AN INTERVIEW WITH GG TOWNSON

“Keep moving forward”
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney

PHOTO CREDIT: Stephanie Girard

  • Courtesy of Lifetime Salt-N-Pepa

Interview with GG Townson

BTCF: The entertainment business runs in your family.  Was being an actress something you always wanted to do?  

GG: My mom will tell you I used to sing in my crib as a baby!  Growing up, my thing was playing dress up, pretending, doing shows for my parents and their friends.  At a young age it wasn’t that I wanted to be an actress, I was just in the house entertaining.  I did tell my mom it would be fun to act once and because my grandfather was in the entertainment industry, she asked him about it, so he introduced me to his agent, Sid Levine who signed me and my brothers as a favor to my grandfather. I kind of took off and stuck with entertainment, but there was never a moment where I thought “I want to be an actress”.   I just liked to pretend and to entertain, which at the time I was only 7.  There wasn’t a moment of this is my job, it was like I get to get out of school for the day to be on a set and eat the great snacks my mom doesn’t want to buy.  It wasn’t until high school that I thought this could be a career, but even then, I was working to get into Brown University to be a doctor, an obstetrician.  I remember wanting to do that forever because I wanted a job that I could work with kids.  To be quite honest, the only “career” I wanted to do was to be a doctor.  I was only interested in acting – not thinking about being an actor.  

BTCF: What other forms of art do you enjoy? 

GG: I do dabble here and there in singing.  Through the process of filming Salt-N-Pepa and my connection in the industry, knowing my who my grandfather is I am finally going to be putting out a singing project.  I do have this; I don’t know if it’s a dream or a fantasy or a goal but I did learn that when my grandfather and his group were in their prime, while presenting at the Grammys they would sing a melody of the nominees and I thought how cool that would be to present at the Grammys and do it the way they did it.  So as to sing a melody of the nominees.  I thought that would be cool being the granddaughter of someone in that group that did that.   I also like to dance – dancing was a big part of my life when I was younger. I used to dance for a company called California’s Dance Center and went on competitions twice a year, we were really full out for sure.  A lot of people don’t know but I really love arts and crafts, I have coloring books and markers under my desk. I sit and color, I go outside to color.  I got into this form of painting with this really thin watercolor paint that squirts out of the bottle and I paint. I was able to do a pottery class for the first time before quarantine and really enjoyed that.

BTCF: So exciting to hear you have a new role in CW’s hit series All American!  Can you share who your character is and about?

GG: She’s a new artist that comes in, she’s a singer that comes in under JP’s label that is the father of one of the main characters. She comes in with a bit of an issue with one of the characters with the discrepancy of a song.  We are waiting to see how far her storyline goes and seeing the different facets of her. When I got the audition, the breakdown was she may seem one way, but there’s more to her then meets the eye. The way they are painting her now is she comes in, steals the girl’s song and she’s just ruthless – but Lil Jewel gets to tell her side of story.

BTCF: BTCF uses all forms of art and artistic expression as the process to unmask the stigma of individuals affected by eating disorders & negative body image.  How does art inspire you and impact your own wellness?

GG: Well, we talked about me doing arts and crafts and how that helps me pull away from certain things, helps me relax, and I love doing that outside.  I love being outside, getting fresh air, sunbathing things like that.  As far as my acting as an art – it depends on the type of stories I’m telling like the Salt-N-Pepa project.  It’s really important to show those two different sides like showing what an eating disorder looks like and/or showing that eating disorders impact everyone. Like the body image thing for Cheryl (Salt) wasn’t just the body image aspect of it, but all the other things. Other things that she couldn’t control and having bulimia was that one thing that she felt she could control when things were going haywire.

BTCF: What are your top 3 self-care tips and/or things you do daily that aide to your own self-care and why?

GG: Okay, I don’t do this daily; I’m trying to work on it, but I do write things in my journal. I think that’s really important as a self-care tip. Just to have something physical to reflect on and to be able to write down your feelings and go back and see what you’ve been through, how you’ve gone through it. I have this journal, Law of Attraction journal on Amazon. I’ve used it for three years now and this journal goes into asking questions at the end of each month – what did you learn, what did you focus on, what habits did you have, what could you break? There’s a vision board in it too, learning how to split time between spiritual aspects, relationships, a career, and finances. It breaks things down things in one’s life.  Another tip is meditating or praying or whatever you want to call it that’s important me as I pray every day.  Another tip is and this may change on the daily, but whatever I set for the day as a reward or feel-good action. It might even just be sitting and binge watching a show if that’s what I feel my feel-good moment is for me, or going outside.  This past weekend I hadn’t wanted to do anything really, no desire to go outside, but TODAY I’m like I need to go outside for a while like that’s my feel-good thing for me today. So I’m going to go outside for a bit and probably sit and do my journal or work on an audition.  Things I like to incorporate in my day to feel good. Listening to what I need.

BTCF: You recently starred as Cheryl “Salt” James in the Lifetime biopic and did amazing! For those who don’t know Salt suffered secretly with bulimia for years.  How did portraying her truth in what she went through connect with you?  Or how were you able to make that connection?

GG: I was able to make the connection with her by learning the feelings deeper than the binging and purging.  So, learning to understand what was going on at the time and that control that she was looking for.  For me personally, and it’s not as intense as bulimia, but I have this habit when I get under pressure or there’s a lot of stuff going on I bite the skin around my finger until it bleeds.  It’s been like this for years and I go through these little spells and when stuff is going on, you can tell on my fingers. I’m actually not sure what to call it or what it is as I haven’t looked that deep into it, but I know it happens when I have a lot of stuff going on. But it’s control for me, and that’s why for me I have a control problem – I know that about myself. So that’s just one way where I act out or try to control things with literally nothing to do with what is going on. Just like the things that Salt couldn’t control. It didn’t have anything to do with the outside noise, but her eating disorder is what she used. Even how mild my control response is, I was able to attach it to the thought; well, I have something kind of like that I could use and substitute and I could understand it. The act of purging and getting into that mindset of I feel that I need to do this to not only maintain this body image but also to feel that I have control over something.  It’s not something that I could ever prepare myself for actually getting into it. Yet understanding and knowing her story and feeling like okay she feels there is no other way, this is all I have, I have to do it this. 

BTCF: What are some things for you as an actress that aided you in preparing for the role of Salt when it came to her eating disorder?

