Our Guest Today: Maisha Dyson
Maisha Dyson is more than well-versed & comfortable discussing issues at the forefront of modern society. Former Actress, Adjunct Professor, Entrepreneur, turned Author, Public Speaker and Creative Producer, Maisha now brings her talents to the world of radio.
In her latest project, United We Slay, a radio show (feat. on DASH Radio & Rukus Avenue Radio), Dyson features intimate interviews and individual stories of culturally diverse “Badass” women in entertainment, sports and business, addressing universal themes of ambition, courage, betrayal, fear, love and prejudice.
Dyson is an alumni of Columbia University (NYC) and Spelman College (ATL). Daughter of Media Personality, Scholar & Author Dr. Michael Eric & Social Activist/Philanthropist Marcia Dyson, Maisha is more than well-versed & comfortable discussing issues at the forefront of modern society. Dyson, a native Chicagoan, now resides in Los Angeles with her firecracker daughter and their dog.
Watch Our Interview
Maisha Dyson Bringing Badass Women Together to Discuss Ambition, Courage, Betrayal, Fear, Love and Prejudice – powered by Happy Scribe
Feisworld podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics, nuggets you can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable. We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have none interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help Deep dove into topics such as freelancing, marketing, even indie filmmaking that would benefit creators like you.
Show notes, lengths and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now onto the show. Hey, everybody, this is Fei again, and this is Feisworld podcast, but I’ve been live streaming all these conversations since, I think May 20, 20. I made a decision that I’m not going to over edit anything. I want people to be able to consume and enjoy the conversation right away. And today, I have a very, very special guest, Maisha Dyson, who found me because of the documentary.
We had lovely conversations. Maisha worked as an actress, but so many other roles as well. You guys, she’s very well versed and you will notice this right away as part of this conversation. She is a former actress, a professor, entrepreneur, turned author, public speaker, creative producer, and now she runs her own show called United. We. I was. I am as I’m recording this, the latest guest. Yeah. Yeah. And you’re featured on Dasch Radio and your parents are famous.
And I only learned that before, which I’m really thrilled because I’m here for you. You’re the reason why we’re where we’re here.
Yeah. Very cool. Dalmatia, thank you for having me face such an honor. So glad to be here with you.
So I’m really glad you’re here, because when you interviewed me recently, I thought to myself, wow, I could really talk to this woman for a long time. And I think today we have a very special opportunity where we can really be so open and transparent. And that’s something I noticed like after I turned 30 is like now I can just tell the world the truth about me, I guess. Vimy so I won’t I won’t exactly that for this episode.
Yeah, for sure. There is something about age and the older we get the more you really just kind of start to let your hair down and go. Look, I’m getting back to like my five year old self when it comes to just showing up as I am. Take it or leave it. These are my life experiences and here I am. You know, you just own your space unapologetically. Right. And that’s been the story of my life is evolving, intentionally evolving and being open to change.
And with that, you take the good, the bad, the ugly. Sometimes you fall, you know, sometimes you get up, sometimes you’re winning. Sometimes you have support, sometimes you don’t. But the day you find yourself in this place and for me, it’s always about am I being authentic, you know, and I am and what it is I want to create and share with others.
So you mentioned you now can be your five year old self. I got to ask you, what were you like when you’re five years old, feisty, bossy, didn’t give a fuck off, feel for hysterical. I mean, literally, like a little. I mean, my mom used to call me, like, a little Mussolini. It was really nice. I knew what I wanted and I didn’t overthink it and I wasn’t insecure about it. And I loved everybody.
So in my mind, I was doing things for everyone. So if they told me I could not have a cookie, but I had five guests over, I go, OK, and then I wait for the leave and I go get what we need it because it was for the greater good that was.
Do you I mean, where you say you were fearless at the time, did you that that’s when you were five years old. And I have a couple of really good friends. I just love their little girls and they’re running around like some of them are tomboys and they’re expressing themselves. Do you did you ever witness a change in yourself at some point that you remember? Did you become a different person or do you feel like you’re able to embrace that that that child self or.
You know, it’s interesting. I’ve had different milestones in my life that definitely made me step back and look at myself, and I changed. Now, some of it was uncomfortable, like my body language even of speaking with it. I remember going the first time I went to college and I went to an all girl college in the South. I grew up with brothers, so I figured, let’s try something different. You know, I got to college and it was such a unique experience and what I was used to that I withdrew a little bit.
Even though I was social, I was doing more observation. I wanted to see what the norm was. What is it like to have sisters? What is it like to go to this all girls school? And then once I kind of gained my confidence in my space, I just owned it. And at the time I was a theater major, which was not a very common degree to go and get, especially for African-Americans like, you know, during the time I was in college, people were going for sciences and they were going for math and English.
But let me start that. Let me go back, because when I did enter college, I was a chemistry major. I was thinking, like, you know, let me please my parents. Do you like my older brother who was on this premed journey? And chemistry was something that I killed and killed it in high school. So I was like, oh, I got this. I could do this. I can become a dentist. That after my first year, I was so like depleted energetically because it was not something I was passionate about.
You can be good at something, but not passionate about it. So I remember calling home and I told my parents, listen, you know, my older brother, he’s a rock star. He’s hold it down. He’s a school. Finished his degree going to med school. I don’t think I can do this. And they started laughing. They said, you know, we kind of wondered why you picked that. We’ve known you to be passionate about performing arts your whole life.
