MORE TO TALK ABOUT: MORE TO TALK ABOUT: Women & Leadership: Who Run The World?
5:59PM Aug 2, 2022
Hello everyone, welcome to more to talk about with POTUS on Broadway and level forward. We are at Henrietta Hudson and my name is Andrea Ambam. This is our last more to talk about conversations there have been eight amazing powerful charge angry rageful all the all the adjective conversations, and it's culminating to this one, which is really exciting because it's going to be about empowerment. It's going to be about youth which is such a lovely way to move forward. So thank you for joining. Thank you for listening. If you have questions that come up during the conversation, feel free to type them in in that little box that you see under your screen. You can also send in comments anything that you want to make and I'll share them with our guests. And so without further ado, we're gonna jump into the conversation I'm gonna have each of our lovely panelists introduce themselves and anything you want to offer the group.
Amazing yay. Hi, I'm Anita. I'm Dina shot. I'm an understudy along with Jennifer and POTUS we cover I've cover Stephanie dusty and Chris.
I'm Jennifer flew che again one of the fellow standby slash understudies. I cover let's see I am trying to figure out which is easier to say. names, but I cover Julie white, Vanessa Williams, Suzy Nakamura and Leah Delaria
Hi, everyone. My name is dinero med. I am a board member of Ignite national an organization that is aimed to get young women politically involved and run for office. Yeah, can
we give them a little round of applause? Thank you all so much for joining us for this conversation. I think this is really exciting to me because what we've been doing in these more to talk about is taking the characters the iconic seven women that exist inside of POTUS and obviously pairing them with the POTUS coalition partner so we are pairing dusty and Stephanie with Ignite. But ignite covers so many issues in regards to that happen and POTUS when it comes to women in places of power, how women young girls how we assert power, how we learn to navigate taking up split pates taking up space, impostor syndrome, all the different things so we have so much to cover in this conversation. I want to start first scenario with What does ignite do. Can you tell us a little bit more about what happens inside of Ignite when it comes to working with young women? Yeah,
Ignite is a national organization that started in 2010 as a high school program in East Oakland, California, and over the years, it has grown nationally, to reach young women in every part of the country, to engage with them and form them, educate them about our political arena and motivate them and give them the tools to be to step into their own personal power. No one gives young women a how to guide of like how to handle politics and how to get involved. But ignite really does that step by step holding our hands mentoring us taking us places to train young women to run for office one day to become staffers to be engaged with campaigns and local politics. So that's how ignite found me I was a college student in 2016. I had just recovered from surgery presidential election was going on and I returned to my college campus wondering how do I get involved in politics? How do I get my star? What does it mean to be engaged and I actually discovered the Ignite fellow she came to my college campus and she kind of said, like, raise your hand if you're interested in politics, but have no idea what to do or where to start. And I was like, wow, that's absolutely. And I started attending what Knight did as a college council gathering young woman all over New York, and kind of teaching them connecting them with leaders in politics, connecting them with elected officials that were women. And then I became a ignite fellow myself, doing organizing and getting other young women involved kind of learning how to challenge yourself how to step into your political ambition. How to be proud of that and not shy about it as well.
That is incredible. They think it's I just didn't thinking about even just like my younger self and thinking about what it meant to have people in my life who also kind of like gave me permission and empowered me to kind of step into my fullest self. So knowing that there's an organization that is literally working across the nation to make that happen for young people is really, really exciting. Does that resonate with either of you as as young people thinking about yourself and when you were growing up and how you came into the industry, I was
just, I was just thinking how incredible that organization is how incredible you are, quite frankly, how incredible that is. This Ignite is because I was fortunate to have parents who always made our civic responsibility, the thrust that we are not just here to take up space on this planet, that you have a responsibility to your other fellow humans and, and to be involved in a system in the system of government, even just as a citizen voting, I remember being up a college and the first president I was old enough to vote for was Bill Clinton. And it was lined up, you know, like, down the hall for the Residence Hall, one of my very good friends is here, he we went to the same school, we went acres Hall is big, and the line went, you know, went all the way down. But I was thinking, as you were talking how wonderful it is to have this organization in existence, because had I not been fortunate enough, right, to be in a position within not only my family unit, but the community, I was in right. To, to know what my civic responsibility was to feel that and to feel as though I had agency. But the fact that there is an organization that gives you agency, you know, that's incredible, that's incredible. So really resonates with me. Yeah. Yeah,
I have so much to say about this. It's, I was born in I wasn't born here, I was born in Iran. And when I came here, at six years old, I was like, I felt like I had a voice, but because I didn't know how to speak English, I just, I didn't know how to maximize it, or use it, utilize it. So I tried. I mean, like, I tried to run for school office. But you know, it was always like kind of disempowering, sometimes when you couldn't really speak the language fluently, or people didn't like fully believe in you just yet. And actually was theater that like kind of gave me that confidence. But then it transferred into doing more like, you know, in high school doing more leadership positions being like, you know, president of this club or that club, but like it is, I just can't say this enough. Like how important these kinds of organizations are, because as a young person, you might just be like, I feel like I have this potential. I just don't know. I don't have a vote of confidence. And if there's someone that says, hey, I'm going through that with you or at poses that exact question, like, how many of you feel like you have this amazing ability but I don't know what to do with it, basically. And it's like, yeah, I remember you know, having those kind of mentors changes your life forever. So, so grateful for that. That happened to me, so happy to be here with you.
