All posts by Alyscia

Alyscia Cunningham is an entrepreneur, author, filmmaker and photographer based in Silver Spring, MD. She comes from a family full of multi-talented artists. Raised in Queens, New York and Montgomery County, MD, she earned degrees in photography and web design. Alyscia has contributed to National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, America Online, and the Smithsonian Institution. Additionally, her work has been published in several books and magazines, including The Best of Photography, Beauty Around Us, Endless Journeys, and Homes of Color Magazine. To learn more about Alyscia and her work, visit Alyscia.com.

My Premiere Was Phenomenal!

When I first thought of the idea of “I Am More Than My Hair”, I visualized it to be a photography book encompassed with photos accompanied by personal essays of the women who participated. Never did I imagine it to not only evolve into a film but I also didn’t consider how life changing it would be for me, the girls and women involved, their families and my audience.

Although I feel very passionate about this project (as well as my previous), I thought back to the challenges I faced and how the women and girls involved were my driving force. They didn’t know me yet trusted me to share their stories. Despite the struggles that came with being a first-time Director, Producer and Filmmaker, it was vital that I live up to and deliver what I promised.

I am truly honored to have met everyone and provide the platform to share their stories, educate my audience (awareness) and create a shift in the way we see beauty and female hair loss (alopecia).

“The only way you can sustain a permanent change is to create a new way of thinking, acting, and being.” – Jennifer Hudson

Thank you for attending and supporting the premiere screening of I Am More Than My Hair!

View Gallery

Were you unable to attend the premiere?

If you were unable to attend the premiere but would like to support my project, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via Docs In Progress. You can purchase a copy of the book on Amazon. 10% of sale proceeds will be donated to Children’s Alopecia Project (CAP).

The next phase is to secure distribution so that it will be available for streaming, purchase or rental. You donation is greatly appreciated.

Read more

We Did it! My First Premiere Screening

I’m finally having my first official Premiere Screening of I Am More Than My Hair. I couldn’t be more excited and nervous at the same time. Between now and then, I’ll have a load of work on my plate.

It takes place on Sunday, October 20, 2019 from 5-7PM at AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. Tickets are $10 in advance on Eventbrite. If you prefer to pay with cash, limited paper tickets are available. Contact me to purchase tickets.

Join me for an inside look behind the story of my 2-part project, I Am More Than My Hair, documentary film short and photography book. Meet the women who participated, hear about the medical aspect of alopecia, from Dermatologist Dr. St. Surin-Lord, and join in on the discussion of redefining beauty standards. Q&A and Book Signing to follow (the film isn’t available as yet for purchase).

Here’s the program:
5:00 pm: Mix and mingle with light refreshments
5:30 – 7:00 pm: Screening and facilitated Q&A session with the filmmaker and panel

Would you like to help with the event? Feel free to contact me.


20190813_193022

My work-in-progress screening at Docs In Progress on August 13, 2019 was a success! Not only did I receive great feedback about my rough-cut, but the topic of alopecia, beauty and the media led to powerful conversations.

In turn, it helped with the finalizing the fine-cut of my 30 minute documentary film short I Am More Than My Hair. I would love for you to join me on October 20th for the Premiere Screening of my documentary at AFI Silver Theatre.


alyscia-cunningham-support

If you’re unable to attend but would like to support my project, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via Docs In Progress. You can also purchase a copy of the book on Amazon. 10% of sale proceeds will be donated to Children’s Alopecia Project (CAP).

 

My Trip To California

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of CaliforniaI returned from the Bay Area after a visit to and lecture at Saint Mary’s College of California (in Moraga). Typically, when I travel for speaking engagements I stay at a nearby hotel. This time around, I was offered the opportunity to stay at the visitor’s residence on campus. I couldn’t have asked for a better communal experience.

Not only had staying on campus given me the option for convenience but it also provided me the time to connect with the students and staff of Saint Mary’s, beyond what may have been possible if I stayed at a local hotel.

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of CaliforniaTwo weeks have passed since my visit and the positive energy and heartfelt moments continue to replay in my memories and bring a warm feeling to my soul. I have to say it was my most monumental lecture thus far. And I’ve had quite a few.

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of California

I was surrounded around a beautiful campus on California’s gorgeous landscape and good hearted people. It was a intimate group and setting with genuine discussion, feedback and consideration for one another. For me, that’s the best ingredients for a successful event. Also, have I ever mentioned I LOVE California?

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of California

Over two years ago, Sharon Sobotta, Director of the Center for Women & Gender Equity, and I connected about the possibility of a speaking engagement at the Center. Although it took some time, Sharon made sure this event came to life.

Alyscia Cunningham and Sharon Sobotta
Alyscia Cunningham and Sharon Sobotta at the Center for Women & Gender Equity at Saint Mary’s College of California.

