Victor Perry | Singer | Songwriter | Producer | @perksofbeingvictor
- Are you currently working a day job? If yes, can you say where? Yes! I’m currently working at Leadership Prep Brownsville Middle Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I’m an Assistant Teacher. The school is a part of the Uncommon Schools Charter. I actually just moved to NYC 2 months ago and I can say this has so far been one incredible experience!
- What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? Being that I’m still very new to the city, I haven’t had time yet to begin working on my artistic goals and visions, so during this time, I’ve begun to discover other artists that are either in a similar place or a few steps ahead and I’ve begun to digest what they have to offer artistically. There’s so much talent. It’s beautiful.
- Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? Yes, of course it is. I think it will always be a term that can be applied to just about anyone in any walk of life they choose to take. For me, the term means “hard-work” or “actively seeking” to find work. As artists, we are always starving. Whether it’s starving to write a great song, book a performance or find your niche audience, we’re steadily starving towards something.
- Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? Great question! I’m constantly finding new things to be inspired by. At this point in my career, I’d say Whitney Houston, Mikky Ekko and Coldplay. Those three artists are most definitely helping me continue to “define” what it is that I feel when I’m either writing a song or performing it.
- Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? I do. My best music (from a personal viewpoint) has come from a place of confusion – a place of struggle, and in turn has continued to help capture what it is that I set out to do with my music. As an artist, the most beautiful thing that we all share is a journey. Each journey is different, with different obstacles and different successes; while still being broken down to one singular aspect: a journey. I need struggle. Nothing worth fighting for should ever come too easy.
- Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? Thankfully, I haven’t had to.
- What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? 4 A.M. Nostalgia, my debut EP, is my favorite project by default because it was my first time creating something in its entirety. From the writing/production of the songs, to the album artwork and styling of the project, and [down] to the marketing/campaigning – it all was orchestrated by [me]; what I felt was necessary at the time.
- What are you currently working on? After releasing my debut EP, I began to reach out to producers from all around the world and ended up meeting this one guy from the UK who is absolutely incredible. He has a beautiful way of landscaping his music with organic and authentic live instruments while keeping it very soulful and soothing. We’ve worked on about 6 songs and will be releasing a project together as a band later this year. I can’t wait to share it. It’s definitely an evolution from my debut.
- What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? The true and only first step I think any artist should take when wanting to become a professional artist (as it relates to me, a vocalist/singer-songwriter) is to have a product. If that’s just a single or a collection of songs like an EP, it’s very important to have a product. I can’t tell you how successful I’ve been and how many doors have opened for me because I had a product to share. Many producers are looking for writers, singers, and even [additional] producers, but they need to hear what you have to offer. While it is powerful to be able to tell someone, “I’m a great vocalist”; that won’t necessarily get you to the next step [of being] in the studio if you don’t have product. We live in a world where having something tangible is a standard protocol. I can recall during 2014-2015, I’d reach out and email producers about wanting work and I’d fall short and receive little to no response because I lacked a product. As soon as I had a product in 2016, I emailed some of the same producers (and more) and received so many responses and to this day, I’m now having to decline work because I have so many opportunities presented to me. That’s when I [finally] felt like a professional artist.
- If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? I would want the world to give everyone a fair chance. So many times, we get settled in our ways and settled in what we’ve come to appreciate and often times, ignore what others can bring. I do understand familiarity will always play its role in deciding if you like an artist, but to simply write someone off because they sound [too much] like someone else or can’t possibly co-exist with this other artist because this artist is considered “great, iconic or legendary” is problematic. The world is BIG enough for everyone to find their place and to find their way.
Christopher Allison | Trumpet Player | Composer | Band Leader | @iamcousinchris
1. Are you currently working a day job? If yes, can you say where? I am the Entertainment Director for the Negril Village Franchise. My job duties include creating and managing all our night life and party details for the restaurants here in Atlanta and NYC. I focus hard on opening Atlanta to some of its hottest rising DJs, filmmakers (Screening Room ATL), promoters, and some of the livest bands in the city. I always try to focus on bringing a party atmosphere to a fine dining environment. The ability to connect different generations and cultures is an amazing experience. My experience in the music industry has privileged me with the knowledge to literally create my own position.
2. What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? Honestly… creating! I am constantly working on my next gig, next cover, next original piece or next event. I don’t believe in being stagnate. I constantly try to fill a void during slow times. Most of the time, it’s also me locking myself away and going off the grid to just practice. I always tell myself that I SUCK! LOL. [Remaining humble] is something that has blessed me, because there will always be someone who is trying to take your spot.
3. Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? Being a STARVING ARTIST to me, is a choice. Imagine if all the legends that we all look up to had 1/3 of the resources that we [currently] have available to us. Listen, I know kids in middle school ready to start companies. I mean, that have business models and tools to take over! So if an 11 year old can make it [happen], anyone can.
4. Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? First, I will have to say Melvin Jones. He help mold me into the horn player I am today. His guidance, mentorship and friendship is what has pushed me. He is definitely one of the coldest musicians I have ever met. From him being my band director in college to us sharing the stage together. I’m blessed to call him brother. Miles Davis… simply put, because of his approach to creativity. His sound and creativity paved a way for so many artists inside and outside the jazz world. [His style of] simply playing what you feel is correct, [in my opinion]. Play something that makes you happy and drives you to play the next day and the next day. Terrance Blanchard, because I am a film head and a huge lover of a great score. His many works with Spike Lee have always blown me away.
5. Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? There should always be a time period [of struggle] in any success story. Everyone needs that time to figure out if this is really what they want to do and [to learn] how hard they’re willing to work for it.
6. Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. Yes I have. I had an internship with Universal in their sales department and I realized I didn’t want to end up like my boss at the time. I was still gigging pretty heavily then, but my boss always made me feel like I had to make a choice between what side of the field I wanted to be on. So, I had to sit down with God and I had to leave. It worked out best for me and my journey.
7. What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? That is so hard to say. I guess the first tour I ever went on is still my favorite because I learned so much. It also help me prove to myself and my loved ones that I can do this. That tour was with PJ Morton and Maroon 5.
8. What are you currently working on? Currently, I am starting our festival tour with Rapsody (9th wonder and Roc Nation Artist), performing with Cameo and serving as Co-Founder of Screening Room ATL. My band, The Village Band, has a show every Sunday at Negril Village. And I am proud to say that I’m working on my debut EP.
9. What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? Simply put, be visible. There are so many great artists out there, but they are [creating art] at home. You have to be on the scene. [Musicians], you have to go to the shed and network. You have to surround yourself with others in your field.
10. If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? I would love for older generations to stop looking at [young] artists as individuals who don’t have direction. Back in the day, society was placed in a bubble. To be successful, you had to follow “these” steps and live “this” way. Today’s generation of artists and creatives believe in creating something that isn’t there. Art is a product, yes, but it’s a product that is built from the deepest part of our hearts. [In other words], it is our lives and it will make sure we survive. By any means necessary.
Paris Crayton III | Playwright | Actor | Director | Motivational Speaker | @pariscrayton3
- Are you currently working a day job? I wouldn’t really call what I do working a day job. I pick up a few shifts here and there at the Public Theatre in NYC but other than that, all of my income comes from the hustle. When I moved to New York last May, I promised myself that I would only go after what I wanted. No more spending time looking for a “job”. I need to live my dreams.
- What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? I love to read and watch plays. Theater is my life, my cure and my drug. I feel I am complete when inside a theater but anything art-related feeds my spirit. Going to art museums, ballets, operas, open mics and more. Oh and food! I love to eat.
- Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? I think [the term] is valid but I’m happy that [TNSA is] showing people that they don’t have to be that. When I think of the term “Starving Artist”, I think of someone who is willing to miss a few meals for the sake of their art. That’s not an easy thing to do and lots of people aren’t willing to do it. Many celebrities were “starving artists” before they made it big. What are you willing to sacrifice for your art? Honestly, I have and will skip the dollar menu meals a few times to prepare myself for the Steak and Lobster meals that are coming from the continuous hustle.
- Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? That’s a loaded question, so I’ll choose the ones that inspire me now. I would have to say Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Lin Manuel Miranda and Donald Glover. Tarrell is my favorite playwright and he seems to work non-stop. A play that he put away in his dresser, thinking it would never be produced, won him multiple Oscars– one for Best Film. He’s a beast. Lin Manuel Miranda is a huge inspiration because he is constantly thinking outside the box and let’s no one stop him from doing what he wants. Think about this for a second: There is a musical about the Founding Fathers of America using mostly actors of color, told through rap [music]. That is a highly ridiculous-sounding concept, but [Lin] took it and made it the best thing to hit Broadway in years. I strive to have that sort of artistic mind. He proves that nothing is impossible. Donald Glover because… come on. First of all, he’s really young, like everyone on my list, but what has this guy not done? He sings, dances, raps, acts, does stand up [comedy and] has his own television show. He’s a genius and this is only the beginning for him.
- Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? Trials make you strong. I think it’s a part of life to struggle. Some writers struggle with writer’s block, Some singers struggle with losing their voice. All artists struggle with something at some point. I think the problem happens when you don’t learn from the struggle, or if you feel powerless because of it. Some of the best art is born out of struggle. Again, going back to Tarrell Alvin McCraney, he struggled with bullying and sexuality and created Moonlight. Adele struggled through a relationship and produced three incredible albums. Do I think it’s necessary for EVERY artist to struggle? No. Do I think it can and should be beneficial? Absolutely.
- Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. Oh yeah… a few times. I’ve always known what I’m supposed to be doing. Most recently, I quit my “comfortable” serving job of 5 years to focus on my theatre company. My mantra is “Create Your Yes” and I honestly believe that if you never jump, you’ll never learn to fly.
- What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? I would say, when I co-wrote and directed the devised theater piece: “Because I said So” with the students at [Atlanta’s] Tri-Cities High School. Seeing the next generation of artists put so much work in was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Those kids taught me so much.
- What are you currently working on? What am I NOT working on would be a better question! Currently, I am opening the two-person drama “Harold and Rodney Play Chess” by Adam Seidel in NYC next week. In June, I will make my way to Atlanta to direct Ron McIntyre’s “A Piece of My Mind”. While there, I’ll be presenting a staged reading of my one-man show to prepare for the world premiere at Indy Fringe Festival in August. I haven’t shared that yet, so TNSA is the first to know!
- What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? The very first step was probably when I left St. Louis in 2006. I moved to Chicago on a whim after being accepted into a conservatory. That was the first time I learned to fly because I had nothing but a few bucks and my 1998 Toyota Camry. I would advise other artists to KEEP CREATING and KNOW YOUR WORTH. You know the saying: “If you build it, they will come”– it’s so true! Keep creating your art and when they do come, know what it’s worth because people will try to get over on you. Make it so that your art is bringing in passive income and soon you can kiss your “job” goodbye.
- What is your favorite & least favorite thing about being a full-time artist? [My favorite thing is] the freedom. Not having to clock in and work for someone else is one of the best feelings in the world. Least favorite is sometimes not knowing where the next gig is coming from. It always works out in the end though; at least in my experience.
- If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? Artists are the closest thing to God, in my opinion. An artist’s job is to literally make something out of nothing. Creation. I would want to change the minds of people to understand this. We can not survive without art. The EARTH without ART is just… EH!
Markelle O’Day | R&B Artist | Executive Creative Director of The Divine Agency | @markelleoday
- Are you currently working a day job? Yes and No. (laughs) [I run my own company], The Divine Agency.
2. What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? [I stay inspired by] creating music and [writing] screenplays and films.
3. Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? Yes, because the “starving artist” still exists. There are a number artists that have yet to grasp the business side of the Arts Industry at every level. At the core of the starving artist is [a lack of] financial awareness, financial accountability and financial gain.
4. Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? Shonda Rhimes! Because of her ability to create a new world within the one we live in; and her attention to detail and artistic rhythm, along with her consistency. Vanable Moody! Mr. Moody was my high school band director and he was instrumental to my growth as a musician and as an artist. One of the things I loved about him is that he taught me to identify when to create outside of the box and when to color inside the lines. The Atlanta Ballet! I was on scholarship and interned at The Atlanta Ballet while in high school. To this day, their focus on lines and structure is something that I continue to utilize in my own art, no matter the form.
5. Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? Yes, struggle defines and gives you new perspectives as an artist. One of my favorite quotes is: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” -Frederick Douglass. With every struggle or mistake, you should be at a place where you are learning and growing from your past.
6. Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. Yes, I resigned from teaching high school full-time to [create and] run The Divine Agency full-time.
7. What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? The Divine Agency is my most coveted project thus far. To see where I started my company [from] to where it is now is amazing!
8. What are you currently working on? I am currently working on my new single entitled “Waste of Time”.
9. What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? [My first step was] deciding that I wanted to [create art] for a COMPLETE LIVING! [My advice to other artists would be]: develop strategies to bring in income doing what you love!
10. What is your favorite thing about being a full-time artist? What is your least favorite thing? I am not a morning person and being a full-time artist allows me to get up a little later than when I was teaching. Plus, I get to develop art with artists and non-artists [alike] on a daily basis. My least favorite thing is that people initially want to devalue your worth as a full-time artist if you don’t yet have fortune and fame.
11. If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? [I would change the perspective] that our talents and services should be [rendered] for free. THE ARTS ARE LIFE CHANGING!
To learn more about Markelle and keep up with his journey, visit www.MarkelleODay.com!
Stephen Scott Wormley | Actor | Singer | Dancer | @sirstephenscott
- Are you currently working a day job? Currently, I am fortunate enough to be consistently working and not have to take on a day job. That is, of course, not always the case. My last full-time day job, which I have since moved on from, was at a restaurant in NYC. I am also employed by a company as an actor to assist in training, which is what I will do when I am home (NYC) from working, if I am not performing when I return.