So we figured maybe you’re going to be the dancing dentist. Right. So that shift happen any time things have happened personally or just trying something new, I do step back. And I humble myself because I. I like being a beginner. I know when it’s time to set something down and expand or try something new. And so, yeah, those things do pop up and I see a different I look back and I go, oh, that’s a completely different person, completely different person, completely different person.
Never having imposter syndrome, mind you. But it’s just like, oh, this no longer serves me, let me shed this and I like that. So let’s put that on. And so that’s been the journey, I think as women, I mean, as human beings, we change really quickly, rapidly. And I notice when you said five years old, and that’s such a magical age, not to mention, like, you know, there’s a TV show right now.
I forgot I was like the first, whatever, 20 days or something before you becoming an adult. And it’s fascinating to me because there is a huge difference between a five and a six and a half year old. By the time you get to school, you surround yourself with a community, with teachers. You’ve been told where you’re good at. You’re not where you’re not good at. You’re now in a much more diverse group of people. So to kind of lay the groundwork a little bit, sometimes I don’t get into the habit of asking my guests, but you’re now manager.
Now you’re in L.A. Where did you grow up? Like where did you travel to to give people a sense of your making? It’s so so in my family. I grew up in Chicago, born and raised. It’s where I spent my most time and I left after high school. But I grew up in a family that every four years after leaving high school, my parents moved to different states because my dad was teaching at different colleges, had different tenures at different places.
So Chicago, I spent the longest time. Then I went to Atlanta for undergrad, New York for grad, L.A., where I worked coming out of grad school. I spent time in Nashville and D.C. and Miami. I’ve lived all over. Never have I ever had a traditional, I guess, upbringing. We were used to traveling every four years. Again, my parents still doing it, you know, so I found it as an adventure. You go somewhere, you decide what it is you’re going to do in that place or with a purpose.
But each place I just felt like you get to reinvent yourself. And so I take those parts of each city that I’ve had a chance to tap into at different times of my life. And I always put them in my toolbox. Those skills and people who I loved and had a chance to grow with and we keep moving forward. So my upbringing has been diverse as far as locations here in the US and time spent there. But each one I felt was so necessary based on where I was in life, because I find that, for example, to show that you’re running right now united, we say it’s about diversity there, men and women being interviewed.
I especially love the fact that you interviewed your dad, who is incredibly knowledgeable and there’s such comfort in you to talking together. And and so I just wonder, because I’ve experienced that even by moving forty minutes away from Boston to western Mass recently, and I experience kind of a I don’t want to call it a culture shock because it would be sounds exaggerated, but it’s actually not because the the kind of the diversity of the people have changed drastically that I used to live in a neighborhood, literally, if I may just describe it, you know, Jewish family, Chinese families, Indian families.
And there are also a lot of, let’s say, mixed race couples, children. And to me, there’s just it’s just incredible. And everybody is so open. And and to me, that’s there’s a certain level of comfort now for somebody else could be very uncomfortable. And right now, I’m living in a lovely neighborhood still. And the scenery changes. Where are you know, I’m not trying to crack a joke or anything, but it’s a big community where there’s one black family where the only Chinese family at.
There may be one Indian family, and so it’s very, very different, so I wonder through your experience, what are some of the traveling moments that felt while you really felt like you fit in versus the ones that you learn a lot from, but perhaps it was uncomfortable, if you could recall.
Got it. So let’s start, I guess, and this is interesting. It goes really back again to my childhood. I’ve always been comfortable with diversity. So the neighborhood I grew up in in Chicago was called Hyde Park. It’s where the University of Chicago is located. So when you grow up in a neighborhood like that, there is an influx of cultural diversity. You have students coming from all over the world and professors. And so I’ve always been in that academic environment even as a kid.
And so my classmates were from all over. My best friend was from Chile. I remember I was in first grade. I cannot tell you where this place was on a map. And she had to go back because her grandfather had passed away. So I went home and my grandmother goes, you know, why are you crying? I said, because my best friend, she has to go back home. She goes, where she from? I said, somewhere cold.
It’s really cold. It’s cold. Chilly. Right. But my class was just diverse. Jewish and Mormon and Muslim and Indian and Asian. And I loved it because everyone shared their culture with each other. Right. So that was the hub. The times I’ve been most uncomfortable has been when I found myself living in cities that was pretty much homogeneous, where it was like going back into the sixties and things were just black and white. You know, it did something to me.
I felt like this is so restrictive. This is the stuff my parents talked about. This is things that I’ve seen on these documentaries like Eyes on the Prize. I Thrive Better on coastal cities, New York, Miami, L.A.. Right. Because it’s diversity and everyone is thrown in and you figure stuff out and you bond with people based on natural affinities. You know, you show up and you just stay open and your world becomes super adventurous, really cool.
And it grows. It opens. But cities like Boston, Nashville at the time, Chicago at the time, because outside of our little community, Chicago is still segregated. I mean, offensively segregated. You know, it made me uncomfortable. And I said, OK, after high school, I’m out. I take what I what I love, but I would never move back to a city that felt so just culturally, you know, people going at it very it was a lot of racial tension.
