Writing Partners Shelly Skandrani and Natalie Marciano Discuss How Their Creative Skills Are Effecting Positive Change in the Film Industry

Another positive interview for you all today! If you are or represent someone doing incredible things in the community, please visit our Features/Submissions page for more info on how to be featured on Imperfectly B.

Today, I’m honored to feature writing duo Shelly Skandrani and Natalie Marciano who have both acted in and written for several productions. These two are talented writers both of Middle Eastern descent who use their gifts to inspire change in their industry.

Shelly actually started out acting in the local theater in London at the age of nine. “I did two theater productions a year, three months of rehearsals and 40 shows over school holidays, per production. You could say I was dedicated,” she laughed. At the age of 16, she co-starred in the Dustin
Hoffman
-produced, Holocaust film The Devil’s Arithmetic”, which also starred Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy. After studying Theater and Performing Arts, as well as English Literature, Shelly honed her skills as a writer and moved to Los Angeles to explore writing scripts. “I studied
screenwriting at UCLA Extension, and discovered that because I’d read hundreds of plays, and performed in dozens of them, over the years, I actually really understood the language and structure, quite intuitively,” she revealed.

Natalie also got her start in acting and knew that she was destined to be a performer after seeing Michael Jackson in his famed “Thriller” video when she was only five. She starred in The Buck Shot Show, a children’s TV series based in Canada that resembled Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. From there, Natalie went onto perform in many theater productions, including The Vagina Monologues, over the years and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Theater at Concordia University. Though she was passionate about acting, she also realized that she had a love of writing and comedy and utilized those gifts as well after moving to Los Angeles.

The pair originally met on set when Natalie was producing and directing comedy sketches. Shelly starred in a few of them herself. “I loved her humor and we clicked immediately,” Shelly said of working alongside Natalie. “We stayed in touch, but it was only years later that we realized the potential we have when we come together and write as a team.” The two have been able to improve on their individual skills and collaborate on several projects.

The writing pair are also founding members of Women Creating Change, an organization that seeks to empower women to positively impact their communities through artistic collaboration in entertainment. “The film industry today, even after the #timesup movement, is still largely dominated by men. Men are interested in men’s stories, and this is completely understandable, but half of the world consists of women, and we want to see stories about us,” Shelly said. “We want stories that resonate with our struggles, our conquests, and our joys. The only way that is going to change is if we have more female writers, directors, and producers, who understand these stories, and make the decisions.” WCC works towards peaceful, productive collaborations with female creatives that breakthrough stereotypes, politics, and religion, to tell incredible, impactful stories, particularly for women in the Middle East and North Africa.

WCC Founder Lee Broda at the organization’s charity event Stand Up 4 Her

The organization recently hosted its second annual charity event, Stand Up 4 Her, which featured powerful performances by renowned female comedians, poets, storytellers, artists, performers, and musicians from Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Morocco, Palestine, and Israel, bridging cultural divides by celebrating diversity on stage. Shelly shared her own activistic poetry, “Social Conditioning,” which highlighted the issues women face while trying to find romance. Meanwhile, Natalie had her comedic set which told the truth about her identity crisis as a modern Middle Eastern woman. “Really the event was incredible! Magical even,” Natalie admitted. “There was a true connection between performers and the audience. We all went on a journey together!” Shelly agreed, adding, “The show itself blew me away, it was really enlightening to hear the stories, be it through comedy, song or poetry of all these Middle Eastern women. What was surprising was that even though we were from different countries, we all shared similar experiences in dealing with the world around us.

Shelly and Natalie are currently putting the finishing touches on their short film, Community, a dark but moving thriller about victims of rape and the trauma they sadly can suffer years later. With Shelly taking the helm as writer and director, the film stars Natalie (who also served as producer), Kaya Schafer, Chase Coleman (Boardwalk Empire, The Originals), Maria Olsen (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Paranormal Activity 3), and Rebecca Tudor. This writing duo was also recently hired to write a feature film, Climb Your Everest, which is now in development as well as a comedy TV pilot with creator Sahar Hagai, which is currently being shopped to networks.

In terms of their work, both Shelly and Natalie want to continue to use their gifts to inspire people to really look at the world around them and try to make it a better place. “We really feel that entertainment needs to have a mission, stories can be used to effect change,” Shelly stated. “In all genres, and even within comedy, you can highlight the global injustices that occur around you, and make people think, perceive, and behave differently.”

Their story is certainly inspiring to me as a writer to continue to use my own experiences to inspire others and help shape the world around me! You can follow both Shelly and Natalie on their Instagram accounts, and check out more from Women Creating Change on the organization’s official website.

