Not everyday that I get inspired by someone instantly and I just go ahead and start following that person.
But while being a spectator to spectators on The Dark Room Sessions instagram page, I found Rare. She bodied her performance and then talked about her book which led me to her page.
And seeing that, I had to ask her to be featured on Women Crushing It Wednesdays.
Read her story and be impressed by her resilience as well.
So let's start off with your beginning. So how many siblings do you have?
Three. Yeah. three siblings.
Cool. Cool. Cool. Are you the youngest?
I am the middle child. All females. Yes, that's a lot of energy in the house.
(laughter) Growing up as a kid, did you always see yourself as an artist?
Not at all, actually. So growing up, I wasn't good at anything really. I did go to school where they had a lot of activities and a lot of arts and crafts. It was a predominantly white school. But they did have so much funding that they did a lot of fun things. So within classes, we would grow plants from seedlings. we would have those mealworms that you had to take care of and bring home is very odd. We did pumpkin carving. There was even a day where the principal actually had a school project. Not only a class project, but a school project. So it was when I was in primary school. So I think it was grade one to grade five. And the project for every single grade was creating their own book. So even the kindergartens had little doodle books, but the grade fives and such had books that they actually had binded. So they had the binding machine in the school and everything like that. And my book was based on fairy tales. So I did the typical princess in the castle, one to be saved, all that good stuff. But that kind of opened my mind to so many possibilities. Because the school had so many different aspects to explore. We even had quilting. So we actually have a giant quilt where I think grade fours or so we quilted a letter or a symbol onto a gigantic quilt and put it inside the school. So because I grew up in these types of schools, I was entered into a world of creativity. So I think that's where the seeds were planted within myself, where I seen that there were things that I could do, but at the same time because the school was a white school, the black culture never got to actually seek through. I was that one black kid in a class. So my mom did send me down to the Caribbean multiple times. I am Trinidadian, Grenadian, Guyanese and bit of Scottish. So my mom…
I know (laughter). I’m just coolie. A cook up pot with a mix of culture. So my mom did send me down to the Caribbean, where I got to see like Caribana, the foods, fishing. I got to experience all of that. But it was kind of a reverse because I've got to experience the culture and want to bring it back to the school and tell people about it, but no one there... They can't connect. They couldn't really and it was so hard for me to express myself. So I didn't. It was hard to find a place where I fit in. When I hit middle school, I went to a different school from high school because the primary school ended at grade five, but the middle school was also predominantly white. So it was really hard to find a category where I fit in and over time I just always felt so outcasted. I never really fit in with the popular kids cause affordability wise, I didn't wear the American Apparels and all of that, like my mom couldn't afford it. She was working a factory job, single mom of three kids at that time, and it was just, it was a lot going on within our family with my dad leaving and such. So it was so complicated for me to kind of just find someone to connect with in middle school that I just isolated myself and kind of just went into my own world eventually. And I really connected with like anime and animation, and I was just always watching those after school shows like The Proud Family and Cusco and, and all of that. So, um, within my neighborhood, though, that's where I did have a friends group where I felt like I belonged. I lived in Toronto Community Housing. So in like, the flats of the projects and such. So it is a neighborhood where we do experience certain things like gun violence, and robberies, and just a whole bunch of madness. We see drug dealings and such. So, um, I was in that type of neighborhood, but still going to white schools. So it was really, really hard to relate with others really hard to connect with those people because I speak slang at times. And like that vocabulary just never resonated with anyone. So I was always kind of... Middle school was just really hard for me. Primary school was really hard. But when I hit high school, that's when I was diversified to other types of people. But still, I found myself fall into the wrong friends group, and then eventually had to switch to multiple high schools to finish my education. So that being said, I started at Martin Grove collegiate. Went over to Kipling. Kipling collegiate was very drastic, because, again, wrong friends group. A lot of bad influences, but there was a teacher there that I really resonated with. I think it was creative writing class. Yeah.
And you were again geared towards the whole arts based off of that.
