Category Archives: Update

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.


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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.


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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).

 

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!

The Books Have Arrived!

THE SEED HAS FINALLY SOWN

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It’s been 4 years in the making of research, planning, production, and post-production… and I Am More Than My Hair books are finally here. Thank you to everyone who believed in my project, supported my fundraisers, and gave words of encouragement or resources to help me more forward.

This is not the end, but only the beginning of an entirely new direction. I have to hit the road with books signings, exhibitions, speaking engagements… and of course… I must sell these books.

You can now purchase on Amazon for $39.95. Remember, 10% of sales proceeds will be donated to Children’s Alopecia Project (CAP). I LOVE their mission: “Help change the emphasis from growing hair to building confidence.”

So feel free to order a copy… or 2… or 3.  Purchase your copy on Amazon.

UPDATE ON THE FILM

I am still in the post-production phase with I Am More Than My Hair documentary film. I’ll have a narrative rough-cut by the end of new week. However, I’m still raising funds to finish because after receiving the rough-cut, there are other steps needed to complete, such as color and sound correction, original score (music) and footage/music licensing (I’ve been working really hard to get permission for India Arie’s song, I Am Not My Hair.

So far I’ve been given access to footage from OWN TV (Harpo Inc.) and I’m very grateful for the permission granted. Your support to help me finish my film will be greatly appreciated… and it’s tax-deductible. Please share.

UPCOMING EVENTS

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Book Launch – September 9 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Busboys and Poets
5331 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20781

Join me in celebration of the launch of my book, I Am More Than My HairPurchase your ticket »

 

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Book Signing – August 4 @ 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Sandy Spring Museum
17901 Bentley Road
Sandy Spring, MD 20860

This is my first book signing. I will be on hand to sell and sign copies of I Am More Than My HairReserve your spot »

I Am Happy to Announce…

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I RECEIVED A GRANT AWARD! Through a very competitive process and grant category, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County has awarded me the FY18 Artists and Scholars Project Grant  of $4,229, to help cover some of the production cost of my film, I Am More Than My Hair.

Wooohooo!

I haven’t been very busy posting and sending newsletters but know that I’ve been focusing on the details, editing the film and book, applying for additional grants and raising funds in order to complete my project as planned.

New Release Date: Spring 2018

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You can help with my fundraising efforts by hosting an event at your place, or by a friend. I’ll be your guest, will discuss my project and show a short footage segment of the film and photos. Those who contribute (via check or cash) have the option of a tax-deductible donation through my fiscal sponsor, Docs In Progress. 

On another note, I was contacted by Median Máirín. Not sure what’s a Median? See here. Máirín is commitment to sharing her Gift for Good inspires Spirit FUNdraising™ — donor events with 100% of profits benefiting Good Doers! I am honored to considered as a “Good Doer” and would love to invite Máirín to a fundraising event. If you’re interested, please inquire.

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.

7 Days of Support

I am so thankful for the outpouring of support from those who’ve contributed from near and far. The majority of those who’ve donated to my campaign, are people I’ve never met.. nor had a conversation, which is actually the opposite “statistic” for fundraising.

According to statistics, most dollars used would usually come from your “warm network” (family and friends). Although a hand-full of my “warm network” has contributed, I was not blessed with an abundance of a supportive “warm network”. I can only be honest (especially for those who’ve asked).

Given that the majority of my 67 donors believed in and trusted me enough to support me, is a humbling experience. The work I create as an artist is my contribution to the world for social good. And though life will always have obstacles, I am do my best to continue the journey.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
Jimmy Dean

I ask that you join me for the next 7 days and support my crowdfunding campaign to help me reach as close as possible to my goal.