Thank you all for sharing that. That makes me think of a conversation that we had with a group supermajority Education Fund, and they were talking about voter suppression and one of the guest speakers Stephanie Jung said that voter suppression is not just the actual, you know, physical acts, the policies that are put in place that prevent people from voting, and all those different things. It's also a mental game, this idea of like, your vote doesn't matter. And they want us so deeply to believe that our vote doesn't matter, so that we don't take any of the agency that we actually have. And so I hear threads of that of like, recognizing that you can and taking advantage of the fact that you can, versus the mental game of being like, Well, I'm not good enough or people won't connect with me, you know, all those different things, which is a political tactic to keep people who are very strong and very powerful from ever tapping in to that power. Which makes me think of it makes me think of Stephanie okay. It certainly is hilarious as we know, whether you've seen POTUS or you're about to go see it because you need to write how many two more weeks to go see it. So Stephanie is pretty iconic and her power poses are to die for. Lovely, they're amazing. They're hilarious. And there's Stephanie is to me a really familiar character, even though I have never really kind of experienced the mouse Enos that she has, but I do, I do recognize that. But there is something about like, trying to figure out like, how, like, I want it like how can I take up space? How can I show people that I like can be this thing that they are and being around women that you admire, right? Being around people who are strong and who are confident and being around the Margaret's who are walking around, and you're just like, oh, I want to be like them, but you just can't figure out quite how to do it. Can we talk a little bit about how you all have navigated taking up space? It's something especially that young women deal with, again, it's that mental game of being told that we need to kind of be smaller. So once you're in a space that's asking you to be bigger, how do you how do you meet that?
You know, when I started with Ignite, something I dealt a lot with was imposter syndrome, constantly feeling like, you know, I'm not good enough to be in the place that I am in, when I was in student government constantly. Felt like oh my god, I'm in leadership. I shouldn't be here. Maybe I should take a step back. Maybe I should take the title of Deputy something, you know, lower myself in a way. I was very fortunate to have great mentors and ignite and you know, we we are touching the subject of mentorship and stuff like fellowship, that support system was my reminder. No, you are meant to be here. You have a voice, you have a story. There's a place for that voice and story, and don't shy away from it. And politics. If you don't speak up. There's going to be a man very eager to say something if you're not saying something, someone very eager to take the space that you're shying away from. I think it took me a while to kind of shake that off. I think it's a constant thing that I am working on of like, you know, I recognize I'm good at something. Why am I invalidating? Myself? Why am I minimizing my skills and my ability? I am currently working on my third campaign. I've won every campaign that I've done, but for some reason, I always still question the title campaign manager, right. I still question Am I the person that should be spearheading this and I finally realize, yeah, I shouldn't be spearheading it. This is a community I've lived in my whole life. I've lived in the same neighborhood since I was five years old. I know the issues. I know the voters I know what we should be fighting for. Why shouldn't I be taking up space? Why shouldn't I be taking up leadership? Ignite was really crucial. And what I love is ignite focuses on High School, young women and college young women. And it's kind of the perfect timing to be like, you know, those mental games that invalidation that you do in your own head, it's not good. It's not good. You continue to minimize yourself in that way. Ignite was very crucial and kind of building my confidence, seeing myself for who I am and building my ambition and saying, Yeah, I'm worth it. I can do it. I will do it. So that was really important for me. Yeah.