Exactly. So the creative writing prompts that he had us do just opened my mind so much. And I was like, Oh, this reminds me of primary school, when I did the writing and the books and stuff. So I was like, Okay, this feels like a class I enjoyed. So I continue to enjoy it. But um, there were friends that would always like pop up, Hey let's go skip. And, you know, you're like, Oh, I want to have fun too. And, yeah, I kind of fell for that at that point. And I didn't really know any better to be like, school is important. And education is key to life. But I was kind of just enjoying and having fun with these friends. I'm thinking friends last forever, and all that good stuff. But later down that path, I realized that that was not good. And then I ended up at Sea school. So one alternative school, and then another alternative school, and with this, just school was not for me back in the days. So like, I just found that I was a product of my environment, coming from a neighborhood that experienced those things. It might have had an effect on me as a person going through the education system. But once I got that last warning sign from my mom, and she had to come into school, what is going on? We're not switching any more schools, like please just finish and then she told me that she's been working in the factory for all of us to save to go to college. And I didn't think I even had a college fund. So I was like, I'm doing whatever I want. So that's that was kind of the meaning behind the reckless behavior of not taking school so seriously, because I was like, if I can't afford school, why am I even here? So that's what kind of discouraged me from really taking on education seriously. So within knowing that and her family telling me that and being like, Oh, I thought I was just like the last cause or something. I started to take school more seriously, but at the same time I was in not good relationships. So when we hit high school, now, you start experiencing and trying to find out what love is and such. I found myself in another wrong situation. So with that being said, I was distracted and sidetracked from school for a bit. But then I went to an adult school to just finish my credits. I was like, Okay, if I know I have a college fund, let me just put all everything aside I have to focus on my education. So I went to Britain Collegiate. That school in itself has multiple skill sets attached to it, like wood shop, graphic designing, animation, painting cooking class. And I was like, oh, my God this is wonderful. I could do so many fun things to get my credits. And the guidance comes with there was amazing. I believe her name is Sabrina. Sabrina Miranda was her name. Yeah, she changed my life. So I told her about how... I told her my story. I went to a domestic violence situation, before I even ended up going to that final high school to finish my credits. And I told her my story. And I was kind of struggling with some mental health issues and such at that time, and I ended up in a shelter for a year for my own safety and protection because of that situation. And at the same time, I was going to school because I was like, Okay, it's time to get my life on track. Stop the madness. So yeah, I spoke to her and she was like, honestly, from what you're telling me, it seems like you would be an amazing guidance counselor yourself, because you have been through so many things, and you're able to get yourself on track. And I was always helping others along the way in my journey, not even realizing it until I did tell her my story. And she found the strength within what I said, and pulled them out of me to calculate Wait a second, these are great options for you if you do want to go to college. But before we made a plan of how I'm going to finish my credit, she was like, you know what, there is a fast track that you could do. And I was like, What would that be? And she gave me a list of dual credit programs. So that is when you get to go to a college, you get to go to a college while you're in high school, to get an experience of the college environment and to get you ready for the actual college experience. But you would only go to that college once a week, but you would gain I think two credits, and you would actually gain a college credit in that field, if you did want to take that afterwards. So it was an amazing program. And I was like, Okay, let me take this opportunity to find out if I'll really be ready for college, and to get an idea of the campus I want to go to and everything. So I ended up taking... I didn't actually look up what this was, but I thought studio production was beats and music. Um, so I didn't really look into the program. I just signed up for it because I'm like, okay, studio production, I love music, this could be so fun. I'm gonna get some easy credits and just pass school, go to college. And yeah, young and naive, you know, you don't really think of these things too deeply. So I was like, Okay, let's do it. Um, I show up. First day at this studio production class, I walk in, and it's actually a live broadcast program. They had the cameras that they use at CityTV, they had like the news station area, where you sit and you talk. There was the switcher board, where like, they actually pull stuff together sound area mixing area, and I'm like there are levels to this media world. And that... I fell in love with that course, though. That opened my mind to possibilities, I think I never would have been able to get to especially where I come from. I'm coming from the housing projects, and you just don't get to see that. And I'm in areas of situations where I've just seen so much harm done, that when I was able to be in a whole new environment, it made a whole new me, it switched up my mindset altogether. I was like I am capable of so much more than I thought I can do so much more than a regular person can. I'm like, I am not a regular person. The fact that the universe has lined up certain things in my path, even though I went through so much trauma and tragedy and situations that I guess this is something for me. So with being in that studio production class, I was able to learn a lot around media, around what a teleprompt is and how to use it, how to produce my own little live show. So the final project was to create your own like mini show and everyone on the team would work together to make it happen. So there was a call sheet and different aspects of the film and media industry that I learned about and I had to put it together and that was like the first major test of the skills. And I loved it so much. I was like, Whoa, this is awesome. I have a team. We're creating together. Like what! Anywho, when I seen the final product project, they recorded it and everything and played it back for the class. My mark was so good in that class. Like I was doing okay in BCI as a whole but like to get like... I think they had like a contest thing if you hit the 90s or whatever you would get a discount off of your tuition to take that course full time when you're ready to come back for college. Um, but I hit I think like 89 or 88 or something like I hit really high and I'm like, Oh my god, I got a good mark. Like, I was just so gassed and so happy that like, my marks really good in this and I'm like, Okay, this seems like one of my passions. So Oh, yes. And we had a field trip to CityTV, like the actual broadcast, like we went inside there. And I never really traveled around downtown like that. And I know like, with the MuchMusic Awards, and like all that I would always be on the outside. But now when you're on the inside, looking out, you're like, Whoa, like, there are so many possibilities within that industry. Like just walking into the station, seeing there's a person there just being an assistant. This person, there, doing the security. There's a person there greeting guests. They're the weather person. There's the people who actually pull it together. The switchboard people that we had in class was in there as well. I'm like, Oh, so this is how they do the news. I learned about the green screen. I'm like, they're not actually they're. Like everything just blew my mind. And like being in that environment. Like I was just like, Okay, it's time to level up. Because what I was already living, I was like, This, ain't it! I have to go harder. I'm like, No, I'm not meant to be mediocre. If I'm able to come from the hood, and come into a place like this. What more can I do next? Sorry, I'm talking a lot. (laughter) Would you? Do? Would you like to? My bad.
(laughter) You went in there. You went in! Um, let's see. Cuz you answered like a whole gang of questions. So growing up, who was your support system and are they still around?