GG: The preparation was literally getting into her mind and connecting to the why. I see why you did it because if I was under pressure and that was my go-to than I would understand that. Understanding what was going on around her- the act of.  Cheryl and I talked about it, even down to where there was one scene that actually got cut out of the movie, but it was in the original script. It was a moment of right after she met Gavin and she purged.  I told her you may have had this moment in real life, but I don’t understand how I as Salt (Cheryl) was to purge that night because nothing was wrong, and I was only able to make that connection because I understood every other purging moment she had.  I thought this is a happy moment and she just met this man, everything was going great, he asked her if she wanted food, she said no and they parted ways, but in the script it said she went back to get the food and the next thing we would see is her purging.  But for me I said to Cheryl (Salt) that doesn’t make sense for me, because there’s nothing going on – why would I purge, there’s nothing wrong, I’m happy, I’m satisfied with the way I look, my body, this wasn’t an issue of body shaming, I wouldn’t purge here. Salt told me, you’re right, you wouldn’t because there is literally nothing wrong right now. The purging came after the break-up in the movie and that makes sense.  It came after parts in the movie where I’m going on a rollercoaster, like the purging after the Essence performance when we performed a song that she didn’t want to do in the first place and the song was out of place for the event we were performing at, the stakes were high – that makes sense.  The purging was connected to an emotional response and if I didn’t know the character like that, I wouldn’t be able to say to Cheryl (Salt), hey this actually doesn’t fit right here at this happy moment because I understood why the purging was happening at this point.  

BTCF: Salt being one of them, there are many people in the entertainment world who have begun to open up more about their eating disorder struggles. In portraying a real-life person who suffered from an eating disorder while simultaneously being in a worldwide spotlight, what do you think becomes the place of importance of the addiction in the scheme of things? How do you think Salt prioritized her eating disorder? 

GG: I think getting to know Salt the way I did, reading the script and even thinking about my own life, she needed something tangible and that was it.  She needed something for instant gratification that was the way of for a lack of a better word “acting out”, something she needed to hold on to. Like people who cut or have the rubber band, it’s something they need to do. The eating disorder was her something, but it also fell in line with maintaining body image too.  It was a two-fold, and for her I don’t want to say it worked or that was a good thing, but it was something that satisfied both.  As a response to the outside noise.

BTCF: In your portrayal of Salt with such depth and honesty within such a delicate subject matter, was there a moment of connection in her downward spiral while acknowledging the harm she was doing to herself and the line she knew she had to cross into healing and recovery? 

GG: I feel like I connected with her from the beginning where essentially it worked in the grand scheme of things. Watching the movie, people told me I was spot on, that I acted it correctly and did my homework.  But even the scene when I’m in the church and Mario Van Pebbles who is the director and plays the pastor talks to me (Salt) about the people in your life who don’t serve you, you’re not your best around these people and understanding what that’s like.  So even going through my life and realizing there are certain people that you do need to get rid of that don’t serve you. Cheryl (Salt) and I outside of the movie would have these same kinds of conversations and her asking me about certain people in my life and telling me the same things that Mario is telling Salt in the church.  In our conversations Cheryl is telling me, GG, if people don’t serve you, you need to get rid of those people. Then her coming to that same conclusion for herself in her life and telling herself, yes I have to get out of this.  

Even going through those moments, I don’t’ think there is a super defining moment in the midst of shooting the movie as the connection with her was already there and that was based on her openness and her willingness to share her story with me and automatically having my own personal experience to be able to say okay I understand that because of what I went through here – I get that.  I could literally substitute so many things, it may not be exact, but what she went through and how close those relationships were in her life I could literally pinpoint some of those relationships in mine.  

BTCF: Are there places or spaces in your life where you found yourself struggling with body image and if so, can you share an example and how you found ways to find healing and peace for yourself?

GG: I did at one point.  I went through this not liking my stretch marks on my body. When I was going into the summer of 8th grade, my body started to develop.  But before then I was really, little, a skinny girl and I’m sure people won’t even be able to understand what that looks like looking at me now, but like my mom constantly had to pin my clothes because nothing would fit, like literally I was that little. Then growing, developing I got these boobs and my hips grew and I was getting stretch marks and I was like oh my God, I hate my stretch marks. To the point where I didn’t want to wear a bathing suit and always felt like I needed to cover up because everyone is looking at my stretch marks. But then I got to a point where I was like why am I doing this, my stretch marks are a part of me. They are just receipts on the fact that my butt grew, so why am I hiding? I have my receipts!  You know in this day and age there’s this balance of the natural bodies and the artificial bodies, but it’s like I told myself well, I got my receipts that’s what it turned into – I got my receipts, it’s my body and I’m fine, I own it, God gave it me thank you and I just ran with it there! You know, with social media the need to always look your best always be on 10 and was something I almost got caught into, I’m not going to lie, but now it’s just like I am who I am, I’m very clear about that. I don’t try to portray something I’m not and I think it just really took me being headstrong and having a good support system because it’s very easy to get caught up into the look of social media, like go to this doctor and get this done and that done…and keeping up with the Kardashians, I mean they are beautiful, but that road is not for everyone.  It definitely wasn’t for me.

BTCF: There is certainly a stigma when it comes to eating disorders and mental illness within the black community – why do you think that is?  What are some first steps you think would help to create more of an enrichment narrative around this all?

GG: From the beginning, what I’ve always heard is don’t tell anyone – what happens in our house, stays in our house and I don’t know if that was based on how difficult things are for black families and not wanting to place anymore drama or issues on the black family. Not letting any outside ears in because of what we already have to deal with already being black. I’m not sure because I grew up hearing that – whatever goes on in house, stays in our house. Which kind of deters from the idea of therapy, because going to therapy you are now dealing with an outside source and rule of thumb in the black family is what goes on inside this house, stays in this house. But with that what is unfortunate is the lack of communication that can be had within the house because it’s like well if you guys don’t want a seeking ear outside of the house then we should start having these conversations within the house then. If a child says I’m unhappy, I’m going through something – don’t brush it off like they are just a kid, you don’t know anything – pushing that down. Unfortunately, I’ve had those experiences, those are experiences in the black household, experiences my closest friends have shared.  Even with the body image thing, I’ve heard comments in the black household say if someone is skinny, the tease is girl you need to put some meat on those bones.  That’s a common thing but I don’t think people understand how far that travels. It’s what we’ve been accustomed to through the years, that’s just the cycle, that’s the chain that happens. 

