The make-up, the lights, the costumes….smile for the cameras, dance for the cheers, make people laugh when on the mic. I absolutely love what I do on stage. I’m privileged to be able to do this work. I put my full self into performances and gigs so I can fully be ON… but in order for me to sustain this, sometimes I have to turn off. But that is a luxury I’m usually not afforded.
Something that has always bothered me within my community is not being allowed to turn off. Something that sounds simple and easy to access since this is my life and I am in control. But I have noticed that many don’t respond to this nature as I’d think they would. Some nights I’ve went out to venues and wanted to take in a show, support my friends, blend into the background and enjoy the scene, but usually in those instances I am snickered about. My natural facial expression is drab, voice is monotone, don’t like to make much eye contact, and have my arms folded out of comfort. So all of a sudden I am considered mean, cold, intimidating, and left out of some social circles. I’m just not too outgoing or bubbly when I’m not in stage mode, and it's hard for me to understand why that is not permitted of me.
Is this because things are expected of me as an entertainer, even when I’m not in the show? Or is it because I am a Black Woman? I honestly don’t know and am writing about this because I would love for this misperception to turn around. I threw Black Woman in there as over the years, in every type of media I have seen this assumption that Black Women should be vocal. We should be passionate, extraverted, and loud. This role seems to fill a type of entertainment for those around her.
My off-stage self wants mostly to Turn Off. I want to take in a show, share a few laughs with friends, and just take in a night here and there. There is nothing wrong with people who are energetic, the life of the party, and a cheerleader for everyone. But that just simply isn’t me. I put my heart on the stage and like to recharge when I’m not on it. It’s hard for me when that’s mistaken for being cold or assumed I’m better than anyone.
When you see someone out in public and what I explained above is “what you see”...I encourage you to (and trying to more myself) don’t assume that person is cold and doesn’t want to be social. Don’t make up stories about them or their character. They could be socially awkward and don’t know how to have a simple conversation. They could have had a hard week and just wanted to get out of the house. They could be super introverted but enjoying themselves. And especially if you don’t even talk TO them, don’t talk about them. Just allow them to Turn Off.