We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexander Headley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alexander, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Well, risk is defined as some thing or situation involving exposure to danger. The chance of injury, danger, harm, or loss. Failure can be defined as the loss of success. So risk is really the chance at failure. Did that get too convoluted? The main thing to understand is that by not taking any risk, you’ve already failed. You haven’t given yourself a chance. You’ve taken yourself out of the game. So, and I know it sounds cliche, the biggest risk of all is not taking any risk. Risk taking is everything. EVERYTHING! Not just for artists but for everybody. I think anything worthwhile is inherently risky – in life, in love, in art, in business. It’s at the core of every great accomplishment. People who are willing to explore the unknown are the people who lead our world forward. The most successful people understand that failure is not permanent. Failure is not the end of something but the beginning of something better. Every failure is just one more step on the road to success, and this is the mindset that I’ve been trying to cultivate in my life and art. The truth of the matter is that if you never take risks you will slowly squelch your soul into oblivion. You’ll be milktoast. You’ll be safe; you’ll probably live a very stable sensible life, but you’ll be incredibly dull. Don’t ignore what makes your soul sing, for if your soul isn’t singing you cannot be a light in this world. If you are not willing to risk, you can’t grow, and if you can’t grow, you can’t become your best self. If you are not actively becoming your best self, you will never truly be happy. If you hear that little voice, listen, for the consequences of ignoring it are far more dangerous.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m in-love with humanity, at times equally disgusted, but I know my purpose in this life is to ease the suffering of others in whatever way I can – to spread acceptance, understanding and joy. Whether it’s through my art or a random conversation on the street, I seek to better understand the human condition and to build bridges of understanding and compassion. Extreme empathy is my greatest gift. I’m my best self when I’m my most empathetic self. Some people have a heightened sense of empathy naturally and some don’t, but I believe it can be cultivated. Art gives people a safe place to feel; it’s why movies are so popular. We see ourselves in the actors on screen, and we feel with them. We experience a vast sea of emotions without any real world consequences of our own. Then, we go about our lives, in large part closed off to the world around us. Movies and Art are a sort of release valve, but at it’s most powerful, art can inspire real world change, both on an individual level and on a wider cultural level. It can help us to better understand each other. It can help us make this world a better place. I’d like to contribute to the broadening of the human spirit and the betterment of human souls.
There is a quote by Viktor Frankl that I actually have tattooed on my arm and has been a guiding principle in my life – that is “what is to give light, must endure burning”. I know intimately what it is to suffer, physically, mentally, spiritually. I know what it is to lose what’s most precious. I know what it is to burn. I’ve always been highly attuned to the spiritual quandaries of man and have embodied those struggles in my own life. I’ve survived every possible emotion and have experienced a lot of pain in my life, but it’s the understanding of that suffering that moves me forward and drives me to spread light and empathy in all I do. There is power in sharing your self, sharing your humanity completely, and it’s that that I strive to do. This drive to comprehend and capture the human spirit spills over into most everything I do. For instance, in my photography I try to capture the unique energy of people at a specific time and place. It’s why one of my favorite things to photograph is live music. I love BTS and Stills photography for the same reason. Catching real people at specific moments in time. I love telling the story behind the story. Fuck, I hope this isn’t sounding pretentious; maybe we should move on.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh man, a week isn’t enough time to experience all this glorious city has to offer. I’ll try to share an average day.
First we’d wake up early as the city is just beginning to wake up. I live downtown and early mornings are a nice, relatively quiet time. We’d start with a walk with my dog Bosun; we’d let him do his morning business and probably have a conversation with whoever happens to be in Pershing Square at the time. Then we’d go see Blackie at Bohemia House of Espresso and Chai for the best coffee in the city – Date Seed Oat Milk Lattes with a shot of espresso. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Camel Milk Cortado. Blackie is a kindered soul and spreads love in everything he does. The latte you’re currently sipping on is definitely missing one key ingredient.
Then we’d head over to the Last Bookstore for some serious browsing and book envy. Of course, we’d have to take the obligatory Instagram photo in the tunnel of books.