Oh, yes. So interesting. You’d say that. My support system came from the community. My mom was always working in factory. My older sibling would always watch us but she wouldn't actually watch us. She'd be on the computer playing Sims, this virtual reality game, while we sit there and watch her play it or I had very good imagination. So I'd find ways to entertain myself like cashier games with my other younger sibling, I would make my own cashier out of cardboard, or bowling, we'd use our books and a giant ball. And like we had, we used what we had. And we tried to make it fun. I was always creating arts and crafts activities for my other sibling. And like we'd always go outside. And that was our escape from all the boredom in our house. So we had bikes and I love to bike and rollerblade like, that was my, my favorite thing to do. My siblings and I or myself alone, I would just go out there and just bike the whole day. I'd go from morning. I had no money and I had no wallet. I didn't even have a wallet back then. Anyway, I didn't have nothing on me. I was just going out there to just live my best adventures and just do my thing. But over time, I got to know more people in the community. And there was... You look like the guy. He was like that guy for the area. Everyone was like hand shaking him, and being Hey, Lesly, what's up? It seemed like everyone knew him and I think he was like the community leader within the area. But I didn't know him too well. But I connected with this girl who was very troublesome and brought me to very deep valleys of darkness. We had some crazy times. Anywho another bad influence. What this influence did bring me to my major mentor that changed my life as well. So from the guidance counselor to this mentor, these two people were like the start of my journey. They lived in the same building... The mentor, his name was Lesley Oduro. And this girl lived in the same building so I would always go to visit her and she would always go to visit him. So we're like a package so I just went everywhere she went because she was like my like best friend. At the time, I was drawn to her, because we both had our dad's missing from our life. And it was just something we really connected on. And then we also had similar interests and we like to explore and stuff. So we just found herself very connected. So anywhere she go, I would go and then yeah, we would always go see this mentor. And he was always trying to spit some wisdom, always trying to educate us. We'd be rushing to go on an adventure and try to go somewhere. He was like, wait, wait, wait, let me just type talk to you guys about a vision that I have for the future for like an hour. So we're like, Okay, fine. So you sit there, and he just gives us the talk of our lives, talking about how we need to invest in education, take your time, spend your time wisely, explore new skills. He was very into the United Nations Sustainability Development goals. And very into economics, um, he had a mentor who mentored him. So his mentor was a publisher. So he was an African descendant publisher, that was also a university academic teacher, in literature, I believe, but that was his mentor. So he was there getting that type of education. But that mentor was very quiet to himself. But Leslie was very outspoken. So because he was mentored by a person of that status and had so much knowledge to give to him. He was that person who wants to speak iit to the world. He wants to speak it to the community. He wants to make sure that intergenerational knowledge was a thing for him. So that's why he like he spent most of his time educating the youth, because the youth are our future. And the youth are the ones who are going to be the next change makers. So yeah, so this is why he wants to spread that knowledge with us. He spoke about economics and, and talked about business development. So he always spoke about building his own business. But he also really tried to inspire us and influence us to start a business young. Start now. Because if you start now, you don't know how long you're going to have it for. Being in a community where we don't know if we're in the wrong place at the wrong time. And people are getting shot, young folks are in bad situations, drug overdoses and such, like just seeing all that around us and him, bringing that light to us to be like, if you start a business, you might get the opportunity to leave this place and get a better life. There is a better life out there. Since we had that voice of wisdom and influence, we felt empowered to do more. But I can't really say we because my friend didn't understand the power in what he was saying. So over time, me and her kind of distanced apart, because I love to learn. And I learned that I was growing up, like I was interested in all these things, but I love to learn and when he was spitting this wisdom, I really took it in, I really absorbed all this knowledge. I was like, oh my god, business. I thought about business and stuff for like, four years. All these years, I always took time out of my day to go listen to whatever you had to say, because I understood you like learn something new every day if you really tune in. So yeah, I took the time and kept learning and listening and everything over time. And I always thought, like, I want to have a business but I never knew where I wanted to start. I never really focused on how I’m going to make money. I was just like, I want something to my name. I want to be somebody because I'm tired of being a nobody. I'm tired of not having a place where I belong. I don't know what category I'm supposed to be in. Like, I just got fed up. I don't want to be a cat category. I will make my own category. I am me. And I will be me forever. So I forgot the point why I'm telling you this long, long story. (laughter) What was the question?
(laughter) I was asking you about your support system.
Oh, yes. So these major figures were part of my support system. So Lesley Oduro and Sabrina Mureda were the stems and seeds of why I took education seriously. Why I seen the power of learning. Why I was influenced into business and media. Why I could see the possibilities are endless. And that I could be more.
Let's see. So let me get a little personal here
Lawd have mercy! (laughter) I’m joking. Go ahead.
Actually before I get personal, from the posts on Instagram, I'm seeing you do these lives and everything and you seem like you always give yourself permission to go for what you want. And you mentioned having imposter syndrome. And I find every artist sort of has it in some way, shape or form. But with you though I don't know, you make it seem like you go for your goals and you make it seem effortless. And I just want to know, basically, you mentioned that having imposter syndrome and everything. I'm guessing also, when you go for your goals, there's always this doubtful, gnawing little voice in the back of your mind that's trying to prevent you from going towards that. What do you do? Or how do you quiet this voice down so that you can actually move forward?
I'm going to have to explain to you why I'm called Rare to answer that question.
You're killing off two questions at once. So that's cool.
Okay. All right. So the story of why I am Rare, will answer that question. So five years ago, I had a near death experience in a car accident with an axe and then had a violent situation after that. Should I tell the story of how it happened? Or should I just skip to...
How do you feel?
Alright, so that situation happened a long time ago where… Let me skip to the end story, actually. So that situation happened. And basically, the it happened because...
Before you do that, let me just say this. I feel like you're feeling a little self conscious. Because you know, you feel like you're giving long answers. You are answering the questions, you know, I mean, it's not about all you taking too long. You are answering.
That's the imposter syndrome. (laughter)
(laughter) But I'm just saying I recognize that, you don't have to worry. This is my studio. I don't have to rush you.
Like, oh, yeah, I'm like, I'm worried. I'm like, Yeah.
