I am a young black woman. There is no escaping it. I’m constantly reminded of this when I get stared at in certain places, when someone wants to touch my hair and the fear I have when I see a police car when I’m driving. The number one thing I’m looking for is a supportive and diverse environment where I feel safe and seen.

I like theatre, alternative music, colored hair, and piercings.  I realized that being different is a gift instead of a curse. It has helped me feel more accepted and want to be nothing other than me. I realized that being black is a beautiful thing. Not all black people are the same and shouldn’t feel pressured to fit into what society wants us to be. I am going to continue to be myself and embrace my individuality.

I have always loved performing. I used to have long concerts in my shower where I would sing “Part of your World” so loud my parents would yell and tell me I was wasting hot water. I sang Disney songs constantly and recited each line from The Little Mermaid while prancing around like I was Ariel. I forced my cousins to put on plays for my parents. Once, I designed a costume using my old t-shirts, a blanket, and some fake vampire fangs from Chuck E Cheese.

I saw my school’s production of The Wizard of Oz when I was in 1st grade. I was fascinated by how the witch melted. I couldn’t understand how she magically disappeared on stage and greeted me when the show ended. I loved watching the set pieces move, the costumes glimmer in the lights, and seeing the story unfold. I thought, I want to do that!

I did my first show in 2nd grade. I convinced the high school theatre director to let my classmates and I participate in the musical that year, “Oliver!” as the orphans.  Prior to this, the lower schoolers weren’t allowed to be in the musicals. I learned the importance of working together in an ensemble and that every role is important. I got to see what the older kids did in the musicals. I admired all the kids playing the lead roles. This got me very excited for high school. From that day forward I decided I wanted to do every school show.

Community theatre and summer theatre programs turned out to be my favorite experiences. Getting involved in theatre productions outside of school forced me to interact with people I wouldn’t normally talk to. I learned that everyone has parts of themselves they don’t like. You have to accept that’s a part of who you are and others will appreciate that you’re genuine. Talking to strangers has gotten easier since then. I now worry less about what people think of me.

Theatre has helped me slowly peek my head out of my shell. I am less afraid to be myself because I am more confident in who I am. I’m more outgoing and carefree as I move throughout the world. I know that in order to be a good theatre artist I have to embrace myself. I can’t let what people think about me stop me from telling an important story. Embracing all parts of myself is something I will continue to work on. I still have a way to go. I know as long as I have theatre in my life, my insecurities will become a distant memory.

I listen to Broadway show tunes to improve my mood. Theatre helps me channel negative energy and experiences into art. Being around so many performers who are so accepting has helped me gain confidence in myself and for performing. Theatre is my favorite art form and without it, I wouldn’t have an outlet to express myself.