Directly after my talk, Sihin Tsegay, Gender Justice Leader at the Center for Women and Gender Justice, organized a meet & greet with the Black Student Union at the Center for Women & Gender Equity. We had a deeper discussion about personal and professional experiences and challenges faced as someone of color. I couldn’t have ended the day on a more profound note.

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of California
Meet & Greet with BSU, Gender Justice Leaders, and allies in the CWGE.

I am truly appreciative for this experience and connection with like mindedness. That for me is priceless.

Have you heard of Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD?

Alyscia Cunningham at Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD

Two days after my returning (I’m noticing a recurrence with the number 2), Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD hosted a book signing for I Am More Than My Hair. If you’re in the area and looking for a local winery with a cool vibe, visit Great Shoals. It used to be located at Heyser Farm in Silver Spring, MD (the farm where I often purchase eggs). Although I enjoyed wine tasting at the farm as chickens roamed around (I’m a city girl but I love the country), it’s nice to have space dedicated to wine… and cheese.

If you’re buying wine, don’t forget to look for local options.

Alyscia Cunningham at Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD
Thanks to Habibah, fellow GirlTrekker, my brother, and neighbors, for stopping by and supporting.
Alyscia Cunningham at Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD
Inside Great Shoals Takoma Park.

 

I Have A Rough-Cut!

Well, I thought I had a rough-cut before, but I had to go back to the drawing board. To make a long story short, my previous rough-cut wasn’t received very well SO… I am grateful to connect with another Film Editor… A WOMAN! A female Motion Graphics Editor is also on my team. Talk about excited!!!

That’s exactly what I originally envisioned! If not an all female film crew, at the least, I wanted to collaborate with other women.

20190223_144012.jpg
Thanks to my small but amazingly mighty team, Editor Daniela Ettrich and Motion Graphics Artist Tiffany Lewis.

Last Saturday, February 23rd, I held a private screening of the rough-cut version of my documentary I Am More Than My Hair. I invited other filmmakers with the request that they provide me with feedback for my fine-cut (the final version of my film). Thanks to the support of filmmakers from Creative Edge Collaborative, Brown Girls Doc Mafia and Women In Film and Video DC (WIFV), the feedback received was a tremendous help.

Much thanks to Melissa J. Houghton, Executive Director of WIFV, for taking the time to advise me on the hows and where to hold a screening, during my desperate attempt to figure it out. My local public library worked out just fine. Who would have known?

My next cut will be the fine-cut. Wooohooo! That’s after the next few edited cuts. It’s a process but we’re headed in the right direction.

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” ~Oprah Winfrey

20190223_143946.jpg
I am forever grateful for these talented filmmakers!

If you’d like to support the next stage of my film, feel free to make a tax-deductible donation via my Fiscal Sponsor, Docs In Progress. I appreciate your support!

Tax-deductible donation - I Am More Than My Hair

 

Appreciate the Journey

You know what I’ve grown to appreciate? My trials and tribulations have not only given me the ability to vigorously pace through life, but it has also built me to be undeniably resilient.

Please know that…

When I share the challenges I face on my journey, I am not looking for sympathy.

Instead, I am opening myself and being transparent about the ups and downs that comes with life. Professionally and personally.

People sometimes assume that rewards and accomplishments come easy. Thanks to social media, people can conveniently post about their achievements yet omit the adversities faced in order to get to that level of attainment.

It takes hard work, time, dedication and positive thinking to make things happen.

Furthermore, as a woman of color, married to man of color, with children who look like us and have unfortunately faced hardships related to race, I have no choice but to stand strong. Not only for myself, but also for my family.

With that…

I am undoubtedly able to handle what may crumble the World of someone unlike me.

Would I like for the people of the world to be different? Without doubt. But I am truly grateful that my hardships have strengthen me.

Regardless, anything worth bringing into existence doesn’t come easy, but it’s definitely worth the feeling of success and fulfillment once you stick to it. And in the process, you have the opportunity to know WHO IS and WHO ISN’T for you. Shedding layers and people is a good thing.

On your journey…

You may be redirected, take some time off to breath and reevaluate your steps, or may completely switch paths, but always pick yourself up and keep going.

And remember…

Don’t be afraid to share your quest. It is uniquely yours to hold and carry. It is my hope that sharing the transparency of my journey can be beneficial to someone else on the path to accomplishing a dream or goal.

My gift to you…

Rather than adding to the piles of Holiday emails you’ll receive next week, I send my greetings to you now. I wish you all that you wish for yourself… PLUS all that you need at this moment to appreciate your journey.

Enjoy the Holidays!

PS…

If you’re in the spirit of giving, please consider making a tax-deductible donation, via my Fiscal Sponsor Docs In Progress, to help me finish my film.  Visit the website for more info and to support. Feel free to also follow my blog tour with Goddess Fish Promos.

