Monday, June 1, 2015

Talia Bella Open Letter: NY Times

Was it the Julliard visit I took at ten because I knew that performing arts would bring me to New York as an adult? Was it the E.I.U. homeless shelter that I stayed in with my family in New York exactly ten years before I attended New York Fashion Week as an adult? Was it the one way I purchased to New York Fashion Week three weeks before NYFW? Selling half of my closet on the internet in April and May before I left Memphis, Tennessee? Driving my white 2005 Chevy Cavalier to New York and ripping off the bumper in deep Virginia because it fell half way down? Taking a pay cut and position demotion as a Store Manager to become a Sales Associate in Park Slope, Brooklyn and walking out of that job four months later? Resigning from a Corporate job that I got a day before my 22nd birthday after three weeks? Or frankly leaving college in Memphis to take on the Rotten Apple?

On June 1, 2014, I arrived to the big city of dreams, getting to the money, it seems, by any means. By any means I mean ANY. All the dreams, all the schemes, all the pain, all the gain. A year later, I became a different person. I became a woman in the city that shows no remorse. New York, New York thank you for letting me reach, giving me some of the first and worst rejections of my life, making me a better woman, and once again shedding light on my mantra for life,


During a humble mumble I once told a friend, "I went from running shit to getting shit on." That is honestly the best way I can put my transition from Memphis to New York. Young, beautiful, and successful. Perception versus reality is the biggest juxtaposition I've come to understand. Those three things combined with adversity, struggle, and understanding what does not make sense. Some of those qualities were in me in the South but New York helped them surface in a less shallow light. I learned to be grateful for life-and to life thru love and loss. I moved in with my 80 year old grandmother and her nurse when I got to the city. She was fighting Dementia and I saw first hand how someone young, beautiful, successful, and independent, can become dependent, fragile, and disregarded. Watching my grandmother fight to live every day of the ten months she was alive gave me more than enough motivation to fight the city and demand what I wanted from it each hour of the day.

Futhermore, on November 27, 2014 I released my promo video that I wrote and creative directed for the Blog I intended to launch, In The Middle of Things.  A blog that would showcase the stories of individuals who are fighting for the life they want in the midst of life's happenings. While writing my treatment I would play Commons "Its Your World" several times a day. That song was the soundtrack to my life. "Be grateful for life, be grateful to life" resonated in my mind thru all of the struggles and during crunch time. When I reference "Crunch Time" it is the week that I was finishing my Vimeo for In The Middle of Things. I can recall getting roughly five hours of sleep in 72 hours that week. The video had to be out on Thanksgiving day during the 7pm hour. Thanksgiving was special for me. I was reuniting with my mother and siblings after four years of being estranged. Anxious wasn't the word! However, I was still confident and knew I produced the best work I could for my Blog. I hit the post button, posted some of my promo pics, and linked the video in my Instagram bio. A couple of hours later I clocked into my Black Friday retail gig, locked my phone in the locker, and let the reactions pour in.

A month before I left Memphis in May 2014 some of my closest friends and I planned a showcase for all of our friends at a spot called Purple Haze. It was planned before I broke the news that I was moving to NY so in a way it sent me off in the right direction. Knowing that I was a creative, a voice, and a symbol to some. I was blessed and honored to cohost alongside someone who was a friend, supporter, and angel, JOJO ADD NO E. My brother Pat III gave me the courage and wings to cohost from the ground work of the event. This showcase was his idea and he made it happen for all of us. The night was bittersweet and at times I was speechless. After three years in Memphis, I was moving on, was I ready, wasn't this year only the beginning? At some point JOJO told me with a voice of brotherly love, "You gotta speak up on that mic. They gotta hear Talia Bella!" Tough love coming from the KHing of Memphis. I swallowed, took a few more sips of the Patron, and said a few things into the mic. I was there, soon to be here, in NY with a voice known to few.

Clocking out of my shift I returned home to mentally detox and begin writing for the time I spent with those In The Middle of Things. The love and support overwhelmed me. It was as if I had an early birthday! Visually I was pleased. But, I still had to work to do. An hour into my first article a good friend and I spoke and I was told JOJO, my friend, my supporter, my brother was murdered. In that moment my whole world flipped. While I gave the world my voice, he was losing his. Jay-z has this lyric in Lost Ones, "Somethings can't be explained--what caused it? Such a beautiful soul so pure; shit." I was numb. Sometimes you feel everything and nothing all at once. I became the person In The Middle of Things.

I didn't smile the same. I didn't dream the same. I was paranoid. I was slipping.
I tried working thru this time. Creatively I was at a stand still. I even got let go from a Visual Job and Creative Corporate role because they saw that I was "pretending to be happy." I lost Talia Bella. Or did I gain her thru this pain?

Fortunately, my family gave me a weekend job watching my Grandmother on the weekend for two months. Those weekends are some that will be eternally grateful for. Through her rambling, and disability I was able to reconnect with her. The communication was a language only the heart could understand. Thru sickness and health I became a different person. My heart was still grieving loss and she brought me back to life thru her sickness. She mothered me. And I protected her.

It occurred to me months after JOJO's untimely death that I witnessed an angel on this Earth. I decided to continue with my project but document everything via Visuals and a VLOG. It's been two months since my grandmother lost her battle to Dementia. A couple of minutes before I left for SXSW my grandmother told me goodbye, "Be good...You gotta do what you gotta do." The night before she passed she told me, "Be good...Be great."  The irony of him coming to me in my dream last night and my grandmothers flowers blooming are signs that I was given angels this year. I am forever protected for in this life. They both rest in love. And I will continue their legacy as best as I know how.

Life will show you before anyone can tell you. I believe that, anyway. Some of you may hear me. To others my name and actions will be forever misunderstood. And after this year, I am okay with that.

When I graduated High School in 2011 I didn't win any superlatives, I never got nominated for Homecoming Court, or asked to any proms. As a matter of fact, I got broken up with 15 minutes after arriving to prom. (BUT- I had the biggest spread in the year book.) In 2015, I didn't graduate college as anticipated. I moved to New York City. I learned to love and give love.

I am grateful to be here today, alive and full of potential. But I am not satisfied. I still want more. I still have dreams, even bigger now than before. I will not settle or conform. I rededicate myself to greatness. I give my time and my passion to my craft, because I realize that the work I put in today affects the life that I live tomorrow. I believe in myself. And to all those that doubt me I say, “Fuck that. I will be Greater. Watch me.”
- Cole

Year One: These NY Times have brought me down to Earth and back to life.
I have loved. I have lost. I am grateful for life. I am grateful to life.

Year Two: You are the Rebirth.

Talia Bella