It is difficult, our parents and the generation of our parents did the best they could and I don’t want to take away from that, but with that comes the inability to effectively communicate the feelings of their children sometimes, often times.  It hasn’t been until recently when I was in my 20’s and even now more recently that it is has been shared that it’s okay to express yourself, show your feelings and even for black men to express themselves and have platforms now where they are openly talking about certain things and what’s going on.  There are great podcasts of black men and women sharing their experiences, talking about things, setting a standard for more to come forward, talk, create conversation and dialogue about how they feel.  I think that came with creating fellowship amongst themselves that felt they were unheard and felt they couldn’t express themselves and that was breaking the chain of what they couldn’t find at home. They had to find that with each other and help each other through that. Even in-depth conversations I have with my friends, I always make a point of saying I really appreciate what you are going through, I appreciate you being open enough to share these things with me because I know it’s not as easy as one would think. Creating a safe place – I appreciate you for trusting me to have this conversation and trusting me not use anything you’ve said against to you. Not only with your friends, but relationships. There is strength in expressing yourself, owning your story and using that to help the next, even a testimony to help someone else than just burying your feelings and pretend like they don’t exist. There is strength in expressing what is going on.

BTCF: What are some of your hobbies?  

GG: I like to cook!  Yeah, I have the tasty app on my phone, and I go through different recipes.  I get joy in finding new recipes and trying them out and then getting the response like it’s actually good. I live for those moments. One Super Bowl, I had like all these Super Bowl dishes and I did all of them and I just sat back like a proud mom, yeah, I did that. 

I definitely will climb a tree – if I see a tree that looks climbable, I will attempt to climb the tree- I am that person! I’m like a child! I’ll definitely try to climb on the highest rock if I’m at the beach, I will do stuff like that. I really do. I’m surprised I haven’t fallen off of something. I do enjoy rollerblading. I like to go to fairs and get on the rinky dink rides you think you are going to die on – I’m that person! I love Six Flags, can’t wait until that opens, I was looking at opening dates this morning – I need a thrill.  I guess you could say I’m a little bit of a thrill seeker.  Oh, I faced my fear and held a snake for the first time too.  I thought I’d be more scared than I actually was, but in theory it wasn’t that bad. My mind told me it was worst then it actually was, it was okay I mean I didn’t die, clearly!

BTCF: When it comes to having balance in your life, what is important to you and why?

GG: Being able to disconnect from the industry which isn’t that hard to do because my closest friends are in the industry, but we are the type of friends that don’t talk about the industry. I’ve met people that all they want to talk about is the industry, what going on, casting, who have you been reading for, agencies and things like that and I sit back thinking, you all don’t want to talk about anything else? My core friends, we talk about everything and industry is 10 percent. My core friends are whom I’m around when I want to back away. I have my village – my family and friends definitely help me get away from the industry.  Their support system means so much!

BTCF: What would you say to all the young black girls and boys who may struggle with negative body image, body image relationships, or an eating disorder and feel too ashamed to talk about it?

GG:  I understand where it comes from to feel like you can’t express it because depending on your home situation you may feel like no one is going to hear you, take you serious, that you’re just saying it because you like to hear yourself talk, but don’t let that deter you from sharing your truth and reaching out to someone that could help you get what’s going on. Even if you don’t understand what you’re going through is an eating disorder, but it’s that hey I’m going through this time that I have these feelings that’s okay to share and that’s enough.  Just knowing and understanding whatever negative situation that you are going through in regard to expressing yourself, that’s not the end and there are people who want to talk and be receptive to what you have to say and will have an answer. There are young girls who dm me and ask me for advice. One girl asked me about how to get started in the entertainment industry and I told her starting out with a great foundation of self- esteem and self-worth is the basis because a lot of time in this industry you will not get certain things that have nothing to do with you and you have to understand a lot of time a casting decision is not based on you so don’t take that no and think it’s because of you. It probably has nothing to do with you – they could love you, but they owe someone a favor, or it’s really never you personally but things beyond your control. I told her I hope I was able to answer it and not sound like a fortune cookie.  She thanked me because she doesn’t have people she feels she can talk to or get real options that are not just surface answers like “do your best and you will do great”.  While yes that’s true, there the underneath of that – do your best and release it. You can’t hold onto it because if you do, you will crush yourself because you will be so married to the idea you were perfect for this project, because this and that and talk yourself into a frenzy.  I say every “no” is like stacking those up like on a staircase – Every no you are stacking up and getting higher and higher to your “yes” and that’s what it should look like. Every “no” okay on the next no, on to the next, okay on to the next.  I believe what’s meant for you will happen.  Everything that’s happen for me, what I prayed for is for the good of my career. When I pray to God, I pray for if you want this for me, it will happen.  Yeah, I get a little worried sometimes if things are hard, I get uncomfortable, but I put my trust into God as it will be okay.  If I get a no, my okay is my other audition coming in. 

BTCF: Eating disorders “look” differently for each person.  How do you think social media has impacted perception?

GG: Definitely, social media has impacted the way people feel about themselves. And maybe the rise in these disorders, I don’t know the numbers, but I can only imagine what has transpired on social media.  Just the fact when you get on social media you see perfection but more of what I’m seeing is people saying – people only show you the highlight reel.  Understanding that’s what social media, it is a highlight reel.  You don’t see the downs, the bad.  Although there are some people who do show their struggles and thank God for them because I feel they are inspirations for people with their willingness to share their truth.

BTCF: You have plans for building your own organization for young woman!  Can you share some of what it’s about?

GG: It’s called Magic Within You Academy – basically a testament of what I’m all about. My ministry – just know you are enough simply and reinforcing that to young girls. Doing this at a young age and not waiting until they get into their 20’s to understand this, but rather to build that foundation a little earlier within themselves. The knowing of how life happens and go through the motions and understand that piece like I said, every no is closer to a yes and learning how to turn moments of adversity into great moments looking for the silver lining. Finding that and knowing how to apply it to everything. I’m an advocate for not acting like a robot and not acting like life doesn’t affect you because it does and it should, but that’s a part of the process.  I feel like a lot of people miss the process of life by being so concerned with acting like something doesn’t affect them and that’s not what its’ about.  Because what’s the good without bad?  You’re not going to appreciate the good unless you went through the bad. Also, too you may not be able to tell if something is good unless you really went through the bad.  

I would like to structure it as a traditional non-profit.  We would start doing on-line workshops and things like that, but I would like to get it to a point where we can do it in person things, and I guess that’s all based on what “Ms. Rona” has in store – how long she’s planning on staying! It’s about being a safe place for the things I’m about, expression, creating a safe place women and young girls to express themselves without feeling judged or looked at in any type of way for the things that they feel.  Can we normalize feelings again? 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH IMANI MCGEE STAFFORD

“I am more than my scars and bruises. More than my sad stories and abusers. I am this heart. Whatever that may be. I am this love. If that means anything at all. I am all of me.” Imani McGee-Stafford

Photo credits: Aaron Encalade

BTCF: Growing up in a family of basketball players, can you share a little bit about that and how it influenced your life?

