Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle “FRECKLES” LaBelle.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born in Los Angeles, California. My mother is a black Hispanic who was born in Honduras and raised in Belize. My father is white from French descent.
I was taken by the police when I was only a couple months old, as neighbors expressed concern that I would not survive under my mother’s care. Both of my parents are mentally ill with violent tendencies, so I was placed in foster care until one of my maternal aunts won custody of me. My aunt raised me in Brooklyn, New York.
My passion for writing started as a little girl. I was an active performer growing up; I took drama classes at Brooklyn College. I majored in dance at Brooklyn HS of the Arts. I started writing raps in 8th grade. I started sharing my raps in high school. I fell in love with poetry and performing spoken word in college.
I returned to California in 2009, transferring from SUNY Plattsburgh to attend UCLA. I graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a degree in Creative Writing. Before graduating from UCLA, I had the honor of opening up with my spoken word for a dialogue between Dr. Cornel West and Carl Dix, causing over 500 people to give me a standing ovation, including Dr. Cornel West, who was enthusiastically jumping up and down. This event sparked a passion for me to travel and share my spoken word at different schools. I love inspiring the youth and adults to stand up and become the change that they want to see in their communities.
I am thankful that I have been able to use my talents to encourage others to pursue their dreams despite their unfortunate circumstances.
I was excited when Alexandria “SHYE EAZE” Harrell, invited me to join WitEAZEent. The company’s vision is aligned exactly with how I want to flourish as an artist. I especially love the fact that the company is headed by a female and is composed of other beautiful and talented women. I believe that we all have what it takes to bring the entertainment industry to a whole new level.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road, more like a roller coaster ride; lots of ups and downs. I grew up in a tough city, Brooklyn, before it became the gentrified version that we have today. Growing up, I struggled with uncertainty about my place in society and my true identity, since I am multiracial, so I had to deal with being accepted by some people and rejected by others.
Writing created a new reality for me. It created a world that allowed me to escape from the pain in my life. The applause and love that people show me after my performances let me know that I have a talent that people can connect with and feel. Knowing the positive impact that my words have on people and communities is what motivates me through any obstacles that come my way.
I had to learn how to still be an artist while navigating through life as a single mom with a young child. I went through a period where my daughter and I were homeless and hungry. I knew I needed a strong team to help me. Luckily, I was attending Oasis Church in Koreatown, and God and a single parenting group saved me.
One of the hardest struggles was finding a strong team to support me as an artist. Just like the saying that says that it takes a village to raise a child, I believe it takes a village to raise an artist. You need to have people around you that you can trust and who are looking out for your best interests. I found myself being surrounded by men who presented many opportunities for me, and I probably would be more successful by now if I accepted the opportunities, but I turned them down because I knew sex was wanted in return. This is why I was so happy to join WitEAZEent because I now have people who are putting my talent center stage instead of my vagina.
A recent struggle that I had to face came about while producing my latest, spoken word piece, “For the Queens.” I had to cleanse my Instagram page and make sure that I only had images that reflected how I want to be perceived as an artist and as a woman. Figuring out the best way to brand yourself is difficult, especially as a woman because people have all these expectations of how a respectable woman should dress and present herself to the public. I do not believe that a queen needs to be a super conservative woman. A woman should be able to express her sexuality, sensuality, freely, and unapologetically, because we are not one dimensional. There are different components to a woman. There are different levels to a queen. A woman carries her strength, her grace, her beauty, her sexiness, everywhere she goes, and her ability to carry all of these things confidently is the essence of being a queen. Unfortunately, as an artist, you do have to take the thoughts and perceptions that people have of you into consideration if you want them to connect with your brand and support it. So, since I am producing a video, “For the Queens,” I have to make sure that I present myself in a way that makes it easy for people to receive the message from me. Branding is a difficult process, but in the long run, when done correctly, it is worth it; you just have to accept it as part of the game, whether you like it or not, so that is what I am working on now.
We’d love to hear more about WitEAZEent.
Alexandria “SHYE EAZE” Harrell is the founder of WitEAZEent. The company is composed of women only. We unite as the working mother, daughter, sister, and artist, from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States. I am the Spoken Word Artist of the group. We also have a musician, a DJ, a Health and Life Coach, a Videographer, a Digital Services Consultant, a Kundalini Yoga Instructor, a Photographer, a Make-up Artist, and Published Authors, and that is not even all of the talents that we each possess. I am most proud of our diversity. We are Black, Korean, Hispanic, Caribbean, and White. The fact that we are composed of all women who bring more than one talent to the table is what sets us apart from others. Our events provide local artists with the opportunity to network with one another. We believe in using our art to create positive moments for people to share throughout the world, living minute by minute, with ease.
What were you like growing up?
I grew up as an only child, so I had to find creative ways to keep myself entertained. I would line up all of my dolls to watch me dance and perform. I wrote my own songs and raps. One of my favorite things to do was to randomly select words from the dictionary and create raps with them. I loved pretending that I was on a talk show, discussing my plans and dreams with Oprah. At school, I always wrote the funniest stories with our spelling words. I wanted to be an actress, but I knew my words were going to take me further. While I was attending high school, my writing opened up the opportunity for me to complete summer programs at the Ivy League Schools, Stanford University, and Princeton University.
I loved standing out from the crowd. I did not like looking like everyone else. When I attended junior high at the Philippa Schuyler School for the Gifted and Talented, we had to wear uniforms, so I used to decorate my stockings with the most ridiculous things, just to show my uniqueness.
I was shy growing up and that is why my mom had me in acting and dance classes; she was trying to break me out of it. Up to this day, I am still very shy, until I hit a stage. When I am performing, I am no longer that shy little girl. I feed off of the bright lights and attention.
- Prisoner of Poetry Book $12 www.lulu.com/spotlight/
- Kisses from the Sun Book $15 www.lulu.com/spotlight/
- Writing Workshops $300 for 2 hours, and $100 per hour thereafter.
- Local Spoken Word Performance $100-$400 for 0 to 3 hours.
- Spoken Word Performance Outside of Los Angeles $300 per day + Travel + Room & Board
Bianca Sinzun, Andrea Carcovich