We follow Iyanna-James Stevenson’s Journey through her first cover feature on the Exotic Issue of The 7th Magazine. Interview conducted by Megan Huxley, detailed below –
1. From dancing to writing to producing and more, you express your creativity in many ways. What led you to calling yourself Iyanna the Model over another one of your other passions, like acting?
Iyanna The Model was a conscious decision based on what I wanted my main platform to be. Although I have been working as a model since 2012, I still found it to be easier compared to my other talents. And I felt that, that name would be a better display of my professional work. My acting experience, for example, has mainly been on stage. Since most people would expect an Iyanna The Actress to have countless examples of professional film work, Iyanna The Model seemed much more suitable. I think eventually, I will coin the phrase Iyanna The… and insert a profession or a skill to signify my expertise in that particular field. But for now, Iyanna The Model, who is also a dancer, actress, and bartender will do.
2. Sometimes creative people are pressured to master one area of expression. Have you always practiced many different forms, and do you think each form is necessary to express yourself accurately?
I have literally always done EVERYTHING! When I think back on when I was six and seven years old, I was in theatre – acting, singing, and dancing. When I turned ten years old, I attended a sports camp and practiced my athletics – running, swimming, and stepping. When I got into elementary school I was creating handmade – painting, drawing, and writing. When I got into middle school I was in music before transferring to drama – reading music, playing the piano, and performing. Til’ this day, I follow this trend. I truly believe I need to express each and everyone one of my passions to accurately exhibit all of who I am. I found that it is both physically and mentally impossible for me to stick to one thing, and one thing only. Even if I spend a significant amount of time on one particular passion, I know after a bit, I’d have to practice the other ones just as hard.
3. You mentioned that you work as an independent artist who is hired directly by production companies. Does working as an independent artist give you freedom that working with an agency wouldn’t allow you?
Working as an independent artist definitely gives me more freedom. It’s the equivalent to working a corporate job versus being a freelance entrepreneur. There are contracts, rules, and regulations given to you by someone else that you must abide by. These things are not necessarily bad or undesirable, but for the most part, they are limiting.
4. Expanding on the previous question, how do you maintain your expression of individuality when working with or for other artists? Are there times that you have to give yourself over to someone’s vision, or do you choose projects that align with your own vision?
Thankfully, a lot of who I am is expressed on the outside. I use a lot of fashion, hair, and makeup to express myself. Since this is the case, whenever I go on set, much of myself is not changed, rather its celebrated, even with working with being brands and commercials like SONY and SAKS on Fifth Avenue. I have been blessed by participating in projects that I love. I choose projects sometimes, and I have no idea of who will be on set or what the director’s vision will be – yet, it has always worked out for the better.
5. You have a Bachelor’s of the Arts in Philosophy and Law, Public Policy, and Human Rights with a focus on African Americans and Women. How has your knowledge in these fields carried over to your artistic expression? Is Goddess Collective an example of this?
People often ask me “what are you doing with your degree?” As if I have to actually “apply” this knowledge from what I studied in college. I always respond however, what I studied is who I am. Period. I am a philosopher. I was born with an old soul and relevant stories. I help aid people to make better decisions and to pursue the dreams they love and want. I am a Black woman who is political by nature, simply because I exist in this world, where the personal is political. My expression as a Black woman inherently holds my studies. Instead of worrying about how my degree would be used in the future, I ultimately used my college career to discover more about myself. Four years later, I am recognizing those beautiful things within other Black women who I meet and know. This is how The Goddess Collective came about. We are strong, Black women, who fight for ourselves and others, by talking about the politics of what it means to exist in this world.
6. What has been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned so far in your artistic career?
One of the most important lessons I have learned has been “showing up.” This phrase means much more than simply being somewhere physically, but also to be present mentally. If you show up with the passion, happiness, and charisma that is exuded from your fully energized self, you will be memorable. Even if you are not booked again from that same individual, doors will open up for you and people will know your name regardless. If you’re an independent artist, like I have been for the entirety of my young career, people knowing you is everything. If someone is to know about you, make sure they know nothing but greatness – that, will always pay off.
7. It is clear that you are confident in your sense of individuality. What advice would you give to artists who are struggling to express themselves in the way they wish to be perceived?
Step one: never care. Never care about what negative people may think about you. Especially, if you are doing the upmost to be yourself. People’s opinions definitely matter. It would be a lie to say that they don’t. but when it comes to the comfort, expression, and freedom of your personhood – literally nothing on the planet Earth should matter but yourself. I am free because it’s nonnegotiable. I don’t give people the option to accept only some of me. It is off limits to ask me to dye my hair a natural color, to dress more conservatively, or to wipe off my makeup. I am who I am and it demands others to respect it, even if they can’t understand where I’m coming from. My advice would be: push to always be you – push so hard that no one can except anything different but your authentic, true self.