miss february is a rocky mountain high
Kari Kennell is wearing skintight black pants and a floppy gray sweater (which she's forever pulling away at the neck so that she can blow cool air downward), and she's talking about a party she attended not too long ago. "There were all these glitzy, beautiful ladies there," she says, somehow overlooking the fact that she's no slouch in the beauty department herself, "but I was most taken by this woman who was a natural beauty -- you know, wearing ordinary pleated pants, a plain white T-shirt, no make-up and a simple ponytail. And that's how I'd like to think of myself," she adds, running a hand through her own thick blonde hair. "A natural, down-home, no make-up, no-nonsense type of person."
Actually, it's no surprise that Kari Kennell identifies with natural things: She was born in scenic Colorado Springs and spent most of her school years bouncing back and forth between the Rockies and the equally serene clime of Dunedin, Florida. Ultimately, however, it would be Kari's talent as an actress that would sweep her away from the quiet life and smack into the fast lanes of showbiz. "I had booked two jobs on Miami Vice -- once, I was a roller-skating waitress; the next time, I was a stoned-out girl tied to a bed -- and I was hooked. I wanted to learn absolutely everything there was to know about acting, and New York was the obvious place to start."
Even though Kari immediately found work in the Big Apple, the Manhattan lifestyle began to take its toll. "After a while, New York started driving me crazy," she laughs. "You'd have to wait in line for everything -- the phone, a taxi, a pizza. I just couldn't wait to get out on the West Coast and drive my jeep along the beach." By 1987, the transcontinental lure had won out and Kari made the move -- the giant hop, actually -- to Los Angeles. Once she got there, it didn't take long for the acting jobs to start streaming in regularly -- a soda commercial here, a skit on The Tonight Show there. Still, the down-home girl inside Kari became restless once again. "I knew there had to be something else out there for me -- something even more important."
Finally, the Colorado-born, Florida-tanned, L.A.-dwelling lady has found that something important: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Now she has joined hands with the "tons of determined, committed people" across the country protecting animal rights. "It's the perfect combination of passions," she says, the determination noticeably rising in her voice. "Every dime I make from acting gets donated to animal projects. I'm even working on a few children's books on the subject. After all, kids are the future protectors of animals." Add to this current mission her new digs in West Hollywood ("It's not that ranch in Colorado, but it'll do") and some promising acting gigs on the horizon ("The big role hasn't come yet, but I'm always at that final call back"), and you can be sure that Kari Kennell has arrived. Naturally.
Photography by Stephen Wayda, Arny Freytag