Had the chance to shoot with Tyler Baker Photography (@tylerbakerphotography)! We explored the streets of china town and shot between ally ways. I love Tylers approach to photography and storying telling. This shoot was so fun. Being shot for still portraits is something I have a difficult time with. Having a photographer that gives amazing direction is so helpful!
I've been at a hard intersection in my career. I find myself questioning the authenticity of politically charged art in the age of social media. Wokeness and blackness is a commodity in this day and age. Politically charge messages sell (good and bad). This podcast will discuss my feelings on big budget music videos, This Is America, sensationalizing trauma, and closed eye activism.
You will never be the best at what you do at any point in your life. While there is no denying talent, there is no such thing as being the best. Artistic talent will always be subjective. While art is subjective it is important to hone and perfect your craft. You must be the best version of yourself regardless of your perceived competition. The most successful artists are the best versions of themselves. They have a decisive nature about their work. Picasso is Picasso, Michelangelo is Michelangelo, Hayao Miyazaki is Hayao Miyazaki, and Beyonce is Beyonce. To be truly competitive you have to offer what cannot be replicated. The desire to be a working artist is alluring. 16-27% of people actually fulfill their childhood dream and work in a field they love. To work in art full time requires a certain level of fearlessness. The most successful artist decided to “just do it” at one point. What I want people to understand is “just doing it” is different for everyone. At any level of life it will require sacrifice. No matter how prepared you think you are, you will never truly be prepared.
Just Doing It:
Just doing it doesn’t take privilege (economic or social) into account. Just do it ranges for everyone. Sometimes it requires being financially unstable, losing your sense of security temporarily, leaving your family, moving to place where you don’t know anyone, and having nothing to eat at times. Most of your favorite artist will detail extremely great sacrifices. If you are in a position of privilege (economic or social) your path is a little more clear in certain directions. It won’t necessarily be easier but you are at an advantage. It is important to recognize ANY and ALL advantages you have while pursuing a career in art.
While I have worked hard to obtain my goals, I was afforded the best education and training all my life. I have always had doors open because my parents had the ability to assist and uplift me. While I’ve been afforded these privileges I’ve worked extremely hard in other ways. My sacrifices weren’t on the financial front but I’ve dealt with sacrifice in different ways. The path to being a working artist isn’t linear. Looking at another artist and taking the steps they took won’t necessarily work for you if you don’t know their TRUE background. You can’t copy anyone's path, it’s assuming you have 100% of the same opportunities that they have. Artists reach out to me constantly for advice and guidance. While I can explain my journey and tell you the steps I took it may not be applicable to your situation. My goal as a mentor is to always be truthful. I don’t feed kids/peers pipe dreams.
The Grand Plan:
Having a plan is extremely important. Taking time to develop and perfect your craft is extremely important. I think the biggest shock for people is perfecting their craft for years and never having any doors open for them. The linear process most artist believe in is save money, build a portfolio, study, produce content, network, and then move. A lot of people fail to figure out what truly makes them special during this time. So you’re moving to LA because you're good at what you do and your passionate? Okay well so is everyone else in this city. Hundreds of artist are doing the exact same thing as you right now. What makes your process, ability, and talent any different from others? It is entirely possible to be at the best point of your artistic career but never book the job you want.
Humans thrive on having a grand plan. We want to be prepared, we study the paths of artist we love, and we imitate what we think is a linear path. Being a working artist isn’t linear. The structure of student to master is sacred. I truly believe in being a student and studying as much as possible. The path to becoming a “master” is different for everyone. Being a master at your craft is always subjective as well. Your grand plan has to end in you knowing yourself and knowing what you bring to the table besides good art. Personal development is just as important as artistic development. Bringing good work to the table is not enough. Being good at what you do is not enough. You must bring something to the table that isn’t already sitting there. You have to figure out what is going to fulfil you. You have to realize you won’t be everyone's cup of tea. Being financially stable and good artist won’t protect you from rejection. You have to be sure of your work. You have to be blind to rejection. Being a professional artist requires a high level of fearlessness.
When Should I Move?