That’s something I saw outside of our little community of Hyde Park, so to speak. So that would be, I think, where everything started to come together for me as far as seeing the value of diversity, you know, and I’m going to say one more thing. I remember speaking to my mom and again, I think it’s generational. She would always say out loud the I didn’t like the ethnicity or the religion of her friends before she announces them to go.
You know, my Jewish girlfriend, Helen, my West African girlfriend, somewhat so. And I go, Mom, why do you always announce where people are from before you say no? But that’s given her the era in which she came up. Right. And so I saw where my siblings and I are at an advantage generationally as being an African-American, where we were put in educational programs that were so diverse. We didn’t see we didn’t announce differences because it’s something that you kind of, you know, you’re taught.
But we didn’t see. I’m just like, oh, my friends, we just look different, you know? So, yeah, that was the start of it for me. It’s something I’ve always valued. Always, always, always wanted to travel the world. The moment I saw a McDonald’s Happy Meal calendar that talked about all the different places you could go. And to add to it, I went to a language academy as a child. So I started learning French at the age of six, or you could pick German or Japanese.
And so, you know, it was just there. It was built in. And I I swear to you, it’s the fabric of like who I am. Big time you. Well, did you continue were French lessons or are you come. Yeah.
From elementary all the way through college. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t speak French, so I had all this information that I didn’t get a chance to use until my daughter, who I was speaking French, I took her to France so that she did not experience, again, not having an outlet to really exercise those talents. You’ve been learning, right. Those skill sets. So, yeah, I’ve always had the information. Just couldn’t utilize it. Oh, because it could be.
You know, if you go there, you possess a lot of skills, so you have a lot of empathy. Super easy to talk to. And I notice that that has learning a different language, lived in different places, seem to be a popular trait. From what I can tell you, actors and actresses, you can imitate different accents, you can kind of being and put yourself in a situation. Do you think that has something to do with you potentially at the time, exploring and a career in acting?
Tell us a bit more about that.
Yes. So here’s the deal. Acting was not something I set out to do in Chicago at the age of 16. I was performing professionally, so I went to a really amazing school, Whitney Young, which is a performing arts academic school. So I’ve always had one path in academia. It was always important. And then my passion and my passion was dance from the time I was three. You know, it was that something that I couldn’t stop, you know, sitting your grandmother down and your aunts, I would put on those recitals.
Everybody come. It’s starting at Sunday at this time. And I couldn’t get it out of my system. It was who I was and meant to perform. When I got to college, I remember sitting in the library studying for one of these chemistry exams and a guy friend of mine who knew I was a dancer because he Meisha Debbie Allen is like on campus and she’s auditioning to put together a performing arts ensemble. You should come. Sounds like Debbie Allen.
Yeah. I’ve seen another world in these great spin offs of The Cosby Show. Oh, I’ll go. So I walked in and she gives us this audition script and lines and we had to dance and she goes, come on back at 5:00. And I went in and had the time of my life and I go, this is what was missing right in my existence. And I would love to be a part of this ensemble. And I end up making the ensemble.
And I was finding that although I was still dedicated to chemistry and being disciplined when it came to rehearsals, I prefer to sit 15 hours a day in that black box theater than anywhere else. I said, this is it, this is what I’m supposed to do. And that’s when I made that phone call to my parents. So as I’m doing that, I still didn’t have career in mind. I just thought, oh, this is just my outlet.
Sure enough, I believe when something is meant for you and you have the skill set that and it’s supposed to be, it’s your destiny. It finds you. So once again, I was sitting somewhere in a library in the summer and a friend tells me about an audition in Atlanta. I go to it. It was for a film and I booked I booked the audition, never acted in my life. But I guess Danzel lends itself to acting.
So that’s how my career started immediately. It was like sag, sag film. And then I got a TV show two months later and I just kept booking stuff where I started to get scared because I still was studying, thinking, well, wait, I don’t have the chops yet, but evidently something was coming through that idea. So what acting was for me at that time and you nailed it. I’m an impact. So for me, it was really about allowing myself my to step aside and be used as a vessel to drop into someone else’s shoes.
Allow me to tell your story. But to do that, I have to be authentically present. I have to be egoless, drop that ego and let go and trust. And so it’s almost like you’re holding the hands of God universe, something bigger that’s walking you. And when I did that is when I was met with opportunity of yours, of acting chops. It just came and I would go another. OK, let’s try it. So it was really about, in my mind, being of service.
How how do I tell stories about girls that look like me that I know little other black girls in Chicago would see because they may not want to pick up a book and read it, but this is a perfect medium. So I thought that this was a tool for me to be of service in order to be a role model to other little girls who I thought were taking this journey behind me and the career got started.
I mean, that’s really interesting. You brought that up because not until five seconds ago I didn’t realize because I see you and it becomes apparent to me, it’s like, yeah, of course, my you should be an actor. Yeah, of course. And dancer. And I realized that as part of this show that I’ve been running since twenty fourteen, I’ve interviewed a lot of actors and actresses. I know collectively they would prefer to be called actors, you know, from Broadway musicals to on screen TV and movie.
Not a whole lot, but I feel like I have some exposure to it. And of course several and many of them are what we consider definitely people of color and represents the diversity in the films that have been placed in. But it also created a lot of challenges, like serious challenges for them, including my friend, one of my friends who have Korean, have Irish, and they really had such difficulties in placing him. We had these discussions.
