We had the good fortune of connecting with Jae Nichelle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jae, how do you think about risk?
Risk-taking is something I’m becoming more and more comfortable with. It’s the best way to grow, to me, and it’s been an inescapable part of getting to where I want to be. I took a big risk in 2019 when I dropped out of my graduate program for speech pathology to pursue writing and performing. Up until then, I thought I could do both. However, I came to a point where I needed to dedicate the majority of my time and attention to one of them to truly thrive in one and not just get by. Since my artistry felt and feels more urgent, I chose to pursue it wholeheartedly. It was difficult to choose to put my prospects for a (potentially) steady income on pause, but I know myself. If I didn’t take the risk, I would have always wondered “what if.” The experience has altered my risk-taking mindset. Instead of worrying about what could happen if things don’t go as planned or talking myself out of change, I ask myself “How will I feel if I don’t take this risk?” and “Will it have been worth it, no matter the outcome?” Even if I don’t reach my definition of “success” with my creative career, I won’t feel as though I failed. I’ll feel like I succeeded in risk-taking, pursuing my passion, and betting on myself.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Poetry, in all its forms, has been my medium of choice for a long time. In 2014, I was one of five winners of Youth Speaks’ national spoken word competition, “Raise Up.” That experience fueled me to study and immerse myself in poetry on and off the page. In 2017, a spoken word poem of mine about blackness and mental health titled “Friends with Benefits” went viral, receiving global recognition. “Friends with Benefits” was a turning point for me in realizing the power that my stories could hold and developing the confidence to continue to share them. As a kid, I always tried to fade into the background of any room I entered, not believing that I had anything interesting to say and not wanting to draw attention to myself. Spoken word has given me necessary practice on that front. As it turns out, I do have a lot to say. In 2018, I was a finalist for YesYes Books’ chapbook competition, which led to the release of my debut chapbook, The Porch (As Sanctuary). I am presently working on my first full-length collection of poems. While my work constantly changes as I grow and learn, my projects center blackness, queerness, and love while interrogating interpersonal and systemic power structures. They also examine how we, as people, use and are influenced by language and speech. Naturally, I’ve always been more than a poet, and these days I’m branching out into my different interests. Internalizing the power of storytelling I feel, I’ve now started my own ghostwriting and editing business to help other people get their stories on the page.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I shoutout Team Slam New Orleans (Team SNO) everywhere I go. I wish I could have been a member for more than one year (2017), but even that single year meant a lot to me. My teammates, Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa, Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley, Akeem Olaj, and Honey Sanaa helped me be the best version of myself and learn what it’s like to take my craft seriously. I knew about Team SNO before I moved to New Orleans because I was a big fan of Tarriona “Tank” Ball ever since seeing her feature at a show I attended as a high-schooler. When I got to the city for college, one of the first things I did was find a SNO show. I eventually got up the nerve to slam at one, and though I didn’t win or come close to winning at all, I remember Akeem pulling me to the side and telling me that I should compete to get on the team one day. Years later, I did exactly that. The team was extremely supportive and made me feel comfortable even as a newbie, and I’m forever grateful for the experience. So, shoutout to Team SNO!
Other: ghostwriting site: www.jaeghosts.com
William Harris Photography