From there, we’d head over to the Grand Central Market for a little breakfast and probably more coffee. Go Get Em Tiger does a fantastic drink, which is actually a flight of drinks and a rollercoaster of vibes for your tastebuds. It starts with a double shot of espresso and then a shot of their Fizzy Hoppy Tea. That’s the business portion; then the Pleasure part comes waltzing in with the smoothest of cappuccinos made from their house made almond macadamia milk. It’s aptly called the Business and Pleasure.
Then off to Griffith Observatory. I’m a space nerd and that place never ceases to amaze. No matter how many times I go there, I still feel like a kid in a candy store. Bouncing from exhibit to exhibit, hoping to catch the moment the Foucault pendulum knocks over one if it’s pegs. I rarely do. I like to take people there and see the same childhood spark of wonder in their eyes when the Tesla Coil starts up. There’s also some great views of Los Angeles. Then we’d race to Venice Beach to get a little weird. I love the whole vibe, so many different kinds of people – street performers, poets, hustlers, skaters, weirdos, musicians, lovers, transplants, tourists all smashed together. There’s something wonderful about Venice. Venice makes me happy.
Now it’s about time for a drink and some tacos. There is no shortage of tacos in LA, and I try to taste as many as I can, so we’d probably just drive around and find a truck somewhere or put some feelers out for the latest taco buzz. I could Taco bout this for hours. On the off chance we can’t find tacos by the time we get back downtown, we’re definitely going to Rice Box. I could eat Rice Box every day. Build your own box and Get the OG Char Su, The Porchetta Cracklin, and Grandma’s Beef Stew. It’s a lot, but you’re not done ordering yet; you need to try the cheesy egg roll. Cantonese comfort food is where it’s at. It’s probably a good idea to bring sunglasses so no one sees your eyes rolling into the back of your head.
Now, you’re going to be super full, but you have to rally. We’d head to Mezcalero for some wild Tequila cocktails to help us digest. Volcanic rock salt, burnt croissants and cheese are a few of the ingredients you can expect. One time my drink was served with part of an asteroid. How wild is that?! The drinks are easy to throw back, and the bartenders are friendly. Remember you’re drinking mezcal. It’s easy to lose track of how many drinks you’ve tried, and there’s a good chance you’ll be stumbling out.
From there, we’d head to The Streamliner for more drinks, maybe some latin dancing at La Cita, and we’d finish the night at Tramp Stamp Grannies. This piano bar is full of happy drunks and new friends. Sit at the piano, request your favorite Billy Joel song, and sing along until the early morn!
We’d wake the next morning, heavy headed and repeat the first two steps of the day. Then we’d go out and explore. The Broad, The Tar Pitts – these are good options. Maybe a flea market. KBBQ for lunch followed by a movie at one of the many historic theaters. More cocktails. More conversations with strangers. More food. The rest of the week would be about the same. Lot’s of eating. Lot’s of drinking. Lot’s of exploring. Lots of laughter. Oh, I almost forget. Obviously you have to hit a dispensary, just because you probably can’t back home. We buy our weed in Apple stores in LA. Who knew there were so many different, delicious ways to consume marijuana? Yeah, Los Angeles is a pretty special place.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to everybody who has ever loved me. Everybody who has seen me at my worst and loved me anyway. Everybody who has seen the light inside me, even when I couldn’t see it inside myself.
The list of Mentors is vast as is the list of those who’ve supported me through this crazy life – Teachers, Friends, Ex-Lovers, Strangers, Drunkards, One Night Stands, Fellow Travelers, Rednecks, Rastas, Burnouts, Milfs, the homeless man I shared that bowl of soup with on Venice Beach…like I said, the list is vast.
In particular, I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to a couple important mentors. First, Ron Parker, the Director under whom I first fell madly in love with the theatre and whose passion and mentorship I cherish to this day.
The second, a fairly recent mentor, Ranjiv Perera, who challenges me relentlessly. Whose honesty and thoughtful criticism is invaluable and whom I hope to continue learning from for years to come.
I’d also like to dedicate this shoutout to my biggest fans. My Mother, my Father, my Family, who are never shy bragging about whatever I happen to be working on at the moment.
Lastly I’d like to dedicate this shout out to Stringbean, the other half of Starfish Custard, the band that never was.
Other: IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm6750843/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Headshots: Nogen Beck Photography