How did it impact your career?
And very difficult. I mean, that’s a really great point. So I found on this journey, when people choose to become actors and you study at colleges, universities, or even some of these, like in here in L.A., they have actors workshops you can pop into and just go through annually. During the time of my journey, there were very limited African-American actresses that were one booking work and there was also equally a huge amount of actresses who wanted to take these, you know, take this path on as a career.
But it was not enough, if that makes sense. And we had to compete with people out of our age range because there were not enough roles for us. It’s definitely not what we’ve seen the past three to four years here. Right. You could turn on Netflix and its unlimited television show and cultural diversity, sexual diversity, whatever it is, right at different ethnicities. But at that time, I remember going into auditions and Regina King is coming out.
Well, she’s been on television for 20 years. I remember watching her when I was like eight. I said, how can I compete with this? Or Halle Berry being the only one, you know, at the time, booking roles of one of Vivica Fox, you know, a Theresa Randolph, Michael Michelle. These are women who are older than me but who I looked up to. So when you start to see limitations based on Hollywood deciding now, we’ll take one of this and one of that and like Joy Luck Club, I remember watching that.
And I was like, OK, how come we don’t see more film? It’s one of my favorite films growing up. I how can we don’t see more of this? And then it takes 20 more years for us to see crazy rich Asians. One world are we living in. This is not the world that I knew. Right. So that journey was difficult, not because the talent wasn’t there. I mean, I was in programs and met actors all over the world who were incredible.
And today they are not acting nowhere near the medium because it was so challenging. Right. So that impacted my career in many ways. I still had some success. It wasn’t what it could be. But it’s a it’s a let me say, embarking on this journey is about being it’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. Right. And so you have moments where you work, moments where you don’t. Moments where you work, moments where you doubt.
That is why I’ve always had one foot on both sides of either something I created myself being an entrepreneur or a teacher and then performing arts. You had to have that duality Zoom to fill the void. You know, I couldn’t sit just waiting on things to happen to me. I’m not that person. So it was always I had two things happening at the same time my entire life. And I always paired it originally with education again, going back to when I was dancing professionally at a form an art school.
I was the captain. So I’m always turning around and teaching others. When I went to college, even though I was in a program and getting an education and performing arts, I had my own business. I found out in Atlanta they had stopped including me, into the school systems. So I created a dance education program and I went off to every public school, I mean, in private school, introduced my curriculum and parents paid me directly. So I was educating and I made that a business.
So when I decided to go to grad school, I said, OK, I don’t want to be a fraud and doing this. Let me go get my master’s in dance education that took me to New York, to Columbia University. So every time I had to check, engage myself with making sure I’m always. Doing things out of service, meaning operating from my heart, that door opens and the next step I could take it, it was illuminate it, so to speak, if you know what I mean.
Oh, my God, you’re touching on. I mean, now we’re getting really like the core of those conversations here. And I think your background, people’s background, origin stories are so important, otherwise you don’t really know who you’re talking to. And now things really started to make sense. And this is starting to really light up. Two areas I would love to kind of get into, which you can probably talk for about 16 hours. But no one is the not only the diversity of who we are as human beings and where we come from, not just skin colors and cultures, but also the different the diverse income streams as well, revenue streams.
And what you just described, you know, for people, we’re listening to those if you’re a dance teacher, if you want to pursue an art and performing arts or traditional arts, you’re thinking about those. I’m sure your parents grandparents are thinking, oh, my goodness, we have to be rich to be a musician. Your family has to have a trust fund in order for you to even think about it. I don’t think about it. But what I’m hearing is this, that you are pursuing something that you love doing.
You know, maybe not always, but there’s something that you wanted to try and learn from. And on the side, you always the duality, at least two or more things that you’re focusing on. Do you think that gave you that’s one area. Do you do you think that gave you the freedom, the confidence and what was going through or what have you learned doing that for over the years?
Yeah, I mean, it definitely gives you the confidence, right? You never want to walk into something with the mindset of, oh, my God, if I fail. I mean, I think that’s a very negative way to embark on any journey you want to walk in, like, hey, you know, I’m going to work on my craft and try to be the best I can be and what it is that I do. Right. But you have to also know your strengths.
So if my strength is same theater because of the way these scripts are written, three dimensional characters and I have time to develop in front of an audience and as an impact, I know I can bring what is necessary to make you feel what the director and the author screenwriter meant for you to feel right. That may be a strength, but say if a weakness is auditioning on camera because I just am not good with doing that up to did you like me?
Is it’s something that you got to work on at the same time. Right. So what I did was I focused on my strengths in other areas. I found comfort in educating others because I came from a family of educators. So there’s value in taking something that you know or passions and helping others. It kind of keeps resealing what you know. Right. You’re constantly a student, too, if that makes sense. So they go hand in hand.
I cannot again, I’m a person who is not going to sit and wait for someone to pay me. And that’s the business of acting. You just if you get a check that day because you booked a job, then your family eats. If you do not, then you don’t. That’s a very unique business model, right? It’s great when you’re young. Great for me. When I had nothing to lose him in college, I mean, I’m broke.