That journey from I can to I will. That's a whole space of time isn't an experience. I always felt not always we all have moments of insecurity, right? But I felt that I had the right to take up space again, my parents, I was very fortunate. And I as I grew, then you you have those insecurities when you're in high school and you know, all of this, and then even in your 20s and then I feel like in your 30s you feel definitely more secure. Like something happens when you wake up on your 30 day to me, right like, you know, you're 30 and it's all good, like, oh, okay, then you're comfortable with what you know, you don't know. And that's good, too. Right? And and then your 40s is a gift because you're really living in that space. Like you know, I know who I am and I really don't care if you love it or not. And that's a beautiful way you know, that's a beautiful place to get to because it gives you agency again, agency is so important. Imposter syndrome is so real and I can definitely speak to a place of feeling that as a black woman in America, we are constantly being told to be smaller, be quieter. be less angry, no matter what we legitimately have to be angry about. And so that is something that dealing with that can be one thing. It's exhausting, right. But that being a separate issue now layer on top of that issue, the fact that you're an artist, and this is actually career number two for me, I spent about 1213 years in the music business in the recording industry, as as a recording artist and a songwriter. And there as as a woman, you definitely get minimized you get called the girls singer, no matter how much study I had done, right? of music and vocal training and all of that and to be have it be minimized as something that's that's difficult. I switched careers and never been happier became an actor. Didn't go to drama school till I was 34. So again, there was a bit of oh my god, am I too old. I was the oldest person in my my conservatory program. And so there was there was that layering that on top of everything else, do I belong here? And at some point you have to ask, ask the question, right. Dreams are Broadway always being ever present? and saying, Well, why would somebody cast me and why? You know, even though I want to do this and then at some point, something flips and you ask the question, Well, why not me? Why not me? And that is the most important question I think anyone can ask. And that is the best way to fight. Oh, see, I knew it was gonna happen. See, I'm warm. That is the best way to fight impostor syndrome is to ask why not me? Then I did make it to Broadway. Right. And, and actually, had a very interesting experience there where it was, you know, I ended up doing three Broadway shows in six months, right. And it was really bizarre to Broadway shows at one time, right? Like if but I say all of that to say that imposter syndrome was just that it's a syndrome and if anyone feels that and we all feel it at certain times, it's just that funky voice in your head that is a combination of voices that have been coming at you that you unfortunately internalized at some point and then it became present, but it's it's built can I say bullshit? It's so that you know what, what is real is that we are powerful, but I have to, I have to remind myself of that, that I am a powerful luminous being that we all are. And, and, and, but it's a practice because that terrible voice was something that was a habit, right and then we break that so So now, the imposter syndrome in order to break that it has to be a habit of really believing all that you can do, because you can so again, that space from my can, too. I will, too. Why not me? Right? It is just so it's been such an incredible, intrinsic part of my journey. As an artist. I belong wherever I am.
I mean, echoing so much of what you said, but also just, I I feel like I'm still going through it. I'm not gonna say I'm like super empowered just yet. I'm, this is my first Broadway show. I just graduated school in May from my MFA Acting Program, Columbia.
And when she says just she graduated during the gig. She hadn't even graduated get a book to Broadway show, don't mean
It's been a whirlwind and like, it's, it's imposter syndrome. Like, when y'all like, reached out about that email, I'm, like, you know, me, you know, like, this is too fitting, I mean, but also, I when an opportunity like that does show up, it's like, a gift because it's so uncomfortable. To to all of a sudden go from just doing you know, small plays and not not that they're small and quality at all, but like the grandiose SNESs and like what everybody puts, you know, Broadway on like, one of the biggest like, pedestals of this country's theatrical experience and you know, so much of those smaller plays look up to the bigger plays, but to become the quality that they are. So like, it's such a was such a gift to just be thrusted into it and to be tackling that impostor syndrome. At its head. It's like, you know what, I'm nervous, but I'm just gonna go do it. But also I think, having empowered people around me, having those mentors having people that you know, I went through the thing I'm going through. That's, that's the thing I would say to anyone who's feeling like I don't know what to do. Reach out, just just find someone, like, slip into their DMS like I know, some people are like, Oh, don't slip, but like, you have nothing to lose. They might just ignore you. But, but you never know what how your message will pull at someone's heartstrings. You know? Yeah, putting yourself out there. It's scary. But it can be so fruitful. To artists, like, you know, our whole job is to do that is to always put ourselves out there. So it's always a reward. When you do that you learn so much about yourself, you learn so much about other people. I'm so grateful to be a part of this industry. And also using our voices. You know, as the saying goes, give voice to the voiceless and really push women into taking up these empowered positions, especially women of color, because we are so underrepresented, misrepresented and forgotten in this country. So yeah, I'm so grateful for that.
I really appreciate that you named kind of putting yourself out there when I'm talking with people my age or people younger or whatever. Sometimes it's like, Oh, should I do this? Or should I do that? And I'm like, What's the worst thing that happens? The worst thing that happens is maybe they say, No, maybe they don't respond, and then you're just the same, you're just exactly the same as you were before, and nothing has actually changed. There's no hurts and to take a risk without hurt is a really privileged thing to do. So why not reach out? Why not try? I love so much of what you all said about impostor syndrome, because, you know, someone has asked us like, how do we overcome it. And I think that maybe that's a myth about imposter syndrome, or about any of the things that we feel internally, that there's this kind of idea that when we turn a certain age, or when we reach a certain level, that we will then just never, ever think about it again. And what I've heard from all of you is that you move through it, or you find the things that you tell yourself that say, like, when that thought starts to creep in with like, no, that's not true, why not me? I was in a workshop. And I think I mentioned this in a previous conversation. I was in a workshop, and there was this beautiful definition of internalized oppression. And they said, internalized oppression is when we do the work of the oppressor
when we just do the work for them. We're like oh, I don't belong there. And it's like, that's, you're just doing the work of the people who are trying to take your power, right. That's
set in motion. Exactly. Yeah, that's what that's what real oppression is. It's intentional, which means we have to be just as intentional in fighting. We can't wait for it to go away. We can't wait for people to become better people. Because you know, God willing, they will. Neither of us it's my job to make the world safer for everybody else. Challenging people who have not yet evolved into being good people. are. Exactly yes, absolutely. doing the work for them.