IMANI: I’ve been around basketball since before I can remember. There are literally pictures of me as a baby with a ball or at a game.

BTCF: As someone who has many artistic interests, how has art made an impact on your life?

IMANI: Art is air. I appreciate how it connects strangers on the basis of human condition, how I can walk in a room and understand someone based on our shared sense of vulnerability.

BTCF: How and why did you make the decision to play basketball and not pursue the arts?

IMANI: Honestly, it was just a realistic decision. My freshman year of high school I’d made the lead in the school play and varsity basketball and I couldn’t do both. At that point I was a 6’5” 13-year-old so it just made sense to pick sports.

BTCF: You have been very open about your own personal story and shared that depression is one thing that athletes deal with, and it can have a huge impact on their lives. In your experience, are more and more athletes getting the help they need or is it something that does not get the attention or support needed?

IMANI: Definitely still A LOT of work left to do. We have to remove the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. Couple that with the “tough it out” mentality instilled in athletes and the idea that they have a better or privileged life, and it is often hard for athletes to honestly take inventory of their mental health.

BTCF: You are a published poet! At what age did you start writing poetry? If you could describe your poetry in 5 words, what would they be?

IMANI: I started writing poetry at 12 after a segment in 7th grade English about Tupac’s poetry and reading The Diary of Anne Frank. Up until that point, I had written music – original songs. The idea that Anne Frank’s voice was relevant, a little girl, really stood with me. My poetry is honest, sometimes painful, sometimes hopeful, but most important mine – my voice.

BTCF: What inspired you to write your poetry book Notes in The Key of Heartbreak”?  What process did it take for you?

IMANI: I wrote that book after my divorce from my college sweetheart. I’d had enough work to publish a book for a while, but nothing felt important enough. My marriage and the subsequent demise of it felt important. I wanted to prove it was real. That however misguided, young, and dumb we may have been – the love was real. It happened.

BTCF: BTCF uses art as the process to unmask the stigma of individuals affected by eating disorders & negative body image as a vehicle for healing and a bridge to recovery.  As a poet, can you relate to that and how has your poetry aided your healing?

IMANI: Poetry helped me find my voice when I didn’t know I had one or that my story was important and needed to be told, out loud. Poetry has always been a safe space for me.

BTCF: Are there some other artistic ways you express yourself?  If so, what are they?

IMANI: I love to sing, by myself though lol.

BTCF: Sometimes those who have experienced trauma stay in a mindset of the trauma defining who they are as a person.  How important is it to you to not have your trauma define you and why?

IMANI: Very important. It took a very long time and a lot of work to not find comfort in chaos. Living and surviving aren’t the same but when you are constantly use to being in survival mode it’s easy to not understand the difference.

BTCF: You have stated “I found my purpose through my pain”.  How did you come to that acknowledgment for yourself and what does that mean to you?

IMANI: I do not subscribe to the idea that you must go through darkness and pain to ultimately become better or find yourself – however, some of us do. I was that person. I wouldn’t be so passionate about the things I am if I didn’t have these experiences. I am so passionate about mental health and ending sexual violence because these things directly affected me. I just realized why I’m still here.

BTCF: What does the name Imani mean?  What does it mean to you?

IMANI: Imani means “faith” in Swahili. I always tell people that my mother must have known what this life had in store for me. I have needed faith every step of my life. I haven’t always had it or been hopeful but these days faith is all I have. I am spiritual or religious, whatever you’d call it and my faith plays a large part of my life and what I believe my purpose to be on this Earth.

BTCF: Can you explain what you meant by “we see everyone’s amazing moments in social media”? What is your goal(s) or intention(s) when you post on social media?

IMANI: Social media is a highlight reel. Even for people who try to show more authentic sides of themselves the images and moments shared are still curated. So understanding that comparison is the thief of joy has to be the basis of social media intake. I share on social media to give people a glimpse into my life.

BTCF: There is still a stigma that surrounds mental illness?  Why do you think that is?  What is a positive message you can send out to others who experience this stigma and the negative impact it has on their lives?  How do you cope today?

IMANI: It’s important to acknowledge that we may not all have mental illnesses, but we all have mental health. The more we share our experiences and allow people to not be okay the further we will go in destigmatizing mental health.

BTCF: It’s a very wonderful thing that you use your platform to talk about mental illness and sexual abuse to aide others in their healing journey.  Was there ever a time you thought you were the only one?  How did you take steps to come out from the darkness and not suffer in isolation?

IMANI: Growing up, I definitely felt like the black sheep and that my story was mine and mine only. The first time I shared my story (via poem), a friend of mine’s mother came up to me crying, saying I had just told her story, the same story she had never told anyone. That moment allowed me to realize that my story was more common that not and that my voice was not only powerful but needed.

BTCF: There are many athletes who have eating disorders. As a professional athlete for WNBA, how important is it for you to take care of your body and what does that mean to you?

IMANI: My body is my job. But there isn’t one specific body type that makes a great athlete or WNBA player. Understanding that health doesn’t have a look and instead is just the best you.

BTCF: How important is it for young athletes also to engage in their education?

IMANI: Sports are a vehicle. Eventually you have to get out and the question will always be did you make the most of the ride.

BTCF: What inspired you to study law?  What kind of lawyer do you want to be?  Goals?

IMANI: I want to make tangible change. I felt like law school was the best way to put action behind the things I say and believe in.

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH NATHALIE RODRIGUEZ

AN INTERVIEW WITH NATHALIE RODRIGUEZ

“Your life will not be defined by those who have not lived it, So live.” – Miles Carter

 

 

BTCF: How long have you been a photographer and what inspired you to become one?

NATHALIE: I have been a photographer for a little over a year. I received my first camera in the 5th grade and have always desired to express my creativity through photography. Now that I’m 18 and in college, being able to show someone their natural beauty, and watch their confidence grow during sessions has inspired me to keep this journey of photography flowing.

BTCF: Do you have other aspirations with your photography and if so, what are two of them?

NATHALIE: I aspire to take my photography around the world. To learn of different cultures and meet a variety of different people. Every photoshoot is like getting to know someone, as the session begins you learn what it is that suits them, you teach confidence and watch it grow by the end of it. With that being said, I want to do that for so many people around the world. Another aspiration I have is to one day open my own studio and expand my business in photography.

BTCF: Your photographs are wonderful moments in people’s lives.  Do your clients come to you with their ideas or is it something you and they come up with together?

