Being Black in the creative space can be both a liberating and an isolating feeling. Wanting to be your truest self while, at times, being the only one in the room that looks like you. In LA, this specific type of atmosphere is even more defined in a town based on wild dreams, bright-eyed aspirations and hardened skin from the rejection in a Eurocentric-based industry like Hollywood.
Regardless of the art that black creatives are producing, some of their experiences are the same while the encounters are unique to the art that they create.
Cheyenne Ewulu, a Nigerian-American content creator who specializes in black girls who love nerdy things like anime, talks about being on YouTube, moving to LA and trying to get her foot in the entertainment industry’s door.
“I love having the platform that I do as a black creative because it shows other black girls wanting to follow the same career path that there IS room for someone that looks like them,” Ewulu said. “This industry is hard because it’s very ‘who knows you.’ A lot of times people only hire within their circle.”
First appearing on YouTube, Ewulu had her own channel, but she also founded a channel with her friends called PrettyBrown&Nerdy in 2014, which she left in late 2019.
“YouTube definitely helped me build the audience I have today and I will be forever thankful for my time on that platform because of that,” she said.
However, Ewulu does speak on some of the disadvantages of working on YouTube as well.
“On YouTube, it’s very easy to fall off, and once that happens, people stop caring. It’s scary especially for creators who use it as a full time job,” she said. “YouTube also has a hard time featuring black queer creators as well.”
Since her departure from PrettyBrown&Nerdy, Ewulu has had a lot of success in her recent endeavours in the entertainment industry. She has joined the Identity School of Drama which has alumni like John Boyega of “Star Wars” and “Attack the Block” fame, as well as Leticia Wright who’s in the Disney blockbuster hit “Black Panther.” Ewulu has also made her directorial debut with her short film “Ex-Roommate.”
“I definitely feel more confident now. My short film ‘Ex-Roommate’ was my first big project,” she said. “In LA, it always helps to have SOMETHING to show. Otherwise no one takes you seriously. But I feel like now because I have a body of work to show as well as a couple of film festival selections under my belt, it’ll be easier to get people to take me seriously.”
Besides having her own short film, Ewulu is a bona-fide anime nerd who loves anything animated, like “Dragon Ball Z” and “My Hero Academia.” In the past, she has been invited to the premieres of movies for both of the aforementioned animes, as well as going to a premiere of “The Lion King” last summer.
“I’ve learned that a lot of companies and brands are actually really looking for more ‘diverse’ creators and talent, which is GREAT. Especially in the anime realm,” Ewulu said. “A lot of companies are catching on to the fact that a good majority of Black people LOVE anime.”
And this is true. In the most recent years on social media, there has been a traction and outlet for Black people who are interested and love anime, like Instagram pages @blackgirlsanime and @blacknerdproblems.
“So now you see tons of us at big anime premieres,” Ewulu continued, “being invited to conventions as guests, and in my case — being hired as talent.”
Now being someone in the industry who has some experience, Ewulu has some advice for anybody wanting to break into the business.
“Find what works for you and be consistent,” Ewulu said. “I get people messaging me all the time wanting to work in the entertainment side of things like I do, and I notice a lot of them don’t know exactly what it is they want to do. Don’t wait for a big company to sweep you up. You gotta start creating on your own. Always have something to show. Start building your audience. Do. Not. Wait.”
Unlike Ewulu, who wants to be in front of and behind the camera, is an artist by the name of Helene Francoise Phillippe, aka Honeymoon Supply. Phillippe is an artist and activist who also resides in LA and has a wide range of artistic pursuits.
“My artistic practice ranges from anything like visual such as installations, virtual reality or fashion to sound design,” Phillippe said. “All in the theme of space inspired by my experience of alienation being a mixed black Latina in many situations I am put in on earth.”
Her desire to make art has been something that was innate, and she’s been creating things from a young age.
“I realized since the day I was born I wanted to be an artist based off of stories my mother has told me being raised around art. She said I always gravitated towards colors, lights and textures,” Phillippe said. “She said they brought me comfort, and then it was official when I was always drawing since three. Especially my favorite science fiction characters. I always saw the clothing in science fiction movies as really cool.”
However, even though she had an innate talent for the arts, she didn’t go to a design school to hone her skills.
“I did not go to any design school when I first started at 16,” she said. “I just watched a lot of videos, read books and studied the world around me! I was honored to have friends and family teach me basic sewing and other marketing skills so I just ran with what they taught me.”
With designs that feature futuristic neon lights and intergalactic women from space while having installations to display her art at times, Phillippe has no problem selling her art as a vendor.
“I love vending! I get to share my art, make income to help my family and continue my practice and meet new people,” she said. “The only disadvantage is if places make you pay before you vend.”
However, Phillippe is not only an artist, but she has also participated in a literary project called “This is 18.”
“‘This is 18’ documented 18-year-old girls around the world and their transition from girlhood to womanhood,” Phillippe stated. “The project helped me get my voice out as a young girl who is just trying to discover herself and her mission in life while watching other girls do the same.”
Phillippe has one piece of advice for aspiring black fashion designers and artists out there if they’re scared to start designing their own creations: “Be kind, be smart, make art and follow your heart. Mistakes will be made unintentionally but as long as you aren’t trying to hurt anyone and you learn from them you will do great!”