What is your name and does it have a meaning?
My full name is Maisha Azadi Sebastiany. My mother named me long before I was even born. In high school, she had a book of poetry titled Maisha Azadi. Maisha means "Big Life" in Swahili and Azadi means "Freedom" in Urdu, and ancient Hindu language. Being the amazing poet, writer and artist that my mother is, she was very much in tune with what her 1st born would embody. I value Freedom immensely, Freedom to love, to create, to exceed one's own expectations of self. And I have lived a "Big Life" thus far.
What is your expertise, and when and where did your interest begin for your profession?
It's interesting to think about what my expertise is. I think that I have many "soft skills" that translate into me being an expert on something...lol. But I think that my expertise is in the field of communication, more specifically in my role as an actor. To be able to convey stories that highlight the human condition is a skill. This expertise of mine has allowed me to take on various other roles, as a writer, and director and also facilitator. I absolutely love being apart of a greater body of work being done for the benefit of growth. So, the acting work that I choose to do is most likely
Do you represent a performing arts school or organization?
I represent Urban Actors Academy which trains talented young people to responsibly portray and creatively produce Internet content for and about their peers in the communities in which they live.
I founded this organization based on the need for greater diversity in film and television. My approach to addressing the issue is to re-educate young artists with a greater sense of self, an ability to identify and value their own cultural and ethnic background and how it lends itself to developing their work. The foremost goal is for more young people of color to actively create content not characteristic of the stereotypes and archetypes that mainstream programming provides but to offer authentic robust characterizations that speak to our shared experiences.
What forms of the performing arts do you practice?
In regards to performing arts. I am a trained actor for stage and screen. But I love the stage. There is such a difference between acting for the stage and the screen, one being the community experience between the performing artist and its audience. It's a reciprocal process and when you're on the stage you can either be supported and energized by the audience or fight from being disconnected and "deadened" by their lack of energy. Every night that you perform is an opportunity to explore something new about the character and story, whereas for screen, you better hit and quit it! Meaning, you may get a couple takes to get it right, (If you have a great director), but overall you don't know how your work is going to impact your audience, the response is never immediate but you still have to give your 110% without the audience.
Please name and describe any specific instruments, accessories or props you use when performing?
Heart, Body and Soul
Do you know your ethnic origin? family, culture, heritage?
I'm a mixed breed African! LOL... My mother's family is primarily from the Caribbean, Barbados to be exact and I truly relate to that side of me, because that's who I was raised around and because my mother also chose to raise us, ( my brother and I) in the Caribbean. My father's side hails from the deep south. Memphis, TN and St. Louis, MO. and I also have roots tracing back to New Orleans all places steeped in strong Southern Black culture.
What do you feel you've may have gained artistically from your family's cultural / performance background?
My mother is the world's most amazing artist, poet and writer... no joke! And growing up in the life of a child of an artist, definitely influenced me in many ways. Just the way an artist views the world around them; not being limited by the many boundaries that "civilians" place on themselves has become a great asset to me and how I approach my projects. It's given me this sense that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to. Everything can be done in a non linear and abstract way. In my performance life, I've gained an understanding that the process is just as important as the goal. The process that goes into writing that script or building that character is forever evolving making you a better artist every time you engage in it. I love that. My cultural ancestry impacts my accountability around my art and work. Knowing where I came from and my family's cultural background provides a patchwork of qualities to access for my artistic journey. Whether it be resilience, strength, resourcefulness, or even persistence, all of these qualities color my creativity along with my own varied experiences. I think it is our job as artists to remain aware of that which encourages us and nurture those things for our ability to serve the world.
How does it make you feel when you perform?
It changes often. At times, i feel powerful, and confident and freeing and other times, I'm so reverent and humbled by spiritual lift that can occur when your purpose is aligned with your passion. It's the most fun, but also the most terrifying.
What was a game-changing moment in your field in 2016, and how are you using the experience toward your success in 2017?
Moving to California. I'm using the experience of being in a beautiful surrounding to inspire me create and focus on my writing projects and to nurture my artistic self with a little more care.
What are the keys to success?
Persistence, Patience, Perseverance, Humility, Grace and God.
Finish the sentence, good headshots are important because...
they are the first introduction to you and what you can deliver.
Learn more about Maisha Azadi and the Urban Arts Academy by visiting: http://www.urbanactorsacademy.com