Category Archives: My Journey

I Give Up

As an artist and entrepreneur, I’ve find myself questioning whether or not to pursue certain endeavors. When I first made the decision to leave corporate America in pursuit of my entrepreneurial path, reality kicked in when I first experienced hard times. When the lifestyle I was living based, pretty much based on a consistent paycheck, dissipated.

In the beginning I often had to remind myself why I left and what was most important. My children.

Although entrepreneurial and life challenges has periods of difficulty, I wouldn’t give up the freedom of peace of mind and time spend with my husband and children for anything.

As I continue my journey as a first time filmmaker, I admit that it hasn’t been easy. Not that I’m expecting it to be but I can’t help but notice and feel the challenge of being a woman of color breaking into a new industry, which has been pointed out to me multiple times on multiple levels.

I’ve tried my best not to let the lack of support for my fundraiser and opportunities that seem to not be a “right fit” (yes I’ve been told that), get to me. At times it’s hard. And during these times I’ve thought to myself…

I GIVE UP!

Then it hit me…

I thought about my mom yesterday. She was 25, married with 3 children (2, 4 & 6) and had an aneurysm on the right side of her brain. The aneurysm caused her to have a stroke and left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. She told me she went through periods of “Why me?”, anger and bitterness about her diagnosis. But all I remember about my mom is that paralysis on the left side of her body was never an excuse for her to NOT do anything.

She drove by herself, cooked for her family, went to and from work on the busy streets of Manhattan, NY, and was so determined to keep going, despite her stroke. My mom set the tone for me when it comes to determination.

If she never made an excuse, how can I?

In no way am I comparing my moms illness to the frustration I feel about my art. Instead I am drawing a comparison to the level of difficulty she experienced and what I feel personally about my art.

I have no excuse and giving up is not an option.

Despite the negative comments I’ve received from various women (yes women) about I Am More Than My Hair, there is an entire community of girls and women involved in my project, that are not only counting on me but sincerely believe in the mission of my work. Of OUR work. And if I give up, we lose.

Today gave a speaking engagement and presented my work to young ladies of Albion College (Albion, MI) Women’s and Gender Studies. The positives responses and questions during the discussion about embracing who are are and learning to love ourselves just as we are, was another confirmation that I am on the right path.

Taken at Albion College (Albion, MI) during my presentation Embracing Your Natural Beauty, for the women of Women’s and Gender Studies. 

In the end, my lesson learned is what will be must be. What is for me shall be. What I am born to create, has no option but to be created. I’m allowing life to takes it’s course. Thank you for taking the time to read.

With just 15 days left for my fundraiser, your support is appreciated. Contribute via Indiegogo – https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

Thank you,

Alyscia

Mental illness – The Elephant in the Room

Last month I sent an email newsletter titled “I’m done shooting”. The thought that I accomplished something new and different than I’ve ever experienced was exciting to me. Filming is the easy part (in my opinion). Production, distribution, the legalities and everything else that goes with filmmaking is the challenging part.

I was well on my way in the right direction!

The very next day, I received a call from a voice, unfamiliar to me. She sound distraught and left a message asking that I return the call ASAP. I returned the call immediately.

She began to tell me that a participant in my documentary “wasn’t honest” and in fact “doesn’t have cancer”, “never lost her hair” and was “never diagnosed with MS” (Multiple Sclerosis). Her voice was sad and regretful, telling me she apologizes that I spent my time filming and photographing “her” (the participant) not knowing that she wasn’t being honest.

She continued stating that “she” (the participant) suffered from mental illness and anorexia, and created a make-believe story. Fooling not just me, but also all of her family members and friends. NO ONE knew.

I could have been upset, frustrated and full of resentment, but those thoughts never crossed my mind. She apologized for “her” behavior but I sympathized for “her”.

What the caller didn’t know, is that I’ve been directly affected by mental illness and understand the seriousness of it. Including that fact that most people cannot fathom the severity of the experience. I admit I don’t completely comprehend it, because I am not mentally ill, but the experiences with my loved ones has influenced my thoughts.