Yeah, just doing like you said like they they will eagerly jump in. If you don't say anything, someone else will. Right. And so finding our ability to kind of step into that is so important. It's also mentorship has been named quite a few times. And I want to talk about mentorship because it's so important. How does mentorship show up and ignite and then how is mentorship showing up for each of you?
Well, what I've always appreciated about Ignite is the space that it creates for young women. When I joined I was in the middle of college, very afraid to ask questions about the political world because it's such a complicated system. Right. There's not a appropriate place to go to say what the city council do. So members are there in New York City Council, what ignite did was create that space, inviting elected officials giving us the ability to have real FaceTime with representatives and say, What did you go through when you were campaigning for this position? Oh, that's what you went through. That's terrible. Asking campaign managers, fundraisers, you know, women that are leaders in the labor movement, I really appreciated having that FaceTime, because they need the ability to ask questions to get educated, to learn more about what's my price and politics. But I also get new mentors and role models and people to look up to that I probably wouldn't have discovered if I wasn't in politics, and if I wasn't connected to ignite, so that was very huge for me, the young woman that I started my journey with Ignite in 2016. They're still my best friends. They are still a part of my political sisterhood. When I started my first time going to a political club meeting, my first time door knocking, they were with me, and they're still with me by my side, you know, and we joke a lot like, okay, when you run for office, I'm going to be your treasurer. When I run for office, you're going to be my Press Secretary. Because that's so important in politics. So many relationships are transactional. How many are you know, what do you bring to my you know, table, what can I bring to you, but the sisterhood that ignite allowed me to develop, there's no benefits, there's no quid pro quo there. It's because you know, you're going through it, I'm going through it let's learn and grow together. The actual leaders of Ignite have become such important mentors to me. They were very important in dismantling my imposter syndrome, but also encouraged to run for office apply for the community board. You didn't get in, apply again, show up anyway. You have a voice in your community. Do not be shy to take it and that's important. I grew up as a very shy kid, I think when I you know, more so in elementary school, I was teacher's pet. But over the years that got dimmed, and a lot of it was like, stay quiet. Raise your hand speak only when you're spoken to. So During college, when I joined Ignite, it was a lot of unlearning that behavior, it was a lot of unlearning that mentality. And it takes time, it's a lot of, you know, a lot of mental work you got to put into it. So the mentors that I've gotten in Ignite, the mentors I've gotten in political world are going to be by my side, right? They're going to be my kitchen cabinet when I run for office, and that's really important to have people that you trust, and you can lean on and support from Yeah.
And to tell you to keep going like that. That's the thing that I feel like, is sometimes not like, you know, honored as much because like, sometimes you think it's just the advice they give you. But sometimes you're not successful. And you just you don't get the gig or you don't, yeah, get move on to the next career path, but like, and you want to exactly dim your light. But the simplest thing that a mentor can do is to just say, No, do it again, keep going, just keep doing, keep doing it. Because yeah, especially in our industry, it's like, the way people become successful and make money as an artist is to just not stopping. It's it's to putting ourselves out there tape after tape audition after audition. It's just being in the soup. and not giving up. So that's
interesting that you have a destiny. You know that you had that? You have a purpose, that you have something, a great gift that meets the world's great need. And it doesn't have to be on a huge platform. Right? I'm a firm believer in making an impact in your little corner of the world. And if that's just your apartment building, with the old woman or old man who doesn't you know, a lot of our older people have a touch deficit, right? Even if it's just holding their hand if it's helping them down the stairs if they know that they can count on you to ring their bell and say I'm going to the store do you need anything? It's I really believe in the butterfly effect with respect to good deeds. I really believe that that's important human to human connection. You know, that kind of thing. My first and most impactful mentor I talk a lot about my mom, because she was my first mentor. My mother became a state trooper when she was 41 in Alaska. She was the only black woman state trooper in Alaska at that time, and she went through the academy at 41. And she always showed me that age is nothing but a chronological reality. It's just it's nothing It has nothing to do with what you can do what you should do that there's no expiration date on dreams that's incredibly important. And then going to drama school after coming out of a industry that was so incredibly ageist, you know, to go to have my age be a, an asset, and looked at as an asset, right, as opposed to a deficit. And then being in drama school and having teachers who were mentors, and some of them who became friends or real family really, and then to get out and one of my first gigs. Well, regional gigs I had a mentor as a matter of fact, she just passed God rest her soul friend Jay was I was doing hairspray and she was motormouth. Me Bill and I was in the ensemble, and I was also her understudy, and we stuck close to one another. And she was so instrumental in in showing the ask for what you want. You know, as the as the as the old folks in Southside mouths don't get fit, right. And, and so she was instrumental in that one of my very good friends who is my chronological, contemporary, but she's been in this business longer. So while I was in the music industry for those 13 years, she was in the acting business. And so even though we are contemporaries, I consider her mentor Tracy conubia, brilliant actor and playwright, and she is getting those traits. And she's wonderful. And, and she was also instrumental in helping me take up space. In an industry where I felt new, even though as an entertainer, you put me on a stage right have singing all these years, and I know that thing and I knew that thing. But then the cannabis industry, which was different in so many ways, better in so many ways. Oh my Lord. You know, she was able to show me things and and that was so important. So, yes, having those mentors having those people who help you combat that impostor syndrome until you have the vocabulary within your own spirit to combat it is incredibly important. Women, men, whomever, you know, the all these wonderful mentors along the way have been so instrumental in sort of the things that have been woven into the fabric that is Masons.
