Inspiring Wildcat: Alana Moye '23

JWU interviewed Alana Moye '23, a Media & Communication major from Brooklyn, N.Y., about her writing contest win, what drew her to JWU, and her ongoing quest to provide the representation she lacked growing up.

What Helps This Inspiring Wildcat Inspire Others

Alana Moye small

Congratulations on winning the Phyllis Grant Zellmer Undergraduate Writing Award for your nonfiction prose, “Embracing My Crown”! Is this the first writing contest you have entered? Do you plan on entering more?

Yes, it’s my first writing contest. Actually, I didn’t realize I was entering a writing contest! For an assignment in Creative Writing, Professor Brosnan had us submit a piece of work to five publications. When I got the congratulatory email, I hoped I wasn’t being spammed!

Professor Brosnan has encouraged me to submit to more publications using Poet & Writers websites. I do enjoy writing in my free time, and now I have an extra incentive to keep it up!

Your piece paints a vivid picture of growing up in a world that didn’t always have space for you, or only had small spaces set aside in the back; you even refer to yourself as a “failed Disney princess audition tape.” How has that experience shaped you as a person?

I feel like that experience motivated me to be a role model. That “failed princess” line was a lived experience; I auditioned for a Disney commercial as a child, and I knew I was the only black kid there, that mine was the only black family there. I was so excited and thought would get the part, but I got rejected. But the experience made me want to be a role model because even as a child I didn't see many people who looked like me. There just weren’t many children’s shows with black representation.

Now my niece is 10, and I feel like what I’m doing is for her. I’m using my experience to better myself because I know someone is watching me. Basically, everything I’ve learned throughout life from seeing the world around me and on television being a child has encouraged me to provide the black representation for my niece that I didn’t have. I show her books and media with black representation so she can be reflected in what she sees in a way I wasn’t.

There is such strength in your ending, "I always knew there was something royal hiding in my hair; I just needed time to find it." Are there other ways besides your hair and your voice that you sought and found your authenticity?

Definitely! I’ve gone through a lot of changes while finding myself, and it’s still happening as I'm finding my way at JWU. In my Media & Communication Studies major, there aren’t many black students, so I feel like I’m finding my own voice and nature.

I’m doing what I love to do and taking every opportunity that comes, from being on the Campus Herald to being a Media & Communications mentor. I take a digital writing course, and I’ve created my own blog, Black Girl, You Got It! I’m making a space for other black women because I know it’s hard out there. If I can provide that representation and lift as I climb, it's only up from there.

You’re passionate about documenting and compiling your life experiences in hopes that other young black women will learn from your choices. How has it felt to be able to empower them?

In passing, people say my story "Embracing the Crown" was powerful, that they appreciate it and understand. That’s nice to hear, but I feel I see it in my niece more directly. When I was a kid I wanted my hair straightened, not natural, not washed. Natural hair was hard to manage, but I also didn't like the look because it wasn't represented around me.

But now I make it my business to do hair in front of my niece, to do her hair too, and see how she absorbs that embracing of a part of our identity. She likes natural hair, not the blowouts I wanted as a child without black representation in the media, and I love seeing her embrace her hair.

I’m so glad to have that impact on her life and love seeing how she uses scarves for decoration, just feeling so pretty. I’m happy and proud to make that impact.

"At JWU I’ve had the opportunity to write about the things that I love. I feel some people mistake the major for just writing and theory, but when you apply it to things you love it’s a whole other ballgame."

What drew you to JWU? What passion have you found on campus?

I came from a performing arts high school, where I had a passion for singing and performing, and I had no clue what I wanted to study in college. I chose JWU because its Media & Communication Studies degree program spoke to me; I figured I could make use of my hobby of writing as a major.

At first I was startled by the college experience because I wasn’t used to the academic rigor, but it's going well now. TV and writing have always been a part of my life, and now I’m looking at how they can be a career, too.

At JWU I’ve had the opportunity to write about the things that I love. I feel some people mistake the major for just writing and theory, but when you apply it to things you love it’s a whole other ballgame. I take my background in performing arts into my writing, because that piece of me never left.

JWU has emphasized that piece of myself because I can write about my experiences not only to get a grade, but as a reflection of things I like and my passion. It’s molding me into someone I never envisioned myself to be.

Where would you like to go next? What’s your dream job, or a dream situation where you picture yourself years from now?

Where I go will always involve representation. It’s so important because when you look at things like TV and media, you’re internalizing those ideas and shaping who you are even if you don’t realize. It’s important for black women to be seen in those spaces.

My dream is still in progress, but I’d like to do something like the HBO show “Insecure.” It was created by Issa Rae, who produced the coming-of-age web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” and shows a more human version of a black woman being herself.

My other dream job would be writing a children’s book! I loved them as a kid because books provided me with the representation I didn’t get on TV. I’d read books by Ezra Jack Keats, Sharon G. Flake – authors who wrote stories I could relate to. I just want to help children get that connection.

You’re committed to inspiring others; who or what inspires YOU most?

I feel like I should say my mom! But I think R&B artist Lauryn Hill inspired me the most because she always talks about how the music she makes is unconventional and doesn’t fit into a category. She had always felt bad about that until she opened her eyes and realized, this is my life, this is something I love doing, something I want to share – and maybe someone else feels the same as me. Taking her own approach, she created her own lane as a “hip-hop folk singer,” and her debut album has sold 10 million copies!

She inspires me because I’ve felt like I didn’t belong, that the things I was doing weren’t right because I’m a black girl, that I shouldn’t do this or feel like that. I felt like I had so many standards to adhere to, and I stopped and stepped back from people’s expectations. I have to live for my own aspirations, so I started doing things like talking sharing my experiences, even the awkward ones. I love doing that because, just like how Lauryn Hill took it upon herself to write what makes her happy, I know someone out there can relate to me.

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