Almost 5 years have passed since my Sis committed suicide. I remember having conversations with family members trying to convince them that a lot of her behavior didn’t seem normal. And mentioned that getting upset with her wasn’t going to help her situation because I felt that she couldn’t help her thoughts and at times, her actions.

In turn, she decided she no longer wanted to suffer and took her life.

Several of my close family members, who’ve experienced trauma in their childhood, have also been affected by mental illness. Some have been diagnosed while others are in denial. As a child I had a gut feeling that certain actions were’t normal. Especially when it came to communication.

Going back, the phone call I received a few weeks ago didn’t get me upset, as one may think it should.

I must admit, I would have thought differently a few years ago, but my experience with mental illness has taught me otherwise. Instead of being in a frenzied, I’ve learned to be patient, not take things as personal and move on.

In the end, I deeply sympathized with this young lady and her family.

Unfortunately, I do have to spend more time to find another participant (with a hair story as unique as hers) as well as invest more time and money to re-film, re-shoot and edit. Not an easy task but it is something that I will get done.

“1 in 5 adults are affected by mental illness”.

Regrettably there is still much shame and guilt attached to it when brought up. It’s one of those topics that is still “the elephant in the room”.

Discuss it. Try to understand it. Be sympathetic but aware. Give your loved ones the love and support when they need it. Sometimes it can’t heal so you must also be prepared to let go when necessary.

Be well,

~Alyscia

I Fell Out of Love With Photography

It was the fall of 1999. I was in my 4th semester in college and unsure of the direction of my career, but knew for sure I DID NOT want to work for a company for the rest of my life. I just couldn’t stand being told what to do.

If there was one thing in particular I knew about myself is that I was innately creative and had the character traits of an entrepreneur since I was a child. When I was young my grandfather used to bring me with him as he went canvasing around our neighborhood in Corona, Queens, NY.

He was selling countertop NASA water filtration systems, the first of it’s kind to be introduced to home owners. Buyers could connect the hose to their kitchen sink and get clean filtered water.

Despite the actions of my neighbors (nice or not so nice) my grandfather kept going. He never allowed a no to stop him. I didn’t know, at the time, that my grandfather was instilling qualities within me of a future business owner.

I just wanted to give you some background. Let’s fast forward to college…

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My first drawing in class ‘Introduction to Drawing’. I drew this handsome young man from a flag in my room titled “Rasta Baby”.

I always loved to draw and doodled often (more like everyday in every class). Taking a drawing class while in college was my release through all the intense studying.

My art professor was so impressed with my art that he suggested I take photography as an art elective. I’m not quite sure how he made the connection but he was convinced I would do really well.

In the fall of 2001 I immersed myself in photography. I enjoyed being behind the camera and capturing what captivated me. I was intrigued by the process of film and print development and amazed at my new found creativity.

I was in love…

While close to graduation I made a nice niche for myself and connected with a few magazines that were interested in hiring me for future editorial shoots and peaked the interest of several media companies that contacted me to inquire about commission work. I actively participated in exhibitions, artist groups and everything revolved around creative networking.

Then reality hit…

I was really good at what I did and heard it often. I often heard, “I love your work”, yet the appreciation of it didn’t lead to many sales. And I quickly learned that although I truly appreciated the compliments, it wasn’t providing me with an income.

At a certain point, the constant compliments, without sales, brought me to a bitter place with my photography. And when I was hired for work, the constraints of what people wanted, really wasn’t something I enjoyed.

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I fell out of love with the love of my life…

But how could I? I thought I was in love?

I took a break for some time, put my camera down, and switched from Government contracting (which I was doing while being a photographer) to contracting with media companies. I tried Photo Editing for a change.

Although I made a great income I quickly realized I DID NOT want to be behind a desk all day. Unfortunately I didn’t want to do commission work that was unfulfilling for me either.

It took a few years, and various business ventures (while working I did Network Marketing and was also in the process of buying a franchise), for me to discover my passion. Through my journey I learned business skills that not only prepared me for my future endeavors but also helped me to redefine my ‘Why‘.

