Aakash Kumar Jha: Your legal name? How did you get your nickname?
Iyanla Galletti: I’m Iyanla Kalifa Galletti. Because so many people have a hard time pronouncing my name my mom took the Ya from my first name and started calling me Yaya for short. This has been ever since I was a baby.
Aakash Kumar Jha: Where are you from?
Iyanla Galletti: I’m from the Bronx, NY Of Latin Caribbean and West Indian descent My mother is Puerto Rican and cuban My father is Antiguan and Crucian
Aakash Kumar Jha: Tell us an inspirational moment from your childhood.
Iyanla Galletti: When I was 7, we did a school play version of “The Wiz”, I was the female lead. There was a moment during the dance routine where I walked up to the front of the stage and landed a split. The audience roared and that adrenaline rush I got- I’ve been chasing ever since. I realized I loved moving crowds.
Aakash Kumar Jha: What was the inspiration for this piece?
Iyanla Galletti: It’s funny, I wrote this poem 5 years ago. I was 17 and I was taking my SAT’s and yet again, as it’s been happening my entire life, I reached the part of the test where they ask for your race. Seemingly a simple question, but for someone of black and latin descent (or a mixture of any sort) it becomes such a loaded question. A question of identity that you may not have considered otherwise. And for the millionth time that I saw this box, there was no “mixed” box. By the time I got home, I was still so puzzled that in this new age, with so many people of mixed or “culturally complicated” backgrounds, there still, at the very least, was no “mixed” box. Which calls for said test takers to now choose one or the other race. Which for mixed people can be virtually impossible, because physically, culturally, genetically, you are BOTH, or however many. Now, they offer a “check more than one” version. This circumstance made me think back to my upbringing and how many times I felt that I didn’t necessarily fit perfectly into one category, anywhere, for anything. Thus, “Where I fit”. The message that ties it all together, is that in my case, both of my cultures start from the same place, the same source. And universally, we are one, the human race. There is no “other.”
Aakash Kumar Jha: What was the process like getting the voice, and the animation together?
Iyanla Galletti: So, I wrote AND recorded this poem in the studio when I was 17. I recited it in one shot, and I’ve never touched the recording since then. That is a 17 year old me. When I recorded it I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with it. Eventually, I just kept imagining it as an animation, lighthearted and easy to follow along with. So I sourced an animator and made it happen- 5 years later. It was important to me that a POC did the animation, so I’m happy that my friend Kid Flash was able to get it done for me.
Aakash Kumar Jha: What was your experience growing up mixed culturally?
Iyanla Galletti: Growing up in the Bronx and NYC as a whole, I was constantly around other cultures, and every mixture in between. That isn’t to say that, there was no divide. You could see the difference in tendencies amongst some kids in some cultures. Some kids have been taught in their homes to stay with your “own”, which happens often in many cultures. Myself, being a mixture of latin Caribbean and black Caribbean. The only difference in culture to me growing up was how each side ate their plantains, and the language they spoke. My latin side always outcast me in a sense, making me the “morena” (black girl). Making comments about my hair or features. And to black people I was just a light-skinned black girl, who was mixed with a little something. So my experience was mainly black Caribbean. Growing up in an urban setting where most people perceived me as black, and my mom teaching me to love and be knowledgeable about my blackness. I always felt black, with a sometimes Spanish speaking mom. Up until now, I never felt moved to understand what it meant in society to be mixed. I didn’t see color or fully understand race and the weight it can hold as a kid. Now, I see the need to represent both of my cultures well, to be knowledgeable enough to teach new generations.
Aakash Kumar Jha: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
Iyanla Galletti: This. I’ve been writing poetry my entire life, never really thinking to share it. But, its something that I love so much and is an extension of speech and language for me, it’s so ingrained in me now, that it felt like I was hiding that part of me. I wrote a poem for a Maybelline campaign and I ended up landing the job from reciting this poem at the casting. That was the best feeling I’ve had in the modeling business, I got the job because they felt what I had to say. I moved them with my words, so much so that they asked me to write for a commercial. I couldn’t have wished for anything greater than that. It showed me that I should share what I have. Overcoming anxiety and releasing these is the greatest thing I’ve done in a while.
Aakash Kumar Jha: What is your most recent project?
Iyanla Galletti: My most recent projects will be my poetry series. I’ll be dropping 3 more poems in February, one for each week of the month. Their themes celebrating Black, POC, LGBTQ+ people. They’re very personal and i’m excited to share them.
Aakash Kumar Jha: What are some of your other passions?
Iyanla Galletti: I love everything creative, performance art, visual art. All of it. I’m also big on giving back and paying it forward. It’s important for us take care of each other.
Aakash Kumar Jha: What is next on the horizon for you?
Iyanla Galletti: MUSIC 2021!!!!! I’m working on my first EP!