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What's your story?

My story is long, dreadful and yet inspiring. So I’ll give you the short cut. I was born in Akron, Ohio to a mother who abandoned me when I was 2 years old. I was raised by my elderly grandmother and my bitter aunt who really didn’t want to raise us ( me and my other two siblings). I spent most of my life back and forth from Alabama and Akron ( between living with my mother and grandmother.)

I grew up in “The Ghetto” so I’ve experienced a lot of violence and trauma. I’ve lived without lights, electric and food. When I was 11 I was diagnosed with Diabetes ( in which I almost died.) when I was 16 years old I was put in foster care and stayed in foster care until I graduated from High-school.

I’ve always been a child who was into the arts, but I never truly had the access. So Art was something I had to fight for. I went to college for Acting and founded my own theatre company in 2011 called Ma’Sue production, which was named after my late grandmother “Mama Sue.” After stepping down as artistic director of Ma’Sue In 2015 I moved to Cleveland where my career started to take off.

I have been working nonstop since I’ve arrived. I just received a grant from the National New Play Network to work with Cleveland Public theatre for a season. I am an actress, director, educator and humanitarian!

What makes you nervous about having your portrait taken?

I am very self-conscious of my big boobies. I actually hate them! Lol

What do you love doing that makes you feel kick ass?

I love creating new theatre work and training young artist.

What inspired your portraits?

The LGBT community and my African American Urban Culture.

What bad ass women inspire you?

My grandmother is a great inspiration for me. She was born in 1924, in Alabama to share croppers. She wasn’t always the nicest women, but she instilled in me a since of tenacity, strength and courage that has helped get through adversity.

I also Love Anne Frank, Nina Simone and Meryl Streep.

Jen's thoughts: I hadn't met India before our shoot. When she walked in with a Nina Simone tshirt I think I yelled "YESSSS!!!!" She came with her own look and her pics are very straightforward. Not everyone wants to wear dresses.

I play music in my studio, a playlist of Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and lots of 70's classics. I play it on "shuffle" so I never know what song will come on next. When India and I walked back into the space with the backdrop, Nina Simone came on! It was like the most magical coincidence.

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