Anyway, I moved to New York. I was broke anyway in my early twenties, fearless. But I always then had a job working for a producer, working for a director, because I want to know the back end of this. So when I go to grad school, it was not just for dance education. I also made sure my masters included Arts Administration because you have a lot of performing artists who don’t know how to run businesses. Right point.
Yeah, right. So again, I’m a left and right brain thinker. I need to be able to create create my own when I need to. That confidence comes with getting older. It was until I became a mom that I said, you know what, this is great. But it’s not doing it because it’s taking away too much time from this little person who I love and don’t want to miss any opportunity in her life. So again, I started to shift take those skill sets and you start to shift what it is you’re doing with them to create revenue streams.
So that’s pretty much been the journey for me. Two trains running at the same time. You have to have one foot in both if you’re going to be a pie maker. And once you’re on bake bakery, learn how to make pies, but also learn how to run the business. Do your books, you know, create a budget, fund raising, all of that. You have to have different hats in this day and age because. As we’ve learned in twenty twenty.
Change happens, how do you pivot, right?
Oh, this is so important because I know that maybe some of you guys watching this are thinking I actually don’t like business. I’ll tell you, my mom herself does not like business. She’s a very talented artist, as you can see from all the work done in my office. She kind of made it. She declare she didn’t like marketing. She did not like to represent herself. So it was always taken, was always done by someone else. And I saw that was such a disservice to to oneself because until recent years now in twenty twenty, she’s in her late 60s, she learned that she has to represent herself.
The lesson came should have come sooner, but it’s better late than never now. So because when you are giving this permission and this responsibility to someone else, not only want to learn the necessary skills and the others, you have no control over how you’re being represented. So to me, I get really excited. Everybody, my clients, my friends know I get really excited about all things business, from spreadsheets to marketing plans, to budgeting, doing films, videos, all all that jazz.
But give it a shot like shoe, for example, for you in twenty twenty. I’m so glad we got back in touch because of my emails. Yeah. I’m so, so thrilled that you reached out. But what did you find yourself needing to pivot. What are some of the changes. Perhaps some very uncomfortable decisions you have to make to adapt.
Well, oh gosh. I mean it’s funny, sad, uncomfortable. I feel like there’s always these ebbs and flows of of being uncomfortable in life and then hitting your stride, too.
But you perhaps more ready, I mean, given you had years of practice prior to twenty. Twenty.
Yeah. Yeah. So again before twenty twenty I was still part time college professor. Then I’m back and ironically I can tell you how things come full circle. In my 20s, early 30s, I was so focused on just being the performer and then after I became a mom, you know, wanted to lend my my time more to being in control of what my career look like. So out of everything, it just fell into my lap. An opportunity to teach at a performing arts college in Miami.
I mean, I had that was off my radar since grad school, but in 15 years had passed. But I ran into someone who said, hey, we’re looking for someone at our school who has professional acting experience, a master’s in in dancer acting. And I was like, wait, that’s me. So I went to meet with the dean and by the time I left, my name was on that syllabus, so things came back around. This is where I’m kind of talking about when you’re living your truth and living your purpose from a place of authenticity.
Things pop up in your life that you least expect it, because, remember, my original plan was to be a dentist.
Yeah, exactly. It finds you.
But the universe had another way. As long as I kept saying, yes, this feels right. Yes, this feels good to me. And looking at opportunities to match or combine or hybrid, those have always happened where I’ve had to change and shift. So I was teaching at Miami Dade College three years and a very dear friend of mine. She’s like she’s a professor at, um, University of Miami. She was I would love for you to come talk to my college students at the business school about marketing and branding.
I was like, what do I know about that? She’s like my you came from an acting background. And I was like, you know what? She’s right. I was teaching public speaking again, same skill set. My actors know how to market themselves, but because we didn’t have social media when I was doing this, you have to or your own company, you are your own company. So I mean the same way we know how to do our own hair and makeup.
We know how to present ourselves, pitch ourselves, brand ourselves. So when I walked into that school for her with her, I had already designed something again coming from Teachers College at Columbia. You had to design a curriculum to give people the skill sets that we learned in the entertainment industry, which is why entrepreneurs need to be comfortable with public speaking. You better believe it. Now, in this generation of social media, you cannot be shy and you have the next upcoming Facebook and someone comes as a reporter and puts the mic in your face and you can’t say what your brand’s about in two sentences and own it with confidence and answer questions and deal with crisis communication.
You’ve got to be present. And on top of it, I said, Oh, I’ve shared that passion that worked for me in my twenties and thirties. Now that a mid 30 to 40, I go in as a mom. This is this is where I want to be now. I want to teach other people how to do this. And more and more people don’t need it. Oh, and YouTube is great and Instagram will have great. You guys need me.
So that’s where that pivot happened. And again, it just came from. Let me see what everybody needs help with and what what skills do I bring that only I can do when you call my name, you know. And so that’s how it lends itself to that. When I decided to sit down and really create a plan around unitedly clé it was it. It was intended as a docu series first remember. Yeah. And a friend who happens to be her husband’s over at Ruckus Avenue Radio saw my dad, he goes, how would you like to do this as a radio show.