I rediscovered my passion

See, when I fell in love with photography I was free to create what was beautiful and rewarding for ME, without the worries of being dependent on making an income from it.

In order for me to get back to that feeling, I needed my freedom back…

Instead of depending on my art to make me money, I depend on my art to give me freedom. Freedom of expression. Freedom of release. And the freedom to dive into my innate creativity without restriction.

Instead, I choose to use my talent to work on personal works such as Feminine Transitions, I Am More Than My Hair and the countless of other ideas in my head. I am still hired as a photographer (by folks I know personally or by referral). But this time around I’m performing the work that represents my style most. And I still own a construction company 🙂

One thing I have learned…

I love being happy and I love to make money. As women we sometimes have a difficult time saying that. But without it we can’t survive…unfortunately. Reading the the harsh statistics about women and money in a dear Sister’s book, Whatever Works (chapter Money and the Elephant in the Room), not only scared the hell out of me but also bought me to new awareness.

So make your money, enjoy your freedom and do what you love.

I’m in love again…

xoxo
~Alyscia

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Stacy launched, CRUSH Fitness, her first online health and fitness magazine. She’s enjoying her freedom. I enjoyed the shoot 🙂

 

I’m Up To Something

I’ve been busy at work…literally. My Home Improvement business has grown significantly since the start of 2016. Due to the growth I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time on my art and writing as usual. Given that the past few years has been most challenging I won’t complain and most definitely grateful for the blessing.

I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

I am still working on my project I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me (photo book and documentary. If can know a girl or women who has either lost their hair due to medical conditions or has cut their hair in support of a loved one please let me know. I am still looking for 20 participants.2016-Docs-Fellowship

Thankfully I was awarded the 2016 Docs In Progress Fellowship, which allows me the focus and support in order to produce my first film. I’m so excited about this! Now I only have to catch up with everyone (and everything) but no worries, I’ll get there.On that note, I’m seeking another intern. If you have someone in mind please send me your referral.

Also, this semester I started Screenwriting class and couldn’t be more pleased. Writing is a release and through it I’ve learned that I’m actually pretty good at it (Yes I’m patting myself on the back:). I wrote three scripts and will take a shot at shooting it, unless it picked up by a film studio. That will be later on once I’ve completed my project however.

I just wanted to reach out, say hello and let you know what I was up to since I haven’t written in a while. And if you’re free for any of my upcoming events simply RSVP and I will add you to the list.

Last thing… I found an article about my work on SoulPancake. How cool is that! I love SoulPancake and their message of delivering news that matters.

Until next time…

Alyscia Cunningham

Awarded Young Mother of the Year!

I am honored to have been awarded the 2015 Young Mother of the Year with American Mothers, Inc. Anyone who knows me personally understands that I am very passionate about my role as a mother, as any other dedicated mom. Although my children recognize that they are most important in my life, I’ve recently discovered that taking care of me first helps not only makes me be the best mother I can possibly be but also the best caretaker for myself.

You know how we women have that women’s disease? We tend to everyone else’s needs first then us whatever energy we have left to take care of ourselves. Yeah that disease! I learned to shift my priorities…for me.

This doesn’t mean that I still don’t tend to my families needs (it’s in my genes:). I just had to incorporate changes that gave me self-fulfillment. That sense of joy in doing what makes me happy. And I must admit…making them happy gives me joy as well.

I’m looking forward to meeting other like-minded moms at the convention on April 23-25, 2015 (two weeks from now) and giving my story behind why being a mom is important to me and why I do what I do as an individual, mother, wife, artist, author, activist…and my journey continues.

Want to join me? Register here.
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Friendly Reminder…

My fundraiser for my upcoming project, I Am More Than My Hair, has 42 days left to reach my goal of $15,000. Please make a donation – no amount is too small – and SHARE with family, friends and social media platforms.  Donate HERE!

Thank you!

I Am More Than My Hair: New Project and Crowdfunding Campaign

So I’m finally letting the cat out the bag. In a previous newsletter I mentioned I was working on a new project but didn’t give any specifics.  And I’ve received tons of calls from friends and family inquiring why they haven’t heard much from me lately.