- What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? I think this is always a work in progress and depends where you are in life when it happens. My last slow period was my first and longest. And it took me through it. A very good friend of mine told me to get a hobby, which I guess I never realized I didn’t have. And it just so happened that another friend of mine had signed me up for a kickball league in the city. And it just so happens that Mr. Wormley is a darn good pitcher… so I fell pretty hard in love with that. I met literally hundreds of people whom my path and circles never would have crossed. I had other things to do, focus on, put my energy into– and out of it, I even got some of my closest friends. You have to find something you fit into, that you enjoy and that allows you to happily focus on and give yourself a break from the sometimes grueling process of searching for work. So, I say to thee: Find a hobby. Knit. Kick a ball. Whittle a spoon. Find your joy.
- Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? I do. But I think the definition for me has evolved. I don’t think of it as starving in its literal definition– though that struggle is still very real, and we are all probably a few weeks from it because the rent prices in NYC are the work of a Satan scorned. What it means to me now is “Starving to Create” or “Starving to Inform”. I take it as a building desire to just do, to just be an artist.
- Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? Now, I have a tough time picking favorites, so my answer will probably go a little different than expected. My BIGGEST artistic inspiration is actually my mom. She is the reason I continue to get on stage everyday. She worked so hard to give me every opportunity I had to be exposed to [the arts] and she believed in me wholeheartedly, more than I have ever believed in myself. She was my support system and in some ways, I feel closest to her when I am on stage. Her spirit inspires me to keep on pushing on every day. Without a doubt she is number one. There are so many artists who inspire me everyday. Ones who are deceased, alive and well and I am sure ones who have not begun their artistic journey will soon inspire me. So, I am not going to pick single people. I will say number two would be my friends. I have some of the most talented human beings in this great world as friends. Best friends, distant friends, friends by association. The beautifully talented people I surround myself with inspire me with what they do. What they create. With what they accomplish. They push me to be better. They hold me accountable. They expect a lot from me, and that ushers me into greatness. And Finally three: Black artists at work. When I go to see a show and see those beautiful brown faces lighting up that stage, my heart glows. When I see one of us in a role not too often cast our way (something I strive for in my own career) I get joy. When Audra [McDonald] wins every Tony… JOY. When Norm [Lewis] sings absolutely anything, JOY. When Joshua [Henry] takes a role that a brown man hasn’t had the chance to do and kills it, JOY. I see myself in these people and I thank them for their work and the way they inspire me. I hope to do the same.
- Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? I believe that struggle is a necessary component of every human’s life. I also believe that everything happens for a reason. I think that the beauty of being an artist is learning to convert that struggle or hardship into something beautiful. I went to college very far away from home, in an environment and community that was very different from where I grew up. I am a city boy through and through. While away, consistently throughout my matriculation, I lost an immediate family member every Fall. In the midst of learning to deal and cope with those things, I made a pact to myself to accept the things that come into my life that I cannot change, because there will come a day when I will have to artistically present or understand [similar] situations. It also taught me the truest lesson of “the show must go on”. I had to learn early on that being an artist is very hard work. It sometimes means accepting and understanding your own emotions but being able to completely put them aside to tell another’s story. The beauty in that however, is that I have found that every project, no mater how “big” or “small” teaches me a lesson I needed to learn, encourages me in a way I needed to be encouraged and pushes me in a way I need to be pushed. My final year of college was when I lost my mother and I truly thought that one would break me. BUT, I had to walk directly into rehearsals for a one man musical not a month later and figure out how I was going to light up a stage all by myself for an entire show. Probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do. But not only did I push through it and find the peace in doing what I loved so much for a person who loved me so, I was consoled every evening with a beautiful segment that reminded me of my mother’s spirit. Only to then go into playing George in “Sunday in the Park with George” and learning that “Art isn’t easy, any way you look at it” and to “Stop worrying where you’re going, move on”. So yes, struggle is necessary but what you get back, well that’s just a blessing.
- Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. My Lord. Let’s tell a story shall we… When I finished my tour in Japan, I came home to NYC and got my tonsils removed– which meant Stephen was not going to sing a single thing for a while. I had a show lined up 4 months later, so I figured I could rest and then work. What ended up happening was I couldn’t audition [for other shows] before the show [I already had lined up] because I was still recovering. So when it was over, Stephen had to get a job. I applied and got a job at a certain “Candy bar” in NYC. And worked a total of 5 shifts. Let me tell you, I then was very ready to be a starving artist. Starved. Destitute. Because there was NO way I was going back there. Take me out for chicken one day and I’ll tell you more. I left that job and got a job (by chance because I had no experience) at one of, if not, THE greatest restaurant in NYC. It was a beautiful place with beautiful people. Because I had health insurance, even though the money for me was not that great, it actually impacted a few decisions. I turned down 2 shows while working there because I would have had to quit, lose my insurance and then be back at square one in 4 weeks in the show was over. There came a point though when my heart was done working there. And then I booked something big enough to take me away– probably because the stars aligned and it was time. But I was ALWAYS ready to go when the right thing came alone. We just have to be smart about these decisions.