We got time. Okay, so you don't have to worry. This is you. And basically, I don't know if you've seen what I've done with WCW in recent weeks. But when I do the interviews, I transcribe them. People get to read it so that they have a bit of a taste so they can go to the website and read the full interview. You share as much as you want. Do not worry about talking too long.
I'm just like, this is a one hour story. So, yes, the story behind why I'm called Rare and how it connects to imposter syndrome. Yeah, so yeah, five years ago, I experienced a major car accident and a violent situation after that. That situation changed my life forever. Yeah, I did experience a bunch of crazy stuff before that. But this was just dramatically different. So okay, so it was a winter night. It was around 1 am. And before the event happened… The driver was my ex. He was saying like he was an ex and I broke up with him a week in advance, and he was trying to get back with me. And I was like, I don't want to talk about this in front of my family. I just come to your car to talk to you. It was raining. So like, let me hop in the car so I could talk to you. He sped off onto the highway, and he was swerving on the highway. I was fearful for my life at that moment. And he was swerving. And I was like, why are you acting like this? I looked down and saw he had drank and chugged a whole bottle of Absolute Vodka, before he came to see me. So he was drunk driving at that point. And I was already uncomfortable being in cars. And I was just learning how to drive. So this actually scared me away from driving for three years after the situation. But basically, I was telling him like, Oh, I rather walk on the highway back to my house, then be in this car with you right now. Please stop driving like this. I'm very scared. And I don't like it. And he was like, You know what, I'll just let you out then. And I was like, Are you insane? He drove off the highway, finally, and drove into an intersection. And he told me to get out of the vehicle. And I'm like, the vehicle is moving. And he started screaming and yelling at me. And I was very scared. So I put my hood up, and I jumped out of the vehicle.
A moving vehicle.
Yes. So yeah, that situation was very fearful. And then because I grew up in the hood, we were always kind of keen on not trusting the police. So after jumping out the vehicle, I went into a panic attack. And I was screaming and just trying to catch my breath. And I was so frustrated with what had happened. That I was being so loud, I think I woke people up and lights were turning on and stuff. And I was just like, I was just angry.
So you were in a residential area then.
Yeah... No, it was in like a regular community around like Dixon and Martin Grove. Llike within this area. When I got out of the vehicle, I just like panicking and was acting out, and very dehydrated, and I was like, Oh my god, what am I gonna do at that time? I didn't have a cell phone. I didn't have Uber. I had a flip phone. Actually, I was so broke at that point in my life when this had happened, that I only had a flip phone on me with a set of keys. And that's it. I've slipped over into peace. And yeah, so I was panicking and such and the police had came to the intersection. They was like, Miss, can we help you? And I'm like, Oh my god, they gonna think I'm drunk or something and, and misjudged me. So I was so fearful to talk to them that I didn't. And the same ex who told me to get out of the moving car had came back around and was parked up behind the police. And he said, Get in the car. At that point I had to choose. Am I going to talk to the police, which is something I don't trust, and I wouldn't want to get into any more trouble and such. Or am I going to get back in the car with him and hopefully he takes me home so I could just get over this day. I just wanted peace. I just wanted to go home. It was 1am. It was cold outside. I was like I'm not doing this. I do not deserve to get cheated. This is not fair. So I ended up going back in his car. And I yelled at him. He stopped yelling and he looked calmer. And I was like hopefully he came to senses. I yelled at him and I was like, take me home right now. I am scared and I don't like this and I will never talk to you again after this. Maybe I shouldn't have said that last part. Well, after that. He seemed normal. He started driving me back to the area. And yeah, so drove me back to the area and I'm like, Okay, I'm going home. He gave me water and I was like, okay, everything's good. But it wasn't, We turned off into this random sidestreet. He didn't say anything for a while. And the only thing that came out from him was If I can't have you then no one else can. I don't want to be in this world without you. And I was just like, Oh my god! Oh my god! I'm so scared. He put his foot on the gas. And it was a truck, like those pickup trucks with the back and everything. Huge truck, and he put his foot on the gas, put his head on the wheel. And I was shook, shooketh, period. It was intensely scary. And he put his foot on the gas and the car was going so fast on this snowy, dark, cold night. That it spinned off onto black ice. I don't like Wonderland. I don't like fast moving anything. I don't like roller coasters. The car started moving so fast. I felt like I was on that spinning ride at Wonderland. And not fun at all. Very scary. The car was spinning clockwise. It hit a fire hydrant and started going counterclockwise now. The ice part was so big that the whole truck was uncontrollable for him. And at one point, he hit his head on the glass on the side. And I think he became unconscious, but his foot was still on the gas. We're spinning like crazy, the cars going counterclockwise. Now we hit a mailbox and it starts moving like in a weird direction. And then I see a light post, those cement tall light posts. And at that moment, I felt an outer body experience. An out of body experience of seeing what had happened. But it was odd because it was like I'm on the outside looking at it. And I had seen that cement, light posts, hit on my side, break through the glass and wipe my head off my body. But I close my eyes before that light posts hit. And I just said please, because as I said, please, I see my life flashed before my eyes. When I close my eyes though. From when I seen my mom give birth to me and hold me in her arms with my oldest sibling looking over me. I seen blowing out candles, getting my first little princess crown. My bottle from my dad who left later on in life. My first bicycle. All those times of growing up and making a book as a kid, and quilting and planting these plants as a kid. I'm seeing everything up into from the primary school to the middle school. When people say you see your life flash before your eyes when you die, that is real. And I don't really understand the whole situation till this day. But at the end of that point, I seen where I stood. And the last memory from that flash of my life was seeing myself die. But