To tell the truth, over the past several months I have been in hiatus. Besides taking some needed time for myself, doing mommy duty and starting amazing entrepreneurship classes with Empowered Women International, I have been focusing on an upcoming photography book project.

Today I am SUPER EXCITED to announce to the world… I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me!
I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

I Am More Than My Hair is a photography book celebrating the beauty of baldness (bare headed).  It includes participants who have lost their hair due to alopecia, cancer, trichotillomania or any other hair loss condition as well as those who cut their hair in support of a loved one.

On January 12, 2015 (changed date to reflect the criteria of a successful campaign and to give me more time to organize), I will launch a crowdfunding campaign for my upcoming book and I ask for your support in helping to make it a success by spreading the word. $25,000 raised will help me with the production of I Am Not My Hair as well as professional assistance with marketing, design, editing, layout as well as assistance from a publicist and administrative assistant. In other words…through my first book I’ve learned that hiring a professional is a tremendous benefit. And although I remain self-published,  I am making some tweaks this time around.

Serene getting a henna crown by henna artist Deepti Khona, founder of Henna Harmony DC Metro. Serene did not loose her hair but instead shaved it in support of her friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. That's a true friend.
Serene getting a henna crown by henna artist Deepti Khona, founder of Henna Harmony DC Metro. Serene did not loose her hair but instead shaved it in support of her friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s a true friend.

As with Feminine Transitions, I Am Not My Hair is a social-change project paying tribute to the girls and women who’ve lost their hair involuntarily and to those who cut their hair in solidarity.
I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

Through this journey I have noticed there is an undeniable radiance in bare headed females. In my opinion, attention isn’t drawn to them due to a lack of hair. Instead their features become more captivating. You truly see raw beauty as hair is not a distraction.

“The best way I can describe my experience is without the focus on hair you truly see the soul.”

Simply beautiful!

I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

Until then, expect a newsletter about my participation at EWI’s  upcoming Artisan Food & Marketplace as well as other unique holiday gift ideas.

Please also share share this information with any girls and women that may be interested in participating in my project. My contact information can be found on my website www.Alyscia.com.

Peace & blessings,

Alyscia

Aging Gracefully

In September 2012 an email with the subject “Aging Gracefully” was forwarded to me by an artist I met briefly prior to this day.  In the body of her email she wrote, “I saw this and immediately thought about your book.”

It was an article written by Madisyn Taylor titled, “Seasons of Beauty: Aging Gracefully“.  Not only did I love the topic (it is the message of Feminine Transitions) but her writing truly caught my attention as it was also graceful.  Beautifully written.

I reached out to Madisyn, to let her know how much I appreciated her article on DailyOM.com (it was my first time knowing about this site as well).  She responded with gratitude and I joined her email list.  I wanted to read more.

Somehow Madisyn’s articles brought me back…

As a child, I used to often journal, write stories and poetry.  It was my creative escape. I loved writing and English was my favorite subject (as long as I was busy creating my own stories).  After I became a mother I seemed to have put that on the back burner.

It was time for a change. I happened to start-up writing  again two weeks prior when I started a blog.

Around the same time, I was actually searching for a ghostwriter to compose the introduction section of Feminine Transitions.  I honestly thought I couldn’t do it.

I just didn’t connect with the writing samples sent to me.   It didn’t feel as if it were me speaking from my experience. It wasn’t heartfelt.

I decided to reached out to Madisyn and ask for a recommendation. She made it real simple, sharing her outlook. She said I do not connect with the writings because I did not write it.  And advised that I take some time out of the house, with a cup of tea and simply begin to write from the heart.

To make a long story short, I did exactly as she said…at Starbuck’s.

Not only did I create an introduction that I sincerely connected with but I gained my confidence in writing once again.

I say all of this to say…thank you Madisyn. You were a tremendous aide in my writing journey…and it continues.

I look forward to one day writing a narrative.

 

Photo meme from Alyscia Cunningham's image from Feminine Transitions along with a quote from writer Madisyn Taylor