Poet Luki Uses Her Gift Of Words To Positively Impact Others In Her Area

I am so honored to be able to feature Washington, D.C. poet and educator Luki on Imperfectly B today! This gifted young woman is using her passion for poetry to impact the youth and others in her area, and I was able to chat with her a bit about her awesome work.

To start, Luki is actually the poet’s middle name. “Once I started performing, [about] the first six months or so, it became an acronym which is “Loving U Kills Ignorance,” she shared. “The first [kind of ignorance]is forgetting that what God has for you is for you. The second thing is that the only way someone will have what’s for you is if you give it to them.” 

Luki feels that poetry was a gift given to her. Her own grandmother published a book of poetry, which was an inspiration to her. “When I started high school, she gave me a journal and a pen. And she said to me, ‘Don’t put it down because communication is going to be hard for you.’ That is the reason I write.” The poet uses her words to help heal, to grow, to learn, and to share her own perspective.

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In that same way, she believes poetry can positively impact and uplift others, start necessary conversations, and see things from a different point of view. She’s seen it for herself.

In addition to sharing her poetry at different events, the creative works as a lead teacher at Poet Life Academy. She and other poets travel to various schools throughout the Washington D.C. area.  “Unfortunately, in D.C., there’s a large number of kids that are committing suicide simply because they don’t have someone to talk to,” Luki shared. “What we’re doing with our school is offering children the opportunity to express themselves through art.” Kids can draw and create poems that share what’s on their hearts and how they see the world. Poet LifeAcademy also has a partnership with Busboys and Poets where they host a Saturday class to teach kids from outside of D.C. to also learn to be poets and perform on stage. The kids have also been on field trips to places like the Kennedy Center as well. For Luki, the experience has been nothing short of amazing. In the long run, it’s truly making a change in these kids’ lives.

Luki also is a part of an artistic collective called the Sistah Queens featuring other black female poets from her area. It started out as just a photoshoot celebrating black queens in poetry, but the trio quickly started to write poetry together. They even produced their own poetry show in Baltimore in November 2018. Most importantly, though, the group has become a true sisterhood. “It’s taught me so much about what it means to be a friend and be a sister,” Luki expressed. [It’s taught me] to show up for somebody when they need you and to be held accountable when you’re making a mistake.”

In terms of what’s next for Luki, she wants to do more touring and teaching to share her poetry with more people. She’s also developing her own curriculum for teaching poetry in 2019. The poet also plans to create merchandise through her clothing line, Organically Beautiful, which include shirts, denim wear, dad hats, buttons, phone cases, etc. “I am in a space now where I know that poetry is more of a business, and I can have more of a business standpoint to create the kind of future I want,” Luki stated. Which is all good. It should be a goal to do what you love and be able to feed yourself and your family with what you do! However, she also knows that she has a responsibility to give back to her community with this amazing gift, and she’s definitely doing that.

For aspiring poets looking to impact others, Luki encouraged them to simply speak their truth honestly and openly. As a teacher, she’s helping kids and others hone their craft, but their story and their words are up to them. “Nothing is as hard as it seems. You just literally have to get up and take that first step, and it gets easier the more you do it,” she shared. The poet also shared that it’s okay to be afraid before hitting the stage to perform and to be vulnerable with your works. Luki admits that she has fears everytime she gets on stage because her craft is bigger than her. “The day that I don’t get nervous, I’m disconnected from the gift,” she said. “Use your nervous energy to show people who you are because that’s what that moment on the stage is for. Do not be afraid to be who you are.”

Podcaster Chay Rodriguez Talks the Ups and Downs of Pursuing Your #GOALS

Glad to be able to feature another great person out here helping to impact others! If you or someone you know is actively working towards bringing awareness to a cause, promoting self- esteem, or working to make a difference in this world, visit my Features/Submissions page to see how to be featured!

Today, the spotlight is on Chay Rodriguez, entrepreneur and creator of #GOALS, a podcast “that caters to to the dream chaser, risk taker, and goal getter” in each of us. Chay uses the show to highlight the motivating lessons from entrepreneurs, which, in turn, pushes others to be greater and walk purposefully in their dreams and goals as well!  When Chay reached out to me about the podcast and her story, I had to know more and then share her inspiring story with y’all.