I love it because it's like the gift that keeps on giving you know, when you find yourself saying something to someone that someone actually said to you, and you're like, ooh, not me. My mom told me yesterday, and like you're now passing it on and it's whether it's years later or days later we keep we keep those messages that we get people who have a firmness who have shown us another path. That's another thing I love about mentorship as you said, they are mentors can, I think especially in industries like politics, like the entertainment industry, we kind of see a very particular path or we see pas that kind of get the most attention this person did this and they did this then they did this. And so it's like if I don't do this, this and this, then can I be that thing? Will I ever get to be that thing. And so mentors can show us all the different ways, all the different ways we can get to different destinations, which I think is really exciting. And there's themes of of sisterhood and community and all the answers that you all gave which also excites me and we've got someone from the audience saying the power of community the power of being with one another and looking out for one another cannot be taken for granted. So narrow something you said about unlearning, which I love. And I love thinking about the things that we learn from and getting a story like POTUS. And I love thinking about the things that we unlearn or or provoked to unlearn. Yeah, by engaging with the story like POTUS, so I'm interested for both of you in your characters. What do you think for the characters that you cover and that you play? What is it that they learn by the end of the journey that they didn't know at the beginning?
Well, I think for Stephanie, she goes on a journey. But it is kind of a spoiler. Like, I think it's her taking these Tums that are of some kind of drug that take her to this other world, it gives her permission to really like, be there be present, because up until that point, she understood she like mentally understands, taking up space. And this isn't to say do drugs. But like I, at least the way I feel like I've embodied it is Is she does that she takes up so much space, she goes and like performs in a concert, the FML concert. And, and by the end, she's like, what happened? What am I wearing? But I think that in the sequel of POTUS, she, she really does take up space. She really like Excel remembers that in her body. And, and I hope like you know, I in my interpretation, I think Stephanie starts off in the show. She has just been promoted to the presidential secretary, my version of Stephanie at least, and so she really wants to keep this job. She really is trying to better herself. She's She's, she's very smart. She speaks five different languages, but she still doesn't know how to like, hold her ground and says, you know, like, you use her voice and her mentor Harriet really you know, gives her permission and gives her or encourages her to take up that kind of space. So I think and I hope in the sequel, Stephanie is like, No, you know what, I'm gonna partner with Ignite. Yeah, I'm going to like run for a bigger physician. Yes. But it really does take like, getting uncomfortable to, like not do the thing you normally do to see that you have potential outside of your comfort zone.
Totally. I mean, you you have opened my eyes as you were describing her journey, because it is true, right? She's so in her head. She's trying to figure it out. She's like listening to the play playlist. She's reading all the books, she's practicing the poses, and she just can't get it. And then she kind of is induced into this kind of freedom that she feels in her body. She can't overthink it. She's just doing it. But when she comes back to herself, there's that hope that she did find that she has that body remember that remembering of like, what did it feel like to just be and just be full in myself and, and to grab the phone and talk in the language I know that no one else knows you know and, and really assert herself. So that's really interesting. I love that. Thank you for that journey. Jennifer.
That's me. I had to pick one. Yeah. in particular. It's it's it's less positive. And rosy, but it is a realization for my Harriet. And that is that loyalty doesn't always work both ways. And that there comes a time after serving for people that you may need to serve yourself that you do need to serve yourself for the greater good, because I don't want to give anything away either. But I believe that that was an incredibly important part of of Harriet's journey for for my Harriet, right. That you, you get to a point of cleaning up other people's messes for so long, that you no longer recognize the person. And and you can remain loyal to someone's former self, who was more deserving of your loyalty and allegiance and hard work than they become someone else. They transition into someone else. Because we all transition into a different self, right? I mean, we skid we shed skin and hair every day, we're literally different every single day to varying degrees. And so when you look up and you see that new person, and you realize they are not worthy of what you're given, that's an incredibly important realization. because then you realize that you are the person who's worthy of your loyalty and hard work. And now that you need to go do that.
ecosystem where she talks about the different roles that all of us might take up when it comes to social change. So many people feel like I'm not the type of person who protests I either I'm like not physically able to mentally able or I just doesn't feel good when I do it and what are the other ways and so she kind of created created this map that kind of listed out all these different roles. You might be a storehouse, or you might be a disrupter might be an experimenter or you might be a caregiver. And so in different organizations have spent a lot of time talking about these roles and how we talk to them and what we might naturally gravitate to. And one thing that says, because something that we talked about is how sometimes though, there might be roles that we naturally gravitate to, or that we feel most comfortable in, and there also might be roles that we've taught, we've been told, or the roles that we should and so when we see a lot of women or femme presenting people gravitating towards like oh, yes, I'm a caregiver, and it's like, yes, you might be or you might have just been told that that is what you're supposed to be doing and maybe you you are actually a disrupter, or actually this other things where you're all of them but sometimes, especially with people who are women, people who are feminine and marginalized people really, we often put ourselves in roles of service and service to others and service to other people's mission and services, yada yada. And so how do we find an investigate for ourselves whether we're doing something because it's actually what we want, versus what we think that we're supposed to be doing or what we think is the only thing that we can do? Has anybody ever experienced that of being like, I'm in a situation where I think I've been, I've been told that this is where I'm supposed to be, but I don't know if it's actually where I want to be or that actually serves me.
