Written by Lauren Burke Photographed by Natasha Magino
If you try to label Whiskey Girl, you’ll be hard-pressed to choose a single one. “I do a lot of crap, so my introduction is getting a little ridiculous,” she says. “I’m Whiskey Girl, spoken word artist and mental health advocate and blogger and all of these other things.” An artist who grounds herself in writing and spoken word but defies the boundaries of traditional art forms, Whiskey Girl is, simply put, a creative powerhouse. She performs at shows and open mics, publishes books, writes blog posts, hosts community events, makes podcasts, organizes artist gatherings, advocates for mental health awareness in the black community— the list goes on. Oh, and she does this all while being a single mother and maintaining a full-time career in the healthcare field. “In the fuckups, in the rawness, in the realness, that’s where people can connect,” she says. After dabbling in writing throughout her life, Whiskey Girl re-discovered the craft as an outlet for emotional processing after going through a divorce and confronting her own depression.
“I realized I was going through depression, and I was feeling all of these life events and wasn’t processing them; so I started writing again,” she says. “I’m not a technically trained writer. I didn’t go to school for writing. It’s something I told myself: ‘I am going to do this to get free." As a result, her works weave between the mundane aspects of daily life and the realities beneath it. Jumping off from familiar scenes like getting a parking ticket, doing chores, or finding a crushed blueberry Pop-Tart at the bottom of her purse. “I always say that my poems are about my regular-ass black girl stories,” she says. “People think that when you start writing, or especially when you do spoken word, that it has to be about politics or some serious, sexy topic that’s in the news right now…but I’m like, ‘Bitch, I don’t feel like doing the dishes … I’m going to write about that.’ The same pieces that start with a parking ticket or household tasks, eventually confront larger realities like depression, womanhood, addiction, and romance. “[Daily life] is a lot coming at us, and it makes it hard for us to do everyday tasks. And we make it seem so easy,” she says. “If I’m having a shitty day, and I go to pick up the kids, and then the kids are all in my face and I still have work do to…plus, microtraumas [in the news], we’re taking all of this stuff in; and you get home and you check the mail and you get a parking ticket; and it’s like, ‘What the fuck? I’ve lived a hell of a life and a hell of a day. This is the last thing I can’t fucking deal with.’”
Through her raw confrontation of life, Whiskey says, it’s possible to find release. “I think we would all go a little bit easier on ourselves if we all just [took a] deep sigh and said, ‘You know what, bitch, I’m tired.’”
Equally as important to finding this release is maintaining a commitment to herself and her priorities as a creator. It’s crucial, she says, not to let herself get boxed in by others’ expectations, deadlines, and measurements of success. Doing so allows her to keep creation as leisure rather than a source of stress, and grants power to her authentic self in a way that other areas of her life—including corporate jobs and an upbringing as a deaconess in a particularly conservative church—have not. Through creation, she can push the boundaries of her artistic identity even further.
I aspire to levels of batshit crazy. Kind of like Erikah Badu. She’s so crazy, and it’s just accepted … I aspire to levels of eccentricity where I can just be totally ridiculous, and people will just be like, ‘Well, that’s Whiskey.’” For other artists who aspire to great heights (maybe even levels of batshit crazy) but are hard on themselves or creatively defeated, Whiskey offers the following advice: “The talent, the gift, is always something that’s bigger than you … We psych ourselves out when we think on too wide of a scale. Artistry is a part of you … There is no real way to be stuck where you’re not creating. You are art. You’re already going to express it, do it, be it … ‘Settle the fuck down,’ would be my advice. The art is in you; it’s going to come out. There is no such thing as stuck.” Readers who would like to hear, see, and read more from Whiskey Girl can go to whiskeyandpoetry.com, or Insta @whiskeygirldc. Keep an eye out for Whiskey’s upcoming Minority Mental Health Expo (The Fringe DC, July 27th from 2:00-6:00 pm), and her new audiobook Refuse, dropping soon.