words by Marco Smith photo by Emily McCartney
Takiyah Wallace is…quite simply put…..the modern day renaissance woman. She does everything and I’m convinced she can do anything. When I ask her what her day job is she pauses, showcases her bright smile, laughs and says “I have several day jobs. I teach the gifted and talented at Roger Q. Mills Elementary school in the Dallas Independent School District, I have a photography company called Some Sweet Photography, and I run a nonprofit called Brown Girls Do Ballet.” This is just a quick look into here personality. This makes me probe deeper, she says “I found a word last year called a Mutipotentialite“. I immediately grab my phone to Google. “There is a whole site directed toward the word itself or people who identify as such. Before that is was described as a Polymath. It basically means someone who is good at a lot of different things and has a lot of different interests. I could never see myself at one day-job for the rest of my life doing just one thing. Even if you called me an expert in it, my eventual goal would to become a PHD in something just so people would have to call me doctor” she laughs. She continues “I like to try things and so far things that I’ve tried I have been accidentally successful at. I feel like everything that has happened to me has happened by accident but ultimately led me down the path that I should be going….which really means it is no accident“. All that and she manages to maintain her home life as well. She is a wife of a loving husband and mother to two small children. The song “Superwoman” comes to mind. Now depending on your generation or how you choose to identify you could take your pick at which version makes the most sense. You could go the old school RnB route and go for the Karyn White version or if you’re feeling a little uptempo and hip hop you might lean more toward the Lil Mo version. But when talking about Takiyah I’m personally going to go with the Alicia Keys rendition. Where the first two were more directed at using their “super powers” for their significant others the latter was more all encompassing and not just limited to personal relationships.
IT: What led you to do what it is that you do now or how did you get started?
TW: When my daughter was 3 years old she told me wanted to take ballet. I didn’t know anything about that but I do know Google. So as I was looking at different programs in the area the very first thing that jumped out to me from a visual perspective is that there were no little girls in these programs that looked like my daughter. That prompted me to specifically search the term “black ballerina” and the only thing that came up was shoes. As in back ballerina flats. Mind you this is before Misty Copeland hit the mainstream. So I made that my project (as a photographer) and put out a casting call for dancers of color in Dallas, Austin, and Houston. The next day I woke up and it had gone viral and I didn’t quite understand it. The following weekend I began shooting in Dallas and I had all these moms crying to me about how important this was. Afterwards I went home to do more research and realized there were no dancers of color at the time being promoted that these girls could look up to. It just hit home how representation really does matter. As I continued to shoot I started receiving emails from all over the country asking when I was come to their city when I no intentions to. Then someone volunteered to do my PR and before you know it I was getting interviews for an organization I had yet to formally form. Soon after I set up the website and immediately started receiving donations. Before you know it I started receiving communications from different little girls who had amazing opportunities to participate in prestigious dance programs but not enough money to get there. That’s when I decided what this organization could be. So we are a philanthropic, nonprofit organization that provides resources to aspiring dancers.
What is your opinion of the arts scene in Dallas?
Ummm….you know I’ll be honest with you. Very candid. Up until about 5 months ago I had been reaching to people in Dallas to let them know that Brown Girls Do Ballet even exists. Like when I go to New York and mention the program name, it’s like rock star status I kid you not. I started this here in Dallas and wanted to do it here in Dallas but when I reached out to reputable schools here I got crickets. That always bothered me because I’m community based and I wanted it to thrive here first before I took it anywhere else. I’ll be honest, that bothers me. That I have to go out to get press for us. We’ve been covered by The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Ebony etc. and I’ve yet to get any mention in Dallas at all. But I’ve decided to push pass that and ignore what’s not happening and focus on creating my own path to make things happen.
What were your earliest influences artistically?
You know I’d have to say my family. I have a really great family. My parents always taught that I could do whatever I want to do. And as a parent I’ve instilled that in my children. So I have my mother’s work ethic but I have the thinking of my father who told me that after I come home from work you still have to have something that is for you. So I tend to try to find things that are a combination of both of those. So how can I eat and still feel attached to what I’m doing. So everything is a heart-project for me. If I don’t feel it then I don’t do it.
What has been your experience being a woman in the field positive or negative?
I think women are always feeling like they are fighting a battle creatively when it comes to creative endeavors. Even in photography which is a male dominated industry women are pigeon-holed. So if I’m a woman photographer then automatically they assume I shoot babies or weddings while the males get to be the gritty street-photographer. So I feel like there are stereotypes in certain genres and I fall into that a bit because I shoot kids and families but I’ve tried the other stuff and I didn’t like it.That’s not what I’m passionate about. For me I often feel like an outsider because not only am I a woman but I’m a woman of color and people feel like you’re not as well trained as someone else.
What inspires you?
Hmmm…..kids! It may sound strange but when I look back on everything I’ve done in my life its always about protecting the innocence and encouraging the creativity of children. In photography I encourage kids to be themselves with out posing them and I love teaching. I think it’s my duty to help them become the best versions of themselves.
What gives you the most joy in doing what you do?
I am probably the happiest business-wise when someone else is able to articulate to me what I have done. Because even with all the challenges and drama if they can recognize that then I’m good. I don’t need a thank you, I just want to see that they are happy.
What is it that you bring to the table artistically that is unique to you?
You know I honestly believe the thing that has got me to where I am is that I’m authentic and super honest. I know my shortcomings and I know my failings. I’ll tell you those things upfront but you can’t call me out on something. I already know that. I’m open and you can talk to me. I’m not trying to be something I’m not.
So what’s next?
A lot. I’m looking to get an office/creative space here in Dallas. Everyone thinks I should do it in New York but I want to do it here in Oak Cliff. I want it to be a creative gallery space for people, I want highlight creatives in all forms on an ongoing basis.