Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Alexander.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2014, my company started strictly out as a t-shirt company. I wanted to create statement tees that celebrated the everyday Around The Way Girl, women who rap lyrics in the kitchen and use spoons, ladles, and spatulas as microphones, women who love their families and seek to be their best selves. Business thrived, but there was a piece missing.
That piece was found in 2016 when I purchased a Nikon DSLR camera, a “real” camera. I had been documenting my life since the age of 16, but, back then, I saw photography as more of a hobby. Something changed in 2016, a spark was finally ignited: I realized I more than enjoyed documenting my life, I wanted to be a catalyst of change and knew my camera would allow me to do so. I began taking pictures of West End, my adopted community, and it’s inhabitants. I began producing video content of the subjects that mattered to me.
From there, Phyllis bloomed into something I didn’t expect: my life’s calling. My photography grew hand-in-hand with my growth as a woman, a mother, and friend. Since 2016, I have participated in art shows, produced short films, and remained true to myself. But it’s a constant, ever-evolving journey! One I am happy to be on.
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?
There is nothing smooth about growth or growing one’s business. There have been creative blocks, of course, but the number one thing that has been a struggle is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of realizing my greatest potential. The last one is the biggest fear I’ve had. I have questioned myself: “Who am I to believe I can do all these things when people more qualified have failed before me?” and “You’re not formally trained. Everyone knows more than you.”
The backbone of my company is rooted in self-love and self-acceptance. When fear creeps in, I push it out by realizing that no one has my creative eye nor my vision. I knew this was integral to understand before any forward movement could be made.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Phyllis.Iller – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Through my photography and video, Phyllis.Iller inspires people of color to immerse themselves in themselves, never letting society determine their potential or worth. Much of mainstream media refuses to show POC in a positive light and I remain determined to change that through my lens.
I specialize in portrait and documentary photography and film. When I shoot, I like to create an atmosphere of uplifting energy and really aim to show my subject in their greatest light. This is an experience they may not have again! I aim to make it moments they won’t forget.
As a company, I’m most proud of always remaining true to my mission statement: love your dope. Loving your dope essentially means loving who you are, whether you’re a Star Wars geek (me) who loves biology (also me) or whoever. Love yourself! It’s the greatest gift one can give themselves.
Whoever the subject is, whether it is myself, my daughter, my friend, or someone I just met, the point is to celebrate our differences because there is NO ONE in this world like us. Why try to fit in when you were meant to stand out?
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My future is now! Inspired by the documentary Born Into Brothels, it was always a dream of mine to teach photography to inner-city children of color. In December 2017, I made good on my dream and raised $1,000 to launch The Illest Photowalk. Children are given disposable cameras and we walk around West End. They shoot, I teach and guide. In May 2018, I will hold an exhibition of their photos. I want them to understand that their photography is a tool to connect the world. And it was a success! Photowalks will be hosted on a monthly basis.
I will also be partnering with Emory and Spelman Universities for classroom mentoring and monthly portrait sessions, respectively. I’m excited by all that is happening!
I would like to dive further into exploring, understanding, and changing gentrification in Atlanta. West End and the surrounding Westside communities have been one of the hardest hit in Atlanta and, while I love new neighbors, I’d like to see West End remain a stronghold for the black community. The history of this area is rich and worthy of rescuing.
- Website: www.phyllisiller.com
- Phone: 4047721868
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @phyllis.iller
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/phyllisiller
- Twitter: @phyllisiller