A lot of artists live in the development stage for too long. Training and studying are important but hands-on experience is undeniable. Jump in at a local level. Don’t be afraid to apply for an internship you don’t think you will get. Don’t be afraid to present your work to friends. Don’t be afraid of critique. Be open to any and all opportunities! Most importantly don’t seek validation. Your work will resonate with someone. The right time to move is when you know what fulfils you beyond your art. Your art will constantly develop and change. Many artists think fulfilment will come from booking the big job. Fulfilment and happiness come from really loving the product you put out there. I know so many artists that have achieved amazing things but feel empty. Find out what within your art fulfils you. I’ve worked with some of the best in the industry. While I love what I do, I realized art connected to activism makes me feel fulfilled.
I would love to open my inbox for discussion. If you have art you want to share, need advice, or just want to talk email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Create The Work You Want To See In The World.
Let's Talk About Casting
Casting directors are some of the most talented people in the entertainment industry. I’ve had the chance to work with some of the best casting directors in the world. Casting is such an intimate and detailed process. I use to look at every audition as just a surface level experience. The more I watch commercials, TV, Film, Live Stage… I see the level of dexterity it takes to make a project look amazing. I’ve encountered my fair share of friendly and narcissistic casting directors. Some casting directors make you feel valued, loved, and supported. Other casting directors make you feel extremely disposable. Casting Directors are the reason so many things look amazing. Sometimes I sit back on set and marvel at great casting. Great casting really sets the basis for any work. Great casting elevates the work and assists in making the story more clear.
My favorite casting directors are Sarah-May Levy and Rita Maye Bland. My casting experiences with them have always been smooth. They really value people as individuals. They possess a unique eye for detail. The best casting directors are always organized, timely, and caring. I’ve never spent excessive amounts of time in their offices. Whenever I am called in or booked on their projects I give 110%. When you are booked by someone who values you as an artist, you naturally work harder.
On the flip side when you are treated like less than a human, it’s hard to perform your best. I’ve been at casting where the casting director is shouting and swearing at everyone. Corralling us as if we were cattle. I find myself always performing poorly when the casting conditions are complicated. The environment you foster either brings the best out of people or they crumble.
Booking The Job
Booking the job is definitely an art. My first auditions felt crazy. The more I auditioned I felt my technique improving. Casting is all about listening and really reading the description of your role. Many people go into auditions without adequately preparing. A clear understanding of the role you are portraying will start your audition on a good note. People either do too much or too little. You have to gauge the energy of the room, gauge the energy of the role you are portraying, and really dress the part. Dressing the part is extremely important! You made all the effecting of attending the audition, you might as well try your best in terms of wardrobe. Looking the part allows the client to visualize you in the commercial. If you sell them their vision, you’re booked.
Casting is something that takes time. You have to master your craft, network, and challenge yourself to keep going in the face of rejection.
Korea is truly one of my favorite cities in the world. I have been to Korea three times over the last 2 years. Each time more amazing than the last. Korea has been an amazing creative outlet. I’ve always strived to travel on my own path. Creating your own lane is essential. It’s easy to get caught up thinking there is specific path you need to follow to achieve your dreams. Korea has really expanded my mind on where I see myself as a director, creative director, choreographer, teacher, and human.
Seoul Fashion Week:
A major goal of mine was participating in fashion week. Seoul Fashion week is ranked amongst the best in the world. This year I got to collaborate with R.Shemiste. R.Shemiste is leading contemporary high fashion and street wear brand. Their style is eclectic, unique, and inspiring. The designers are Won-Ji Yeun and Lee Jooho.
R.Shemiste is the first brand in Seoul to collaborate with a black female dancer. My film Black Girl Business was an ode to women of color shattering glass ceilings.
Fashion week really opened my mind to what I am capable of as a creative director. I cannot wait to create more work alongside R.Shemiste. Fashion week changed my perception on the way art needs to presented.
During all three of my trips I’ve taught at HY Dance Studio. My good friend William is the owner and creative director of HY dance studio. HY & H-Dance community have been an open places for me to share my thoughts, feelings, and dance moves. The community at HY is amazing. I cannot thank my friend William enough. He is an extremely generous and gracious host. William has become one of my dearest friends. I truly value Korea and Korean culture. HY dance studio is on the way to becoming one of the premiere centre’s for learning in Seoul. I cannot wait to return to Korea.