NATHALIE: The idea of a shoot depends on the objective. Is it a family shoot? Fashion shoot? Couples shoot? Senior portraits? Whichever one my client comes to me with, I ask for a description on how they’d love their photos to look like, and I research locations, outfits, and even the time the photoshoot will take place. Sometimes I’ll have a client who doesn’t know the exact look they’re going for, so I simply suggest a variety of ideas that I believe they would enjoy.

BTCF: You have many other skills like shooting videos and editing.  Is that something you would like to get into more and what things would you like to film?

NATHALIE: I definitely love photography more than anything. Videography is fun and allows to show the world clips through your perspective. I mostly use videography, to show the behind the scenes of photoshoots. Specifically, when it comes to posing, locations, equipment, etc. Potential clients love to see how you work, and this is my way of creatively showing them.

BTCF: We were fortunate to have you use your creative skills with some fun editing for our upcoming interactive online video/workbook program, “How To Love Yourselfie” with Jillian Rose Reed (our Celebrity Spokesperson/Board Member) What drew you to the program?

NATHALIE: Initially as soon as I heard about the program I quickly wanted to help as much as I could. Social Media today influences our society of all ages. “How to love Yourselfie” highlights the impacts that many of us are unconscious of. It’s beautiful to see the efforts of this program and the way it can positively influence people to implement self-care in their life and normalize natural beauty. Social media has created a false narrative through highlight reels, that people praise.

BTCF: What were some of your favorite moments on the HTLYS videos and why?

NATHALIE: I loved the message. As I was editing, I was learning. Every video had a message of its own, backed up by statistics and real-life testimonies that everyone can relate to. I loved that it breaks the stigma of pretending that imperfections aren’t real.

BTCF: BTCF uses all forms of art as a process to unmask the stigma of individuals affected by eating disorders, disordered eating and negative body image.  Personal story is one way of doing this.  Do you have a personal story that inspires you and how you use it through your photography?

NATALIE: I believe through photography my self-love grew. At the beginning of this creative field, I had to learn how to create a comfortable environment for my clients. Sometimes I work with someone who may deal with insecurity or a lack of self-love. Because of this, I’ve learned in order to break through those barriers I have to show them. I become very silly and act out poses, or state random phrases to get a smile out my client. This results in pictures where they feel beautiful or handsome, where those negative thoughts about themselves simply disappear. However, in order for me to learn how to do this I decided to take on self-portraits. It wasn’t long after that I realized being behind a camera is way easier than being in front of one. As I watch my self-confidence grow through my portraits, I can truly say photography has had a huge impact on my self-love.

BTCF: When you are shooting photos for people, what would you say to a person that you think may be insecure about their body?

NATHALIE: A photographer is more than just clicking a button on a camera. You are responsible for the energy you bring into the session. Before a photoshoot, I always prepare poses and physically show the client how they can be implemented. I state scenarios to capture laughs and smiles. I make sure to show the client how the photos are coming out and as soon as I show them, I love seeing their face bright up and state comments like “Oh my gosh, I didn’t know I can look like that.” Usually after this they open up and nothing brings me more joy than to see their confidence grow.

BTCF: What are three things that are important to you that you share with the people you photograph to help them feel at ease?

NATHALIE: Creating a comfortable, nonjudgmental relationship between the photographer and the client is key. It’s important to me that my clients understand that there are no beauty standards or expectations they need to live up to. They are more than enough already. Additionally, it’s important for my clients to also understand that beauty comes in different shapes and forms, true beauty is being yourself, and expressing yourself despite what anyone has to say. And lastly, its essential for my clients to trust my creative instinct that results in desirable galleries intended to create smiles.

BTCF: What is one thing each that you think social media creates in a positive way and in a negative way?

NATHALIE: Social media can positively affect society through the means of, spreading awareness on a movement or subject, marketing your business, sharing your art, and connecting with family around the world. However, in reality social media has brought negative impacts and has pervaded our world with unrealistic body standards and egotistical morals. People start to worry more about followers, likes, and comments, rather than self-love, or the caring for the people who are truly in their life.

BTCF: You are presently attending college as well as doing your photography.  How do you find balance?

NATHALIE: My number way to manage my time with academics and photography is to begin my week filling out my agenda. I specifically prioritize assignments due the soonest and schedule my shoots on the days I don’t have school. Having an agenda allows me to schedule my week and manage my how I use my time.

BTCF: What are your three favorite ways to take care of yourself?

NATHALIE: Understanding when enough is enough. I tend to take on big projects all at once despite how much time I have, so making sure I set different checkpoints for myself is the way to prioritize my mental space. As I mentioned before, utilizing an agenda has provided me with balance in my daily life. Allowing myself to take control over my time, permits me to create time to myself. For example, time to spend with friends or family, or simply sitting down and writing in my journal. Another way I take care of myself is playing piano, it helps me feel grounded and distracts me from any stress.

BTCF: How important is it to you to have support in what you do and can you share one thing that keeps you grounded?

NATHALIE: In all entirety, choosing to continue working in photography was an independent decision. Photography has provided purpose and self-fulfillment. However, receiving support on my photos surely motivates me to continue creating. It’s important to not find your validation through others, instead realize the worth of your own work. One thing that keeps grounded, is to understand that we are all at different points of our lives and comparing ourselves won’t do us any good.

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARIELLE BODENHAUSEN

“Leave your imprint to stand beyond your existence” -Abhisarika

Valerie Noelle @theeternalchild

BTCF: As we all know, we are in an interesting time in our world and finding a silver lining to it all can be challenging. As a person who is about growth and renewal, what are some of your silver lining moments? What have been a couple of your challenges?

ARIE: Definitely an interesting time. This silver lining moment is something I would have never expected to re-visit in my life, as I would have thought I wouldn’t need to. I’ve been able to re-visit my boredom, in turn… notice how my creativity and artistry doesn’t always have to be for others to experience, it’s most important purpose is that I express it and create it. Impressive or not, I have found that being bored I end up creating for fun and self-pleasure than for anyone else. It’s almost like being a kid again.

Challenges: 1. remembering my worth without the “accomplishments” / “praises” from others. 2. Having grace for myself for not being the busy bee I normally am.

BTCF: You are not only an accomplished dancer, but also an actress, choreographer, writer, and teacher of dance, yoga, and Pilates. In “normal” times, how do you balance it all?

ARIE: Ha-ha how do I balance it all? I honestly am grateful that I get to do them all, it wouldn’t happen if I didn’t show up passionately to each one. I don’t have every single one of those happening at once, but I do have to practice the word “No” to keep myself sane and committed to the projects I have said “yes” to. And my car sometimes (most of the time) looks like a closet.

