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S2 E5 with Micah & Ray

Micah: right, so, um, welcome world, uh, to another episode of any other, anything with Grey Box Collective. Uh, I am Micah, uh, the host for today, and I'm here with. Good old Ray. Uh, Ray, we've been, uh, we've collaborated before and I am excited to just kind of, you. Converse, hang out, talk catch up. I know it's been a minute.

We're on opposite sides of the country right now. Granted I'm in a different country, so, uh, that's neither here nor there, but, um, it's really good to, to be in touch again. Um, and I'm super excited to, to chat. How are you feeling? How are you?

Ray: Hey, um, yeah, it's a nice day over here in Cali. Um, we repping the West Coast.

Um, I'm, I'm feeling pretty good. You know, this is one of my, first of what I hope to be many, um, collaborations in podcasting, in radio, and yes, I, I am very excited that. We are back sharing the same space, especially up underneath the rainbow, um, umbrella of Grey Box and all that we have to offer. Um, so I'm excited.

I'm excited of this new journey, um, that I'm gonna be taking beyond just this interview as far as working with you in future projects on the podcast. So I'm, I'm excited. I'm excited. Thank you.

Micah: Yeah, no, no problem. Honestly, it's, it's great. Um, I, I, I, I've always loved your energy. Um, I'm a little jealous Here're in California.

I, uh, my, my dream place to kind of settle down and retire in has always been San Diego.

Ray: What part are you in? Yes, I was, I was about to interject and I don't wanna be rude and let my a d h interject you , but I sure was gonna say, don't bring your ass to California. Don't do it. But, but, but I will say San Diego.

Yes, cuz that's always been my dream as well. It's, it's expensive, but now, Um, inflation on the rise everywhere. It's actually not any more expensive than any place else in California. Hmm. Um, I would suggest among, um, against la Yeah. LA right now is not, um, a safe place. Um, it's a, it's a place of, um, um, for the people that can live upon a certain means, I can see how they could live above the rest of the drama that's going on.

But for the median people, the main earners that. More blue collar or maybe even stuck where I come at, um, low, um, income. Um, it's, it's not a welcoming place for, for those of us in that price category right now. So LA is not the place to be, even though I love the culture. I come here to visit. I actually am living here temporarily.

I'm about to lead San Diego. I've been there before. I've shopped there. Absolutely. So I'm actually working my way down towards San Diego. I'll be moving about an hour away from San Diego when I move in a, in about a month or so.

Micah: That's awesome. That's awesome. I love that. I love that. And so, yeah, I guess you're kind of really in a season of change, uh, right now, which is always exciting.

I know. It's funny. Uh, There's always sometimes, uh, a human tendency to be hesitant or resistant towards change. Um, but it's also something that I feel like we're constantly seeking as a species, which is, uh, also interesting , just that melody of man. Um, but I, I'm kind of curious. I know, uh, you're, you're making some shifts.

You're talking about like maybe pursuing radio and, um, uh, kind of exploring more of your artistic self. Um, so I am curious. Uh, how, how is it, how is your current process of sustaining yourself as an artist? Like what is that looking for for you?

Ray: Um, like right now? Well, luckily, Um, if I'm understanding the, the whole context of the question, right.

So I'm gonna hit it in a couple of different, uh, directions. Luckily for me right now, I'm medically retired. I worked my ass off, um, in the regular world for many, many years. Um, trying to beat the statistics status quo. I grew up in foster care. I didn't really have a family base. So once I turned 18, I listed in the core.

I went to school, I did all this stuff to educate myself and work for the government. I was a foster parent for almost 15 years, so I handled the adulting stuff all in the beginning of my life, including, excuse me, raising my two kids or whatever involvement I had with them. and my youngest finally turned 18 a couple of years ago in 2018, and she enlisted in the core.

My son is 33 and now she's 22. Um, I'm a full-time artist right now, um, because of the fact that, um, I'm medically retired, so of course I get medical benefits to stay at home, and it just so happened. The artistic, um, development of presentation also shifted with the pandemic and with COVID.

Everybody's doing it artistically at home, whereas all growing up I doubted my abilities to. Sustain myself as an artist because I am also, not only am I diagnosed as autistic, which affects my social skills and me wanting to be a part of the greater big arts world with all these people that think differently than I do, but I'm also avoid avoidant.

So, Um, I have a hard time with social skills and that was a big block on me pursuing my artistry as a youngster. That's why I went into, um, psychology and corrections and foster care just kind of gave up. But when the pandemic came, everybody went virtual. And I was like, oh my goodness. It was like my inner spirit said, bitch, this is your chance.

And I kind of took that. My kids moved out. They live in different states and I started with my very, my very I just wanted a taste. I just wanted to see, I mean, because I went to school, I studied gears. Of performance arts, even through college, I just couldn't get a degree in it or go to school like, um, to a, um, performing arts school.

