I am excited to share that I recently got a chance to interview the multi faceted creative/ entrepreneur, Jessica Phoenix. Her passion is for living life deeply through connection and her vehicles to connect are the Diaspora, Culture, Arts, Music, Dance, Healing, and Wellness. Please check out the interview below to get to know this Phenomenal Queen!
What was your experience attending a Historically Black University and how did it contribute to the woman you are today?
Wow, I would say at the end of the day I am so grateful to be an HBCU alumni. Initially I did not want to go to college. I believe that there is an association with going to college with your success in life. And I do not subscribe to that. Although I do not devalue the experience of college by any means. I just recognize alternatives. With that being said, if you ask me if I have put my Degree to use post graduation….NO… but what has me living with the ultimate gratitude of being a proud Howard University graduate is the fact that I was able to experience an environment that truly nurtured me as a young black woman. I felt that not only was it important in those early years transitioning into the world to be cared for by a Black village…but to learn, build, and connect with people who had my similar experience. Life in “Chocolate City” at Howard University was sacred in the collective consciousness of our young Black American Experience, history, and culture. And definitely reinforced the activism, empowerment, and passion for community well being for me.
What inspired you to create the FIYAH Dancehall theater?
My initial thought at that time was the lack of diversity on Broadway, the lack of Black representation and Black storytelling in that space, & the constant miseducation, appropriation and ‘watering down’ of Diaspora culture.. I also have always been an advocate for Artists..Dancers, Creators…I saw so much incredible talent undiscovered, ignored, and quite frankly not having awareness, immediate access or understanding of how to take their talents to audiences and platforms they deserved to be seen on. Broadway was not the end all be all. If we own our own production companies, direct our own theater works, and invest in our own communities then we could be in a position of empowerment for ourselves.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
That list is long LOL..but I will say this…as an Entrepreneur..I think that it can put you in a perpetual state of convincing..convincing people of your gifts, your ideas, your offerings, you are manifesting your visions, actualizing your dreams…and at times it can be very difficult because you dont have the security of already following a movement that has been already established.
We would love to know how you maintain a healthy work- life balance.
There was a time when I lived in New York during the second and third year of the FIYAH Dancehall Theater Productions where I was completely off balanced. Allowed the pace of the city, the demands of my role and other people come before my own needs. Because of that experience, being unhealthy, depressed, and stressed, I realized I can never allow myself to be in that place again. So I have learned to work smarter, work with more ease and flow, and make sure to be amongst the elements that ground me and that bring me joy. Specifically, I commit to times of the morning and night where I don’t work..schedule my days with several breaks in between, and at any point when I feel some overwhelm I commit to putting my own wellness first.
We know that you survived a severe car accident and had to learn how to walk and eventually dance again. How has that experience affected your mindset and view on life?
I don’t half step, I don’t move if my heart isn’t in it, I live a life of gratitude for every moment. I believe it brought freedom in living my life in joy and pleasure along with passion and purpose. Im just so grateful that I am here so I take life seriously in terms of what I want to do while im here but at the same time allowing more balance in my life as I know things could always be much more challenging.
Out of everything you’ve accomplished, what would you say has been the most rewarding experience?
Oh that’s a difficult question. I am just so grateful to still be here and to have experienced so much thus far in my life. I guess I would say most recently the Black Wellness Weekend Virtual Retreat takes the cake. This has been the most current and impactful accomplishment. Something I manifested and created brought deep change in people’s lives.
How has your experience as a Black woman in America influenced your creative journey?
I have a very unique cultural context of my ancestors, my history and my life that influences the intent behind everything I create. Understanding what it means to be strong but vulnerable, to be full of joy but full of pain, to be full of pride coming from a family and community that celebrates me but to step out into a society that dishonors and disvalues me. This duality gives me a complex and diverse perspective to create within.
Tell us more about the international women’s cultural retreat that you organized/ hosted in Jamaica.
From the way I was introduced to Jamaica, I realized I wanted to introduce more people to the local experience outside of the ‘Tourist’ parameters. I traveled so much in such an off the beaten path way and later even spent many of my trips traveling solo and experiencing the island in such a unique way that I knew you could never get from a cruise, hotel, resort, or even the popular Dance Camp trips. I had some of the most impactful and unforgettable experiences traveling cross island. And it would not have been possible without the heart of the country, the people that I met and connected with each time. I wanted to give back to those who gave so much to me. But I also was able to travel in a certain way cross island as a Black woman…at times finding so many similarities in the Diaspora connection while also coming across so many stereotypes and misconceptions between each other. So my goal for bringing the groups to Jamaica were layered. I wanted to reserve my FIYAH Retreats trips to mostly Black women for us to have a healing retreat away from the pressures of American society together, as well as a cultural immersion and sacred exchange amongst Black peoples of the Diaspora. To establish a deeper connection between Black America and the country and to establish cooperative economics with the community. The goal of FIYAH Retreats was always to start with Jamaica because that is where I initially have deep connections with, but ultimately the goal is to nurture this exchange in all countries throughout the Black Diaspora.
Can you describe your healing workshops and what they entail?
Specifically I host movement healing experiences that help to release tension, stress and trauma that may be locked in our bodies through stretching, body grounding and exercise. I also work with a specialty in women’s wellness, reigniting their fire within through tapping into the sacred sensuality and empowerment. All workshops are supported with a cultural context and an African Diaspora music and movement foundation.
Who are some of your inspirations and why?
My mom for being the earliest inspiration for fitness, wellness, entrepreneurship and community. She was a Jazzercise Instructor for some 20 years where I saw her build a flourishing community, create a business, and bring energy, love, happiness, and healing to our community. My Dad for teaching me the importance of protection for artists and coverage for our work and talents. As a patent lawyer, I was instilled from very early the importance of the business side of an Artist life..being sure to hold sacred my creations and their value. I also saw him leave the role of employee to step into the role of owning his own firm and always looking out for our community. With my earliest representations of what was possible for my life, my Mom and Dad combined… you get Jessica Phoenix FIYAH.
What upcoming projects or endeavors are you currently working on?
Currently, I have founded The Call of The Drum Coalition, a collective of Black wellness practitioners, teachers, healers, artists, business owners, and community members that are taking action for flourishing black lives in all aspects of Wellness. Mental Wellness, Holistic Health, Trauma Healing, Nutrition, Fitness, Advocacy, and more. As mentioned I just completed a successful Black Wellness Weekend Virtual Retreat, this being our first initiative. We are working on several virtual and live Black Wellness events throughout the year, podcast, and supporting the development of the FIYAH Wellness Channel on Jaro. FIYAH Theater Productions will also have a revival coming in the next months with the debut of documentary and exclusive behind the scenes as well as a new series. And my dance and fitness virtual on demand programming will continue with some new offerings and class formats.
You have accomplished so much thus far. What are your career goals for the next five years?
Own my own facility to funnel all things FIYAH out of, to expand FIYAH retreats nationally and internationally, and continue the #BEINGBLACKANDWELL movement presenting BLACK WELLNESS initiatives throughout the Diaspora community.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Go deep into your past and continually clear out your limiting beliefs, your inner doubts and fears..as they will continue to come up and prevent you from reaching your highest potential. You can have all the talent but if you haven’t made the appropriate mindshift you will always hit a ceiling. Take breaks, maintain balance in your work, play, and rest.
Document your work, protect your artistic integrity, value yourself and your gifts…
And realize if your heart is ever not in it then you need to consider if this is really the life for you.
How can I readers stay in touch with you and get more information?