Soul Goddess: NNENNA UKWU

Happy Wednesday Luvs! Its been a Winter Wonderland here in NC the past few days but of course its time for another phenomenal woman on the blog for "Working Woman Wednesday"! This time its artist Nnenna Ukwu Creator and Founder of she.NNENNA.gans  (pronounced sha-neh-nuh-gins) Multimedia whose beautiful voice had us memorized that Monday night at Beyu Cafe. She performed Sade's romantic classic "No Ordinary Love"at the 2BeatHIV event, which I have below for your viewing pleasure, and I knew I had to hear her story. She's a first generation Nigerian-American that has captivated audiences with her versatile tones of spiritual vibrations  and contemporary soul. So I had the opportunity to chat with her about her love of music, the 2BeatHIV event, and her journey to writing.

So here's how it all went down......

                                                Follow her on Instagram @NNENNAUKWU                                      

When did your love of music begin? 

Nnenna:  "I’ve always been singing. As a kid I discovered very early that I loved music…I had an active imagination and I made my own fun so I took it wherever I went.  My parents were really grateful when I found a stage to harvest it on. I started by joining my school choir and then the Drama Club... It all became a hobby that just stuck with me.

Being first generation Nigerian-American, I’ve lived a little bit of everywhere from London to Nigeria and Raleigh, North Carolina is my hometown…. I’ve always just followed my heart…left North Carolina and majored in theatre at Yale University, taught for 2 years with Teach for America after graduation and then ended up going to NYU and getting a Master’s Degree in Musical Theatre Writing.   It’s all been sort of accidental…but I don’t believe in accidents. I was hungry to get back to the art world after being in the “real world” so I applied to the one program at NYU whose deadline hadn’t passed yet and was awarded with a scholarship.

With a BA and an MFA, I tried the starving artist, New York City hustle and after a while, I wasn’t really inspired by the opportunities in front of me. ”

I didn’t like that so much of my energy was spent not developing myself but trying to sustain myself. -Nnenna

Do you perform locally here in the area? 

Nnenna: "Yes. For the past year or so I’ve been singing for different visual artists I know like Candy Carver, who I met at the Art of Cool Festival. She’s someone who plugged me into the scene here, so I owe a lot to her for “dusting me off.”  Her quarterly Paint Durham events showcase her incredible artwork…I sing, rap, do spoken word and my guitarist, Jason Justice, and I actually sung together in grade school.  We bumped into each other at a Janelle Monae concert and were reunited. I also performed for one of Gemynii’s showcases…also an incredible visual artist… and at Unity in the Community with Byron Cage and a couple of other gospel artists.  December was my first time at Beyu Caffe, so I’m hoping to come back with my own original material. I’ve been really blessed that there have been opportunities here.”

How did you connect with the 2BeatHIV event?

Nnenna: "For ‘The Experiment,’ Median was invited to be the featured rap artist but thought they should add a vocalist to bring in some variety. So the Producer, Angel Dozier, approached me about the event. The artistic community in Durham is pretty small but the opportunity is huge because everyone is so supportive."

Whenever you dream for something…it’s often not gonna look like what you        expected as it’s happening. I had to reset my expectations and be ok with the   fact that no matter the size of the dream, you still have to put one foot in front         of the other. Then you can prepare yourself accordingly.” Nnenna

When it comes to shopping I consider myself a collector more than a consumer. I am very into intricate patterns, thoughtful design, and how things are made. I love fashion and styling. But my Faith is definitely what grounds me. -Nnenna 

What inspires you during your writing process? 

Nnenna: "I describe myself as creatively restless…so I might be moved by a line or melody that comes into my head. I used to rely on a million little post-its until of course smart phones and I-Pads came along.  So I just go on inspiration. I could be watching a movie or just be sitting somewhere and then have a thought. I feel my writing is an extension of my life. Things come to me in puzzle pieces and by faith, I put it together."

The beauty of Soul Goddess, as I call her, is Nnenna is living her life in color. What do I mean by that you may ask? In my opinion, I feel she's expressing herself vividly to all those she encounters with her gifts of music and writing. She's an artistic gem in our community and her story has inspired me to not only live in color but do so boldly.

Enjoy the listening sounds above!

Until next time ladies and gentleman this is The Lux Blog. - K. Knight