There are two ways to help:
1. Contribute – Ask your network to pre-order copies of the DVD and/or book via the crowdfunding campaign. Even small contributions raise the popularity and give it more visibility on the site.
2. Post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and others -In the end, the more people hear about them, the more likely they are to meet their target. Here’s the link – https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

I’ll do the hard work for you. Simply copy and paste the posts below:

Tweet it: With only 7 days left to support, help filmmaker @AlysciaCPhoto produce her documentary & book #IamMoreThanMyHair. https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Email: With just a few days left, I ask you to join me in support of female artist, Alyscia Cunningham, and help her raise funding in order to produce her documentary film & coffee table book #IamMoreThanMyHair. Through her project she is capturing the personal stories of girls and women who’ve experienced hairloss and is redefining the beauty of female baldness – https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair
Thank you for all the love and support along the way. I appreciate you!

Best,

Alyscia

Coming to a close.

I can’t believe that the end of my 30 day campaign is almost near. Anyone who has ever launched a crowdfunding campaign, or a fundraiser in general, knows that you don’t get much sleep. You spend much of your time networking, doing outreach, organizing speaking opportunities, following -up, marketing, follow-up, follow-up and still follow-up.

After all, it’s worth it in the end.

Reaching my fundraising goal is my target of course. However, the connections made and awareness raised, about female hairloss, has been a truly rewarding experience.

To help recharge my energy, it definitely helps when I venture out and meet various women for filming and photoshoots. It’s also refreshing that each participant’s meeting place is usually located someplace differently each time.

Spontaneity is a beautiful thing!

Here’s a short video I captured, with my cell phone, during a brunch with Sisters with Alopecia Group (SWAG) at Bus Boys and Poets. Aren’t they gorgeous!

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Please continue to help spread the word for continued support and contributions. 

I’ll make it easy for you. Feel free to copy and past the post below:

Twitter: Help artist @AlysciaCPhoto produce her documentary #film & #book #IamMoreThanMyHair redefines female baldness- https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, etc: Let’s support female artist, Alyscia Cunningham, and help raise funding in order to produce her documentary film & coffee table book #IamMoreThanMyHair. Through her project she is capturing the personal stories of girls and women who’ve experienced hairloss and redefines the beauty of female baldness. Donate via Indiegogo – https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

To everyone who has contributed by making a donation and/or sharing my fundraiser… Thank you!

On another note…

Freelance Journalist Christina Portilla, owner of Roam Free Writes, wrote an article about my project. I wanted to share my interview with you. See it at http://www.roamfreewrites.com/single-post/2017/04/03/Community-Call-Redefining-the-beauty-of-female-baldness

Much thanks to Christian for her interest women’s issues and passion to spread awareness about of female hairloss!

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

ACT WITHOUT EXPECTATION

We live in a society where the cultural norm is to give with the expectation of receiving.

I call it the “what’s in it for me?” syndrome.

Although this doesn’t change my mind about moving there, as much as I love California, that attitude was one that I noticed to be most prominent of many during my visits. I know that it’s not just Cali but worldwide. Especially in America, unfortunately.

In these situations I  can’t help but to wonder what happen to “giving to give”? Whether it be information, referrals, advice or monetary support.

I often meet people that respond to my candidness of sharing information as unbelievable and even questioning my “expertise”, as if to think there’s no way I can have knowledge in so many different areas (thankfully I live outside the box). Going deeper, when I volunteer my time to help children and those less fortunate that I, I’m simply helping just to help. I can care less about what looks good on my resume, or capturing images of me volunteering… I just want to make a difference in the lives of others.

When I launched a campaign for Keep a Child Alive, I did just that. Despite the fact that my initial introduction to the organization was a result of my research for Alicia Keys contact information in order to interview her about her “No-Makeup Movement“, I saw the significance and wanted to be involved.

I said all that to say, please consider giving to my campaign without the expectation of getting something in return. Knowing that you’re helping to make a difference in the lives of children and families affected by HIV is life transforming for those on the receiving end.

So I ask that, for a moment, we maneuver out of our bubbles and give to those in need. I hope that you will join me in successfully funding my campaign for Keep a Child Alive and other organizations you feel most passionate about. Please show your support (with a little as $5) here. My campaign ends approximately at 11:59pm on World AIDS Day, Thursday December 1, 2016.

Thank you,
Alyscia Cunningham

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