Category Archives: My Journey

Taking Flight

As I sit here in the waiting room of my Docs office, I thought to myself… what should I name this newsletter? I turned my head towards the window to think, took a deep breath in, then exhaled.

Just then a flock of geese took flight off the ground into the air… and I thought to myself…

Taking Flight!

It’s a perfect fit. It also connects with the where I am at the moment.

I’ve most definitely had my challenges, and had to step back and take breaks from time-to-time, but my progress is evident in my consistency.

(“Just keep swimming!”)

It’s a bit surreal knowing that I’m closer to completion and now having to consider locations for film screenings and a book launch. On top of that, I’ve decided to host a private event for all of the participants of I Am More Than My Hair so they’d be able to see a rough cut before it’s released to the public.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve visited a few venues to hold my events. It’s a bit more costly than I imaged but that’s the way business goes. In my heart, I know a way will be paved to make it happen.

So, in this very moment, I am in the process of taking flight and excited about the possibilities it will bring.

My goal is to have an ALL FEMALE CREW. This means, a female…
1. Film Editor
2. Literary Editor (for my book)
3. Colorist
4. DVD cover designer
5. Music Composer
6. Sound Tech
7. Marketing/PR Agent
8. Fiscal Sponsor – (Docs In Progress) was co-founded by a woman, Erica Ginsberg!

Although they are men, I’m in luck with a great Book and Layout Designer. Robin Benson, designed my first book, Feminine Transitions, and he so graciously offered his services for I Am More Than My Hair. Thank you Robin!

In the meantime, I’m still raising funds through my fiscal sponsor, Docs In ProgressIf you’re interested in hosting a fundraising event at your home, or a public arealet’s chat. I can show a video short of I Am More Than My Hair work-in progress along with a Q&A. Feel free to forward this email update or link-   https://docsinprogress.nationbuilder.com/hair

Thank you for your support!

 

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I’ve been shot at and was setback… Maybe or maybe not.

I’m sure you’re wondering… Maybe?

Reading the first 4 words in this title is unsettling for me, and although I wish it were different, unfortunately it’s true.

On July 17, in the wee hours of the morning, a group of individuals did a drive-by shooting on my home.

I woke up to the sound of bullets shattering through the walls, the sight of sparks as it ricocheted throughout the room and the smell of gunpowder as the bullets exploded. I swore I was dreaming.

Not in Montgomery County, Maryland… or so I thought.

My husband and I are hard workers, both entrepreneurs, and have never been involved in any form of criminal activity and fought our asses off for the past 12 years to maintain our home (renovating it little by little all by ourselves).

So the question we were left with was…

Why?

And…

Who?

Who in the hell would drive-by and shoot up a family’s home and for what reason?!?

Since then I’ve felt different emotions, anger being most prevalent. Although I’ve been frustrated and had moments of fear, tears and prayers, I’ve had to do my best to shake off the worry and prepare myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and most definitely physically.

Thankfully, I planned a trip to California months before and was able to clear my head, take in the beautiful sights and get a change of scene for a few days.

Alyscia takes photos of La Jolla Cove in San Diego, CA

During my visit, I had the opportunity to film Mary Marshall, founder of Bald Mannequin Project and International Alopecia Day Facebook group, as well as a drummer, dancer, and diver among so many other wonderful qualities.

We connected two years ago about my project (I Am More Than My Hair) and I told her I would film her during my next visit to San Diego. At that time, I wasn’t sure when it would happen but the time finally came in July 2017.

During the interview with Mary, she mentioned a moment in her life that she literally had to “fake it to make it”. In her example, she was referring to her concerns while facing alopecia (hair loss). She went on and on with so many powerful statements about her experience and how she conquered her emotions.

Mary didn’t know of the shooting incident.

There I was… in Beautiful San Diego… still worried about what happened back home.

I choose not to tell Mary because I didn’t want to spoil the mood. She also didn’t know that her comments during my interview with her, empowered me and gave me strength.

When I returned to my hotel, I reached out to several of my spiritual communities, rehearsed certain Psalms and chanted for peace of mind.

I needed to get my sanity back.

After returning home, I connected with a priestess in an indigenous spiritual community I am a part of , and spoke with her about the incident. She made a comment that helped to put things into perspective. Her response was…

Haven’t you wanted to move for a while now?“… her question gave me goosebumps. I replied, “Yes, but…”. She responded, “So why are you still here?”

She then went into a discussion about how the Universe, although sometimes harsh, forces movement. Especially if we’ve made it known to the Universe that we’re ready for a particular type of movement in our lives.