Happy Holidays graphic

 

Sometimes… it’s hard to be thankful

Amongst all the messages of Thanksgiving and hopeful wishes, I can’t seem to shake off the rejection I’ve recently received. The past few weeks has challenged my thinking and created me to reconsider the direction of my profession as an artist.

Don’t get me wrong…

I am ALWAYS very grateful (my family and I are healthy-what more could I ask for? — well…I could) and have an innate tendency to see the positive side of my experiences. I’m always very determined to accomplish my goals (personal and professionally) and find myself often encouraging others to push past their challenges (I may have missed my calling as a coach?).

But every now and then, the “no’s” get to me.

The 4 big grants I spent much of my time completing was rejected (I just knew I would be awarded at least one). The exhibit I hoped to participate in at the Smithsonian… rejected (still puzzled by that). An Editor at L’Oreal interviewed me to feature a story about my work… cancelled. Vroman’s Bookstore in California, shipped my books back (due to no sales), and others are coming up soon.

And…

I haven’t been able to finish my film, not just due to lack of funding ($30,000 to be exact) but also due to the lack of b-roll. Scheduling additional filming dates hasn’t gone so well due to everyone’s schedule.

On my challenging days, I seek quotes that resonate with me and what I’m going through (I love quotes). In this particular situation, I thought about Oprah’s words on the finale of her show, which I’m sure I’ve shared before).

I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?

In truth, my response is a feeling of unappreciation, which truly boils down to feeling a lack of validation. I’m fully aware that I will receive more rejection than acceptance in anything, but at times it’s hard… and exhausting.

And I honestly needed the time to simply slow down a bit, vent about what I’m feeling and give myself the time to grief (Is that an appropriate word? It’s as close to a word as I can come up with at the moment) and rest.

Ipray4u-laugh.jpgSo on this day of Thanksgiving, I must admit, sometimes being completely thankful is hard but even in the moments of disappointment, there’s so much to be thankful about. Not only am I in the best of health but I’m grateful to come home to an amazing family every day. As always I get up, adjust myself and keep going.

What are your challenges and what are you thankful for?

Enjoy the Holiday!

Transparency

This past Sunday, I attended Fresh Talk: MakeHer Summit, a panel discussion about Women in the Creative Economy, at the National Museum of Women In the Arts. The four creative entrepreneurs on the panel, Rakia Reynolds, Dionna Dorsey, Virginia Arrisueno and Grace Bonney, spoke candidly about entrepreneurship, the beauty and challenges that come with it and the importance of…

Transparency. 

MakeHer-Summit-Alyscia-Cunningham

People often assume your success was an easy road if you never shared your challenges. I’m not sure if it’s the Pisces in me, but being up front about my feelings and experiences is a release. Whether it’s in a conversation, blog or article…

It feels good to let it go.

I’ve always been upfront about my ups and downs as a woman of color, an artist and entrepreneur. My struggles with funding to complete projects and good news of successes that come my way. It’s not easy, but I work very hard.

Here are 3 points that stuck with me:

  1. Being an entrepreneur isn’t sexy. You don’t wake up this way. The struggle IS real, and you need to make that real to the world, including social media.
  2. Sometimes success and financial freedom means undoing the narrative you’ve been telling yourself about what success looks like.
  3. Transparency and fearlessness can be powerful and protective. “You don’t owe anyone anything” on social media. Protect yourself + be real. You can do both..

On that note, I must admit…

The one area of my life that I choose not to be transparent with, is my family. It’s a rare occasion to post photos of my husband, children, grandparents (unless I’m referencing old photos), parents, siblings, nieces and nephews…

I’m sure you get the picture.

But I enjoy keeping that part of my life off of social media. And although my mom often shares posts about our mother/daughter connection on Facebook (as many times as I ask her not to), my relationship with her and our daily conversation is so much important to me than engaging on her post :).

Some areas I’m just not willing to compromise.

Although my life, both business and personal, has been full of trials and tribulations, overcoming the challenges has played a vital role in my determination to succeed. Success does not come overnight (whatever success may mean to you) but the thing that always shows and proves is that….

Persistence seals the deal. 

I used to think it was cliche to hear celebrities give speeches and consistently say the same quote when wrapping up on their thanks and appreciation to the audience…

You can create anything you set your mind to.

Well, it’s not as easy as making the statement and expecting what you’ve had in mind to suddenly become a reality. But I know for a fact that setting the intention for your idea will be the beginning of a process that will connect you to those that will lead the way for open doors. It’s the powerful beauty of the Universe.

Honesty and transparency make your vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. ~Mother Teresa

You never know who’s watching and learning from your journey.