BTCF: We are so blessed to have worked with you since 2016. What drew you to BTCF and why?

ARIE: Kathryn McCormick first introduced me to Alex, which was my connection to BTCF. I was told we would be performing at an event to bring awareness and support to eating disorders within the arts. I have struggled with an eating disorder through my dancing career, so to be able to perform AGAINST that, SIGN ME UP!

BTCF: As one of our main OG performers for Alex Little’s “7 Chairs” dance performance, you have continuously brought your immense talent and a different story to each of the performances. Can you share how you go about it each time and the scope of your motivation for such?

ARIE: I love performing this piece! I miss it and look forward to doing it again someday. The most impactful way to show up for “7 Chairs”, personally is to walk into the rehearsal not only with an open heart to talk, but with an open heart to listen. The first part of rehearsal we share with the group about life currently… the good, the bad, the sad etc. From that point on the movement and story line is created to highlight each individual’s story. The feeling to share the stage with others that you know are fully supporting your story, and you are supporting theirs… there is truly nothing like it. It’s so unique and vulnerable for all of us in the piece. I have done the piece about 5 times I believe and not once has it ever felt similar to the last time. That is an incredible feeling. And one I’m grateful to be a part of.

BTCF: As you know, BTCF uses all forms of art as a process to unmask the stigma of those struggling with eating disorders, disordered eating, and a variety of body image relationships as well as to inspire those who struggle and their loved ones to seek help. How do you use your dance to express some of your journey?

ARIE: Being a part of “7 Chairs” was the spark that has encouraged me to be bold in the way I am a teacher. Being a dance teacher, I notice many moments of kids and teenagers struggling while looking in the mirror or comparing to their peers. I am grateful to be there and share my own journey, because I remember that all too clearly, in hopes that I can help them learn ways to love and appreciate the body they are in.
For my personal dancing career, I express my journey by showing up confidently and grateful for my body. A body I used to be so ashamed of and would get mad at for (what I thought was) holding me back from the jobs I dreamt of. I’m not perfect on my journey but I am aware of the negativity and hurtful thoughts that can pull me down in a heartbeat. I try to notice them and correct those thoughts as quickly as possible. I remind myself this body has been a gift and can do some beautiful things… my movement is unique to me, can’t hide that anymore. SO.. showing up to the audition, class, meeting, job is the way I express my body image struggle.

BTCF: There are two things you recently shared with us – “At times I feel my creative mind on fire and others I find emptiness. The grace it takes for an artist to deal with barriers and roadblocks is something I am sitting with now.” Can you share the meaning with our readers?

ARIE: Yes, I wrote this wanting to share that this new pace has taught a new way of navigating “being an artist”. What do you do when you are a go, go, go type of person… and you aren’t able to access that? For me, I got a more intimate look into the way I deal with the ebbs and flows of creating. When normally I would express myself daily, through classes, teaching, auditioning, etc. I had very little I did alone. Now, to be forced to sit alone and still have a desire to dance or act, I had to learn patience for myself. Learn grace for myself. There are times I feel like I’m completely on fire with ideas, and times I’m sitting at a roadblock… and you know what, I’m finding that to be okay. I’m finding more appreciation for what I do create and dream up, creating from an authentic place will ALWAYS be a gift. Even if it’s not as often as I’m used to.

BTCF: Is there a time during your own eating disorder that you can share with us and how through your artistry, it allowed you to break free? What did that look like for you?

ARIE: Acting freed me from hating my body. Acting was the first place I didn’t see the “right” body size, but I saw that the story came from within. Came from the eyes and the way you listened. You were never alone, which means you were always needed for the story. Acting has taught me a new way of dancing for myself. Story first!

BTCF: How has the pandemic affected you in your personal times and as an artist?

ARIE: I think they are both being affected greatly. My personal life and my artist life are very intertwined. Like I’ve mentioned I’m a social butterfly… I’m an extrovert, so being amongst others, especially while doing what we love, brings me life I don’t know how to replicate. But my sweet boyfriend Tyler encouraged me to use his loft as a studio. That became my creating world, something I will forever be grateful for.

BTCF: Eating disorders are on a rise during the pandemic. Can you share a couple of your own tips that provide you with some peace of mind?

ARIE: GET OUTSIDE! Nature is my answer to most things. A hike and Podcast or music will ground me in the present and help me stay grateful. Gratitude normally will pull me out of slumps and negative thoughts which have led to my eating disorder. Also, reaching out to someone close to you for a phone call or a safe meet up. God designed us to be in relationship with others… I believe there’s a reason for that.

BTCF: You have been a wonderful voice and inspiration for BTCF on many occasions. We love having you as an artist ambassador. How important is community to you? What does that mean to you?

ARIE: Might just be the most important thing. Like I said above, God created us to be in relationship with others. That’s community. To feel like you are accepted and have the ability to accept others is one of life’s greatest blessings. I am 28 years old and have many different communities of people in my life, they aren’t all my best friends but they are all very important to me, they have taught me lessons, laughed with me, cried with me, encouraged me, and accepted me. I also want to say I have been in a time where I’ve been VERY lonely, and felt like my community was light years away… if that’s you, I want to encourage you to look for one… One person YOU can make smile, write a letter to and to focus on accepting them, you’ll be shocked how close your community really is. It’s taken me years to have relationships like I do today. I love that I get to love them, and in return accept their love. That’s community.

BTCF: You have said that your artistry comes in many forms. Can you share what those are and how you connect with them, what each inspire and how do you allow your art to shine?

ARIE: I’m a dancer, actress, dance teacher, and Pilates instructor. Ultimately, I have a passion for telling stories as authentically as possible. Dance and acting both hold a special place in my life… Hopping into characters shoes and shedding light on their existence is powerful. It gives you a greater appreciation and love for humanity. Being a dance teacher, I love to inspire my students to learn their way of telling stories, being in that process is a blessing I am grateful to have in my life. Being a Pilates instructor, I get to help my clients feel alive in their body. Giving them confidence to take on their days as healthfully as possible. All though that is not a story I get to tell, I get to be in their process of bettering themselves, again a blessing I am grateful for.

BTCF: We had a wonderful opportunity to co-produce with you a dream of yours, “Beyond Existence: Body”.  How would you describe what this is and where it came from?  Was it a healing experience for you?