I'm sure I have a recall line. You know,
yeah. Well, in politics, it's really easy to kind of fall into that cycle of like, you work for an elected official or you work for a cause or a campaign and you got to stick loyal with it. Loyalty is like a really huge, weird thing in politics, like you got to stick with the person you're working for for years and years and years. And it's like, well, that's a very old way of doing politics. And that's a very old way to think about it. When I started kind of learning about politics, I to navigate what is my place? How do I make a change? I think you know, you once you kind of learn and you grow into learning, like, Am I someone that likes protesting, rallying, organizing, or do I kind of like navigating the polis and making a change within ignite was really excellent and in teaching us and you know, guiding us through what is the political system in your local community, and how do you want to make a change there? For example, New York City has something called community boards, and there are about 50 person 50 people on a community board, it serves as an advisory committee, for example of apartment, transportation wanted to put a bike lane in your neighborhood, they would go to that community board for community feedback, which is a really important thing for our democracy to have input from that community. In New York City, people as young as 16, or 17, can apply and be appointed to community boards. But if you look at community boards, they don't have a lot of students, 1718 year olds in them, a lot of the times it's much older folks. It's older residents that kind of want to keep communities the same exact way, the way it was 40 years ago. I think having young people kind of get involved getting appointed, getting engaged in avenues like that can make a real impact. I've lived in the community since I was five years old. I've taken public transportation gone to the local schools. I have a voice and what I want my community to look like so I felt like the community board was an excellent way for me to get engaged in my community. Ignite helped me with my first application got denied still upset about it. It's okay. I applied again with ignites encouragement, I got accepted I got appointed by my boyfriend. And now I've been reelected three times I serve a second vice chair, and I found like that is the place I want to voice my opinion. That is the place where I want to share my lived experiences. There's not a lot of young people on the board. I'm the youngest actually by like 20 years I think I think the next person is about 40. And I think it's just those are the avenues where I feel like I can make a difference. It's not for everyone, I'll admit it. But these are kind of the avenues, the system, the infrastructure, political infrastructure, you need to learn about to see what's my fit, what's my place, I never thought I would like campaigning, I thought I was like, I want to work in a government office. That's what I want to do. That's my thing. It got me to door knock for one candidate. I've been hooked ever since campaigns are such an important way to empower your community. And I didn't realize that when I started in politics, but I found it to be the best way to learn about my neighbors to talk about issues that matter to us. Whether we have the same opinions or not, whether we think we have the same vision for our community or not. Finding ways to engage is so important where I live, it is actually the lowest voter turnout in New York State. And that is a lot you can see why our conditions are the same way we are transit desert, we're a supermarket desert, there's not a lot of supermarkets, there's not a lot of public banks, or any banking at all, a lot of ATMs. And a lot of that I kind of tie back into because our political power has diminished, right? People are not educated, why to vote. What's important, and I think a lot of that ties into like, my mission is to really engage my community. Bring power back to my community. Make them realize what their vote can do, what they're gonna do, whether that's on a community board, whether that's at the ballot on election day, whether it's to call our elected officials and let them know what we think of there's a lot of ways to make a change in this country. That information has just been kept secret way too long, in my opinion.
Yeah. Wow, thank you. First of all, I didn't know there was a community board. And now you've got me going on. Because I really had the time to be on one more board. I will say that rather than thinking of one instance, where I was sort of told I should I should or shouldn't do something, I think about how often actors in general are just told to well, you know, shut up and act, you know, shut up and dribble, if you're in sports, right? And all that kind of thing. And so the perceived place for me would be you know, you rehearse you perform, you do your thing, but I say always that I am I am not an actor. I'm a black actor, I take responsibility and Pride in that cut. We have been so misrepresented in film, theater and television, and it has actually done damage. Certain tropes that were popular way back on film, were carried over and then acted on for They actually affect how people see me and people who look like me and other people of color. And that's problematic. And so I say always my art is not separate from my activism. That is how I am I am active and I'm willing to lose a job. You know, if there's something that goes against what it is I'm willing to do, I won't propagate stereotypes. I will do their things I just will not do and I'm blessed enough. So I don't have to everybody's everybody's not in that position. But no, all joking aside, I would like to think that even if I were not in a position to say, Okay, I don't need this job to pay my rent, right? That I will hopefully still do the right thing. So I speak up. I speak up about characters I speak up about, you know, especially if I'm originating a role in a piece or at the very early stages, and you know, if it's a writer who's not black and not to say that you can't write other people, I could write the sequel to Memoirs of a Geisha tomorrow, I should probably talk to somebody Japanese, you know, if I'm going to do it, and so I always speak up so that this area, it's not me who comes behind me, right doesn't have to deal with a role that's going to be very conflicting or harmful, or, you know, trauma inducing, triggering and all of that. And so, my I like to use my voice and I feel it's my responsibility to use it there. I was so thrilled. So to speak, to your point, I don't, I'm not just acting, right, which is important in and of itself. But you know, brevity is not my ministry all I try. Anyway. But but I'm just saying that, you know, it when I found out that POTUS was partnering, you know, with Ignite with all these wonderful organizations, these seven organizations, it made my heart so happy, because artists have always been at the forefront of revolutionary change, always, always always the voice and the voice of the voiceless, that consciousness. And so I refuse to stay in a lane that someone wants to put me on. And so daily, I try to make sure that no, no, no, I whatever I'm doing whatever I feel moved to, very likely what I'm supposed to be doing. So that's important to me.