I thought, oh, I like this because it gives me an opportunity to highlight and feature all these amazing, culturally diverse women who I’ve met along my journey, I’m talking about rock stars who I never saw on television. Remember, we talked about, you know, people being selected for different things and they’re overlooked because they may not have a billion followers on Instagram, but these people are changing lives and making impact. So I told them, oh, yeah, I’m comfortable.
Let’s do it if I’m teaching public speaking. OK, I got the radio part, but it was really about highlighting. The people in the world that were doing things that were changing lives. That’s the premise behind it. We whistling in the place right in the stories which otherwise wouldn’t be heard possibly, and a platform created for everyone else.
So and this busy. Thank you. You know, thank you. I appreciate that, because this came to be for 20, 20. And then when we got to twenty 20 and I started to see what was happening in American culture with racial tension. And people are looking for content from people of color, specifically African-Americans. I was like, oh, we got this. Yeah. Like what is it? We, you know, because we we knew we always existed.
I knew that other cultures always existed. But I think if you’re not a minority, you don’t feel a need to go and connect world. The groundwork was already laid, so to speak, and it was a joy to be able to bring people up that look like the world that I knew.
Yeah, I mean, I already think of a couple of potential introductions or how I in this way, I can actually share your podcast episode or your podcast overall, you know, to people who really crave those. Because what I learned, especially as you mentioned this past year, between the pandemic and racial pressure in this country and the multitude of different types of, I guess, struggles that we live through from, you know, for the African-American communities, as well as at the beginning of the year when the pandemic came out, it was called sort of the, you know, the China virus.
And then there were attacks on the Asian communities against people who are Chinese and people who are not Chinese. And so it was incredibly upsetting. So then we started and I start hearing from all over the place to say, oh, well, fine, I want to learn more about you people. I want to learn more about African-American cultures. Where do I find that? And of course, I also have a very diverse group of people. And my my black friends are telling me that I’m just really busy these days.
All of a sudden, everybody is coming to me asking for these questions. And crees that trigger of the look for some people, for some group is like, oh, there was only one person I know is African-American, let me go right to him and I will get educated on. But I think what I love about your show is highlighting these stories so that those stories are there. And the longer you run your show, the more powerful it is, more diverse there will be.
So people can you know, with you being a teacher, really by training and by interest. So now people can go to a more centralized place where these stories have been curated and you can listen to it when there isn’t when it isn’t a headline on CNN.
That’s right, because there’s an immense a lot of pressure when the world is looking to you to tell a narrative of an entire racial group, correct? Yeah. Like, I didn’t get that leasure. No one gave me a reading list when I needed to learn about the plight of our Jewish brothers and sisters myself activated that I wanted to learn about the Holocaust. I went to the museum. I talked to a bunch of people. Listen, I look at it like this.
If you have a portfolio in life, right, they tell you same business to diversify it, why is it that your friend folder and portfolio doesn’t look like this? Diversify your life in the year? Twenty twenty. You have a homogeneous group around you. Something is wrong. I’m sorry. Especially living in a place like America. This place was called the melting pot for was for a reason. And the more you do that, the more you realize everybody’s more the same, with the exception of some traditional cultural values.
Right. Passed down for generations. But it’s pretty much still the same. We’re the same way we put our pants legs on the same. We are pregnant, the same as women. The men are going through the same headaches and dating, but then we’re more alike than we are different. And so it’s a thing of empathy, again, connecting us. And you have to put forth the effort. If you really want to genuinely get to know people, make yourself available.
But don’t put the pressure on one person to tell your entire flight, are you?
You’re right that everybody has such a different to and I almost forgot to ask you this question. Just listening to you speak. And you grew up with brothers, but you also all of you grew up with the two, both parents who are very into and advocating for social justice and equality. And they’re very vocal, very known in the community. What is the impact that your parents had on your life? What didn’t they have and why we should go to the shore?
What was it like growing up in the household like that?
Social activism was at the front forefront of our minds. I mean, the first boycott I went to, I was six years old with my mother. My mom worked for Operation Push, which is led by Jesse Jackson, Reverend Jesse Jackson. Growing up in Hyde Park, we lived a few blocks away from Louis Farrakhan. Chicago was very much a social activists, hands on proud people, you know, community where we were making strides and differences, you know, in the rest of the country was watching.
I was exposed to it at a very early age. So, again, community justice for all seeing people, no matter what the socioeconomic status was, you never knew if that kid who unfortunately had to grow up in the projects with limited food, you know, who didn’t have means was the next potential rock or the next potential, you know, concert pianist. He just needed the tools. Right. These were things we saw. You are born into a circumstance.
You are not your circumstance. You can overcome these circumstances. You can move forward, beam upward mobile and get to where you going with support, help and the means. That was something that was at the forefront of our home is something I live with today. We always had people in our house again. My parents were educators and social activists. It’s about community. If one person was not eating well, bring them in and we got food for everybody.
It has always been a service, you know, being of service. My parents were surrogates to a lot of black children who didn’t have healthy relationships with their parents. Me and my siblings had to share our parents in that way. So I couldn’t be selfish. I couldn’t. To this day, I still I have so many play brothers, sisters from here to Uganda. My mom goes and finds folks all day long and she goes, What do you need, honey?
And she’s that person. And she educates them. They live their relationships, they mentor. So when you grow up with that in front of you, I can’t just show up and say, oh, it’s just about Mesia. I can’t have that vanity deal. It has to be how do I open this door for fifty other faiths, you know that then I can’t because I have access to it now. How can I help in that way? And so that has been the legacy of the Dyson family.