at the end after seeing the light post, like in the vision, seeing the light post hit, and me and them and everything being dead. I was in a white space in front of these gates and honestly, I've never been religious. I did not grow up in going to church. I was always like forced to go to church by aunts and everything but I never had a personal understanding or personal connection with religion. But currently now I am very spiritual. And this is what opened my mind to spirituality. But I was at the white gate. I was in this white space and I'm still seeing it from an outer body experience. And there's just a gate there and I was like God if you are real, if you are there and if you can hear me, I got on my knees and I was like Listen, my mom needs me. I did not do anything in my life. I just seen my life flash before my eyes. I did not accomplish anything. I was not proud of what had I have done in my life. And I was like if I am to go today, what have I mounted my life to what did I do for me, my family, my name anything. I was not happy with going out that point. And I said, if you send me back right now, I swear to you that I will make a change, I will make an impact, I will do everything I need to do to be great. I will unlock my purpose. Like I just started spitting facts right there. I was just like, I swear, I swear to God, if you're real, if you were there, if someone is here, someone's hearing me, please bring me back and bring this guy back to. I prayed for his safety, even though he had done me wrong. I still prayed that we both come back on this earth alive. But before I could open my eyes, I breathed. And I felt... My real name is Natalie. I felt my first soul leave. So like who I was before, had left. I felt like something was taken from me, in that moment or something. And when I had opened my eyes and inhaled, there was a shock throughout my whole body. And I felt rebirth. And I was alive. And the glass did not break and the car stopped at that light post, where I guess I was rebirth, or brought back to life. At that point, I'm not very clear on everything but and there's no possible way this vehicle could stop because he was not in control. I was not in control. We were supposed to die. Um, and the funniest thing is, when I did open my eyes, that truck had stopped in front of someone's bungalow home. So if the car continued at that speed, it would have killed not only us, but the people in that home and it would have ran through their house. It would have destroyed a lot. So within that moment, I felt like a new person. And I believe that it is rare to come back alive and given a second chance. And I think that second chance is to discover my purpose. And Natalie still lives in my subconscious. And I believe that's where I get my imposter syndrome from. Because I was very shy, I was very timid, I'd never had a category I didn't fit in. I wasn't skilled, I just felt so outcasted and I still sometimes feel like that to this day. So that's where the imposter syndrome comes from. That's where those thoughts and negative feelings in my head come from. I feel like it is from my past self. And who I am now is completely the opposite of who I was before. I am very ambitious. Now I'm very driven. I love to learn new skills. I try new things. I'm open minded, but I just wasn't like that before. So I constantly feel like I'm in a battle with myself all the time. And that is the story of Rare.
Nice. Nice. I... Wow. I'll see I'll see that. Wow, for one. Wow. What an experience. Yes. What an experience. Interesting.
And if you actually seen on my page, there is an animation there that I tried to create my story in a visual. But the visual is a 3D animation. So using the film skills that I developed currently, and understanding how storytelling and such, I collaborated with another black artist in this area in this city, and his Instagram is the SurrealGod or something like that. And he does 3D animation. And I told him my story. And I was like, would you be able to create a visual that showcases Natalie meets rare and how they combine to create Rare’s World aka my own universe where I think I might come from.
So you know something... The whole imposter syndrome, right? Someone said something to me, which I decided I'm going to take that on. You got Bruce Wayne, and you got Batman. Sometimes Bruce Wayne and Batman have to be shown to people you trust. It's not so much an imposter syndrome. Your personalities like Natalie, who's, I guess you could say the shy one. But you got Rare also, who is the superhero. That's a different perspective, I guess you could say.
I do like that perspective, because now it's something that I can help people understand, too. Because before I was just like, people don't understand why I wanted to be called Rare instead of Natalie. And I didn't want to always have to tell them that long story every single time. So I was like, do you call Drake Aubrey? I'm like, you know, his real name is Aubrey. Most people call him Drake. And I'm like, I am an artist. And I am so multifaceted. I believe that I deserve the respect of being called Rare over my past self. And I feel like those who still call me Natalie, it kind of itches my soul. Because I feel like they don't understand where Rare stems from.
They don't understand the journey. I guess I could call it disrespect because how you don't know me enough to call me by my name. For you, to address me like that.
I mean, this is what I call self awareness. Yes. You know, which levels your respect goes at. I mean, you know, me, you could call me Natalie. You, you don't. You have no right to call me by that name. Unless you get to know me like that.
And I don't, I don't feel like everyone deserves the access of understanding that level. So that’s why at times, I’m like Hey! Do you mind just calling you Rare instead of Natalie? I would highly appreciate it. So that's actually the reasoning of why I tattooed Rare on my neck, because it's a high level of respect for myself as well. So I had a choice to tattoo it on my ankle, or my neck. And I was like, I feel like, on my neck makes more sense, because it's more connected to the mind where the soul lives.
Oh, man. This is good stuff. Now, I'm again in your business. Your love life.
Yeah! I can speak on it a little bit. Um, love after trauma has been hard,
Before you continue, I want to make sure with this one. You shared a lot already about your experiences you've had, which basically I could understand why you would not jump into either a relationship or even like, any type of situation with anyone.
When I talk about love… This is me switching around my question based off of your past answers. Again, self awareness, you find yourself looking for something different than what you've experienced.
I've interviewed artists who are married. And I find that when you find a partner that you want to spend the rest of your life with, there's a quality in them that complements who you are that feeds off your artistry, right?
