MAHOGANY THE ARTIST »

by Sherif Awad

MAHOGANY THE ARTIST

-I was born and raised in a loving 2 parent middle class  family in Maryland with one older sibling, a brother. It was a fun environment. Lots of laughter and in many ways the freedom to express myself. I loved doll babies. I had over a hundred at one point and I would style their hair and clothing and then I would often perform for them as my personal audience. I remember having quite the imagination.

-Well, before I could walk I had a love affair with dancing any time I heard music. I was told often by my family that I was "SO DRAMATIC". So much so, that my grandmother said "You need to put that girl in something!", referring to show business but for whatever reason my parents never did. That aside, my desire to be on stage and performing for others was undeniable. 
When I went to school for the first time in Pre-k all the kids were told about an opportunity to perform on stage...singing and dancing and acting. I was so pumped. It just sounded like the best thing in the world to me. 
The teachers asked who was interested and my hand shot straight up. I don't even think I let her finish her statement. I was waving my hand like it was on fire and I was selected instantly provided I got permission from my parents and let me tell you, my parents were overwhelmed from my excitement and enthusiasm. So much so that they agreed to let me participate. 
Looking back I realize that my elementary school gave me the opportunity to not only showcase my talents in a nurturing environment but taught me the importance of learning how to work well with others and while I did well scholastically, I know I would not have enjoyed school nearly as much without the ARTS! 

-Too many to name really but I would have to say those who empowered you to be confident and proud like Maya Angelou, Cicely Tyson, Debbie Allen, Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah, Janet Jackson, sticks out in my mind. All were reflections of what it looked like to truly love yourself even if life hurt sometimes. It showcased what hard work and determination looked like. That was and still is so cool to me. All qualities that I admire.

-I can tell you that I learn more by doing than being told to do. I think I was born an artist. How else could I explain this passion at such an early age...before I could walk even. I'm an A-type personality and deep thinker by nature...it's in my DNA, that said, I care for things to be its best. So I always look beyond the surface, caring to discover layers of a person, place and/or thing or situation. I learned early that life itself is a teacher and the world is a classroom. 
I definitely learned how to improve as an artist by listening. I was always listening out for what I didn't know. Those were the gems I was interested in because I wanted so much to grow and get better. 
On the converse side of things, I was always in the mix as an artist. Always creating. So looking back I was just being myself and participating in what made me happy and what made me feel the most alive and mostly that was creativity...still is.





-I'm very seldom satisfied and if I am it doesn't last for long. My being satisfied comes in waves and in moments. Mostly it comes when I'm creating. Whether I'm writing songs or stage plays or poetry or I'm creating fashion for myself(clothes, shoes, handbags)...as long as I'm creating I'm better.
Without creativity my world would shrink in such a way that I would suffocate. I need it. I would often hear other artists mention that their happiest moments were on stage or when they were working and in my case I've found that to be very true. I feel myself most when I'm performing. 
Achieving stardom worldwide is a nice thought but it's not my motivation. I often look to interviews of entertainers whose work I appreciate as a bit of a compass to navigate the business and expectations and what's wise to value...in an effort to avoid needless pitfalls.
The feeling of contentment is oftentimes so fleeting. Being recognized for your gifts and talents is always nice. It serves as validation and an ego boost to boot but ultimately creating great work that I'm proud to stand behind is constantly my goal.
There's always more to do and see and experience. I want to do it all. I want to live out loud all the time.   

-I would say yes there are challenges for women artists. For me, the challenges that I've faced have been the way I'm perceived by others, men and women alike. I'm either too nice or too strong, or too intelligent or too independent...which I've learned are all ways of saying I'm too hard to take advantage of. LOL
Those who had or have impure motives hate that I can see them for who and what they are and are trying to do...so they showcase that hate by blocking me from certain opportunities. Although that's not a pleasant reality...it has made me more aware and more proud of myself for standing my ground and not compromising to my detriment.
I understand the alertness that's needed in life to keep myself safe. There's much beauty in the world still but at the same time there's lots of deception too. When you are a dreamer, as I am, your desires are so strong and you long for your dreams to come true so badly that if you're not careful it can translate as desperation and when that desperation gets picked up and carried by the winds and someone who has their own agenda in mind sniffs it out...here comes the manipulation and trickery and dangling of the "carrot" if you will.  
Listen to your gut. It's simple but profound. Don't force yourself to power through something that just doesn't feel right. Be bold but smart. Be kind but careful. Be open but aware. It has helped me so much to continue to look in the mirror and like who I see looking back.

