Kira Leadholm

Freelance Writer. Journalist. Researcher

Chicago, IL

Kira Leadholm

I am a freelance writer, researcher, and journalist with experience covering international news, climate change, LGBT+ justice, and arts and culture. I recently returned from a year teaching English in Kazakhstan, I am pursuing an M.S. in Investigative Journalism and Social Justice Reporting from Northwestern Medill School of Journalism, and I hold a B.A. from the University of Chicago in creative writing and visual arts.



Inconclusive DNA results in Chicago female homicides, investigator still certain of serial killer

All 21 DNA samples from a series of female homicides that have occurred in Chicago since 2001 have been analyzed, a Chicago Police Department representative confirmed. However, the results complicate the theory that a serial killer is behind 50 unsolved strangulation and asphyxiation cases. None of the 21 samples cross match to each other, nor do they match any of the DNA profiles of identified criminals in the FBI’s database, the representative said.
Medill Reports Link to Story

COVID-19 Destroyed Thailand’s Economy, and the Livelihoods of Migrant Workers

Khao Lak, a collection of villages in Thailand’s verdurous Phang Nga Province, seemed an ideal destination for Burmese migrant workers from Myanmar. Unlike the barren job market at home, Khao Lak offered ample opportunities in the hospitality and rubber industries. In Phang Nga, Burmese migrants could earn enough to live modestly and send remittances to relatives at home. The pandemic changed everything.
Pulitzer Center Link to Story

Fighting For Identity: Kazakh Laws Make Life Difficult For Transgender Community

Obtaining official documents is a harrowing process for transgender Kazakhs, who face discrimination in society and hurdles in their pursuit of the papers they need to live normal lives. Link to Story

Siberia on Fire

Summer 2020 is on track to be the Arctic’s hottest on record, and blazing temperatures in Siberia are posing massive problems with global implications.
The Diplomat Link to Story

COVID's Darkest Effects: How the Pandemic May Fuel Child Trafficking in Ghana

School closures, economic hardship, and social distancing protocols put vulnerable children at a higher risk of being trafficked.
Pulitzer Center Link to Story

On Stacey Abrams and Body Shaming (archived)

Why Trump's misogynist rhetoric is more damaging than we realize. Link to Story

Kazakhstan’s feminist artists are finding hope in dark times. These 3 women are leading the way

The past few years have delivered blow after blow to Kazakhstan’s contemporary art scene. In December 2018, Focus Kazakhstan — an ambitious international project showcasing Kazakh art across Europe, Asia, and the United States — crumbled under mismanagement, with hundreds of artworks seized by angry and unpaid contractors.
The Calvert Journal Link to Story

Gym Rats

“The most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of women naked in the gym, exercising with the men, especially when they are no longer young; they certainly will not be a vision of beauty.” — Plato, the Republic. It was my cardio day. I descended from the elliptical, dripping and probably smelling like a musty sock.
Age of Awareness Link to Story

Good Will Hunting in the Me Too Era

Good Will Hunting is a classic for a reason. When I watched it for the first time last week, Sean McGuire’s monologue about his wife’s cancer stirred something in me. Damon and Affleck’s portrayals of low-brow, Boston teens were hysterical and dynamic. Moments of levity punctuated the drama at just the right moments.

Breaking up with Kazakhstan

On March 11, I called the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent to ensure travel restrictions barring Americans didn’t apply to me. I’d been living in Kazakhstan and hadn’t stepped on U.S. soil since July, when the word corona was still associated with cheap beer. I had round-trip plane tickets to Tashkent, and was more concerned with seeing the Chorsu Bazaar than the microscopic pathogens taking over the planet.


I knew I wouldn’t like Liz from the moment I met her. She waltzed into the dining room, her strings of blonde hair piled in a bun atop her head, her skeletal figure drowning in sweatpants and a jacket though it was mid-August, and scoffed at her meal of chicken and rice as if it were a plate of dog feces.

Passing the Pen

My Grandma Anne was a boisterous, swear-word-loving, devout Russian Catholic. As the daughter of immigrants who came of age during the Great Depression, it makes sense that she developed a coarse outer layer. My brother and I knew that bratty behavior — the whining and histrionics that our parents tolerated — was not accepted at Grandma Anne’s house.


Kira Leadholm

I am a freelancer, journalist, and research with experience covering international news, LGBT+, arts and culture, and sports. I lived for one year in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where I taught English at KIMEP University and freelanced for international publications. I attended the University of Chicago and have B.A.s in creative writing and visual arts.



  • spanish
  • russian
  • reporting
  • fact-checking
  • research
  • copy-editing
  • interviewing