We had the good fortune of connecting with Ebony Stewart and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ebony, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Wow. I remember when I first had the idea to become a full-time artist. In the fall of 2014, I was still working as a 6th-7th grade sexual health educator. I already had an agent; at the time I was with BE Colleges. Rewind: The year before this though, I had asked my agent Hilary what she thought about me becoming a full-time artist. And she was so matter-of-fact wit it, saying, “No, I don’t think you’re ready yet. If you can do both, do both… for as long as you can.” Fast Forward: That really stuck with me. I had no idea how I’d know if I was ready, what that looked like, and how long I could do both. I simply felt unsure of my abilities. I remember feeling so afraid, but clear that I wanted to be a full-time artist (paying all my bills with my art). Professor Cohen at Texas State had told me that I actually wasn’t a good writer and never had clear or consecutive thoughts. So, maybe he was right. Maybe this is more of a hobby than a career. And so, I continued doing both. I absolutely have a passion for teaching, so, I just did both. It was ludicrous though! I remember doing crazy stuff like: teaching a class, leaving the school at 2PM, catching a flight somewhere, then taking the red-eye back, changing my clothes and stuff in the car, brushing my teeth in the lounge, eating a quick snack, then teaching my next class again at 9AM. Crazy, right!? There were so many times I’d do that. Sleep in an airport, get off the plane, and go into the classroom, exhausted, but still trying to make it work. I don’t speak much about my work ethic, but my grind is impeccable. I’ve always worked super hard to have and get everything I have and anything I wanna do. I’m also a horrible quitter. So, I was running myself ragged. Students, being their regular pubescent awful selves… do you remember how confusing and exciting + annoying life was in the 6th grade!? There’s this thing that happens, still to this day, when I’m completely worn out; when I’ve done so much for others but forgot myself — I have an emotional meltdown, my body and emotions just… hurt. And one day in the Fall of 2014, while laying in the middle of the floor, tears running down the side of my face into my hair — I thought of the idea of becoming a full-time artist again. So I sent my new agent a message asking her to book as many shows as she could for me in the Spring of 2015. I said, “Do. Not. Hold. Back.” To be honest, she had just started and barely knew my situation. I’d say this had to have been in October, because at the beginning of December 2014 my agent emailed a total of 5 consecutive dates for January 2015 and 15 confirmed dates for February. She was so proud of herself. Whew Lord, my stomach sunk. I hadn’t talked to my job yet. I knew I couldn’t miss that many days, ya’ll… there’s only 28 days in February and I was about to be gone for half of them! I was actually sitting at my desk at work reading the email in shock. I got up and walked into my supervisors office and asked if I could talk to her for a minute. She looked up at me and became very concerned. I can’t imagine how I looked or sounded. I told her that something had happened. She asked if everything was okay and I didn’t know what to say to that. I began to explain what all I had been doing for the last year and what was about to happen in less than a month. I told her I couldn’t figure out though how to make both work. My head was in my hands. I felt so irresponsible; like I had just let a whole gang of folks down with my own selfishness. I’m pretty sure I was hyperventilating. Jackie looked at me and said, “I already knew this day would come. I was just waiting on you to say when. This is so exciting and completely your calling.” In that moment I was flooded with so many emotions and reminders. I have always taken risks, chances, and ventures because I’ve always believed in possibilities, hopes, and dreams. I don’t think there is an artist out there that hasn’t taken risks (big or small). The grind is because you believe in yourself so much that when others are banking on you not to know your worth, YOU have to know your worth and prove it to yourself that the risk you’re willing to take, is worth it. Along the way: Have I sacrificed, yes. Have I wished I would’ve done some things better, yes. But have I succeeded at what I had only before imagined or felt unsure or was gas-lighted to believe that I couldn’t do… yes. But I guess more simply put, taking risks remind us that we are alive, living, learning, and hopefully loving every bit of this life-journey we’re on. I’m still taking risks, and I haven’t looked back.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Money comes to me easy. But everything else has been a challenge. I’d say I’ve overcome my challenges with prayer, positive self-talk, and by remaining consistent in moving with integrity. I’ve learned to get out of my own way; that not everyone has your best interest in mind – some folks just like you for what you can do for them; that the government comes for those who don’t have much – FIRST; and that some one else’s success does not take away from my own – what’s mine is mine is always gone be mine. No bio can hold me, I do too much.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well assuming this is B.C (Before Covid), during the spring or summer, and AstroWorld still existed: Take em to the mall (Bay Brook or Memorial City Mall). Go to Turkey Leg Hut, Pappadeaux’s (on 610 or I-10), The Greasy Spoon, HEB, Cool Runnings, Houston Sauce Pit. Go to Sugar Rush for some sweets. Get our hair braided at Neat Pretty Braids. Go to the Zoo. Go to Astro World. Enjoy the graffiti tour and some spoken-word poetry. A comedy club. I’d probably take em by a family crawfish boil in Baytown, TX. And a live concert at House of Blues.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to shout-out my safety net aka my mom, my family, and my Gully support gang. Many thanks to LifeWorks, Jackie & Peg. Oh and of course… Professor Cohen who said I wasn’t a good writer.
Other: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Ebpoetry/Price-Range/Free https://write-about-now.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/ebony-stewart-poetry-bundle
Christopher Diaz Photography Yoeme KAYO Photography Jack Darling