Surprisingly enough, Chay didn’t growing up wanting to be an entrepreneur. She actually wanted to be a lawyer, and worked hard to graduate both high school and college a year early. But, as she studied for the LSATS to work towards law school, there was hesitation amongst the crazy pressure to get the grades. “I didn’t want to live my life like that anymore, you know?” Chay revealed. “Just being so hell-bent on getting these great test results. And I knew that was going to carry over into law school, and it’s a stressor and kind of killer.” So, she moved to beautiful Los Angeles, and got a job at a law firm to see if working in law was really for her. Yeahhh…issa no.

However, being in LA was a blessing in disguise as Chay ultimately got bit by the big “entrepreneurial bug.” So around the age of 20 or 21, she decided to make the move back East to open up a swimwear pop up shop in Philadelphia. The creative found a pretty good space, sourced the merchandise, and tried to set up parties to help sell the product…but really didn’t put the work in, which, unfortunately, resulted in the failure of the shop. “I did everything to get up to that point. but I just didn’t have that drive to get all the way through the summer going 100,” Chay admitted. So she had to be honest with herself, and ask “What’s up with all of the self-sabotage?” She worked to get to a certain point, but then didn’t end up following through to get even further. Do y’all ever do that? I know I have SMH. Chay confessed that she didn’t promote herself enough on social media, and even tried to lean on other popping brands in Philly to get attention from their audiences. “I had to realize that you have to do this for yourself. You have to build this for yourself,” she said. 

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Afterwards, Chay decided go to grad school for fashion, as she was interested in the buying side of the industry. She got a job as an assistant buyer, while still selling her swimwear inventory on the side to get rid of it all. Chay also did a little bit of styling, helping to create fab looks for Vanity Fair, Russell Westbrook‘s True Religion campaign, among other ventures. However, she didn’t want to move to New York full time to pursue it.

So, the podcaster ended up heading down to Atlanta, dabbling in different things, but quickly got to thinking about next steps for her life. That led her to coming up with the idea for #GOALS! “What we go through as entrepreneurs is so tumultuous. A lot of us really have these ideas, like ‘I really want to create a business,'” she shared. “I wanted to talk to other people that were going through the ups and downs of figuring out what they wanted to do.” Which was a PERFECT idea because there are a lot of budding entrepreneurs and creatives that needed to hear some of these great stories and life to help motivate and encourage them. We all need to hear not only stories of success, but stories of failure and, ultimately, a lot of perseverance, dedication, and hard work that not too many people see. 

Thus, #GOALS the podcast was born! In 2016, Chay began meeting and interviewing other entrepreneurs doing big things, sharing their stories of loss and triumph, and all of the lessons learned in between.  Since the inception of the podcast, she’s interviewed some amazing folks like Brian Jones (video director of Hip Hop Since 1987), Jon Moody (artist and creator of Splash Paint), and Courtland Bragg (Emmy award-winning producer of NFL Films). In fact, it was Brian’s interview (the first for her) that ended up inspiring her to take her own #GOALS to the next level!

After taking a listen to a few episodes, there are serious gems that everyone can apply to an area of their lives, to be honest. Lessons of consistency, discipline, and PATIENCE (which is not my best virtue, y’all). Tales of pushing through fear, and leaving behind a steady footing at a 9-5 for passion and purpose. “I just wanted people to have these stories, because you don’t really hear it,” Chay stated.
Check out some great episodes below!

Though Chay uses #GOALS to share entrepreneurs’ stories, she also has used the podcast to speak out on important issues in this country and the world. The episode she calls the most impactful and important, was “Starting the Conversation,” an episode discussing racial injustice and police reform. “The mainstream media was not putting together the right voices to talk about this issue,” the entrepreneur stated, also admitting that it felt like a helpless issue. And watching people at work just pour their coffee, cracking jokes and go on throughout their day like nothing was going on REALLY bothered her. That pushed Chay to bring together an assistant sociology professor, a Black Lives Matter chapter president, and a NYC detective to have a balanced but raw talk about it all. I definitely encourage you guys to take a listen here

Currently, Chay is working on a special episode of #GOALS to address the “take a knee” movement that athletes are taking part in to protest against racial injustice. She has some great headwear and pendants coming out for listeners and supporters of the podcast, as well as videotaping the interviews as well. She is even working with a small team to create some #GOALS events to just give people opportunities to showcase their work and opportunities to better themselves. “I want #GOALS to be a lifestyle brand,” Chay said of her future with the podcast. “When you hear #GOALS, [you think] body goals, relationship goals, so we’re kind of dipping into different realms as far as events.” The #GOALS movement is definitely continuing to grow and have positive impact on other people, which is great to see!

