We had the good fortune of connecting with Jasmin Benward and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jasmin, how do you think about risk?
When I think about risk, I think about taking chances in good faith. Some risks are calculated, others, not so much. Many of the risks that I take bloom from different seasons and states of mind that I find myself in. In these moments I felt emotionally charged: angry, inspired, and curious being my top three. At times I get uneasy in my comfort. I get pissed off with my own complacency and I go for ‘it’. It being jobs I feel are out of my reach, getting over myself to initiate a meaningful connection, and so on. I deeply feel that creativity is my birthright-I’m inspired by so many people, things, and places. This feeling naturally welcomes more of the feel-good energy that I thrive off of. When I’m curious, it’s often a test of my own will and of the universe. What if I…My curiosity has gotten me into a lot of trouble, but it has also paid off quite well. It’s hit or miss-the essence of risk. Risk for me, has presented itself at rock bottom and when I’m up and feel like I can float through clouds. Whatever the cause, in my life risks are largely due to my need to move forward. It’s the inspired action that accompanies my desire to see, hear, feel, touch, and live my wildest dreams.

I do really risky things, at least to others. I’m often the source of push and reason for others to quit their jobs, move cross country, and generally get out of their comfort zones. I widely share my beliefs with others because I have done the things that I speak of-several times over. I have bet on myself time and time again with having unwavering confidence. What else is there to do. Over time I have received so much support and wisdom around risk that it feels comfortable to me. Sayings such as, “don’t be your own first no” from my mother who I adore or one of my favorite African proverbs, “when you pray, move your feet.” To me, the gift of life is a good enough reason to try new things. It’s something to cherish.

Taking big risks for me really began to take shape in undergraduate school. I attended Georgia State University for Film and Communication. I applied to intern at Viacom and got accepted. That same year in the summer I applied to a study abroad program for International Business and Media in Turkey and Hungary. These experiences helped shift my professional pursuits and worldview. It changed the trajectory of my life. At that time, Atlanta was not yet the film hub that we know it to be today. I needed to get out of the south and try something new. I applied to graduate school for Education in New York City and arrived at my school program interview with one overstuffed suitcase fresh off a Megabus with no housing and no job-risky af! I trusted myself that I was a big girl, capable of excelling in my classes and securing everything I needed to be okay. That year I decided to explore my sexuality more. I eventually came out to my family as bisexual-so many changes. I was a green, newly out queer, and Special Education teacher who would spend 7 or so years exploring so much more. As I taught, I could never stop thinking about my real dreams to be a creative , to sing, write, and create whatever felt good to me. My next risk and one of my biggest blessings was finally getting over my stage fright. I owe so much to my brother from another mother, Matthew Migliori, to befriend me and hype me up enough to do an open mic. Eventually we formed a band and featured around the city with other friends he’d introduced me to. From here, I’ve taken so many risk- I tried my hand at freelancing (and am working towards getting back to this), moved to LA on a whim, and have secured commissions and opportunities to join writer’s rooms, either write in full or co-write and edit plays, write books- it’s unbelievable, but it’s happening for me. I feel so blessed and fortunate.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art consists of writing plays, books, scripts, and songs. My art consists of producing music and (eventually) curating music for other creative projects via music supervision. My art is crafting and hosting family wellness events that include yoga, meditation, and nutrition. In my mind, my art is limitless. Art is my life.

I think what sets my art apart is the marginalization and versatility of it all. I like contrast. I like to throw topics, concepts, and styles that don’t seem compatible in a blender and make it work. I like sensory and hands-on experiences. I’m a lover of people-my art reflects that. I’m a Black-queer-woman-Buddhist- an outlier of sorts and it shows up in my art. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

At this moment, I am pleased to share a few pieces of excitement.
I have created a book series for children that’s being green-lit from my literary agent for early readers. It’s based on social-emotional development in fun and playful ways. I am concurrently co-writing a one man stage play slated to go to Broadway next year (my first play ever) and also drafting my first feature film set to go into production early next year. I will release my first music single, Never Let You Go, on streaming platforms quarter 1 of next year as well. Many firsts and much more content and events to come.

I do not feel like my journey has been very trying in terms of other people. My biggest hurdle has been myself honestly. I’ve had to write when I didn’t feel like it, and get up at 4 or 5 in the morning to take care of myself before I start answering to other people. I’ve had to leave comments on Twitter or speak up in the presence of people who could change my life instead of being bashful or feeling overwhelmed with imposter syndrome. I’ve had to exit my safety net as a Special Educator over and over knowing full well I’d rather be creating full-time instead. I have undoubtedly been my biggest obstacle. If I truly believed in myself sooner this wouldn’t be the year of so many firsts, but with all being said and with what I’ve learned at 30-I wouldn’t change anything. Not even the 8 years it’s taken me to break back into the industry. As soon as I took the risk to live authentically in my purpose-opportunities came so easily. If nothing else, please heed the inner voice within your heart and mind that tells you what you ought to be doing. Live in your purpose. You absolutely must. The ease, the creative challenges, the connections, the fun is there. Please give yourself permission to be you!

I want the outliers of the world to know that there are stories being created in your likeness. I see you. I am you. More BIPOC representation, more disabled representation, more LGBT+ representation, more family representation is coming-especially if I have anything to do with it!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh! I wish I had more to report. I’m such a work-home body these days, but my best below:

Wednesday:
Food: Don’t judge me- I endorse the Cheescake Factory’s latest seasonal slices. Turtle pumpkin cheesecake?! *Faints
Fun: The Grove- lots of shopping and some seasonal attractions/ live music (I’ll be at the 3-level Barnes and Noble)

Thursday:
Food: Hidden Garden-Culver City (Can we say roti/shrimp apps and Thai tea?!)
Fun: Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (Cool local view, the stairs are a challenge-worth it)

Friday:
Food: Simply Wholesome Health Food Store + Cafe (vegan patty melt-ooh!) (Black-owned)
Fun: Manhattan Beach

Saturday:
Food: Sip + Sonder- Inglewood (Black-owned)
I could literally sit here all day to write, plan, and vibe (and I do often). Try any of their lattes and you must have the cinnamon roll.
Fun: Goodwill (2823 S Figueroa St location) Crazy selection and killer houseware section.

Sunday:
Food: Hot + Cool Cafe- Cool vibes with killer cauliflower bites + vegan options (Black-owned)
Fun: Leimert Park Market (Recurs weekly on weekends) Drum circle with local vendors + shops (Black-operated)

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

So many people deserve a shoutout from me! My family, who supports me just as I am. My friends, who constantly connect me right where I need to be and inspire and push me to pursue my creative efforts, My partner, for seeing me through so many changes and standing beside me. My teachers, who have fostered me and gave nods to my purpose early on. My therapist who helps me maintain my sanity with all the worlds that I live in at a single time. Last, but not least to the Soka Gakkai International organization for instilling positive and progressive messages that I will keep for a lifetime.

Instagram: @writeonjas

Linkedin: Jasmin Benward

Twitter: @BenwardJasmin

Facebook: Jasmin Benward

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