Growing up, I talked to God all of the time. About my day, my hopes and dreams, the man I wanted to marry – everything.
One day, I was sitting on my parents’ bed, eyes closed, with the warmth of the sun’s rays shining on my face. I was praying to God, begging him to make me lighter and take my melanin-rich skin away. When I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror, a knot of anxiety formed in the middle of my belly. My hopes and dreams were destroyed. I had to live another day as me.
From kindergarten to fourth grade, there were few people in my neighborhood who looked like me, so I often felt out of place. It didn’t help that a classmate told me “you’re ugly because you’re black”, while the fifth and sixth graders who looked like me called me “burnt”, “crispy”, “ugly” and “raccoon” among other things.
I absorbed everything everyone said about me and believed that what they said was true. I buried myself in a shell, rarely felt good about myself and started to hide behind big t-shirts, weight and shyness.
Writing and watching movies, music videos and TV shows became my refuge. Expressing myself through poetry; videotaping myself lip syncing, dancing to music, and reciting monologues on the family camcorder; and recording my sister and her friend act out scenes of a horror film I wrote allowed me to be and see myself. In college, I was a reporter and anchor for the campus TV news program, and my interests in writing and film merged when I took film classes and wrote my first screenplay.
It was after college and working in unfulfilling communications positions when I realized that I needed to get back to my first love. It was the only place I truly felt alive, understood and full of joy. I started as an intern at STL TV and was promoted and hired to write and produce an entertainment and culture television series. I have been writing, producing and recently directing, ever since.
In August 2020, I launched 11 Stars Studios to create projects connected to my purpose, such as my fourth short documentary film, “Black Girl, Bleu“, where Black women – from a teacher to an organizer and an entrepreneur – talk about their mental health journeys and how the “Strong Black Woman” stereotype has impacted and impacts their mental wellness.
11 Stars Studios is now the outlet through which I express all of the things I needed to say but felt like I couldn’t. It is a film, television, digital and streaming production company that focuses on telling stories where Black women + girls exist as full human beings on screen and feel seen, heard, loved and affirmed beyond the screen.