- What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? Woof. Well, that’s a hard question. Currently, I am stepping into tech rehearsals for the musical: “Dorian’s Closet”, a beautiful story about Dorian Corey, a famous female impersonator, featured in the documentary Paris is Burning. When she passed, it was discovered that a mummified body had been kept in her apartment for at least 10-15 years. I will say this is probably one of the most challenging things I’ve worked on, which may in turn end up being a contender for my favorite thing I’ve worked on. I say that because it’s challenging– in a great way, but [also] challenging all around. We are working on a new project which means, even after a workshop there are hundreds of changes that are still happening to the script. Just as I memorize a chunk of lines and blocking– they may change. I have to CREATE this beautiful woman on stage and make myself and everyone else fall in love with her, while attempting to tell her story in honesty and truth. It is a challenge. One I welcome and accept and am thrilled to do.
- What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? The first step I took was understanding that this is truly what I was put on the earth to do. It isn’t my after work hobby. It isn’t something I just dabble in. It’s where my heart and soul meet. It’s what I have to do. I think only then can you really begin to work your way to doing this full-time, because you absolutely just have to. I started performing very young. I was singing with the Washington Performing Arts Society, not only with their choir but in a variety of other special concerts and programs. I loved it. I began dancing early on and acting in middle school, but I was never convinced I would be a performer. I was going to be a lawyer. In high school, when deciding what to go to college for, I battled between great pre-law programs and strong theatre programs. I ended up with a double major in performing arts and communication studies with a dance minor concentration in African dance and a pre-law focus track. That lasted a year before I dropped the pre-law track. During my sophomore year, I worked for the Environmental Protection Agency as a required internship for my second major. I made great money and met awesome people. I also [discovered then] that there is nothing I want to do more than perform. I will take a hot rehearsal hall drenched in sweat for 12 hours over a cubicle any day! But I needed that experience to confirm it for me. Often times we struggle with confidence, so I needed that last push. I would [encourage other artists to] give themselves the opportunity to have that [confirmation] as well.
- What is your favorite thing about being a full-time artist? What is your least favorite thing? My favorite thing: I am doing what my heart so much desires to do. I am making it happen. I am happy about it. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Least favorite thing: I am doing what my heart desires so much to do. But in doing so, I have to give my all. I have to go away. I have to get rest. I have to preserve. I have to make it so important that I often worry about myself outside of my career. Time away from it or your “low period” is great for this. It helps you become a balanced person. But sometimes in your busy season, you wonder.
- If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? Just one thing? Well, it would have to be that the world thinks that anyone can hop into this business and make it happen. That it’s not hard, not a skill and if you have some free time you can do it too. No ma’am. This is work. This is hard work. You have to study, learn, hone your craft. This is not an after-school activity. We are not at play practice doing play acting. It is without a doubt, the toughest field. On your mind, body and confidence. It’s hard. And we do it. Realize that.
To learn more and keep up with Stephen, visit his website: www.stephenscottwormley.com.
Tina Fears | Singer | Dancer | Actor | Choreographer | Producer | @tinafears
- Are you currently working a day job? If yes, can you say where? If not, can you share & describe the last day job you had? I own a full-service entertainment firm. Stage Ready, LLC has been providing creative services since 2005.
- What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? I love a good movie, even the ones I’ve seen 50 times. I break the scenes down and try to take nuggets away from the choices each artist makes. I’m a firm believer in being creative, so if I have down time and I’m inspired, I create work of my own. I try to train as often as I can. If I want to be able to play an athlete in a movie, I must train like I already have the part, right? Finally, I also find great inspiration when I change up my scenery. A mini vacation or even social media break can spark new ideas.
- Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? If this term is referring to waiting on an [artistic] opportunity to determine if he or she will eat then yes, it is valid; because opportunities for men and women, especially of color, are still very limited and the opportunities that are available do not pay amounts that can allow artists to live. I do believe the term “starving artist” is a way of thinking [though]. We artist and entrepreneurs, it is important that we get our hustle on. We must learn to use the skills that set us apart in our artistry to also fund our own projects and sustain us until our next paid opportunity is presented. How can we be great at a job we can’t afford gas to get to each day? It’s important for artists to have a side hustle or a job that will allow us to fund our visions. We can use what we know to help us maintain a level of comfort, avoiding the “starving artist” way of life.
- Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? I absolutely love Debbie Allen. She is a living example that an artist can take his or her talents from onstage/camera to behind the scenes and really make an impact that transcends generations. I have tremendous respect for Chadwick Boseman. I had the pleasure of watching him film his role as Jackie Robinson in 42. He used his natural athleticism to add his own twist to the part. He followed up with James Brown in Get On Up (#epic), and now Black Panther. He flies under the radar but seems to be strategic with every part he takes on. I believe having a clear understanding of how you see yourself and your career is just as important as being able to book that job. I love Denzel, Angela Bassett, Lawrence Fishburne… the list goes on. I think these artists exemplify longevity; being able to evolve as an artist and remain relevant inspires me.
- Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? I think struggle teaches us to be resilient. You value things when you’ve been without them. If you have not worked in 3 months, you are more likely to be gracious and eager to learn when your next opportunity is presented. Some of my best work has come during times of pressure/struggle. This is not always when financial comfort is in jeopardy, this can happen when you are out of your comfort zone as an artist. In the end, you will develop new tools and sharpen those already in your arsenal.
- Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. Stability has always been important to me. If I abruptly move on from a situation it is only when the next opportunity is worth it. If a gig or once in a lifetime opportunity offers the finances and creative fulfillment the real job cannot, I believe you cover the situation in prayer and go for it. You just have to be prepared to live with all that may come with the decision made.
- What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? I have so many! My favorite part of any project is when the creative team values you as an artist. I’ve learned from every project I’ve ever been blessed to be a part of. I find joy in discovery.
- What are you currently working on? I’m excited to be on this journey as Nina 3 in “Simply Simone”, currently running at Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta, GA. I also have a few other projects that will be released in 2017. I’m excited and nervous, but most of all grateful! I pray The Lord continues to hear my prayers and orders my steps.
- What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? I’ve worked in the entertainment industry in many capacities for years. I had an “ah ha” a few years ago and I missed performing, so I started going to auditions. It was humbling because I was in auditions with people I had directed and written checks to. Once I got past who would see me if I got cut, I started getting callbacks. I realized that I had something to offer. I had not been performing so I worked on my craft. I continued to audition and started at smaller theaters to sharpen my tools. It was hard work and extremely humbling, however, each show, tour and filming opportunity prepared me for what was to come. If you are working to become a professional actor, you must set goals and have a plan. The industry is changing and every six months, a new wave of talented people will be pursuing the same parts you are interested in. Identify what will set you apart.
- What is your favorite thing about being a full-time artist? Working in the arts has allowed me to use what God has given me to make a living. Even as a business owner, I am always exercising my creative muscles. The conversations I have in the boardroom often give me ideas when I’m developing a character. I also love the flexibility of being an artist. I’m thankful that I can use my gifts to tell stories and hopefully impact people’s lives.
- If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? I think people overlook the sacrifice that is required to pursue a career as an artist. I wish greater value would be placed on the artist and what he or she needs in order to be his or her best. Growing artists need better pay and more opportunities.
Jasmine Muhammad | Multi-Genre Vocalist | @jmsoprano
- Are you currently working a day job? I’m the office manager for one of the top artist management agencies in NYC, catering predominately to the classical community. The company mainly services opera singers, directors, conductors, instrumentalists, orchestras, ballet companies, etc.
- What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? Listening to music will always feed my spirit but it doesn’t always inspire me, assuming inspiration is a cause for action or revitalization. I’m a heavy listener, so music is being played during most hours of the day, always keeping me lifted. As for what might inspire me, live performance always do the trick. Watching someone actively apply their talent is a great visual reminder to get myself in action.
- Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? It’s valid for a different reason. I think in its original inception, the idea of being a starving artist seemed to be more of a romanticized choice. Artists were willing to forego conventional roles and compromise their personal finances for the love of the art. In this [current] economic climate, “starving” isn’t so much a choice as it is a par for the course. Granted, we’re afforded more resources and in turn, more opportunities by living in the digital age. But in the grand scheme of things, no one should or wants to starve. It’s simply a byproduct of the hustle and paying dues.
- Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? For the record, three is not enough. This is not a top three, just a now three. Cynthia Erivo – Her vocal abilities fascinate me. Her stage performances are so genuine. But the real inspiration is her commitment to fitness. Who runs a full marathon and performs a show on Broadway in the same day? Who?! Audra McDonald – Audra essentially has the career I would covet if given the opportunity to pick and choose. She excels in so many mediums. I don’t like to say artists look effortless when they’re at work because, while it is a compliment, it can also diminish the countless hours of work that were put in. But Audra… she makes it look easy and that is a talent in itself. *whispers* Beyoncé – Is it just me or was there a time when it was uncool to claim Beyoncé fandom? Maybe it’s me. Although, I like to make it clear that I am not now, nor have I ever been a stan. This, however, does not diminish my appreciation for this woman. I don’t care who you are or what you do in this world, there is no denying how effective, important and downright inspirational she is. She is the ultimate performer with the most insane work ethic that I can only aspire to. Music, voice, choreography and imaging aside – it is her hunger and passion to be excellent that I am forever in awe of.
- Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? I don’t know that the struggle is necessary so much as it is inevitable. There’s nothing easy about the artistic pursuit. Society and the economy aren’t built for our dreams so by default, we’re going against the grain. The struggle is in figuring out a way to make that work within or without, rather, the confines of a regular 9-5 work environment. The struggle is in figuring out how to adapt to and thrive in a structure that doesn’t widely exist.
- Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. I haven’t yet had the pleasure but it’s soon approaching. The goal is always to avoid a 9-5 format but in the long run, it’s going to take some extra financial discipline and planning.
- What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? In this case, I’ll replace project with opera. Hope that’s allowed! A couple years ago I played the role of Eliza in the new opera, “Dark Sisters.” The show was based on a group of sister wives living on an FLDS compound and a woman’s internal battle of freeing herself from this cult-like lifestyle or staying for the sake of her daughter. The story was ripped from the headlines & the composer was stellar, so it was a very fulfilling experience overall; dramatically and musically. Plus, it’s not every day we see a Black woman on stage portraying a Mormon sister-wife, right?
- What are you currently working on? Myself. I’ve found that it’s one thing to have goals and ideas for what I want to accomplish but follow-through and productivity have never been my strong suit. I’m working on the “Don’t talk about it, be about it” theory and in order to do that, I have to reassess my strengths and, more importantly, my weaknesses to understand why my follow-through has been lacking and how to rectify it.
- What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? I suppose the first step was leaving my local school district in northern Virginia to attend Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. Although I’m sure I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing at the time. My advice would be to continue developing your endurance and “stick-with-it-ness” because it’s the act of not stopping that gets you to your end goal. I just didn’t stop. I went from [singing in] kindergarten to singing on stage as a professional, full-time singer. I never stopped applying and auditioning and by some grace, the doors stayed open. The real challenge is continuing to knock while the doors appear to be closed. – To artists in my field: Accounts on YapTracker and Backstage are extremely useful tools for keeping you informed of various auditions and programs. This is how most all of us get our start. Additionally, never forget that when in an audition, the people behind the table want you to succeed. They need you to succeed. They need you just as much as you need them. Any audition you have is an opportunity to show someone why you are the person for the job as opposed to asking for the job.
- What is your favorite thing about being a full-time artist? What is your least favorite thing? The joy of having fun at “work” is easily my favorite thing about being an artist. Singing brings me joy so it will forever astonish me that people are willing to pay me for this! Also, the flexibility and variety in the daily schedule is far more my speed. Least favorite: The uncertainty and potential instability that comes with being a full-time artist can be trying. Because we don’t have the security of a guaranteed income, it creates an environment where you really have to be faithful and steadfast and foster a continued confidence in your ability to sustain a living.
- If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? I’ll speak specifically to Americans for this because I think it’s an inherently American issue with regards to a growing lack of respect for the arts and arts education. A great number countries and cultures have a real appreciation for the arts as a whole and respect artists on the same playing field as doctors or lawyers. The cultural appreciation is simply stronger. I wish Americans could grasp how important the arts are to our culture. This country eats it up; our music, film, dance, theatre and graphic contributions are devoured but for some reason, continue to be viewed as a lesser pursuit. Americans consume the arts in such large amounts but don’t feed or foster the community. It’s a take and take relationship that must shift. If I could change one thing about how artists are perceived, it would be that we are given the respect and support that is due. I truly believe that while we are sharing our gifts, we are also providing a public service which the general public would be starved for if they were left without. Pursuing the arts is a courageous venture and to follow this path and gain any amount of success is an incredible feat.
Shayla Love Washington | Actress | Writer | Producer | @shayla.love
1. Are you currently working a day job? If yes, can you say where? If not, can you share & describe the last day job you had? Currently, I don’t have a traditional day job. I run a professional organizing business—”Your Best Space EVER!” I also drive for Uber, and sometimes, I get amazing opportunities to work production…depends on the day of the week I suppose! LOL These days I’m on a mission to turn as many things I do well and enjoy into a stream of wealth.