It’s something I feel tremendously on my shoulders is something I share with my daughter. You know, you cannot be selfish in this world and and expect it to become better. If you have information, fame, which you do so lovely and you curated it and you organize it and you giving people gems and you’re doing it because it’s what you feel is the right thing to do and other people are winning from it. So be it. We have to have that.
We have to have that. I just see it like how we need water, you know, how else can we grow? And so you’re constantly learning and your audiences, too. And hopefully they. Take that and teach someone else, so that’s been our our upbringing.
What a great mantra. I mean, some people hearing this probably thinking like, oh my gosh, you’re so lucky. And I think they’re right because you’ve been exposed to parents who are so loving, who are so accepting of others. Not only I think they’ve been exposed to a very diverse group of people they know who desperately need help. But I also they I think they seek out seek them out, too. I bet your parents are exactly like that.
All this weekend has gone really well, but wonder who needs help. They actually look for them. I think that’s a that is really something. I haven’t met your parents, but if I have the pleasure to do so, I’ll be sure to give them a huge hug, as I would will for you as well, because you know something really kind of like a feels personal life. I don’t think I ever brought this up when I interviewed Ralph Pieterson Jr.
, who’s African-American, really famous drummer and, you know, to give away his age. But a number of years ago, I think many years ago, I met his mom, who since then passed away. But I just saw I saw this woman and I don’t know what it is that we’re in a crowded room. He had a lot of students performing different instruments. The moment his mom walked in. I was immediately attached to her. I just I had to I just felt I was probably already 30 at the time.
I felt like little girl. I just I felt so safe. I couldn’t describe not that I was any environment that, you know, it was was a very loving day, an environment. Everybody’s playing music. But when I saw her, I just knew she had to hug me like I. I felt something really tremendous that I never felt before. I don’t know how to describe it. She possesses something that just made me feel immediately attached to her.
I feel that it’s when people open their hearts right. I mean, my parents are not perfect and my family is and we have all have our demons. OK, but I will say, when when you put that had on that intention of moving through this world with your heart open, that’s where that coming of service is really about. Other people feel if they come to it brings it to you. So I guess it becomes at like a tracking like situation.
If I am closed off, you’re not going to feel like coming to give me a hug if I walk in that room. But if I come in and I’m smiling and I have something in my eye or something that you see that maybe that we could give each other and I find myself doing, I walk over to someone else and go, hey, I feel like I’m supposed to know you are my age. Who are you?
Yeah, I’m supposed to know you. I love you. Yeah, but you have to take your guard down, right? You have to be comfortable being vulnerable because some people say not today and then you’ve got to be OK with that. You can be assertive, but you’re going to be you’re not always going to get your way. But it’s better to know what you want to know, how to present yourselves and let the natural energy attraction. Let’s just kind of let things hang and let it let it all happen to you so that the last to respect your time.
Are you sure there’s one more area I feel like I’m really curious to explore as my emails, as you reading the series have been talking a lot about diversify your income by different income streams. And I’m being very transparent. You know, not every income stream is millions of dollars, but I’m showing people a little bit here, a little bit there. But just based on what you brought up in the most recent moments, it makes me think about the next email.
I’m it’s in draft mode. I call it no income stream. It’s not a joke. But I said to myself, I realized for ten, twenty years already that I’m very willing to work for free for at least a couple of reasons. And I’m sure you and your parents have all helped people that you didn’t get a penny from. And then you devoted your your love and devotion. And I’ve been doing that to you even in the year. Twenty twenty.
I have so much joy helping people. And I guess how to form it into a question is one sometimes people don’t fully understand. And in the world, especially in this moment where resources feel limited, that jobs are laws, you know, the TPP or somehow sent to already millionaires and billionaires and the everyday people are struggling. So people sometimes are like, say, you know, I’m very lucky not have encountered that. But other people may say, what are you doing this for?
Why are you helping me? Was the intention behind it because I’ve heard this from other people. How how do you help people process? What’s your take on how do we help other people process that?
Wow. I haven’t had anybody question. Like, why are you giving advice on something persay, which is interesting. I’m just like, wow, I wonder, like, I don’t even know what my response would be if someone. Did that because, yeah, I’m just like, you know, how you find out, like, here’s my OK, let me go back. If I’m offering an online course and you’re offering this to people in corporate, you know that these corporations can afford what you’re giving.
OK, so I have an income because I do believe in charity. But when it comes to your career, you also have know your worth. Yeah. And I found that the hard way, especially being in minority. You know, a lot of people expected me to show up and not pay me anything with a master’s degree from Ivy League College and 20 years behind me of professional work. And you don’t think you need to pay me, let alone on time?
No, thank you. You know, you have to be assertive and knowing your worth and when to say, no, this is my value. This is my service. This is what I charge. Once that’s taken care of and you can stop and you look back at the community hall and I go, you know what? Here’s an online mini course. See if you like the way I speak. See if you believe what I’m talking about. Try it out.
Tell me if I’m full of shit, come back. Let me go back and recreate one house. Ninety nine bucks, guys. Can we all afford that? Because what I’m going to give you, in addition to what I explained, is actually going to be more you know, again, it’s not we’re not I, I can only speak for myself. I’m not a selfish person where it’s only going to give you the five things I talked about.
