Valerie (she/her) is a writer aiming to create children’s television that explores intelligence, self-image, and the subconscious. When she’s not writing or enjoying ice matcha lattes, Valerie uses her three podcasts to discuss veganism, her experiences as a queer woman, and to experiment with ASMR.
What medium(s) do you work in?
My medium is the pen; I identify as a writer before everything else. I am also a podcaster, a medium which I pursued as a casual channel for my writing.
What are the main themes you wish to explore?
In my three podcasts, I explore veganism, the experiences of queer artists of color, and narrate ASMR for (semi-comical) relaxation. My goal is to create safe spaces to discuss identity, art, and activism in a way that is truly authentic to my own experiences, with the hopes of connecting with an audience that relates to those experiences we so rarely speak of.
Beyond my podcasts, I’ve been really leaning into children’s/young adult storytelling, where I explore emotional intelligence, self-image, the subconscious and more. Exploring these themes are important for psychological development, and as a young, queer black woman there are many things that I wish I could have seen through TV and in books that would tell me, “Hey, it’s okay to be you.” Going further, I want to break down the idea of “otherness” around people of color, to reshape the conversation around the roles we play in society.
“If I am not writing, I feel like I am not breathing. I have an intense urge to get my thoughts on paper, to share the stories of very rich, complex characters often inspired from my own experiences.Sharing these stories allows me to reflect on the human experience, and to hopefully aid others in doing the same.”
How long have you been writing and podcasting? How did you get started?
I started podcasting about a year ago. I am still trying to figure out that voice that I want to put out there, but I love it and I’ve already learned a lot. I really wanted a way to share my writing that is more than just a written blog (what gen-z kid reads those?), and I kept thinking back to podcasting. It certainly helped that it’s comparatively cheaper to invest in.
In general, though, I’ve been writing since I was about eleven years old. It started out as journal entries, and as I read more books, those became short stories and then manuscripts. I taught myself different forms of poetic meter in middle school (realized I wasn’t very good at it), and then in college I began writing screenplays once I decided to major in Film/TV. I think that my mother, a writer herself, has a lot to do with my early interest in stories because she’d read her children’s books and poems to my sister and me. She also had many writing books and poetry CDs scattered throughout our house. Some of my earliest memories include reading words from her big dictionary because the sheer multitude of words fascinated me.
What inspires your practice?
If I am not writing, I feel like I am not breathing. I have an intense urge to get my thoughts on paper, to share the stories of very rich, complex characters often inspired from my own experiences. Sharing these stories allows me to reflect on the human experience, and to hopefully aid others in doing the same. I think that by sharing ideas we shape the social narrative in terms of how we all should reflect on ourselves, which is a big responsibility to carry.
Where are you based and how do you feel about the creative scene there?
I am currently based in New York City, though temporarily until I save up enough to move to Los Angeles. The writing scene in NYC is booming in many areas from theater to poetry, though not so much in film and television. Some might argue that there’s a healthy growing industry for podcasters in NYC too, but podcasting isn’t contingent on where you are located as its mostly online-based. Because I aspire to be a screenwriter and want to be around more “creatives” as opposed to the corporate hustlers of the East Coast, I am drawn to L.A.
Your style and interests are very Japanese influenced. How does Japanese culture find its way into your work and life as a whole?
Some of my favorite animes are Steins;Gate, Paranoia Agent, Paprika, Samurai Champloo, Welcome to the N.H.K, and Perfect Blue. Anime has definitely inspired both my writing and illustration style, almost to a fault. I started out learning how to draw in manga style, so there’s a lot of influence in that area. Additionally, because I was especially drawn to psychological thriller anime growing up, my writing tends to lean toward more heavy pacing, as opposed to pure comedy. Japanese culture especially has an influence on the way that I express myself through fashion, particularly from Harajuku and Lolita styles. On a personal level, I resonate with many Japanese philosophical beliefs, one finding beauty in imperfection.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
My television writing and animation idol is Rebecca Sugar, because she addresses all of the issues that I care about (diversity from race to gender to sexual orientation, finding compassion, dealing with trauma, etc.). She’s a big inspiration for my writing and why I chose to go for children’s/young adult television. I wish there were shows like Steven Universe when I was growing up, so I am happy that today’s kids get to have that.
