Born in Hamburg, Germany. She studied law and began her legal career working on copyright and media issues. In 1991 she moved into the film business and became a lawyer for the German national film fund – Filmförderungsanstalt (FFA) in Berlin. She then moved to the private sector in 1995 working as a legal advisor for Senator Film GmbH. In 1999 she returned to the FFA as the executive director.
In November 2004 she was appointed managing director of the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg for the film funding department. In addition, in 2002 she was elected Vice-President of the German-French film meetings (Das Deutsch-französische Filmtreffen / Les rendez-vous franco-allemands du cinéma) for a term and she continues in this engagement as a board member.
From 2000 to 2006 she was the German representative to Eurimages as well as its Vice-President for two years. Since 2011 Kirsten Niehuus is a member of the board of directors of German Films and since 2012 she is also a member of the ZDF Television Board. In Feburar 2013 she was honored by the French Ambassador, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, with the order “Chevalier of Arts and Literature”.