2. What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? I feel like I have to preface this with: “this may sound weird”. So, this may sound weird but… [I feed my spirit by] meeting new people. The whole dance of having new interaction with someone, however amazing or awkward it may be, really energizes me! Also, learning about new things—random little things, mysterious big things, any thing really. When I see a word I’m unfamiliar with, I look it up immediately. 10 times out of 10, this usually opens up a Pandora’s box full of “schtuff” I didn’t know… and I love that! The goal is to stay fed with a world of information, apply it to my own world, share with the world… and REPEAT.
3. Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? I absolutely do. However, I absolutely do NOT believe in its existence as this inevitable purgatory people like to give all artists before we achieve society’s standards of major success. Being a starving artist or a non-starving artist is all about CHOICES. “Starving” and “non-starving” look and feel different for everyone. I’ve been both. There was a time in my life when I chose to make excuses for why I couldn’t do this or why I can’t do that until this happens…blah blah blah. It’s draining. The limiting belief that there’s nothing you can do until you get one thing stifles your creativity and robs you of your power and potentiality as a creator. You can always do SOMETHING, you just have to make a decision. I’m a non-starving artist now (and forever more!) because I choose to be.
4. Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? Artistic inspiration is like a revolving (and evolving) door for me. Several people and things fill the position of inspiration at different times in my life. Too many to name but to name a few… Jenifer Lewis. LOL! If you know me, you know that’s my “Auntie Jen”. I’m utterly inspired by who she is and what she does. And my closest group of girls, my Fab 5 gals, they really inspire growth and greatness in me without even trying.
5. Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? I believe challenges are necessary for every journey. The beauty of being an artist specifically, is that you are both the player AND the instrument. Every time you experience something in your body—be it a struggle or a success—it creates a chord; like a note that you can always pull upon to transmute into ART. Meryl Streep said it best at the Golden Globes recently: “Take your broken heart, turn it into art…” When you put it that way, I think one struggle represents 1,001 stories you can tell creatively.
6. Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. YES, I have quit a real job to do work I loved. At the end of the day, my decision boiled down to investment; investment of time and energy. If I’m expending this surplus amount energy into something that is not even in the ballpark of my goals, it’s time to re-evaluate, re-structure and sometimes LET GO (quit!). My biggest lesson, recently, has been about the investment in SELF. Wealth of the mind, body and spirit. You can’t buy that or even barter that! But you can obtain it by investing in YOU.
7. What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? “The Shrink in B6″ Webseries. My character, “Nadia”, really resonated with where I was emotionally at that time [in my life] and how I was navigating through my art. Every day we shot felt like being on an altar. I felt like I was communing with something divine because I was able to sort of free myself through the work. I’m still so grateful for that experience and to the ladies of House of June for creating that artistic sanctuary.
8. What are you currently working on? I’m an actor first, so my first answer is auditioning and creating opportunities for myself to showcase what I can do. I’m also gearing up to shoot my next short film, which will be number 2 of a 5 short film series. Theatre is “home base” for me, so I’m uber-grateful to make a return to the stage in Synchronicity Theatre’s production of “Eclipsed” this summer (June 2-25). I am continuing to build my muscles as a writer and producer as well; so I’m looking forward to collaborating with some dope creators on a few projects!
9. What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? I feel like there were so many first steps, if that makes sense. I will say my BIGGEST step thus far has been my to move to Atlanta. That’s my advice to any and everyone– specificity and movement. [You have to] get very specific about the type of stories you want to tell and what your intentions are as an artist– what you want to give to an audience, consumer, viewer, etc. When you’re clear about what it is you want and [desire] to give, you can make better decisions about how to move. I’m not speaking to literal relocation (although for some it may be); I’m referring to action. I’m always saying “Create don’t wait” because I “absotively posilutely” believe that we are always living the lives we create and I’m always reminding MYSELF [of that]. We all lead different lives, so movement is going to look different for everyone. But everyday you can do SOMETHING toward what you want. I think about how many verbs exist and I’m like “that’s how much I can do to get what I want!” That’s awesome.
10. What is your favorite thing about being a full-time artist? What is your least favorite thing? The flexibility, the freedom, the fun. “Least favorite”—as in still a favorite but just the least of them, LOL—would be not having an a clue about what my schedule is going to look like week to week. Unless I’m working on a project with a deadline and even then… it can be tricky.
11. If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? The perception that what we do is not a “real job” or that we should have a back-up plan. It takes courage and every REAL thing in you to accept the calling as an artist. Being an artist is my job because it’s a part of my purpose. That’s the realest job EVER.