Please check out my instagram for behind the scenes pictures!
It’s Not As Glitzy As You Think
From the outside in, working in the industry may appear extremely glamorous. The industry is a mixture of highs and lows. Not everything is as it seems. Our day to day is a mixture of rude artist, improper holding stations, dirty makeup brushes, egotistical directors, and not so nice co-workers. I’ve had sets where directors have referred to me as “The Dancer” for 8+ hours. HELLO, I HAVE A NAME. Or better yet, when directors treat you like crap till they realize the artist is friendly with you. I was standing in for Nicki Minaj on a recent video and the director instructed me to not talk to her, make eye contact, or try to engage her in any way. Then he looks me up and down and goes who hired you as a stand-in? The first thing Nicki did when she walked in was say Hi. From that point forward the director treated me like his BFF, even giving me a pat on the back. I am no stranger to being treated like the bottom of the barrel. The constant thing pulling us through is the desire to live our dream or just to not fail. God knows there are a million people back home waiting to say I told you so. Let's be real a lot of people check your social media just to see if you've failed. @IreneAshu, still thriving.
In between all the chaos I LOVE MY JOB! It is an amazing feeling to get up every day and do what I love. It is amazing I get to share my passion with the world. I’ve had my fair share of extremely generous artist, kind directors, talented make-up artist, delicious crafty, and friendly co-workers. I’ve gained so many meaningful relationships! You find what you look for.
Hey Mama was my first major music video. London Alley was the first production company that made me feel valued, appreciated and cared for as a dancer. The make-up artists were friendly, the stylist was considerate, and the dancers I worked with are some of the best in the industry. This video gave me a lot of hope and revalidated my love for entertainment and music videos. Hannah Lux Davis is an amazing director. My style of dance incorporates a lot of tricks and I never felt rushed or pressured to execute without warming up. This music video was crazy in all departments because everyone felt valued. The dancers would chat and be like “London Alley is really dope, I want to throw all my best stuff”. From the footage, you can clearly see we were going in! The vibe was lit. The way you are treated reflects the kind of performance you give. I will give you a dry freestyle if I feel dry.
Post 12-Hour Shoot
David Guetta is extremely polite. I broke into his private snack table when I thought no one was looking. Guess who is the first person to catch me? David Guetta of course. I had no idea what he looked like in person. He went out of his way to say “ Hey are these snacks good, I am grateful to have you out here shooting this video in the middle of the desert, whats your name?”. He is one of few artists I would work for again in a heartbeat! #TeamGuetta
Treat Us With Dignity
Two years ago I sustained a terrible injury (full Achilles tendon rupture) at a JOKE of an audition. The choreographer was rude and abrasive, the agency asked how many followers we had (good and bad thing-times are changing), and we were rushed to dance and throw our tricks right away. I am generally more aware of energy and who I want to work with now. I will not allow myself to be treated like a trained circus animal. I will only work for directors, choreographers, and creatives that don’t appreciate what I do. I value the time of others and they should value my time. Target ran this bull-shit audition for 8-hours across three days. If you want to see that much talent for a 20-second low paying commercial, ask for video submissions. As long as dancers keep showing up to these things and allowing agencies, choreographers, brands, and directors to treat us like crap- the cycle of malicious treatment will never stop.
Some shoots can range from 6-14 hour days. As a dancer that means being ready to go at any given time. This means not having the proper time to warm-up, not always having a hot meal, not always having an adequate place to rest, and not always feeling safe. As you grow you learn to demand how you want to be treated. I’ve worked with some amazing artist and some awful artist. The awful artists teach me who I NEVER want to work for again, and why you should always be kind. The amazing artists give me the energy to keep pushing forward. The industry is an amazing place and I wouldn’t trade this life for anything else. I relish my early call times, getting in full-face glam, hot wardrobe, delicious crafty, working with talented creatives, and performing with people I’ve dreamt of meeting as a child. The hustle is real but it’s worth it.