There’s always bonuses. It’s always, oh, this plus. So I’ll go back to when I’m teaching at the college. They paid me to be there to do a job. But what my students got in exchange was those students who wanted to go to New York and L.A. They’re college because they didn’t have the relationships, they didn’t know agents, they didn’t know producers, they didn’t know directors. I opened up my Rolodex and said, hey, let me know who you need.
Send email on their behalf. Now you’ve got a contact. Now, if you want to go work in Hollywood, you can go get a job and use my name. Well, that’s priceless, right? So, again, you got to look at the value and also the person who you’re in front of. Do they value what you’re giving?
Yeah, if they do. And exactly if they do, they value you. And and you are as a creator, you’re having tremendous amount of fun. You’re learning something new you wouldn’t otherwise from your other paid projects. Then I argue that could be a really great opportunity. And I think the way I form the question wasn’t so much of it. People really pushing you away, being so negative. Right. And not nice or nasty even then you’re not obligated to help them.
You can end the conversation. Sometimes people are a little bit puzzled by it. They’re kind of intrigued by it because we’re in a world where there’s given than you give. And then like, how do I react to this? Why I didn’t even I can’t pay you. I don’t have enough money to pay you. Why do you see this endeavor? All of them become a shared vision. So that’s something I’ve been thinking about. Instead of thinking my brand face world clearly is about me, my world and people in it.
But I started to kind of try to elevate myself, my brand, to be about other people and the service of others as well, that that maybe I can call something that that’s OK. That’s obviously my legacy. But I think our legacies are ingrained in the works that other people are doing, the lives that they’re living.
So, yeah, you just nailed it. And that’s the whole premise behind United. We clé I mean I don’t introduce the show talking about me, I go, hey guys. In an effort to talk about these badass amazing women I meet in the world, I’m bringing them on the show, I’m going to cover every topic, tune in and it’s about them. It’s their spotlight on they no longer want to be on stage. I’m super comfortable being behind the camera and on or on the mic.
Please, guys, I want to interview you. Tell me your story. Share your story, because I have been through a lot now and I want to know there are days, I’m insecure days and I’m winning days at a time. I the only one I’m not. Thank you. Am I crazy? No, I’m not. OK, good. And so that’s value. That’s community. Right. That’s the community currency which we talked about. It’s give and take.
And when we talk about people questioning those things that you give us freebies. The best example I could give is when you go to certain cities and you see these little clear mailboxes and they have books and they’re like, please take one. Yeah, yeah. Neat. Leave what you don’t. That’s how I see it. It may not be for everybody.
Yeah. And I’m so glad you’re on to this podcasting journey. I can see you doing it for a long time. And because just like you said now these are the little boxes of books. But now as you travel worldwide, you already have friends worldwide. How are you going to have your opening of new doors and literally new doors where your guests will welcome you in, let’s just say, after the pandemic? And I lived that life for many years before the pandemic and it just so beautiful to enjoy lunch, dinner time with my podcast guests, families watching their kids grow, watching their paintings, all of us on.
Not all of a sudden, but appear in my in my office and to really feel their presence. So it just it’s so incredible. I mean, I, I feel like there was so easy to take up the entire hour talking to you. What are some of the. Yeah. Like how do people find you to use Zoom with your work, your your wisdom and knowledge.
I’m here so OK. I’m the introverted extrovert and as I told you before we started chatting, I am sometimes I’m on and off social media, but my presence is on I’m on Instagram at my Meisha Dyson and yeah, you can just contact me there, you know, unitedly clé media on Instagram. I get emails that way as well. You can tune into the show. Yeah. We just kind of go from there. But that’s where you can find me a lot of times that I was going to say this to Fey as creative content producers, which is like that position we’re in now.
When we find people whose stories just blow our minds, we’re able to take it up a notch. And so, like I’ve been developing some projects from guests that were previously on my show outside of just the podcast. So now we’re in the space of creating TV shows and things like that about their story because they’re phenomenal. Right. So it’s stuff like that that kind of comes up. And this is such a fun space that we are in and it makes it all worthwhile.
Yeah, exactly. That’s how I created my documentary. I absolutely loved it because then it’s such a it’s a different medium and then people have a different feel than you grow as a result of doing podcasts and the documentary. And oh, it’s just I’m going to remaster, I’m going I just announced I’m going to remaster my documentary and produce a like a longer form content with my producer. Her mom’s so excited about that.
This is the perfect time to do it. Everyone’s looking for content, something and diverse telling stories. This is the perfect time. Twenty, twenty. Thank you for that.
You know, so I imagine all your links descriptions are in the in the description wherever you’re watching this Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter is a little bit trickier, but please connect with Meisha and listen to her show and really recommend it to other people as well as such an opportunity because she’s done the work so you don’t have to. So thanks again you you’re going to take us offline now. Thank you for having. This episode of the First World podcast is brought to you by First World LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses.
We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand phasor podcast team or chief editor and producer Herman Silvio’s associate producer Adam Lefort, social media and content manager Rosta Leon transcript editor Allena Almodóvar. And lastly myself, the creator and host of Face World. Thank you so much for listening.
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