ARIE: Beyond Existence was something that sparked in my mind years ago as I was trying to figure out a fun way to teach adults dance. I decided to add paint to dancing. What happened was greater than I expected. I noticed how dance could become a visual art, something that is left for others to interpret later. I believe that in everything we do we leave imprints. This experience of filling a room full of my strokes, letting colors have unique meanings, textures, and story inspire moment by moment, all while being filmed. In briefs and a bra top, I felt exposed and nervous that the body I have once shamed is now exposed as my instrument, paintbrush. As I watched the paint grow on the walls, movement by movement, my heart began to fill with such appreciation for what I have to offer to this world, to this space, to this moment. SO was it healing. Absolutely! I can’t wait to invite others into this experience.

BTCF: How do you view “your” art? What does being an artist mean to you and the impact it has on others?

ARIE: My art is vulnerable and sometimes from the shadows of my heart. Although the process of creating is healing and empowering, I often times pull from pains in my past or present. I hope that my art lands on others as something they can connect to, not feel alone in, or give hope to keep moving forward.

BTCF: How can people find out more about your classes that you offer?

ARIE: As of right now through the pandemic, I have been focusing on virtual Pilates classes and dance classes. If you ever want to dance or do Pilates sessions the best way to reach out or get connected is through my insta @_arie_b or email arie.bodenhausen@gmail.com

AN INTERVIEW WITH TRINITY ROSE

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

BTCF: Your voice is very soulful and rich.  There is a pop-vibe to some of your music and yet an R&B sound as well as an indy vibe.  How would you describe yourself as an artist?

TRINITY ROSE: It’s funny that you notice how much my genres kind of blend. I love music a lot and there’s so many amazing parts of music that I don’t want to be restricted to. My songs Morning Text and Coughing Up Flowers are so different because I found inspiration in different kinds of styles. I would describe myself in all the ways you did and I hope I can be described in more ways in the future!

BTCF: Do you write your own music?  Listening to Coughing Up Flowers is beyond! “Who is the person behind this mirror” in your lyric?

TRINITY ROSE: I do write my own music, but I really love co-writing and having other people’s input on my own songs. I wrote Coughing Up Flowers with Casey Malanuk and I can’t really remember who wrote that line. The way I see that person is myself as I’m looking in the mirror. It’s more that I don’t recognize myself with such strong, irrational feelings for another person and the moment of clarity I’m experiencing at that moment is entirely new.

BTCF: What was it like to be chosen as one of eight teen vocal performers in the country to attend a week-long intensive program, hosted by The GRAMMY Foundation and USC Thornton School of Music?

TRINITY ROSE: It was amazing being chosen for Grammy Camp two times in my high school career. I learned so much from people like Chris Sampson and other faculty members that taught all of us. I met tons of people I still work with today and I couldn’t have made those bonds without that camp.

BTCF: You recently released your single “Morning Text”.  Can you share what it’s about and the inspiration behind it?

TRINITY ROSE: I wrote Morning Text with my co-writer Steve Damar after a gig that I did nearby. The inspiration came from this one time I was getting attention from a guy I wasn’t really into and I didn’t know how to tell him I didn’t want something serious. The term ‘morning text’ is such a flirty new thing for teenagers like me and I thought drawing inspiration from that concept would be perfect!

BTCF: When collaborating with other artists, what connects you the most and why?

TRINITY ROSE: When I collaborate with another person, I usually have to be connected through understanding of each other and almost being on the same wavelength. I get along with some people, but that doesn’t mean it makes for a good collaboration. When I’m writing with them, if they’re completely open and throw out ideas unashamedly I absolutely adore them.

BTCF: Are your songs based on personal story or real life around you or both?

TRINITY ROSE: My songs are based on my own personal experiences usually, but concepts and things I observe are almost always at the core of any song I write. I wrote a ton of personal songs for myself but most of the songs I’ve released aren’t based off of anything besides a concept.

BTCF: At 13 years of age, you were on Season 12 of “The Voice”.  Being so young, were there challenges that seemed to present themselves more than others? If so, can you share what they were?

TRINITY ROSE: I think being 13 years old on a reality TV show was a lot for me. While it introduced me to a lot of stress, it was actually really beneficial to see a professional show and singers in front of me. School was difficult since I had to leave for a month to go across the country, but I also had plenty of kids my age to hang out with.

BTCF: We were thrilled to have you perform in one of our music live streams to share personal story and connect with others through music.  What drew you to want to be a part of our mission and the community we serve?

TRINITY ROSE: I greatly admire the work of BTFC and seeing the positive message to younger people that are being so affected by the world around them is so incredibly important. As someone who was a very young girl not too long ago, this kind of community would’ve been perfect for me. Communicating through music is also something that I strongly believe in and what a lot of people can relate to no matter what age you are.

BTCF: What are three things that you do or enjoy helping ground yourself and bring you peace of mind?

TRINITY ROSE: One thing I do is watch something that’ll make me laugh or smile, like my favorite shows or youtubers. Another is playing my guitar and writing bare lyrics that don’t have to become a published or performed song. Although basic, if I’m panicking, I always make sure to do breathing exercises and close my eyes.

BTCF: What type of music training have you had and if so, at what age did you start?  What instruments do you play?

TRINITY ROSE: My vocal training started when I was about seven years old and I picked up guitar a couple years later. I played ukulele and a lot of piano when I was younger on and off but guitar was what I really stuck with.

BTCF: What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment so far and why?

TRINITY ROSE: I think my greatest accomplishment so far in my life was my song Love is the Only River. That song and music video was one of the most important projects I’ve ever worked on and creating it with Ian Sloane and getting all the people together was very rewarding. It got me a full scholarship to Berklee 5-Week Summer season by winning the international songwriting competition and many kids in elementary schools have performed it.

BTCF: BTCF uses all forms of art to inspire healing, support, recovery, and community for those affected by eating disorders and negative body image relationships. We believe in the healing elements that various art genres provide.  How is music healing to you?

TRINITY ROSE: Music has healed me since I was very young. I think it’s our universal language and you can spread love and good messages through it incredibly easily. Young people are so affected by media in negative ways and to have a chance to give a positive message through my music is my way of healing myself and hopefully other people.

BTCF: Is there a process you go through when writing and creating your music?  If so, do you have a couple of tips to young artists?

TRINITY ROSE: My process tends to change but I can give a couple of tips that might help younger artists. The first thing I would do is learn an instrument or find tracks online that are free that you can use and try writing to them. I would also read as much as you can and look into poetry and things that really interest you. The thing about creating your own music is that it can be whatever you want it to be.

BTCF: Do you have any advice to youth your age that are trying to navigate through a social media world while still discovering who they are?

