A year ago, Kalen Allen was the pinnacle of a busy Temple University senior. He was pursuing a double major, working five jobs and producing videos with his friends.
Today, he’s a viral TV and internet star with his own webshow, a regular guest spot as a host and DJ on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” He has 3.8 million combined followers across his social media platforms and has been called the “next big thing” by the Hollywood Reporter.
“I knew that my only job and all that I could do was to continue to follow my dream and work and see what happened from that,” said Allen, a 2018 theater and film and media arts alumnus.
Marking his one-year anniversary working with Ellen DeGeneres, Allen appeared on the Jan. 7 episode of the comedian and talk show host’s program to reflect on his journey. DeGeneres surprised Allen by announcing he will cover New York Fashion Week 2019 and walk in one of the runway shows. Allen has covered events for the show like the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards and the 2018 Billboard Music Awards.
Allen also discussed coming out as gay in the public eye and said he wants to do more outreach efforts for different communities, specifically the LGBTQ community.
“I have a platform that I can really help and lift people up,” said Allen. “A way I would want to inspire people is to show them that anything is possible if you are just confident in it and believe in it and are your true self in that.”
Allen will make his acting debut alongside comedian and actor Seth Rogen in yet-to-be-titled Pickled comedy about a Jewish man, played by Rogen, who works at a pickle factory and is brined for 100 years after falling in a vat of pickles.
Allen’s pathway through LA’s show business world began last January, when DeGeneres offered him a job producing video content after his comedic reaction videos critiquing cooking videos went viral. Allen now has his own series, “OMKalen,” on Ellentube, DeGeneres’ digital platform.
Episodes garner millions of views and feature Allen giving tips to college students or traveling to Australia to react to local cuisine like Vegemite, an Australian spread used on toast.
Allen said he hopes to expand his show to cover more experiences like these and make it more interactive.
“People think reactions are limited to food videos, but I think my reactions can expand to anything, anything that is out of the ordinary for me,” he added.
To actualize his dreams, Allen completed his last semester through the Los Angeles Study Away program after first appearing on DeGeneres’ show.
“I had put all this work in, and all this time I had wanted my degrees,” Allen said. “It was important to me because I am a person who always believes in thinking ahead.”
One of the most important things Temple gave Allen was his close friends and mentors from the theater department who he turned to for guidance during his move to Los Angeles, he added.
“[Allen] really did make sure he had an end goal because he was not going to leave to LA without finishing his degree,” said Brandon McShaffrey, a theater and opera professor who worked with Allen in Temple Theaters. “He didn’t come to college not to finish, and he loved his time here.”
Tyrell Mann-Barnes, a senior biology major, said he knew his best friend Allen was going to be famous since he met him in Fall 2014.
“He already knew what his destiny was and if anybody I felt had the power to manifest that, it was him,” Mann-Barnes said.
Mann-Barnes and Allen have remained close friends despite living on different coasts. Allen said he is still adjusting to being on his own and finds people in LA have different interests than him, unlike what he experienced during his time at Temple.
“College gives you accessibility to so many people,” he added. “I had surrounded myself with people that were hard-working and wanted to succeed in life as well, so it only pushed me to follow my dreams.”
Allen has been willing to make his dream a reality, whether it was given to him or not, Mann-Barnes said.
“It inspires people around him, not only to love him and admire him, but to also be bolder and to grow into who they truly are and to own who they truly are a little bit more unapologetically,” he added.