-Well, I love that we're seeing more of a unified presence for diversity and inclusivity in the stories that are being told and shown. It gives a more accurate reflection of life. It's interesting how showcasing our differences has somehow managed to show how we're the same in many ways too.
I'm also proud that we're banning together as women more now than ever before in the sense that there are more accessible platforms to raise our voices and be heard and make it clear that we don't need permission to be honest and tell our truths. We can look to the left and the right of us now and find strength in solidarity and heal at the same time. I think it's wonderful. Powerful. Necessary.
That said it also inspired me to keep creating my own work. Instead of waiting for an opportunity, it said to me over and over "CREATE YOUR OWN". Go where the love is! That is how I'll be happier. That is how I'll stay motivated and energized and alive...to be honest.
Sometimes you can strive after something for so long that you never ever stop to enjoy, acknowledge and/or appreciate what you've achieved. That has been the reality of so many, even those who are wildly successful in terms of fame and fortune. So I try to learn from others' journeys and apply what makes sense to mine...on both sides of what to do and what not to do.   

-Every situation is different regarding new projects. If it's offered by someone I have a longstanding relationship with that I trust, then it's pretty much a no brainer. Don't get me wrong, I still look over the material to see if I think it's a good fit but in those instances it's usually an automatic yes for the most part.
Otherwise I approach it with a healthy amount of caution. I ask a lot of questions to inform my decision as to whether I should take on a project or pass it up. Initially it's the basic questions like who, what, where, when, why and how much...lol. 
For whatever reason and I'm sure there are more than a few...many seem to think that artists should work for free or be willing to work for free and shouldn't have a problem doing so for free because you as an artist should do it because you love it not because of the money. 
Well, yes and NO! Lol. Yes, you should love the arts and being an artist. Yes, you should give it your very best no matter what however, many people in my experience think of what you do as a hobby. Just something in your spare time to do as opposed to sitting at home doing nothing.
Many people think that you just love getting dolled up to showcase your talents for a night...and that that alone is the win for you. Many people think that you work a 9 to 5 so it shouldn't matter if you present your art for free because you still have money coming in from other areas. 
Whether or not those assumptions are accurate or far fetched I would encourage every artist to take control of your career and determine your worth as an artist for yourself. If not, you will get used up for your talents and never be able to support yourself as you desire to and that will only lead to frustration, anxiety and bitterness. 
Sidney Poitier once said that his success was more accredited to the things he said no to, not the things he said yes to. That one statement from him has served as a constant reminder and protection for me. 

-Between personal and private: I don't know. It's something I struggle with. I have made so many sacrifices for the arts because it's my life and my love and I enjoy it so much that more often than I'm comfortable admitting I've put my dreams/work first. 
Being a single woman with no kids, I have been able to immerse myself in my own interests without an overwhelming sense of guilt but I still understand that having a balance would be healthy. Interestingly enough I saw it more of an asset to have fortune over fame because fame doesn't automatically equate financial stability.
Look at reality tv for example. Millions of people may have seen you being televised but that doesn't make you an instant millionaire by any stretch. It exposes you and with that exposure you hope to capitalize on it. A few have managed to do so, while others...not so much. 
In the day and age of social media one could pose the question "What is a private life?" because it seems nearly nonexistent with strangers all over the globe either applauding or condemning your every move. I myself am a very private person and while social media has served entertainment well, it has been a double edge sword when it comes to one's desired privacy. 
When it comes to any of my personal challenges, be it loss of a loved one etc. I'm so glad to have had the peace and quiet to deal with those things like a human being without being treated like some sort of spectacle. I guess it's all about boundaries. Everyone's boundaries are different I suppose but I'm grateful to know what mine are and not afraid to make them known.

-Currently I'm creating a future project titled LOVE. LIFE. and ALL THAT OTHER STUFF. ...I'm super excited! This will be my very first musical stage play which I decided to write as a one stop shop type hub for many of my songs initially but then my reasons grew! I tapped back into that little girl that started out in Pre-k, who loved to sing and dance and thought what a great opportunity to combine so much of what I love and have always enjoyed into one project. 
While I'm over the moon...it's incredibly humbling, I have to say because it's so different than the other projects I've done in the past. My other projects were either straight plays or had a song or two sprinkled in but in this one there's more moving parts and choreography and spacing and costumes and the beat goes on but I'm no stranger to hard work so I look forward to birthing this musical "baby"!  
I plan to have it fully loaded with an extremely talented male and female cast of course whose ready willing and able to deliver tons of fun and laughter and songs that you just can't stop singing as we tackle exactly what the title says...love, life and all that other stuff. 
Hands down, the audience can look forward to pure feel good entertainment as we take them on a journey to see themselves and see what's possible in love, life and all that other stuff.
I want to thank you so much Sherif for sharing your platform with me and your audience of supporters. It means so much. I hope my journey will inspire, uplift and help others to go after their dreams and remember no matter whether your pockets are super PHAT or flat broke you can always afford to give someone a smile...so look out, Peace!