YouTuber Arin Hanson of Game Grumps is also a big inspiration for me, as he built his own gameplay empire on his own after years and years of hard work as an illustrator, animator, and gamer. Game Grumps has such a silly and relaxed vibe that it’s hard to imagine how much sweat goes into making game nerds at home giggle after a long, stressful day.
My favorite novelist at the moment is Haruki Murakami, largely because of how he intertwines the subconscious with the conscious experience, along with history and memory in often a casual manner of writing. All of these artists have affected, on some level, on my art and decision to pursue it full-time.
“Many people of color, especially women, are discouraged from going into the art fields because of a fear of financial insecurity. I think that this issue is being addressed from the wrong angle: instead, there should be systems in place to guide WOC artists in navigating such fluid industries–tools that people of privileged backgrounds have an easier time accessing.”
What support systems do you wish were in place for black artists?
I wish there was a more immediately available mentorship system built for WOC artists. I know that these systems are out there, however they’re still far and few in between because people are just now starting to acknowledge the importance. Many people of color, especially women, are discouraged from going into the art fields because of a fear of financial insecurity. I think that this issue is being addressed from the wrong angle: instead, there should be systems in place to guide WOC artists in navigating such fluid industries—tools that people of privileged backgrounds have an easier time accessing. Many internships are unpaid and won’t provide room & board—so what does that mean for those of marginalized backgrounds not living in major cities? Additionally, there is this misconception that there is a lack of jobs in the art world, when there are actually quite many, and now with the internet the possibilities are only growing. No one has to tear down the other in order to gain a spot; in today’s world, one can enter from almost any direction and it’s more beneficial to elevate each other. Additionally, I personally did not learn the importance of mentorship as a resource until my last year of college—something that people of privileged backgrounds often start grooming for at an early age.
I don’t have a specific mentor yet, but that would be amazing. I didn’t know how helpful a mentor could be until about my junior year of college, when suddenly I started hearing classmates talk about it and professors briefly mentioning the importance. One summer, while I was desperate for an internship I decided to opt for the next best thing and ask for some informational interviews, something I only found out through a friend who happens to be white. One person actually accepted, and the interview turned out to be really, really helpful. So my last semester of college, I met with about ten people in the entertainment industry as a way of making connections and learning about what employers don’t tell you through online applications. I think it’s a tool people of color especially need to know about, because who someone knows in the arts can really make or break their career, and few of us are born with obscure lucky connections already in the business.
Have you encountered any obstacles as an artist?
Deciding to pursue an artistic career was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever faced. My family is Haitian, so culturally there were expectations that I would go on to medical school, nursing school, or law school. On top of those expectations, I knew that I was on my own financially. Knowing that I don’t have savings or secret trust funds to fall back on when things get rough, and that my family won’t have much of a clue of what I am doing with my career, I decided to take the leap anyways. It’s a scary choice, but also very liberating. I am lucky enough that my mother, although wary, supports my career decision. I have creative friends that ended up choosing more “practical fields” such as computer science and marketing that wish that they could be following their hearts but are too afraid of failure and disappointing their parents.
Where do you see yourself and your practice in the future?
I see myself creating children’s shows, similar to the way Rebecca Sugar created Steven Universe. I also see myself continuing to run podcasts and publishing young adult novels.
Provide a few tips for young artists
There is plenty of room for you in the art world, and plenty of room for you to succeed.
Informational interviews and finding yourself a mentor is unbelievably important.
Releasing bad art is better than releasing no art at all. What is bad art, anyways?
Podcasts: Oat Milk, A Mirror That Reflects, Nostalgia