Last week I read the powerful role of Empress Poppea in conjunction with Hunter College and The New Heritage Theater in Harlem, NY. The Bulgarian playwright Hristo Hristov one act historical drama positioned the audience to observe one of the most notorious antagonists in history. Emperor Nero and Empress Poppaea. I had a blast working with the actors Tony Noumavski and Aixa Kendrick and was loving how playful this story was. Check out some of the fun below:
First reading of the year was a hit. I had the pleasure of reading for the character of Anita Freeman for playwright Lauren Whithead for the play…get ready…" THE PLAY WHICH RAISES THE QUESTION OF WHAT HAPPENED IN LOW INCOME COMMUNITIES BETWEEN 1974 - 2004 AND HINTS AT WHY MASS INCARCERATION IS PERHAPS A MAN MADE DISEASE AND HIGHLIGHTS THE GOVERNMENTS GENERAL LACK OF EMPATHY FOR POOR PEOPLE OF COLOR AND DISPELS THE NOTION THAT OUR CONDITION IS OUR FAULT AND HELPS MAKE VISIBLE WHY WE RIOT WHEN WE MOURN AND ALSO TELLS THE STORY OF ANITA FREEMAN & HER KIDS” directed by Scott Ebersold.
Yes…ALL OF THAT! This play is in fact all of that. I was inspired, challenged, and transform. That was only the first reading of the year for me. I am truly blessed to be able to story tell. This type of work is why I do what I do. Not to mention I connected with actors that were insanely talented. Shouts to that WHOLE cast…Here is some photos that capture that transcendent experience below:
I graduated in 2015 from the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University and it has been a whirlwind to say the least. In my last semester I was accepted to BADA for their prestigious Shakespearean Summer Program run by Yale University. I was recommended to a second tier agent for representation, and I was also booked in my first feature film role as the lead for an upcoming short blaxploitation film titled “Cleoblacktra” directed by the now famous photographer, artist, and director Eli Linnetz (you may recognize his work with the FADE video or as Kanye and Kim Wests main photographer). I was on cloud nine. Eli’s film was being produced by Sawyer Spielberg so I KNEW I would get some work out of it in my young, new, and fresh actor business brain. Eli said he would pay me a little coin for the film, BADA’s team convinced me it was worth it to raise money to go, and well representation is representation. Just get me in the room!
I had come so far at this point I was all in! Little did I know the year turned out to be one of my hardest financial years and I barely worked at all. The film was shot with many setbacks along the way and went into post-production and I learned very quickly why people have contracts and representation. I wasn’t paid a dime and the film nerver happened via the producers last minute pull-out on the project. I also learned very quickly that representation is only great for you if your representation is advocating for you as a new actor so that you do get into those rooms. BADA was a wonderful and terrifying experience and I came out of it a better actor for it. I also came out of all of my schooling in debt and it hit my like a ton of bricks.
When I started graduate school, the idea was If I got in, there is value to this program and my time here. Afterall, my school was on the top 10 list of acting schools to go to in the country. Never look at schools in America as something you are investing in solely. They should want to invest in you too. There is value in not having to pay or barely pay for school. I came from a fashion business background so I had no idea. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I wasn’t raised with a strong financial foundation. I had no financial education and no one to turn to for help or advice about this. I just went for it and got in and thought , welp I will figure out from here. I acted and booked here and there after school but never consistently because I was battling a financial and psychological meltdown every few months. It was tough trying to balance all that life threw at me those first few years out of school.
PSA: I encourage anyone thinking of going to school for the arts to look into all free programming. There are fantastic programs all over the country that are funding artists education. You do not need to break the bank to get your arts education and thrive in your industry. I mean Yale University is a free MFA program for actors. So there is no excuse to pay thousands of dollars.
I have learned hard lessons to get to this point. As I eased my way back into the real world I went through numerous odd jobs trying to figure out how to sustain my basic financial needs while pursuing my dream. Pair that with hits in family structure (loss of family, mental illness, and racial disparities) and my personal battles. I hit rock bottom too many times.