TRINITY ROSE: As a younger person myself I think the media is an important thing but also a dangerous thing. I’ve seen a lot of my friends and other people online get so affected by the harmful nature of people’s words when they don’t think about what they’re saying or what they’re presenting. I would try to find activities that really interest you outside of the internet and find friends that understand you and will always be there if you’re feeling defeated by how the world treats you.

BTCF: Is there anything else you would like to share?

TRINITY ROSE: If any of the people who follow me or listen to my music ever need a safe space, I hope that I can provide it. I always strive to make people feel better and be the best example of myself that I can give to younger people. I’m not perfect myself and I want people to know that and see that they don’t have to be perfect either.

 

To Learn More about Trinity Rose, please click below and follow her on her:

Instagram @trinityroseofficial

Youtube 

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARIA BROOKS

“Have a good day but if you can’t, don’t go messin’ up someone else’s” – Tabitha Brown

BTCF: As such a young writer, filmmaker, editor, singer, producer, and much more – how do you feel your creativity helps you deal with connecting to yourself and helps you grow in your daily life?
ARIA: As a creative, I use the arts to express my emotions and feelings. Acting allows me to release my emotions into a fictional character. While writing songs and scripts allow me to write my emotions and feelings down. It’s like therapy for me.
BTCF: It was so amazing to view your “Truly Me” music video – absolutely love it! How and why did you come up with this concept? What did the girls in it think about being a part of this?
ARIA: When I wrote the song, I knew I wanted the concept to symbolize the competition that society brings on based on your looks, just in a more literal way. The girls in the video are my friends and some of my mom’s former students, so it was really cool working and having fun with them.
BTCF: You recently created a video parody “Cabbage” where you not only tribute it to Tabitha Brown, and you rap! Can you tell us about how you came up with the concept and some more about it?
ARIA: I am a huge Tabitha Brown fan, so one day I was trying to master her dialect and commonly used phrases by her. Then later I got the idea to combine my love of parodies and my love of Tabitha Brown. I familiarized myself with the actual song first, then I started writing my version.
BTCF: Your YouTube series – “The Queen Chronicles”!! – What’s the scoop on this?
ARIA: I thought of the idea to make a series that illustrates certain parts of my journey as an actor and as a person. It will allow people to get to know me better!
BTCF: How would you describe your YouTube Channel?
ARIA: My YouTube channel is mainly content creation; parodies, mashups, covers, etc. It also includes moments of my life that I think will be interesting for the viewers.
BTCF: You are so hilarious on Nickelodeon’ show, “All That”. Do you have a favorite character that you portray or a favorite episode?
ARIA: My all-time favorite character of mine is my grandma character, Lorraine. She has appeared in two sketches so far and she is so relatable for me. I’m sure everyone has someone in their family like Lorraine.
BTCF: It seems like you are a super positive person and it’s not uncommon to see you in a shirt or sweatshirt with a positive vibe, but also one that speaks to you in some way. How important do you think it is for young people to own their self-awareness and create positive messages whenever then can? (Especially living is such a social media world)
ARIA: It is extremely important! With social media, there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like what you are doing, and I think we rely too much on validation from others. That is why mean comments hurt so much, I think. If we reassure ourselves and fill our minds with positivity, it makes it easier to block out negativity.
BTCF: What are your top three tips to help young performers pursue their dreams of being on a show like “All That”?
ARIA: My first tip would be to make sure this is a career that you want to pursue. Things will get difficult and if you instantly want to give up when things get hard, this may not be for you. Next I would say take acting classes, specifically improv and comedy classes. Lastly, don’t expect to immediately reach your goal. There is a lot of rejection in this business, so you have to be prepared to work really hard for a long time.
BTCF: We first were introduced to you when you attended one of our music live streams to support our work. It was apparent immediately that you are wise beyond your years. Have people told you that before? If so, how do you feel about it?
ARIA: I have gotten that a lot! I feel like since I grew up around a lot of adults, it is true. My parents are band directors, so their students were always babysitting me. Eventually, I guess I just picked up on a lot of things.
BTCF: Aria, you are truly a role model in everything you do. What does being a role model mean to you? Who are a couple of your role models and why?
ARIA: Being a role model is inspiring others and empowering them. Some of my role models are Marsai Martin, Zendaya, Melanie Martinez, and my mom. All of these ladies are creative, talented and use their platform to inspire or educate others.
BTCF: Is there a process you go through when you are creating a song or a character? Can you share a little bit about that?
ARIA: When I create a song, normally I just vibe to the song first. Then I create my chorus or come up with the concept because normally that’s easier for me. From there, I tackle the verses. When I create characters, I get my inspiration from pictures, stories, dreams, etc. A lot of times I write female leads because it makes it easier to write based on experience. But as of late, I have been trying to challenge myself.
BTCF: What are some positive tips you can give young people regarding self-esteem and self-awareness?
ARIA: There are plenty of times where we pour ourselves and our love into others, but we forget to check on ourselves and treat ourselves. Don’t be afraid to take care of yourself because your mental health trumps everything else.
BTCF: At such a young age, you have been in some major dramatic projects portraying incredible characters like Anger, the niece of Harriet Tubman in the award-winning film “Harriet” and Nola in the series “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings”. How is your preparation process different for you then something like the comedy type show, “All That”?
ARIA: The preparation for comedy roles is very different from preparing for drama roles. I always rehearse and learn my lines for comedy out loud and full out. Reading the lines in my head every time is not helpful for me. This is because the more calmly I practice it the more I get used to reading it that way. With drama more times than not I read it to myself as if I was reading a book. This is what helps me.
BTCF: During COVID, you have created a IG Live Series titled “Ask Aria”. How would you describe it?
ARIA: Ask Aria is an IG Live series I created to feature performers, creatives, activists, etc. I get a chance to ask them questions to get more information for myself but also to educate others. My guests also get to “Ask Aria” so I get to be in the hot seat too.
BTCF: Can you share a little bit about the Kilgore Music Foundation and how you and your family came to be such passionate supporters?
ARIA: Ryan Kilgore went to school with my mom, so i’ve been attending his performances and events since I was really young. The Kilgore Music Foundation offers so many ways for aspiring musicians to live out their dreams. I have had a chance to perform for kids in a children’s hospital and participate in instrument drives. I’m also collaborating with him on a new song and it’s going to be BIG!! I can’t wait for everybody to hear it and see what he has to offer next.
BTCF: Is there anything else you would like to share with BTCF?
ARIA: Be sure to follow all of my social media @itsariabrooks on Tiktok, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. I have new music in the works right now, so you’ll be hearing more of that very soon so stay tuned.