Love that. My specific example I think I can use is I being a child of immigrants and being one myself, like, I was expected to come to this country and reroute and kind of follow in this blueprint that my parents were creating, and the you know, they were creating for me and my brother to make sure that we wouldn't have to go through the hardships we had to go through in our homelands. You know, we so as the stereotype goes, a lot of brown communities or Manassa communities, they tend to be in like, shooting for like, very well, I forgot the acronym, but like, doctors, lawyers, that whole shebang, because it is so secure, because you want to make sure you're rooted. Yeah. And so that expectation was there for me as well, to follow in my parents footsteps and go into a medical or dental profession. But and I you know, for a whole time in college, I was double majoring in biology, and theater, and I was doing both because I knew I'm able to do both and like it was in my blood to understand the sciences and the important importance of the sciences. But I to really honor oneself, it's, you have to just listen so deep within and it's hard to do that when, when the people around you are always speaking the same language, the same expectations and they're all like minded. So I felt so lost in that I was, I could speak that language, but it wasn't mine. It wasn't like, truly in intrinsic in what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So I kind of switched ology into public health, because I felt like it had more of the public and the people aspect of it into my major major, my major. And, you know, in my, one of my last projects for my drama program was a combination of the two. My thesis was in menstrual hygiene, management and under developed countries. And I, you know, in our voice class, we had to, like, you know, use the whole range of our voice to you know, give life to some tech so I basically reenacted some interviews with these women. And that was when I realized art is, can provide health care. And, but to connect it to find, finding that voice was just was having a mentor having teachers that gave you that vote of confidence and, and listening to your, you know, like if if if you are feeling any form of like doubt, sit, be still be calm, trust that there is an answer inside and again, reach out to your mentors slip into. I mean, it it's like you there's not you can there's nothing you can lose with reaching out.
Mouths don't get closed mouths don't get fit.
I really appreciate thinking about this kind of like this idea of lanes and of roles, and how both of you have articulated of like, where they intersect where art and activism intersects where public health where community intersects, like how all of these things are kind of together, and they're not separate. And it's also sometimes that we think that we're trying to like either I can do this, or I can do this. And maybe it's like maybe the thing that you are meant to be actually, no one has even made it yet. And it's like, permission is actually to create that thing. You mentioned, you know, creating art from interviews, and it made me think of end of year Smith, and she often talks about how she just made the form for herself. She was like, there was nothing for me. So I made my form. And it's like sometimes we are innovators, and we are creators, and we're actually kind of making new space carving new spaces for ourselves and by proxy carving new spaces for other people, new pathways for other people. So yeah,
you know, in politics, there's traditionally been a mold of luck candidate and an elected official is it's kind of been like a man goes to law school immediately after law school, runs for office, gets into office state law and then goes into higher office and wakes up one day and goes, I'm going to be president and then they run for president. And I think over the past few years, we have seen that crumble a little bit. We have seen young women step up to the plate we have seen woman color step up to the plate people with, you know, non traditional backgrounds, right. We see elected officials that you know, worked in the streets, and now their elected officials fighting for better wages, right they're bringing their lived experience into the conversation, because that's who we're serving, right. We're serving New Yorkers. We're serving people around this country that are going through this day should be at the table making these decisions. And I'm really proud of Ignite doing that work. Bringing young women like myself lived in communities that have experienced the public school public transportation public health system and saying, you know, the issues you know, the gap, you know, what we're not currently doing, use your voice, your advocacy to fill that in. So I appreciate that crumbling of that old mold because that wasn't working. Yeah, it's still not working. Right. So it's really refreshing to see a new kind of elected official new kind of people in politics because it's, you know, you see yourself yeah, and that's really, really nice. Yes,
having lived experience at the center is so important. We are we're in our last couple of minutes. And I just want to think about I as I'm sitting here looking at y'all as they're talking and I was like, you know, we talked about that POTUS closes and two weeks and or a week and a half for time. What is time? but I was thinking about, you know, I met you at the meet and greet. I think we saw each other at the rally. And so it's been months and months and things have passed. But a theme in this kind of more to talk about conversations is how, you know when POTUS was coming to Broadway and came to Broadway and while you are rehearsing, the world is always charged. There are always things that are moving around us. There are always things in politics that are on the forefront of our minds, at least impacting us, but I mean, it's been like, pretty much like conversation after conversation. There's been compounding of issues, compounding of stories of things to talk about. And POTUS has just become more and more timely each time. And so I wanted us to just maybe a few comments just about the journey from how POTUS has become more and more timely as the run has gone on. And then kind of especially for Ignite in this kind of Ignite and POTUS partnership. What's the kind of hope for the vision that POTUS is impact that has had on Broadway and will continue to have after Broadway?