Are you actively looking for that quality? Or are you putting yourself in so much work that you’re avoiding it?
Okay. So, love after trauma has been extremely difficult. Um, it's not only the trauma that adds to figuring out what love is and where to find it. It's also the aspect of having a missing father figure, too. So with that happening, and my mom always at work, I really just wanted someone to really love, cherish and take care of me, which was what I found myself searching for. But I kept finding it in the wrong people. Same with the wrong friends group that I spoke about, I always found that every time I tried something with someone, it's always no this wrong. Or I just didn't have the patience to fix it. Or I just never understood. And that's what made it really hard to find someone solid especially with being treated wrongfully, multiple times. So I experienced major trust issues with relationships. I never understood what it's like that the person is really supposed to be loyal to me, like all the other traits of I believe, that come with love. I never understood what those were. So I found myself looking for love in the wrong places. And this is how I kind of fell into certain situations. So over time, I just got really fed up and stuck my head in so much work that I had no time for it anymore. I was like, I'm not. I'm not gonna let anyone have access to me like that. I don't want to get to know people anymore. Like I was just so over it, that I was like, I'm good by myself. I don't want to do this anymore. And it really made me stray from a lot of relationships. Because I wasn't sure if it was a good or a bad one. And yeah, it was just a struggle for me. I even noticed. I still don't know to this day, honestly,
I don't really know. This is interesting. Because you're looking to protect yourself so much, do you find yourself starting something with someone and then in order to protect yourself, you have to act in a way that they might deem to be hurtful, but for you, it's like your self-preservation at the end of the day, right?
Um, somewhat, I never actually got into like, serious relationships. I found myself like, dating people for 3-4 months, and then just becoming very uninterested. I couldn't find people I was actually interested in. I wasn't sure what I was looking for. And just every time I seen what I seen, after the experience, and this being Rare... It came with some attributes of understanding of, I think the universe blessed me with some type of attributes that made me be able to see the energy of people. And to already know if something's not gonna go well. I could just predict it. Just from a couple conversations with someone, I can understand what type of person they are. How they act when they're angry, disturbed, sad, and I would also ask them verbally too. So my self awareness level became very ridiculously heightened. And I was able to just know if it's gonna work out or not immediately. So I just found myself like just getting to know people for like a while and just knowing like, this is not long term. And I was just trying to find something solid. So I can fill that void in my heart. I got layers on layers of all types of stuff. And guess my age?
Your age? I was going to say 24.
Yeah. I've been through all of that until now.
Folks who have experienced trauma have had to grow up very fast. Especially at a young age, because a young child can’t actually deal with that particular level of trauma. And they cannot revert back to being a kid. It's different. Very different.
Yeah, there are a lot of layers where I did have to grow up even faster, because my dad had left. So that was a major, major factor, because my mom was always in the factory, and my oldest sibling did not want that responsibility. And being the middle child, it actually fell on me to actually take care of my oldest sibling, and my younger sibling. So I actually became the mom of my house, so my mom wasn't there. So on top of the trauma of relationships, friendships, school, everything, I found myself having to grow up so so fast, and I've always been independent, as a kid, as a youth just growing up. And I'm just like, okay, Hustle, Hustle, Hustle, Hustle, because who's gonna do it for you? There's no one out there to save you. So you have to. So yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah. As my mentor always influenced us for entrepreneurship and business, I started doing bake sales in my community and selling cupcakes. I transitioned. I still started off selling cupcakes. Oh, and then after that, newspaper routes. Anything, just to make some change. Because I didn't grow up with a lot like we didn't. I came from nothing. So I just really want to make something out of nothing so bad. That's why I absorbed the education when it came to me because I know that it was golden words that were smoking. And with the paper route, that's when I made my first like 100 something dollars and I was like, I always loved photography, and I was my family's photographer forever. And my mom was always handing me the disposable Kodak. And I was always excited. We had a Shoppers across the street from our house and I was like, Mom, can we go develop it today, I just want to see the photos. I just wanted to make sure I did a good job. I was just so excited to see the photos and put in the album and everything. And with that, with that little 100 something dollars, I went to Best Buy and I bought my first point and shoot camera. And from that I was taking photos of my friends sending it to them, and I was making their Facebook look nice. And I was like, I'll take the photos. I was always volunteering, I was in it. And that was my escape from reality. My first escape from reality, the photos, the capturing the beauty and others, it made me feel good when everything else felt wrong. It was a safe space for me. And that point and shoot camera for years... When I went biking and just explored, I would go by myself, I started just going by myself and just taking photos of everything and everyone. I was outrageous at one point where I was asking strangers I'm like, Hi! You really pretty. Like, I don't know, I think I was a bit of a weird person. But I was just so excited. I was like, I just got this. I just tell them I was like, Hey, I got a camera like I think I'm good at photo. So can I take a photo.
You got to stop putting like these... Like, I mean, I know you’re saying weird, jokingly but...
It's still sort of a connotation.
Yeah, negative connotation on it because you were being an artist.
