What inspires you to create?
My inspiration honestly can come from anywhere, depending on the day. I’m a storyteller at heart, and my need for telling stories dominates both my personality and my art. I love focusing on the stories that people don’t always like to tell, and the stories we don’t even tell ourselves. Inspiration for that can come from literally anything, as everything is art in some way: from a ladybug on a car window to an Oscar-worthy performance.
What is the function of your art?
I make a lot of different types of art, and I do all of them to make you feel, and feel violently. When I create, I don’t think about an audience as a collective; I think of them as individual souls. I want YOU to feel me, I want YOU to feel the people around you, I want YOU to feel the feelings that we try and suppress. Violent joy, deep depression, and everything in between — I want to take you through that journey because that journey is human. We as people spend so much time trying to polish ourselves when we go out into the world that we often forget to be human.
What role does artmaking play in your life?
It’s one of the most important things I do. Artmaking, for me, is a reckless, breathless expression. It’s giving everything I have to give, and then digging deeper so I can give more. Like I said, there is art in everything, and everything is artistic. Art informs how I move in life, and life informs how I move in art. It took me a while to discover the artist in me, but once I did, it was impossible to go back.
Would you say your artmaking is a healing experience?
Yes, 110 percent. When I create, I want to be as real as I possibly can. Barriers that I usually keep up are lowered through poetic metaphor. Secrets seep into the mannerisms of my characters. Nothing has been as healing for me as performing and creating, because it’s not about my physical body. It’s not about whether it’s good or not. When I’m in the thick of the moment, it’s about me and my soul. I’m at my most spiritual, I’m at my most sacred. And hopefully, through my own healing, others may be healed.
Where do you want to see your art?
I’ve always been a kid with big dreams because dreams are some of the best gifts I’ve ever received. As such, I want to see my art on the biggest stages possible. I often envision myself on Broadway, my music on charts, etc. Why? I want to reach the biggest audience I can. I want my stories and truths to touch people that I will never meet. I dream about my lyrics on the lips of strangers. This is the basis of human connection. I see people meeting their soulmates at my shows, of young kids realizing who they are to the backdrop of my art. I want to uplift as many souls as I can — and in the biggest way I can.
How do you begin your creative process?
In the shower. For some reason, every good idea I have is either conceived or realized in the shower, without fail. I then pull out many, many, many sticky notes and get to work. Anyone who knows me knows that I have approximately 6.47 ideas in my head at any given moment. When writing scripts and plays, I just try to get everything out of my head and onto paper. Then I can look back and pick out what’s interesting. In terms of poetry and music, I always write the piece in one sitting. I have to stop what I’m doing and just focus on what I’m trying to express.
Who are your influences and inspirations?
Wow, the list is long. In my personal life, my bandmates and forever-collaborators [double-degree fifth-year] Max Addae and [double-degree fourth-year] Mark Ligonde always keep me pushing and inspired to follow my instincts. On campus, [Professor of Theater and Africana Studies and Chair of Theater] Ms. Caroline [Jackson-Smith] has been an amazing influence on me to forge my own path. Beyond, I study people like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Viola Davis, and Jordan Peele for their work ethics, innovation, and ingenuity. I study people like Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman for their drive and passion and hope to emulate their spirits in my own drive. I also am greatly inspired by franchises: Percy Jackson, Marvel, Disney Channel, and the way that they can stay consistent over time and for different audiences.
To what degree does your art reflect the world around you?
I think, in some way, it always does. I love to create imaginary worlds through my art: places where Black people can be safe and free, places where time doesn’t exist, etc. Even through all of these different worlds, my own world finds a way to infuse itself inside them, and that’s something that I have to let happen as an artist. One of my biggest things as an artist is that people can see themselves in my art, especially Black and Brown bodies who haven’t been able to see themselves in a lot of “classic” art. That can’t happen authentically if I don’t allow my own world and the world around me to influence my art at all.