Oral Historian, writer, artist, educator, medicine women, and member of the neurodivergent community.
Kayleigh is a multidisciplinary performance artist, writer, oral historian, and acupuncture clinician. She grew up in the Catskill Mountains, outside of Woodstock, New York, where her family currently resides. In effort to leave Long Island, her parent’s honeymoon involved a camper, a camera, many maps, and 48 States. Whether or not they ended up falling in love with the Catskills, or they actually just ran out of money to travel further, has yet to really be clarified. Nonetheless, it was from that juncture that they rubbed their pennies together to build a middle class life for Kayleigh and her sister. Something neither of her parents had in their own childhoods.
Kayleigh’s upbringing involved many years of hiking, camping with neighborhood friends, bathing in the river soapy with Dr. Bronners, biking to the single general store down the road from the log cabin her father ended up building, and lots of dancing, acting, and voice lessons.
Being a curious child at a young age, constantly exploring and challenging gravity, Kayleigh had gotten her fair share of cuts, bruises, and head hits. Her insatiable appetite for novelty caused two significant concussions during her adolescence, resulting in double crowns in both her front teeth—one from each accident—as well as a forehead scar that had gotten her made fun of throughout high school, with kids teasing how it would “glow in the dark” at parties. However, it wasn’t until years later that the impact of these injuries had really begun to be understood.
Leaving Woodstock in 2005 to pursue an education at Hunter College and dance in in New York City, Kayleigh spent the first two years of college masking much of the head injury symptoms through partying, leaving her performance career on the sidelines, as well as wondering why she could not think and talk in the articulate fashion she was being exposed to in college classes. After an overdose, it was her ongoing interest in the esoteric, Zen, and Buddhism that ended up quite literally saving her life, propelling her to India in 2008 to pursue yogic and Ayurvedic studies. Since, she has trained extensively with amazing mentors and teachers both nationally and internationally, including Leslie Kaminoff, Jillian Pransky, Maty Ezraty, Jenny Authur, Bernie Clark, among others, as well as in yoga specialized for individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury.
Kayleigh explored various other careers during her twenties, including the pursuit of a second bachelors in Anthropology, leading her to take on an 11-month internship at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. However, her artistic upbringing returned her to dance and performance.
For ten years she has orchestrated spaces for people to share recorded audios of poignant histories and stories oriented around critical social and political narratives to be presented in an Oral History Performance Initiative: The Community Storytelling Composition Project. In these performances she explored utilizing the stage for ethnographic storytelling to discuss societal issues including; Disconnection, Involuntary Waste, Local Food Systems, Hydraulic Fracking, Gender Politics, and Systemic Injustices.
Alongside of creating these larger company piece she was also training, coaching, and performing extensively as a circus artist throughout Boulder, Colorado and San Francisco, California. It was during this period that her previous head injuries became much more of an acute issue, as she had now endured more than a dozen more. After having been accepted into the Cirque du Soleil roster of performers in 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Kayleigh ended up reluctantly leaving the industry to heal herself. Since, unlike in high school, she had little other choice. Making it a “choice-less choice”.
In 2020 she graduated with her M.S. in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City, becoming a NYS, NCCAOM Licensed Acupuncturist. She has worked in HIV clinics in San Francisco, CA, Veterans clinics in San Diego, CA, Integrative clinics in Oakland, CA, pop-up clinics in Guatemala and community clinics in Manhattan and Brooklyn, NY.
After seven years of healing her brain and body—involving thousands of dollars, dozens of conventional and alternative modalities, and the even more demanding work of turning inward to heal—she will be graduating with her second Masters degree from Columbia University in Oral History.
Believing in the transformative power of storytelling—as it was through others sharing their journeys that she was able to piece together what healing would look like for her specific condition—she has used her graduate school thesis to pay in forward and share her narrative.
This work is in hopes that her story might be helpful for someone else to hear and learn from, like the solace that many others have provided her in their telling.