We had the good fortune of connecting with Sadia Alao and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sadia, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
My favorite quote is by Nina Simone. In an interview with Andy Stroud, she proposes that “an artist’s duty is to reflect the times”. Only a few words but they hold so much weight. It’s about creating art that can be immortalized as a glimpse into history. I believe it’s my responsibility, all of ours, to communicate the current world we live in — the good and the bad — to future generations. It’s a way to have a legacy that endures and succeeds ourselves. And this isn’t to say that artists can’t dream in fantasy or in alternate realities, but to say that our art must speak to humanity and inspire change, present day.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work involves uplifting and making space for marginalized lives. Creating authentic and valuable narratives for people of color, with a focal point on autonomy and empowerment for Black communities and production, is at the center of my storytelling. I believe my art encourages engaging albeit difficult conversations to be had.
An avid reader growing up, I dove headfirst into new circumstances and possibilities every day and discovered the art of writing and worldbuilding too. But as a first-generation dark-skinned Nigerian-American, I didn’t see much of myself growing up in books or on screen. I decided it was up to me to create these stories instead of pining over what could be. In 2016, I entered college as a Marketing major. I was depressed and honestly just going through the motions of life. The only happiness I found was in my Intro to Performance class. This was a place I felt I could be myself (while playing characters unlike myself) and the only way I could describe it was that it felt like freedom. That 90-minute class felt like freedom. I decided to add a Theater major my second semester and from then on, I was thrust deeply into the arts. I took acting, directing, voice, playwrighting. I connected with people with similar goals and interests.
While it wasn’t easy, the connections I made and my loved ones pushed me along. In 2018, I decided I wanted to create a poetry film about mental health within Black womanhood, a topic that I often shied away from in Black households. After this film, I received a grant to produce another short film, American Idol, which released this past March. In the process of creating this film, I grew my tribe of people who wanted to help me tell future stories and I also strengthened my parent’s faith that I could do this as a profession and succeed.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, and one I’m still working through, is understanding that comparison kills. Your own journey does not and will never emulate another’s. Comparing yourself only leads to imposter syndrome and self-hatred. It leads to a false belief that you are not doing enough and that your work is not impactful. These things aren’t true and once we can alter our negative thoughts and instead breathe life into ourselves and others is when we’ll truly reach our greatest potential.
Musing about a future where Black feminist thought and consciousness are at the forefront of conversations surrounding ethics and humanity is one of my work’s greatest aim. Living in the most affluent Black county in the nation, I grew up confused as to why I only saw one Black narrative in the media –where we’re the bad guys, impoverished, etc. My brand involves telling stories rooted in governance, awareness, and healing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m in the DMV area so the first place I’d take my friend is El Techo, a rooftop bar that serves the best tacos. After, we’d have to have a photo-op at the famous Japanese cherry blossoms on the National Mall and ride on e-scooters through the streets of Georgetown. I’d take my friend to Bengies Drive-In Theatre so we could catch the latest movie and I’d have to take them to an open mic night at Anacostia Arts Center or Busboys & Poets where I just might perform! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to dedicate this to
My mom, imole aye mi.