 

 

 

Even though Chay is doing well as a podcaster and entrepreneur now, she admits the journey hasn’t come without its ups and downs. She’s had her share of breakdowns and doubts. She’s had times where people that she supported in their endeavors (and done favors for!) didn’t give the same support back to her. She’s also had times of comparing herself to other podcasters, which only ends up hurting you in the long run, and also getting caught up in statistics and views. “I had to tell myself, ‘Chay, stop looking at the numbers,” the host admitted. “When you get those texts from people like, ‘Oh my gosh, girl, this episode was SO good! I loved it!’, when you get those text messages, just take that as validation that at least one person is listening.

Of course, as any of us who have embarked on a new venture, Chay had to figure out the best process for develop #GOALS, switching up things to better the show and her productivity. She also learned and stressed to others the importance of finding people for your team that are aligned with your values and vision for your business or brand. The podcaster also encouraged us all to not compare yourself and your work to others. “Nobody can do what you do,” Chay shared. “So, if you’re comparing yourself to somebody else, you’re kind of taking away the fact that you have an individuality throughout yourself.” Definitely some powerful words of advice!

I personally have loved listening more to #GOALS over the past few weeks, which offers so much encouragement and inspiration from other people doing what they love, in spite of the hardships that come their way. Chay is one of those people, who has figured out her purpose and is using it to help others. Like I’ve said in past posts, when you know your gift, you should find a way to share it with as many people as possible and use it for good. That’s exactly what Chay is doing, and I wish her the very best!

You can check out all episodes #GOALS on the official website, as well as SoundCloud. Also, follow the brand on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Playwright Richard Torrence Discusses New Production, ‘Lord, Why Can’t I Do Right?’ and the Inspiring Power of Drama (INTERVIEW)

Another great interview for you guys! If you or someone you know is actively working towards bringing awareness to a cause, promoting self- esteem, or working to make a difference in this world, visit my Features/Submissions page to see how to be featured!

Today, we have playwright, producer, and founder of I’ll Make You Famous Entertainment, Richard Torrence!

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Richard is the creator of upcoming inspirational and comical musical, Lord, Why Can’t I Do Right?, which premieres on June 17 at the Porter-Sanford III Performing Arts Center in Decatur, GA. The stage play, directed by Shelly Garret (Godfather of Urban Theatre, Beauty Shop), is a powerful work about two brothers with their own demons and contradicting motives, who collaborate to start a church. “I honestly didn’t know I had this in me,” Richard admitted, attributing the vision of the play to God. The play stars Ashford Sanders, who is known for his appearance on Season 5 of BET’s Sunday Best, along with other social media stars.

lord why can't i do right

A full synopsis of Lord, Why Can’t I Do Right is below:

In life’s journey towards our true purpose, we often encounter temptation, self-doubt and resistance from others, including family. But it is by the grace of God that we can overcome these challenges and walk into our calling. This play tells the story of transformation as characters overcome drug addiction, near death experiences, abuse, abandonment and loss on the path towards self-realization.​
Kenny, an unsuccessful man by society’s standards, is caught up by a fascination with women, drugs and money. Following an unfortunate near death experience, Kenny’s true purpose in life is revealed. Now, Kenny must spread the word about the grace and goodness of God.
Kenny’s brother, DeAundre, is a white collar hustler, who is extremely successful at scheming the community to support his fake businesses. For his own selfish reasons, DeAundre offers to assist Kenny in establishing a church to proclaim how he overcame death.
DeAundre conceives a manipulative plan to use his brother’s church to expand his phony empire, while ignoring Kenny’s supernatural gift of ministry. When two brothers with contradicting objectives collaborate to start a church, all hell is bound to break loose. It’s a grueling life to live when your own blood cannot be trusted.

With this play, Richard hopes that his words leave people feeling encouraged, but also remind them to live a life of service. He also wants the audience to get that judgment of others is completely up to God. “People have to realize that our past experiences mold us to be who we are, but you can’t allow your past to hinder your future,” the writer added. “God has [a] plan to use everyone and, in this play, you see how even those with a messy past are used to spread the message of love and salvation.”

In addition to balancing his work with this production and a job as a junior marketing executive, Richard also serves as the founder of I’ll Make You Famous Entertainment, which has been around for over 10 years. Over that time, the company has worked with a wide array of talent, including Patti LaBelle, Shirley Caesar, The O’Jays, and Lil’ Scrappy. Richard and his team use their gifts and talents to provide management and consulting to those who are in the entertainment industry or who seek to be.