I didn't know at the time though. I never even knew what the artist was. I always thought that the stereotype for artists was someone who can paint and draw and that wasn't in my skill set. I was not good at that at all. And back then I'm in a community where you don't see artists. I'm in an area where there is nothing like that. The schools I went through is only these white kids that had the best number two pencils, and the best art kits. And I was like I got mine from Dollarama. That's what we got. Laughing at me and everything. And I'm like, I've never had anything. So when I finally got a camera that I earned myself, it makes you feel better when I earned it. I was just gassed telling everyone about my point and shoot. And I just continue to take photos for a very long time. And that was my escape. And eventually when I hit high school and was diversified, etc. Before I ended up switching schools. I bought my first professional... A used professional camera from my friend. I invested... I saved up like five bills to buy that camera. And that was the best investment I've ever made. I showed my mentor. I was like look what I can do. He was like great, but now you got to build a business around it. And I was like a business. And that's where he continued to educate on the structure of it. And that's where I learned everything I needed to learn until I seen a flyer for something called for something hosted by BBPA, the black business professional association. So I seen the flyer for something hosted by some organizations that said Black Business Professional Association, BBPA. And I was like, Oh, that sounds professional. I took the flyer off of wherever I found it. And I shouldn't have done that. But I didn't know I was just like, well, let me bring this because I didn't have a phone and everything. So I was like I have to take it. So I brought it to my mentor was like, Oh, look what I found. Should I apply? I'll learn business. I’ll learn what I need to know, to make a photography business. He was like, yeah, yeah, go do it. And that's how I actually started my journey into learning about business and starting off that aspect of my life. But bringing it back to it all started with a Kodak. Um, yeah, I forgot what the question was.
To be honest, I don't think I think there was a question. We were just sharing and talking and we ended up bringing that story up, which was pretty dope. It actually sort of helps with the questions I had about artistry to be honest. If you were to meet someone who basically was going through what you went through, what would be your advice for them?
So if someone has experienced all that I have spoken about today, I'd have to tell them to truly be yourself. And what's for you will always be for you, and you will attract more amazing things that you can possibly imagine. There is so much in this world to discover. So take your time to uncover all of it. We are all in this world with a purpose. Whether you know it or you don't. But in time, you will heal and find your way. This is your world. And don't let anybody stop you. Embrace the positivity, neglect the negativity. And do what you have to do to get you to where you want to be. But try to do it positively.
Somehow feel like you're talking to yourself.
You have a book coming out?
When it comes to writing, I'm a huge fan. A lot of people, when it comes to writing, and this has been my experience as a writer, as a published author, when you tell them Oh, yeah, I'm a published author. A lot of people will tell you I always wanted to write a book. What is the process? Not the process of writing a book. But the process of going from I wanted to write a book to actually doing it. Considering you saying you have imposter syndrome. What is the process?
That's another long story. Okay, so in the times of the Black Lives Matter movement (laughter)
(laughter) I like how you started this (laughter)
That movement was so big that it created opportunities for people. And within that time, we're still in the pandemic. And I had so many plans for that year. And I remember feeling so crushed and disturbed and being like, I've been through so much. Why? Come on! Give me a break. And I felt really down and I was like, I don't know what I'm going to do like I'm a photographer that can't go outside like this right now. I'm in school and I've switched to online. I was freelancing, doing all types of stuff. And I'm out there networking. And I was really focused on a movie. I wanted to produce a movie that year. And I just finished producing the schedule and lining up everything that I needed to just to tell the whole team and crew that we're going to have to postpone till further notice. And I remember just being on social media and just looking at everyone doing their stuff. And I'm like, Damn, everyone's doing something. And I'm here doing nothing. And the imposter syndrome in the back of my head saying, haha, and I'm like, damn it, I'm gonna do something. And I seen this opportunity online. And it was like, calling black youth for creative projects. I'm like, I wasn't feeling up to do anything. I was, I feel like I was feeling a lot of depression coming in. And I was like, I felt like I was giving up. But that just wasn't me. I'm like, Rare, we need you. And I looked at it, I screenshotted it, I saved it. And I was like, will I be able to balance doing a program and a project while in college? And I was like, that I'm gonna have to make a lot of sacrifices if I do this project. And I remember double thinking it and be like, I don't know, I don't know if I can do it. But then there was a grant involved for 2K. And I'm like, I could do a lot with 2K. Yeah, I'm like, I can make some magic with the knowledge that I obtained up till this point, and the resources and the people around me. I was like, if I do get into this program, what project Am I really doing, though, I've thought to myself very deeply for a very long time. And the deadline was coming up for this project. And I was like, I might miss out on this opportunity. And I'm like, maybe I'll come around again, was my thoughts. But there was this girl who popped into my DMs with the same flyer that I had found. And while I was contemplating, she was like, Hey, how you doing? I know, you're really creative. And I was a part of this project called Desire The Lines and it's under the Vibes Art nonprofit organization. And she was like, Oh, I just did this project. And I got my stuff in other in a bunch of TTC subway stations, and like, Ah, that sounds amazing. Like, that'd be cool, if like, I could get involved with that. But the project that she sent over was the 2K grant project. So it was kind of different, but it involved mentorship as well. And when she pitched it to me, and she was like, telling me more about the program and the project she like, you'll be mentored, you'll have support, you won't be alone in this. I was like, I'm in school, like, I don't know if I could do this. And she's like, no, they're very flexible, and they're very understanding. And this grant might not come around again. And I'm like, yo, once in a lifetime opportunity. And I'm like universe, are you guiding me? What's going on? Like, I thought about it. And I was just about to say no, but this girl came at the right timing to show me yes, maybe you should do it. And I just remember being like, you know what, let me just apply. Yeah, I just went on to the Vibe Arts program website. And I just researched what they are, who they are, what they do and everything. And I just remember looking through it, and I'm like, if I could get my name in a subway station or something that would add to my