In that conversation I had an AHA moment…

No matter how difficult the circumstance, there is a reason for everything and there’s always a bright side. 

theres a reason - oprah - alyscia cunningham

I’ve wanted to leave Maryland the first day I step foot here from Queens, New York back in the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to love and appreciate where I am but always felt there was something more, something better, a place I truly feel connected and can call home for my family and I.

In 2014 I traveled to San Diego for the first time and feel in love. In my soul, I knew that California was the place for me and my family. I just haven’t figured out exactly where (the city). Though San Diego is beautiful, I know it’s not the place for us. The biggest reason being the lack of diversity.

And today, as I type this blog, I open my email and see the subject “The Universe’s Plan for You” by Madisyn Taylor, one of my favorite writers. A section of the article reads…

Nothing happens without a purpose. Whether we attract success or repel it depends on our willingness to stay open to a wide range of possibilities and to embrace concepts like synchronicity.” ~Madisyn Taylor

I must be honest with you and myself and accept the fact that this situation changed my life. At first, knowing that I was just a few feet away from a bullet, left me in fear of my life. Given that my children didn’t sleep sound for a few weeks because of the constant nightmares, broke my heart.

Afterwards, considering those “few feet” saved our lives, I gained a different perspective and felt grateful.

In that moment of gratitude, The Farmer’s Luck came to mind (a wise tale I’ve read to my children since they were all very young). My afterthought was, although situations may sometimes look like bad luck, it could actually be good luck for a future time.

And in that I also learned, time passes and we often find ourselves “busy”. In our “buziness” we may have missed an opportunity to connect with a friend/family who may need our listening ear or support though a rough time or challenge.

I truly appreciated the small handful of people who were genuinely concerned and kept in touch to make sure my family and I were OK.

And to those who who knew my previous hurdles and considered this event to be another setback, my response is… Maybe… Maybe not.  It could be a blessing in disguise.

As for now, I have some serious work to do in figuring out my next move and having faith and trust in the process.

I took a break to gather my thoughts but I won’t allow an obviously unhappy and miserable person to make me unhappy and miserable. That goes for family, friend or foe.

I’m excited to  finish the filming and photo shoots for I Am More Than My Hair and finally now in the post-production phase. I’ll continue to keep you posted. Until then, please continue to support my fundraising efforts by sharing and contributing via my Fiscal Sponsor, Docs In Progress – https://docsinprogress.nationbuilder.com/hair

In the meantime, enjoy this short clip of my interview with Mary during my visit to California. May the solar eclipse bring positive energy to you and our world.

maryl-video-still-youtube

The Oprah Winfrey Network’s In!

Anyone who’s worked hard and dedicated much of their time to creating and continuing on a path that they feel most passionate about, knows that failure is a part of the journey. And without the periods of falling, one would never know what it truly takes to withstand the many storms that comes your way and still and rise to the occasion.

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Please remember that your difficulties do not define you. They simply strengthen your ability to overcome.” ~Maya Angelou

I’ve reached out to several media outlets for licensing or collaboration in order to use segments of filmed footage in my documentary. Most (knowing their guilty of the not so positive imagery they’ve produced) have denied consent. But I’m very excited that my first “Yes” of approval was given by OWN TV!

FYI, it is not an endorsement (just to be clear) but it’s a blessing to know that my documentary was provided with permission after thorough review of my character and the work I create as an artist. Although it was disappointing to not reach my campaign goal on Indiegogo, the love and and support gained, is an affirmation.

Every no brings me closer to a yes.” ~Mark Cuban

Donate to Alyscia's fundraiser via Docs In Progress

See the list of everyone who supported my campaign. As I persevere with I Am More Than My Hair, I ask for your continued support to help raise funds for my project by donating via my fiscal sponsor, Docs In Progress using this link – https://docsinprogress.nationbuilder.com/hair

I Am More Than My Hair is a passion project that has honestly been an extension of Feminine Transitions. It is about the transitions we experience as women that we feel necessary to cover and remain silent because we face a tremendous amount of pressure within society to uphold to a certain “look”.

What I know for sure is…

Beauty has no dimensions and the definition of what it exemplifies does NOT fit in a box. With that in mind… know that you are beautiful (handsome)!

I’ve been in hiatus, with filming, editing and photo shoots. Here’s a trailer I put together. It’s a honor to keep you posted… and I continue with with my journey.

I Am More Than My Hair trailer from Alyscia Cunningham on Vimeo.

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…

20160323_212946
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.

alyscia-crop-2493

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

Stacy-J_DSC_2455-
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