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

Hi Stephanie, what matters most to you?
The value that matters most to me is integrity.

Your integrity is your personal resume letting everyone know the kind of person you are and if you are the one to be trusted to make good on your word. In business, your word is all you have and once your word is no longer good, it’s extremely difficult to gain back the trust of others.

What should our readers know about your business?
I am the Founder and Executive Director of The Vizionz Project Inc.. I’ve also been a professional vocalist for the past 31 years. I transitioned to a Blind Vocalist in 2009, due to diabetic retinopathy and was diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney disease at the same time, having to undergo dialysis treatments until transplanted in 2020.
There weren’t as many performance opportunities presented to me after going blind as there was prior to, and despite the changes and health issues I was dealing with, I was not giving up on my first love which was performance arts. After attending braille Institute Los Angeles in 2017, I learned there were many blind individuals who were extremely talented in the arts who had similar experiences dilling with The lack of opportunities to be seen and heard on stage. So, I wanted to do something to help that would provide fair opportunities for blind performers to have their art seen and heard by others and to bridge the gap between blind and sighted performers within entertainment. I also wanted to do the same for young aspiring performers to not only be able to perform but to also learn along with their cited peers, giving them the opportunity to have the same level of education. This is how TVP came about.
The Vizionz Project is a diverse and inclusive nonprofit organization that advocates Performing Arts for the blind and visually impaired. The majority of our programs and events includes both blind and sighted individuals. We should all be working together when we are all in the same industry. I believe what makes TVP different is that even though there are programs and schools for the blind that teaches forms of performing arts, there aren’t any that includes both blind and cited individuals. So every TVP event and program Will always feature blind and sighted performers.
Working together with other organizations in our communities is a goal we are determined to achieve. TVP is not a school. However, we are networking with schools and programs that provide performing arts training and education to encourage them to open enrollment to aspiring performers who are blind that would like to receive formal training with sighted students. When funds become available, we will provide forms of assistance to blind students with registration or learning materials to help them be great students. We’ll also host workshops throughout the year for those who are interested in receiving additional tips from industry professionals on stage presence, techniques, form, and instructor coaching to assist instructors who are interested in training the blind.
TV P was founded June 2018 and we launched our Vizionz of Music performance Event October 2019. VOM is an annual event that features blind and cited artists and is held in the month of October in honor of blindness awareness month. So far, we’ve been able to host two events. Due to the pandemic, we had to cancel our event that was scheduled for October 2020. However, both events were major successes! To my surprise, our first event sold out with standing room only. We had approximately 100 attendees and for that show there were music performers in the genres of hip-hop, R&B, jazz, pop, musical theater, and classical. We even had an all blind dance company. The second event happened this past October 2021 and they were performers in hip-hop, R&B, musical theater, gospel, and spoken word. This event was hosted by local radio personality from 102.3 KJLH, Aundrae Russell. The attendee said they really enjoyed themselves and was really amazed to see the talented blind performers and to be exposed to something new and different.
We’re looking forward to more VOM events and presenting more unseen performers to the rest of the world. Hopefully we will get more people willing to get involved with our mission.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LOL… that’s funny. I handle my business, but I am a huge kid at heart! I’m a foodie and love trying different restaurants. So my choices for restaurants would be… To hang out, Black Tap in downtown Disney. Their food is so good and over the top… Especially those shakes! for a steakhouse/fine dining, my choice is Ruth’s Chris steakhouse. I love love love that cowboy ribeye paired with the crabcakes for an appetizer, creamed spinach and potatoes au Gratin for the sides, and that darn sweet potato soufflé with the brown sugar pecans crusted on top! Oh my goodness. I’m getting hungry just talking about it. LOL
For A great pizza, I would choose either Chicos pizza in Lynnwood or Pizza show in Hawthorne. I like a good pizza pie. For Mexican, I’d go to burnt tortilla in Gardena. They are not a huge fancy and extravagant restaurant, but their food is great… And chips and salsa are everything to me. I haven’t had a drink in ages. So I couldn’t begin to suggest a place for great drinks. We would attend a concert or two, find a play or musical, hang out at Universal CityWalk, go bowling, and visit other friends and family.
If I still had my sight, I would love to visit a few cultural museums and go for a nice drive up the coast. Unless there was something else that they wanted to do, that’s pretty much it. I’m pretty simple.

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?
Who and where I am today is definitely thanks to several individuals I consider my “village”. I could not have done any of this without the love, support, encouraging words, accountability, and commitment they have provided and held me to at some point throughout this journey. My village includes my sons, Jordan (24) and Cameron (16). My sons are a huge reason behind me making the decision to start TVP. My mother, Parks and Russell families, my friends Jeremy, Debbie, Teka, Ken, Eli, and Tisa, the man behind my voice Bradley Baker, my right hand Sandra Walker, non-profit consultant Alicia Gaskins Barmore Who helped convince me to go ahead and start TVP, all of the wonderfully talented students at Braille Institute as well as blind individuals whose pass I’ve crossed on my journey who has inspired me to be better and to bring their talents to the forefront, and an abundance of other family and friends who have been amazingly supportive.

Website: www.TheVizionzProject.org

Instagram: www.instagram/the_vizionz_project

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thevizionzproject

Image Credits
Margott Skeene photography

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