I went back to a nine to five allowing my masters degree to work for me. I started working with Fostercare youth at the agency MercyFirst and became the Educational Specialist there. That job and those youth saved my life. I got back on my feet and went back to acting as of 2019. I am just now finding my way back to the world of acting. I am currently working as a teaching artist and am slowly transitioning back to acting. I still take odd jobs here and there but I have been able to sustain myself working as an advocate and educator for young people. I currently work with S.O.U.L Sisters Leadership Collective as a Teaching Artist working with homeless youth in Brownsville, NY.
I never completely left acting which helped me get my feet wet earlier this year before I completely left my job in fostercare. I am set to put up my one woman show “Mamas 19” in July with Playful Substance’s festival on mothers which has been a three year dream of mine. I am writing, acting, and starting to get my producer legs back and I am grateful. At this point I am living my life and taking each day and opportunity as it comes to me and the hiatus is finally over.
What I have learned is that you cannot allow yourself to become a victim to your circumstances. I know I have been through alot. So has everyone else. Now self care is at the forefront of my work with Javana and with others. Financial literacy is the most important thing to me because I believe it is a disease and it can be toxic to your happiness and your peace of mind. It is my calling to do the work of storytelling through the arts as well as educational advocacy. I am right where I need to be and I am excited for the next phase of my journey!
Below are some images of whats to come with my show on Black Mothers in America called “Mama’s 19” set for July 2019 at Under St. Marks here in NYC. More details to come.
As always, FORWARD!
WK Interact was born in 1969 in Caen, France. He has lived and worked in New York since the early 1990s. WK is interested with the human body in motion, his paintings of figures frozen in a flight of movement reflects this infatuation. The artist’s unique process involves a technique of twisting an original drawing or photograph while it’s being photocopied, resulting in the monochromatic palette and streamlined moment-in-time appearance of his finished work. WK site-determines his placements by finding an appropriate location first, then his imagery is chosen specifically with a concern for encounters in an urban environment or “interactions” (as the artist indicates in his pseudonym). In the late 1990s his images began appearing on building facades in downtown Manhattan, complimenting the constant stir of bodies and the perpetual motion of contemporary urban life in the fast-paced city.
I have always gravitated towards the art world. My mother was a painter so I was around it from an early age. At one time I thought I would be a Curator. During this period I was going to tons of gallery events and met this Parisian artist in NYC. WK and I built an unexpected friendship. I would go visit him in his studio in Soho and we would discuss life and art. Meeting and working with WK I found a freedom in myself I never knew I had. I started to develop my voice during this time. Every part of NY has developed the person that I am today and I am proud of this collaboration. This was my only encounter with Italy and hopefully it will not be my last. I am forever grateful to be part of a body of work for such a legendary artist.
Check out more of his work here: https://wkinteract.com
So I was happy to design this installation for my gal Maureen to usher in her bridal shower…This reminded me how much I love developing and building on my art. Here is a look…
Becoming an adult in New York City is full of extremes. As an artist finding your way can be a roller coaster ride. It definitely has its highs and lows, however one thing I have always had so much love for is the artistic friendships I have built over the years and the very outrageous experiences I have had along the way.
NYC is known as the hub for artists of all backgrounds and mediums. This is where it’s at for the artist established or upcoming. You can meet Kehinde Wiley shopping at the Nike store have a few words and you may have just leveraged yourself an interview and new job. You can work at the hottest restaurant in the city book a role and jump start your career with the connections you made while up-selling a pepper shrimp (Shout out to Miss Lily’s). You can even ride the train, compliment someones look, and be invited to an event where you build creative relationships that flourish and grow for years to come. I have always been amazed at the split second connections that can be made. It is not always magical but it certainly can have some instant gratification if you are down for the ride. New York is where I have found some of my life tribe and I am so grateful for that.
One of the first artist connections I made where collaboration was at the forefront was with my good friend Kwesi Abbensetts. An accomplished photographer and visual artist based out of Brooklyn and worldwide. He tells stories of the black diaspora through his film, photography, and paintings. These stories are rooted in the Carribbean, the US, and throughout the world. I am honored to have worked with him during much of my personal artistic growth in New York.
I remember a conversation I had with him about documenting exclusively people of color and he stated that is the only group he has interest in shooting. He had nothing against the rest of the world it was just where he felt moved to create and storytell with his work. That always inspired me. The stories of my community and I can’t be told better than we can tell them. Please go support and follow this brilliant artist at: http://www.spaceshipgeorge.com/. You can purchase his work and just get inspired.