Kenzie: What’s Meant for Me Will Be!” Through lively illustrations and text, kids see a young girl who tries out many different dreams, gets discouraged and eventually learns a valuable lesson about the hard work and patience it takes to figure out your destiny.
After some professional editing and about a year of hard work with high schooler Bryce Sweely on the illustrations, the book was ready for production.
“I wanted her to self-publish the book, because I wanted her to learn all about running a business,” Lee said. “If she was going to invest some of her money into this, I wanted her to learn about profit and loss, residual income and how many books she needed to sell to make this a good investment – all the things she would need to understand about how to use her money wisely.”
Lee allowed her daughter to use some of the money she has earned from acting but is saving for college. When Kenzie was 2, friends encouraged Lee to try her in print ads to start a college fund. That served as a jumping off point for more modeling and then acting jobs.
Lee has involved her daughter in every decision about the book, from choosing the illustrator to deciding where to print it and how to market it. A book launch party in Los Angeles in September included a dance party, snacks and a raffle. At the event, Kenzie learned that her book won a bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards.
She has presented her book to classes at Mt. Diablo Elementary School, where she attended kindergarten and first grade. Her busy acting career now requires homeschooling. She also recently hosted a book signing at the Clayton Library.
As an author myself, I had many questions for the young writer:
Q: Whom do you admire most?
A: My mommy, because she’s always brave and confident and about 10,000 more things.
Q: What are your favorite books?
A: “Alice in Wonderland” and the Ada Lace series by Emily Calandrelli.
Q: What advice do you have for other kids who want to write a book?
A: Follow your dream, be confident, think about your story carefully and stories can come from your real life.
Q: What was your favorite acting job?
A: I loved “Amazon Hottest Toys” because I got to play with some cool toys. I also like the Toyota commercial (Super Bowl 2019 with Toni Harris) because I got to tackle some boys.
Q: Tell me about your experience playing young Deja on “This is Us.”
A: I’ve done three episodes so far. I don’t get to watch the show though, because it’s too sad. My mom went crazy when I got to do a scene with Pam Grier.
Q: What does the future hold?
A: I want to help people, especially the homeless and people who are less fortunate. I want to be a scientist. I want to make a time machine to go back and forward. And I want to invent a robot refrigerator that makes any food you want and brings it to you.
She will also star in a new kids TV show coming out in 2020.
As Kenzie puts it so wisely: “Follow your dreams. Never give up. Chose the right path no matter how hard it is.”
Buy “Kickin’ It with Kenzie” online at kickingitwithkenzie.com. See her on her YouTube channel where she shares science experiments and fun adventures, and an Instagram account (makenzieleefoster) with information about future author appearances in the Bay Area.