Today we’d like to introduce you to Tracey Lyons-White.
Hi Tracey, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
In 2014, my sister visited me after participating in the Atlanta carnival (when it was one carnival downtown). She came in the house barefoot, limping, carrying spray-painted sneakers, saying her feet still hurt and that she had the time of her life. She told me it was something I needed to experience and asked me to go with her next year.
In 2015, I was in the midst of a divorce and committed to playing mas to pull me out of my funk for the first time. I had gained a lot of weight that year, so I was insecure about my body. But, I was blown away by the infectious positivity of the experience and fell in love with seeing women of all shapes and sizes confidently in costume. I let my insecurity go and had the time of my life! Not even a full hour into the experience, I knew it was something I had to do again. I continued to participate in the Atlanta carnival in 2016 and 2017. I extended to Hollywood carnival in 2017 and have jumped in Brooklyn, Raleigh, Miami, and even Trinidad.
In 2018, I talked to a mentor about carnival in her office. I was under a lot of stress, and I just spoke to her about what the experience had been doing for me over the years. I was fielding questions from people who came by her office. Because I am a military professional, the joyous atmosphere of carnival has some dissonance with the culture of good order and discipline. I spent a lot of time discussing celebrations, explaining many things people didn’t understand about this experience, and dispelling some misunderstandings. My mentor encouraged me to create an Instagram platform to serve as a visual frame of reference. As I began to have more experiences with other masqueraders, I found myself immersed in conversations with people from various backgrounds and experiences regarding body positivity, colorism, and cultural barriers.
In 2019, I launched a mission statement inspired by those discussions in person and through direct messages (DM). I am proud to state that AWM serves as a sounding board and safe space for many people. I have had a lot of fun curating engaging content that educates others, inspires participation, and urges productive conversation. I never thought American Wines Matter (AWM) would be where it is almost four years later, but here we are!
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I’ve had quite a few trials, but I would say they are bitter-sweet because they promoted a lot of growth and awareness. I have dealt with this by continuing to be genuine and press on with my mission anyway. What drives me the most about this platform is that it doesn’t serve me. It is a platform that helps others.
My experiences continue to feed into a platform that is an excellent resource for people interested in participating in Caribbean Carnival but hesitant because of their cultural upbringing, body image, and other barriers. I believe that navigating a culture that is not your own will come with some bumps in the road. But if you are willing to be receptive, humble, and focused on the greatest good, you are setting yourself to make a significant impact on others’ lives by bridging cultural gaps.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
There are many carnival influencers out there, but AWM is a little different in that it represents a demographic that I did not see supported when the platform was established. This platform calls attention to that masquerader that is not of Caribbean descent. It speaks for women that aren’t built like the carnival models. It speaks for people who might be confused about Carnival but are willing to learn more. It speaks for the people afraid to play Mas but needs encouragement through education to get out there and enjoy the experience.
Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
After two long years, getting outside to participate in Caribbean Carnival is a reality. If you are remotely interested in the carnival experience, head to my website and Instagram. I am highly responsive to all messages and am happy to help you on your carnival journey! Maybe I will help you pick out your first costume!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention @tingznice on Instagram and her YouTube channel. I remember watching her videos when I struggled to learn how to prepare for Carnival, and her advice is still relevant. One of my favorite carnival bloggers is @bahamianista on Instagram. And although I am an experienced masquerader, I am still learning from her.
I have a highlight on my Instagram page called “who to follow.” It is a compilation of many West Indian content creators that will give you their lens on the carnival experience. This list includes males, plus-size women, and educational platforms that I regularly visit to learn about culture and music. Be sure to head over to my page and check it out; I’m sure there is something useful for everyone.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: http://www.americanwinesmatter.com
- Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/awmcarnival
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/americanwinesmatter
- Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/americanwinesmatter
Favor Films: instagram.com/favorfilms Aryanna Fortune Photography: instagram.com/aryannafortunephotos