The company opens the door for talented playwrights, songwriters, actors, and more to use their gifts to bless others in productions, something that is very important to Richard. “ I believe people need to see an enactment of everyday life in a comical fashion with a taste of drama,” he said. “This allows people to [not only] understand the issues, but allows them to have an open mind to the solution.”

Currently, Richard is working on the sequel to Lord, Why Can’t I Do Right? as well as other plays, using his gift of storytelling to impact audiences in a powerful way. That’s definitely inspiration to me, as a writer in my own niche, to continue to use my words to inspire, uplift, and help others as well!

If you’re down south, make sure that you go see Lord, Why Can’t I Do Right? on June 17 at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center in Decatur, GA! There are two times for the show (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.), so stop in to see what sounds like an amazing production! Tickets can be purchased here. You can also check out more updates on the play on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

 

Christian Artist Rahn Anthoni Advocates for Special Needs Kids After Losing His Son (INTERVIEW)

Glad to sharing my very first interview for Imperfectly B! If you or someone you know is actively working towards bringing awareness to a cause, promoting self- esteem, or working to make a difference in this world, visit my Features/Submissions page to see how to be featured!

Today, I have the privilege to share the story of Christian R&B/hip hop artist Rahn Anthoni!

In addition to his experience as a TV host, Rahn effortlessly creates inspirational music with R&B, hip hop, and gospel elements, hoping to reach someone else with his words. “Music is soothing to the soul and, when you have the right lyrics, it makes life easier especially when it’s words of encouragement,” he said. “If a person is going through [an] issue in life, music can help.”

In fact, Rahn is using his music now as a platform to bring awareness about abuse going on with special needs kids. His role as advocate stemmed from the tragic loss of his own special needs son, Aaron Hatcher, in March 2011, allegedly at the hands of a teacher. “Aaron was a person who would show love in spite of his disability,” the artist said of his late child. “Aaron could not walk or talk, but he show expression with his eyes. If you were ever going through something, he showed emotions with you as if everything would be fine in spite of your situation.  Even though Aaron was allegedly abused by teachers he never showed any hate toward anyone.”

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For Rahn, he realized that it was important for others to know more about and communicate with those with special needs because they’re often misunderstood. “Special needs kids are creative and very smart. If we take the time to communicate with them we will learn that they are smart,” he said. “I learned a lot from Aaron. I learn to be patient, [to] love and I got a lot of joy.”

As Aaron loved music and seeing his dad perform, Rahn began to realize that he could use his singing as a way to reach the masses. “Music is the key that’s freeing me from the hurt and pain,” the singer admitted. Rahn recently released his track, “I’ll Trust You,” as a special tribute to Aaron, and is determined to put his trust in God no matter what. “I want all to realize that we have a choice to trust GOD in spite of what the situation is. I chose to trust GOD because that is my only hope,” Rahn revealed. “I want the song to let people know we must forgive and love in spite of whatever happens in our [lives].” That last part can be so very hard to do, but is true. Watch the official video for “I’ll Trust You” below!

 

Shortly after Aaron’s passing, Rahn, currently in Georgia, also started his own non-profit organization, They Can’t Talk, But We Can, Inc. (TCTBWCI), alongside his wife Denise. The organization provide advocate services for youth with physical, emotional, behavioral, or learning disabilities, as well as assisting parents and caregivers with special needs children. “We also work with legislation to make it better for our special needs community,” Rahn said, currently working towards holding government officials accountable if proven that they have kids in the special needs community.

TCTBWCI also has worked with representatives to get cameras in special needs classrooms in Georgia. The nonprofit will be hosting their annual Special Needs Rock Awards, honoring not only special needs kids, but parents, teachers, and so many others that are good in their community! This year will mark the third year for the awards, which is set to be held on October 29. The organization is currently seeking sponsors for the event, so feel free to reach out by email to donate!

Currently, TCTBWCI are developing a video project, The Aaron Hatcher Story, which will take people into what happened with Aaron. In fact, they are working with actress Chrystale Wilson (The Players Club, From The Bottom Up) to create it! Aaron and Denise are also creating a play approcalled, “They Can’t Talk But We Can” with actress D’Atra Hicks, who’s done plays with Tyler Perry. “I hope to see [TCTBWCI] as one of the largest nonprofits helping and giving awards on a major network for the special needs community,” Rahn said. “I hope to see laws in place to make a better life for the special needs community and we are the ones who [are] going to make that happen across the world.”

You can check out more about TCTBWCI on their official website. You can also hear more from Rahn on his artist website, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!