Photo Credit: Ave Boss IG: @frontlinemediaempire
Content is very important. As a people we tend to ingest what we see, and emulate what's in front of us. When given the opportunity to be a producer, Alana Blaylock chose to develop content that educates and inspires.
Sista Gurls, we all know that it's rare to meet someone who's age does not reflect their natural maturity. I was able to speak with Alana Blaylock, Emmy Award-winning producer of CNN's "United Shades of America", hosted by Kamau Bell.
Still in her 20's, Alana has experienced the spoils of success as well as the benefit of breakthrough! She has lived to tell her story on the importance of hard work, faith, self-care, and mental health wellness.
One of the main reasons I wanted to do this feature with Alana is because we often correlate success to the end of trouble. When in fact, success is merely the footnote to our perseverance. We all go through things, we all have real struggles, and it's important that we understand the parallel between both subtexts.
Here's what we discussed below.
You have accomplished a lot at a very young age in film and media? What’s your secret?
I shoot for the stars and don’t give up. I’ve always been a persistent person and disciplined in my pursuit of success. I’m a very hard worker, and I’m glad the fruits of my labor are now being noticed in the world.
It’s been said that oftentimes a person’s weakest personality trait, can be transformed into their strongest asset. What would you consider yours to be?
When considering my personality challenges, being overly transparent and honest is the first thing that comes to mind. Admittedly, I do not always verbally filter my thoughts and therefore may come off a bit harsh at times. My tendency to be overly transparent is essentially the critic in me and is a quality that helps me thrive as a Producer. I’ve learned how to tell the truth without hurting other’s feelings and give constructive criticism in a positive way. Now, people respect my honesty and are left with a positive experience when I give feedback as they better understand it comes from a place of care.
You’ve been on record indicating that you were diagnosed with clinical depression. Can you share what led to that diagnosis?
Perfection is the enemy of good. My type A personality caused me to uphold unrealistic standards of myself and I was unnecessarily hard on myself. I didn’t think I deserved love or affection.
Everyone has a past, and I figuratively stuffed all my problems in an imaginary box and pretended they did not exist. One day I couldn’t distract myself from the issues and everything that I had stuffed away spilled out at once. I then simply stopped taking care of myself. From there, I fell into a deep spiral of depression. Thank God I’ve gotten the proper care and treatment that I needed to recover, and am doing much better now.
Please share your mission for wellness advocacy.
I aim to normalize the conversation around mental health. It’s so taboo to talk about and it shouldn't be. Per NAMI, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. That’s a really high number, not even accounting for all the other mental health diagnoses that occur and the ones that aren’t reported.
I don’t want anyone else to ever experience the mental anguish I felt during those months in the dark. I firmly believe, if I speak up, I can encourage people to take a brave step in the right direction to alter their lives for the better and seek therapy. Furthermore, I believe in sharing my truths and experiences, I can help others explore ways to build a firm base and support system in order to healthily tackle their real-world challenges.
There is a disparity with our community and mental health awareness, do you have any ideas as to how to educate and remove the stigma from mental illness?
There are kids as young as 5 years old with depression. Bullying definitely plays a factor in depression among children too. The Nation should implement school programs that address mental wellness early on. By doing this, children will learn how to manage their emotions and speak up if something is bothering them or simply doesn’t feel right. They will seek help before harming themselves or one another like we see with the massive school shootings. The earlier we teach people to act with compassion towards one another, the better.
As a black woman in this industry, do you believe that the hurdles and challenges are the same, or different than your contemporaries?
When working on a project, I find that I feel the need to be extremely sharp, at all times, in order to satisfy project needs. The desire to be extremely sharp, of course adds extra layers of pressure to be “perfect”; a pressure that my non-black counterparts may or may not equally feel. I love being a black woman in this industry. Our voice is valued nowadays and I’m ecstatic when I can contribute my unique world experience to the foundation of a series.
In addition, I think being seen as “young” and “attractive” come with a different set of challenges when seeking to be taken seriously in this and any field.
How did you handle failures in your business/career?
It’s never a failure, yet always a lesson. If I don’t take risks, I will never know what I’m capable of doing. With that being said, I love to take risks and fail forward.
How did you get the opportunity to produce your Emmy Award-winning series "United Shades of America"?
Funny enough, I blindly emailed the CEO of the Production Company and she passed my resume along to the hiring manager. I met with the company a few weeks later and was hired for the position. It was pretty serendipitous. That’s why I take risks! You simply never know if the opportunity will land if you don’t take the shot.
Do you have any dream films or writing/directors that you would love to work with?
I would love to work on a documentary for one of the black female pioneers of today, like Ava Duvernay, Mara Brock Akil, Melina Matsoukas, or Issa Rae. I haven’t gotten the opportunity to work with a director of color yet, and would really like to bring our heads together to create a dope visual for the culture.
I’d also love to produce a documentary for my home girl in my head Reese Witherspoon. She’s smart as a whip and green lights incredible stories!
In your darkest moments, who do you lean on for inspiration?
God and Oprah.
We couldn't agree more Alana. Alana's newly produced docu-series "Best Shot" is now available on YouTube Originals, check it out!