P / P Influencers: Laiona Michelle – A Connection Through Fate & Failure

laiona

Laiona Michelle as Nina Simone for the new play she wrote and stars in “Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical,” which opens at opens at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J., Jan. 29, 2019 and runs until Feb. 24.

I met actress and playwright, Laiona Michelle out of fate and failure. I interviewed her a few weeks ago for New York Amsterdam News.  When I went to transcribe the recording of our interview, I realized my recording device malfunctioned and I lost our original interview. As a journalist, losing your interview recording is pretty embarrassing. I had to admit my mistake to her publicist and my editor and humbly re-ask for an interview with Laiona to make sure we got her story published in time to promote the opening of her new play. She was kind enough to oblige.

The second interview was early on a Saturday morning and our conversation was much more light-hearted and fun because we were, at that point, familiar with one another because of our first interview. She was incredibly inspiring, intelligent and kind.

Laiona spoke about her new upcoming play which she wrote and stars in, Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical:

The show is speaking to all the little girl blues out there in the world. The ones that have the desire to do something that may appear to be unreachable. I know when I was a little girl, I was always drawn to Shakespeare. I remember going to see my first Shakespeare play, which was Romeo and Juliet, and I saw that Romeo was a Black male. I was so shocked. I thought, “I didn’t know we could talk like that.” I thought it seemed so far from me, and I became more attracted to [theater].

When we think about art, oftentimes when you’re young it feels like it’s unreachable. For Nina, in particular, I picked the title because she always wanted to be known as the first Black classical pianist. She was born a child prodigy, and she recognized [musical] notes as a baby. So, that’s all she wanted, and that was one of her biggest heartbreaks. I think the walkaway for this show is for young people to feel, you can have that, too. Art is for everyone. Whether you want to be a ballerina or in opera, art is colorblind. She lived in a time where, it just wasn’t like that. I think now, the word “inclusion” is everywhere, which is very important.

I’m talking for all those little blue, Brown, Black girls and boys out there, or whoever identifies with wanting something that seems unreachable. -Laiona Michelle

Read my full interview with Laiona at New York Amsterdam News here, where she talks about overcoming the entertainment industries resistance towards Black brilliance and playwrights when she was beginning her career.

 

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