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Meet Ebony Jenae

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ebony Jenae.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started singing when I was four years old. I come from a family full of singers, so music is practically in my blood. At age 10, I auditioned for a youth gospel choir called the Soul Children of Chicago. During my eight years in the group, I was blessed to travel internationally and perform with the likes of Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and First Lady Michele Obama. After high school, I went on to study music with a vocal performance concentration at Columbia College Chicago. I discovered my love for film/tv after taking my first acting class as an elective. I loved it so much that I decided to take on acting as a minor. I started doing various student films and background work for local TV shows like “The Chi”, “Chicago PD”, and “Empire”.

After earning my BFA, I was stuck in my “what’s next” phase of life. I finished college and I wasn’t sure how I was going to start my career. Sure, I had been singing nearly my entire life, but it had always been with a group or for other people. I had never done anything as a solo artist and I was still new to the film industry. I prayed and asked God to order my steps and open the doors he wanted me to walk in. Sure enough, God blessed me with an opportunity to begin my career in Atlanta. So, I released my first single “Little Brown Girl” just before moving from Chicago so I would have something to market when I got to ATL. I chose “Little Brown Girl” as my first single because I thought it was an important message that needed to be heard. It was a chance for me to be vulnerable with my art because I really struggled with loving myself and my complexion growing up. I wanted to create something that would help another little girl that feels the way I felt, or that may need a little more assurance for herself. I was overwhelmed by the amount of love and support given to the song as well as the visual. Along with the success of the single, my acting career picked up tremendously. I’ve booked a new role every month that I’ve been in Atlanta. I love that I’ve been able to collaborate with so many other black creatives. The energy is contagious! I truly feel like I’m finding my bearings in the city and it was best move I could have ever made!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My journey has been far from easy. As a believer, I have to chose to walk in faith and not in fear; and its usually easier said than done. I moved out my mom’s house into my own apartment when I was 18. I couldn’t afford to stay on campus; so here I was fresh out of high school with a fresh set of bills. Adulting hit me HARD. I wish I could say my college experience was fun but it was extremely stressful. I worked two jobs while going to school full time. I was literally functioning on autopilot; school, work, sleep, repeat. I had no time to network, sharpen my craft, or truly get the most out of attending one of the top performing arts schools in the country. There were years where my grants didn’t go through and I had to take a semester off. Dealing with depression and recognizing how my childhood traumas were affecting my adult life, every fiber of my being wanted to quit. However, I stayed the course and graduated with honors, earning my Bachelor’s in just three years.

Moving to Atlanta wasn’t a breeze either. I didn’t know anybody. No family, no friends. My credit was bad and I couldn’t get approved for an apartment. I wasn’t in the worst place financially, but I certainly had no business trying to move to a new city. I was moving solely on faith. God had opened the door, so I believed he would provide a way for me to walk through it. And that he did. While the transition wasn’t easy, it was worth it. I’m in an apartment that I love, I drive a car that I adore, my career is continuously developing, and my mental and physical health is thriving. I’ve worked extremely hard for everything I have and everything I’ve accomplished. I embrace my struggle because I believe whole heartily that nothing worth having comes easy. One of my favorite quotes comes from my favorite actor, Denzel Washington. It says “Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship”. The bottom line is we only grow when we are uncomfortable. Nobody wants to struggle, but ultimately it forces you to act and progress.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Musically, I am still finding my sound. I love real R&B with a mix a neo soul. My favorite vocalists are Nina Simone, India Arie, Jazmine Sullivan, and H.E.R. I don’t aspire to be or sound like anyone but myself but these women definitely influence my style. I just want to create music that evokes some kind of emotion. Whether it brings you joy, makes you sad, makes you want to dance, gets you pumped for a workout, etc. If I can’t make you feel something, then I have no business creating. I’m currently working on my Debut EP “Unveiling”. It’s gonna have some great vibes and it’ll give my supporters a better idea of what my sound will be like since its completely different from “Little Brown Girl”.

In regards to acting, my mission is to tear down stereotypes of dark-skinned black women. We are more than just the loudmouth ghetto best friend. I want to tell our stories authentically and truly capture the essence of who we are. I want to be a pillar for change and representation for young girls that look like me. I don’t intend on staying in a box. I want to take on challenging roles and eventually write and create my own stories to give more opportunities to the underrepresented.

Soon, I will be a published author with the release of my book “Dear Colorism, Your Time Is Up!”. Colorism an issue that I am extremely passionate about. I struggled with my self-esteem all the way through my senior year of high school due to my skin complexion. I hated it because everything around me in society supported the narrative that lighter skin was beautiful and dark skin was not. The book is specifically targeted towards the black community because that’s where I received the most hate. I think it’s sad how we demean one another with all of the issues we already face on a daily basis outside of our race. My hope is that the book will shed light on the issue and challenge the black community to dismantle colorism as a whole. I also want other dark-skinned women to know that they are not alone and that someone cares enough to spark change. I get very raw and honest about my experiences and I also give a space for other women to tell their stories. This is the most vulnerable I’ve ever been about my personal life, but I’m excited to share part of it with the world.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was a loner. Even with having seven sisters and three brothers, I stayed to myself most of the time. This was due to some of the traumatic things that I experienced as a child, but being a loner ultimately heightened my creative side. I was most creative when I was isolated because my mind was clear of distractions. I would write a song about literally anything! I’d practice performing in the mirror with a hairbrush as my microphone. I just knew I was going to be the next Beyonce! I was super outgoing and fearless.

Sometimes I wish I could get that little girl back. The one that never doubted herself and believed she could do anything she wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, I know God has a calling on my life. I just wish I still had that innocence that didn’t allow fear and doubt to coexist in my dreams.

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