There are gender reveals, and then there are fabulous Detroit gender reveals.
When rapper Kash Doll announced this month that she is expecting a boy, she did it with an Instagram photo taken on the Detroit Pistons center court at Little Caesars Arena.
Wearing a floor-length, Pistons-blue gown made by Hollywood Peezy Designs (and decorated with the team's logo and former Pistons great Grant Hill's last name and number 33), she looks regal as she tosses a basketball in the air and smiles a Mona Lisa smile.
It's an appropriate outfit for the mom-to-be, an entertainment all-star who took a big leap in 2021 from music to acting with a co-starring role on "BMF."
"BMF," a gritty Starz drama set and partially filmed in the Motor City, follows the early years of Demetrius (Big Meech) Flenory and his brother, Terry (Southwest T) Flenory, brothers from southwest Detroit who grew up in poverty and became famous for — and eventually were convicted of — building a national drug-trafficking network known as Black Mafia Family.
Kash plays Monique, a paralegal and a young mother who is romantically linked to Big Meech (Demetrius Flenory Jr., the son of the real-life character) and his nemesis, Lamar (British actor Eric Kofi Abrefa). So far this season, Monique's story line has put her in turmoil and her daughter, Zoe, in jeopardy when — spoiler alert! — Meech kidnapped Zoe in a strategic move against Lamar.
Kash, who was born Arkeisha Knight, spoke to the Free Press via Zoom this week in advance of Sunday night's episode, the next-to-last one of the first season.
Episode seven is big in terms of both the dramatic arc and fan interest. Directed by "BMF" executive producer Curtis (50 Cent) Jackson, it features an eagerly awaited cameo by Eminem, who was de-aged through visual effects to portray a teenage Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe Jr.
It's also one that has made news because of 50 Cent's anger over the digital release of the episode a week early that Starz blamed on a technical glitch.
Already renewed for a second season, "BMF" has given Kash, who has acted in a few small movies and appeared as herself on Fox's "Empire, her most complicated role yet. But she considers Monique a relatable character, even with her complex love life.
"I don’t think Monique is complicated. You know why? Because Monique is realistic. I feel like people put on this whole perfect perspective on love life, when it’s not really like that in real life," she says. "And Detroit women can vouch. A love life is not as easy and breezy as some people make it seem.”
Although Kash has chosen not to turn on the video for this Zoom call, her personality comes through vividly via her comments. She projects the strong, candid aura of someone who has worked hard to get where she is and wouldn't want it otherwise — a reflection of her rap lyrics, which are known for being empowering to women.
Based now in Atlanta, Kash grew up on Detroit's west side near Dexter and Joy. She says she always wanted to become a performer. To earn enough to pursue that dream, she had jobs at places like Best Buy, Little Caesars Pizza and the Better Made potato chip factory.
She also worked briefly as an exotic dancer, a decision she made during a rough patch when her car was stolen and her apartment was damaged by a fire. She talked about that experience recently with fellow Detroiter and former University of Michigan Fab Five member Jalen Rose for his "Renaissance Man" podcast, telling him she made $26,000 once in a single night.
Since her early days as a rapper performing in various Michigan cities and booking her own shows, Kash has become famous for songs like 2018's "Ice Me Out" and 2017's "For Everybody," which has 66 million views on YouTube. In 2019, she released her first album, "Stacked," which featured guests like Big Sean, Lil Wayne and Teyana Taylor. She has amassed nearly 6 million followers on Instagram.
"Nothing was given to me. I had to make a team. I had to elevate to get more people to come along on my team and to get where I’m at. It was a struggle," she says of the rise of her music career . "And I love the grind. I don’t like when things are just so easy. Anything easy is easy to get rid of. I think anything worth having, you’ve got to work hard for it. I loved every step of the way. I love it.“
Her journey to "BMF" happened when the show's creator and executive producer, Randy Huggins, who also hails from Detroit, became convinced that she would be perfect as Monique after hearing her perform on Big Sean's 2020 song "Friday Night Cypher." When Huggins suggested her to "BMF" director Tasha Smith, he told the Free Press earlier this year, she immediately said, "You want me to call her right now?"
"We know how dynamic (Kash Doll) is on the microphone," said Huggins. "I think she has even more talent on screen.”
Looking back on the first season of "BMF," Kash says her second most challenging scene was the one where (again, spoiler ahead) Monique's daughter, Zoe, is kidnapped.
"At the time, I wasn’t a mother ... I couldn’t really find that space to put myself in, to know how I’d feel. But I had to make it happen. So I gave it all I had," she says, describing how she thought of her nieces and nephews to connect to Monique's love for Zoe.
Her most difficult scene? "Of course, the first scene I was seen in, the sex scene," says Kash with a laugh, admitting she wasn't exactly comfortable watching the first episode sequence involving Monique and Big Meech.
"The first time it showed on screen, I didn’t know that it was going to be like that. The first time I went to look (at it) at the premiere, I kind of was hiding up under my boyfriend and was not trying to look. I never looked at it all the way. I always was like, 'Oh my God!'”
Kash says she was willing to do such a scene, which involved her going topless, at least once. "For me, it was challenging. I wanted to try it. It might be my last sex scene that I ever do because I don’t know if I ever want to do that again." She considered how other major actresses have appeared nude for artistic reasons. ”I want to be where they’re at one day, you know?," she says.
She also knew that Smith, as the episode's director. would be looking out for her. "Tasha Smith is like my acting mom," says Kash, who previously had studied acting with Smith. "For her to be there for my first episode, especially for the sex scene, it just made me a little more warm, a little more comfortable. ... Just knowing that she’s a woman, too. It’s a sensitive subject.”
Kash says she learned a lot from watching her more experienced co-stars in "BMF."
“It was cool to have us newcomers and the vets in one building. It was like a life hack. You get to learn different things in the industry that you're approached just by being around them and seeing how they handle things," she says, adding that some of the things she learned from Kofi-Abrefa (who has been in movies like "Fury" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom") were "really, really valuable and will probably go with me for the rest of my career."
According to Kash, she would love to do more acting and "I am going to do more.” Whatever she does next, she will take the lessons she has learned from Detroit with her.
"I think that Detroit taught me tough skin at an early time in my career. It taught me how to be real and realistic and embrace how different we are from the rest of the world," she says. "I think Detroit is the dopest place in the world."
Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds at email@example.com.
8 p.m. Sun.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit's Kash Doll goes from rap star to TV actress with 'BMF' role