life. And I'm like, I am living on this earth with a purpose. I feel like this is meant for me. So I took the chance of applying. Um, I ended up getting into the first round. So there was levels to this. The first round was around 20 participants or so. And they were basically seeing who's on time who's efficient and everything like that. And I made sure I was 15 minutes ahead. I looked on point. I had my lighting setup. I was clear as well spoken. I was engaged. I tried to hit every single mark to make sure I hit the next level of this, because I really wanted. I didn't even know what my project was at that point also, and they just gave us details and how it runs and how the project is and everything. I took notes. I love writing pen and paper. I'm not into typing on my phone and everything. So they always see me with my sticky note on my pad of my pen ready. And they said, girl you come clutch, I'm like all the time 100%. And I showed them that ambition. And I made sure that I hit that top six. So I went from 20 participants trying to get to this goal to top six. And I was pushing pushing, I made sure to reconnect with them. And there was a point where there's a girl in the program who actually looked similar to me. And I'm like, now it's on is on. I was like, I have to differentiate myself. So they know. And she was also a poet. And I pitched myself as being a photographer and a poet as well. So I'm like, I don't want to be outcasted, because I'm similar to this person. So I asked to schedule a meeting with the program managers who's running the program, just to get a one on one so they could feel me and hear me and understand where I'm coming from. And I showed them I'm like, hey, I've been a photographer for a while now. And I am a aspiring poet. I am working on my craft. And I have poems from when I was in my adolescence, from middle school to high school, and that was my escape from everything I was going through. And I just really want to share one poem with you today. Is that okay? And I split that poem for them. And I feel like that's what brought me to that top six. Because maybe if I didn't take that extra leap of trying to reach the opportunity, maybe they would have just side cast me because they already knew her too. So there was already favoritism. So I really felt that. And I was like, oh, my God, if I don't show them I'm different and why I am Rare, they'll never know. So they’re gonna learn today! Um, but yeah, I feel like they understood my energy, like, yo, your energy is so different. And I could feel it through the screen and I'm like, I'm so happy to hear that. Because I work on my lighting and everything. I had the whole setup to make sure that quality is on point. And black excellence showcased. Okkuur! So with that being said, that's how I was launched into the project. We got to connect with different mentors. And we got to pitch our idea and talk about it. And I never actually said my idea within the whole session with the other participants, because I understood what was at stake. So I just said that I was doing photography. Well, I didn't say... The participants didn't know, I was making a book. They knew I was a photographer, and I did poetry. But I never released what my project was, till way off when I heard everyone else's project. And the funny thing is, is the same person similar to me, yeah, she had pitched that she's doing a book as well. So that's why I didn't say anything. So no, I had to go harder. And me having my photography and media background, I made sure to make sure all skills came on point 100%. So during the end of the rounds... Oh, this program ran for eight months. So eight months of mentorship of learning from other people, learning about the art business, practicing my photography, craft, interviewing models and finding the right people for this project, coordinating and budgeting down this whole plan to make sure I don't go over budget because I ain't got no extra money like that... I tried to make sure that I was utilizing the grant to the max capacity. So with the project happening, I wanted to make sure that it was all black team, all black crew. Even from the print company, to my drivers, to the logo designers, to all the models, to the makeup artists... Everyone was black, black owned, black, printed, black everything. Yeah, because this grant came from Black Lives Matter. The grant came from a program that was made to enhance black folks, so to fit their mandate, and me having social service background, I understand how grants work. I was like, let me be as excellent as possible. So this program can come again, not only for me, but for hopefully future generations. I do not think short term, I think long term always. So I don't know if they understood that on their side on why I did it so detailed to this point, but I'm not a selfish person. And I was like, if other people could have the ability to do as many things as I did with this grant, you don't know how many futures could be impacted, you don't know how many lives can be impacted. Because I use that whole grant on hiring all black. So I hired the black animator. To make that short to explain the book itself. I hired a black logo designer, who I've worked with in the past, and all the models themselves are people that I know, personally. And I tried to make sure everyone was paid, and all of that good stuff. So I really did want to invest in black, for black and for the future. So eight months later, after doing the research and being mentored, and meeting Glows, who is one of my book mentors, to become a published author that I am now. It took a lot. I also found another person named Koi. Yeah, so she also assisted with bringing the book together in the final stages. But I was motivated to do this book, because I had a bunch of sticky notes in an old old book. A bunch of old poems that I was like, let me utilize this. My first mentor, we had one on one mentorships. So I had a conversation for two hours with him explaining and pitching my project. And he helped me figure out the flaws, what could happen, what I need to do, the research, the photography. His name on Instagram is GettyVision. And his name is Shawn Morgan. So he was one of the first mentors from the Vibe Arts program who's paid to mentor us for a certain amount of time. And we actually built a great relationship as well. And I can say that in the future, I hope to work with him maybe on films or photography, or whatever he wants to do. But that mentor believed in me. All I needed was someone to just believe that I can make this book. And I'm so happy that I picked the right person. Because he really seen the vision. He's like, you're going to write a book. And I'm like, Look, I have a whole bunch of sticky notes. I just got to filter through it and, and make some really solid poems. And I started reading some of them to him. And he's like, I feel like you have something really good here. I was like, yeah, I gotta to just put the puzzle pieces together. Honestly, he's like, you believe you could do it by the deadline? I'm like,i. I have a red book that I always have... Last three years. That's what keeps me productive on track and everything. And I was like, I will make sure that I'm on point with everything I do. And I'm like, Is it okay if I reconnect with you if I need help? And he's like, of course. So just knowing that someone believed in me and they were there to support me along the journey kind of just launched the aspect of I'm making a book, I can do it and I have the people around me. And that was the process of trying to make my own book. A lot of research, dedication, hard work and hustle.