Yeah. I think it's timely and relevant. These conversations that we're having, you know, so much is happening in our politics on a national level on local state levels on local, county and city levels. Having women not in those conversations, is is missing. It's an error. It kind of discounts the way they're living, lived experiences. I think we look at what's happening with Roe v. Wade, our Supreme Court, the conversation on gun violence. This is stuff that affects us on a day to day. I'm really proud to see it organizations like Ignite and many others that are focusing on getting young woman in these conversations, just to become lifelong voters, but to become the leaders, you know, leading the change leading the movements leading these conversations. So I'm really proud in that aspect, and I hope we'll POTUS and ignite continue to do is to not start these conversations. But to expand it. There's so many young women that are not having these conversations, engage, because our political system deliberately misses them deliberately leaves them out. So this is very timely, very relevant. And as we look to our future, I'm optimistic as bleak as it might look, sometimes I'm optimistic because we have young women leading the way.
I would tend I'd like to have that there is power and joy. There was so much more power and joy and hope than there is in just about anything else. I think anger is important. Because until you get upset enough about something you usually don't want to change it you don't feel moved, I should say to change it. But joy and hope are incredibly powerful. The journey with POTUS has been pretty incredible and the timeliness of it has never left us and so you read a script, right? You start with that. You go into rehearsals, and you're very involved in the artistic process, right because that's the point you got to make sure it's a good thing. The product is good. Pay attention and care about what you're talking about. And then as we were rehearsing you know you you read the news, you see what's happening, and we would discuss it as it is relevant to our characters because of course, our the most important thing is to be truthful, right so that people can relate. Our job is to show humanity that's on point, right on stage and in films and such. And so to be able to see what was changing in the country. Good that and otherwise, as as it has, we're taking the journey through the script. One of the things that struck me most and such a huge part of what you're asking what it was like, was up and running a room full of women. putting together a piece making art that was made written by a woman that is directed by a woman and it was joyful and any tears that were there were cried together and it was all in support of this work, which is in support of humanity which is that a world and and how the script was really just manifest in front of us and to be able to imbue all of the truth of what's going on and the wants and needs of this character of these characters as it's a farce so it's fantastical right? But at the at the root of it is truth and Trump's people want and mirroring what so many women and so many people want we have plenty of male allies right and in women empowerment, which is good and necessary. But at the the way it was necessary to have white abolitionists, right, who were helping helping enslaved people to get free, you know, we work together we're more powerful, but having that experience and watching it culminate having a line in the script that has become a showstopping line no spoilers because of what's happening with women's reproductive rights and and you know, all of this has been eye opening gratifying. Sometimes you don't want our team to take light. And and in this case, it it it has, in some ways so it's been an like you said relevant important, timely, and it's it's it's really been awesome in the community. The word right it's been inspiring to watch it unfold. And right like it's crazy. In the best way. It's been wild.
That the place starts with gearing up for the female models of Leadership Conference Council, and we go to it at the very end and the point of this conferences to say, to show this fictional president, so show that this fictional president empowers women even though that might not be like, right, very true. But what we the last ID of our show is powerful, but I mean, okay? So like, they're all different women right in this story. You wouldn't expect them all to come together. But they do. And like, you know what that is, I'm gonna give that to Boiler heads. It's, it's an important thing to do, even if you don't watch the show to know that like, no matter where, you know, what walk of life you're going through, it's, it's, we're in this together, you know, like, Ignite is all about women for femme identifying, like, it's all about each other's hands. And I think that's the thing that will forever speak to, you know, our future generations. It's like, we're always gonna go through highs and lows, but the way to come back up is to lift each other up. So that's, that's I just see that last image is just makes me hopeful and have a
truly ending on hope and optimism and joy is not just like a cheeky fun thing to do with it is it's what helps us persist. There is no persistence, there is no resistance without having the joy and the will and the optimum life. Because why would you fight for something if you didn't really care about it?
What's the alternative that hopeful? What's the alternative?
Exactly? So Selina Fillinger. In our very first more to talk about said that, in each laughter There's in each laugh, there's a tiny revolution, and hearing you all talk hearing about night and the amazing thing of that organization, just makes me think of like, yes, there are tons of tiny revolutions happening and all the tiny revolutions that have happened over the POTUS run. So thank you all so much for joining us. Conversation. Thank you all for listening. And this is the last one. thank you. So much.