How important are the Arts to our society?
The arts are an essential part of our society. It allows us to expand our minds in ways that allow for innovation and creativity to flourish. Practically, when we see society struggling with uncertain times, such as our current pandemic, we look to the arts for hope, inspiration, and sometimes, just an hour or two of escape.
How have the Arts impacted your life?
The arts have and will always continue to impact my life. I grew up in a family that made the arts - music, theater, art, photography, dance - an innate part of my daily life. I was in a boys choir as a child, participated in musical theater in high school, and became a benefactor of arts related programs as an adult. The arts are my best therapy - I love spending time getting lost in a painting, or watching a film, reading a book, or listening to a new album.
Tell us about your series King Ester.
Issa Rae Presents 'King Ester' is a digital series about a transwoman in New Orleans trying to get out of the city as Hurricane Katrina heads to town. It's a beautifully constructed piece of work that I celebrate alongside some incredible creatives. We shot the production in seven days with no intention of anything other than sharing a critical and nuanced story about survival, dreams, and the power of family - both the good and the bad.
I would've never imagined that we would have been selected and won so many festivals, or distributed on the Issa Rae Presents Youtube channel, or having been shortlisted for the Daytime Emmys. It's hard to imagine the small production, would've brought us this far. It's crazy.
How does it feel to have garnered such support and acknowledgment for your work?
Affirming. The support, more than the acknowledgment. There an underlining message in all of my work. When I have people talk to me or DM me or message me and discuss what they got - it is so beautiful. To see that my work is affecting and deeply felt is why I create.
How have the Arts impacted your life?
The arts have had and continue to have a huge impact on my life… daily. At a young age, my parents instilled in me and my siblings the importance of partaking, experiencing, and sharing in all types of arts… from piano lessons, to choir, to band, to dance, to acting… we were in it all! I remember even being in a couple local commercials and doing some voiceover work in my preteen and teenage years. So, arts have always been present in my life, and continue to inspire and drive me today.
What is your favorite arts project that you supported and why?
I would have to say that the most important recent project is “King Ester,” a digital series created by Dui Jarrod, about a trans woman in New Orleans trying to escape before Hurricane Katrina. In its truest form, it’s simply the story of anyone forced to fight societal constraints to achieve greater success… so the underlying theme is universal. It recently got shortlisted for the Daytime Emmys… so we are excited to see how it will fare there. Additionally, I am working on a new project that I think will be hugely important for the culture. It’s called ODE Audio, which is essentially a streaming radio, music, podcast, and digital entertainment app for our community FROM our community. It should be launching and available within the next couple of months, so be on the lookout.
How has the Arts impacted your life?
Art has allowed me to grow internally, express myself fully, and be open to others. It kept my imagination and curiosity alive. Taught me that there is liberation and connection in exploring your feelings then lending those feeling in order to tell someone else's story in hopes to relate to and understand one another.
How did you get begin your professional acting career?
My first paying gig was playing a murder suspect in a crime reenactment show on cable. It was a self-submit off Actors Access. I read the breakdown and thought I might be able to pull it off. Went to the audition and just played pretend. Sometimes the best acting comes from just playing and not trying to be some deep enlightened person but just going back to when you was five years old and thought you was Wolverine from X-Men and going with whatever that energy is.