So I just wanted to see if I still had it. And my very first audition was Grey Box. It wasn't just with Grey Box, it was on a panel with five other directors and. Molly and Lizbett chose me out of the others, and literally my first audition has now landed me a full-time career, a part of the collective.

And I started running, I, I went, I mean, to, to land. Three directors and four roles and one audition that day. It changed my life because I didn't have confidence. I didn't have self-belief, I don't have family, I didn't have anybody pouring into me, and I even had kids like, you're crazy. Your time is over. So to do it at 46, actually I was 45 when I first auditioned and to land. Four of them scared me and I was like, well, holy shit, who do I think I am? Then maybe I, I can do this. And, and I just started running, taking classes. So full-time is what I do. So I started instantly developing my presence on social media because it's all virtual.

Um, it, I'm one of the older, I'm a Gen Xer. I believe that. Because of autism and how it kind of locks me into a youthful state of mind. Um, I didn't have a problem with transitioning into what the youth are into now, which is digital and virtual platforms. It, it, I love video games. I'm a nerd, you know, autistic, weird science kid from the hood.

That's me, literally cuss you out. But I wanna go home and watch, you know, um, Sesame Street and shows about science. So to grow up and to be the same. Person because due to autistic traits, I'm literally the same person I was at 20. So sustaining myself as an artist full-time, all it meant really was learning how to navigate these virtual, um, Platforms, um, using the fact that I fell in love and I got hired right away by my dream, my theater, and then building from there, it was all up from there.

So sustaining myself. Of course, I, I do live off the stipend I get as an artist. Anything that anybody will bless me with, but my main resources now come from disabilities, so I live as a minimal. I'm not out there eating and, and no, I don't need to. I'm, I'm very happy. I'm 48 on stage dancing and making art and creating virtually with people half my age.

So sustaining myself as an artist right now is mostly just a, a frame of mind of ambition,

Micah: honestly. I love that. I absolutely love that. I kind of wanted to, to, well, first. I gotta say I totally resonate with, uh, like coming from the hood. I am, uh, from Mississippi myself, it's 80% black there like, Home is home.

Um, and like, there's just, there's something about it. There's something about it that you just can't and won't ever shake. Right. Um, and I love it. It's, it's a part of our, our core identity.

Ray: that's what I was gonna say. It's an identity to fire. Even at this age. People question. I'm huge about it on my social media because people expected me to drop that part.

and let me tell you something, hood life is something no one else can understand. It's a, it's a part of intersectionality of why I am in my thought process and who I am as a person. Mm-hmm. . So I can't, I can't mask that and not talk about it and not bring it into my artistry, regardless of whether it's viewed upon negatively or not.

At the end of the day, it's where I'm from.

Micah: Yep. Yep. Without a doubt. Without a doubt. And I kind of wanted to kind of tap into another thing that you were mentioning about your identity. Um, I know you've expressed how you're an artist with autism, and I, I've wondered how, like, how, like, do you feel like you bring that experience?

I know that you're very candid, you're very forthright about it. Um, you're an advocate for the awareness of that community, uh, yourself, uh, clearly included. And I just wonder. Like, how do you integrate that into your artistic practices? Um, do you just create awareness? Do you try to build that into your creative process?

What is that like?

Ray: All of that total visibility. I was very bullied, severely growing up, and I didn't get diagnosed until I was 46, and then it was like an aha moment because once you know who you are, Then you know why you move and why you operate and why you think a certain way. And I've always understood that my creating process, my art, my, the way I think about art has always been different.

From mainstream or from these set of people where I'm not accepted, I've not landed auditions, I've not been accepted into film festivals before. My diagnosis because of who I am and my, and when I'm in person, um, my autistic traits are present a little bit more, and I was trying to mask that and I, I just don't fit in because when I'm trying to mask it, now I'm awkward.

Now I look awkward to anyone else because. masking for me is covering up the fact that these sounds, or these certain lights or that certain incident has affected my sensory output. And so me masking it now looks awkward. And as a artist, when I realized, holy shit, I just got diagnosed as autistic, I didn't even know my representation of autism was.

And I think that's a movie from the 1980s. I can speak, I can drive. I love my five speed. I didn't understand and I'm getting emotional cuz I didn't understand why people still saw me so different when I'm almost very much comparable to the people I grew up with in the hood. , but they always noticed a different, and I'm like, well, I'm not radio.

I knew then that there needed to be representation and visibility because that's the only black autistic person that I could even draw from when they, when they, when they diagnosed me with this, not only the stipulation and the word autism and the whole diagnosis. Comes from, um, white hetero America and that boys, young white boys were diagnosed.

And it wasn't even a female diagnosable thing until the eighties. I was born in 74. I come from a diagnosis, a generation that totally flew by past the diagnosis. A, because I'm female, and B, because I'm African American. And then C, coming from hood life and foster care, who goes to the doctors? Diagnosis, I e P at school, you better get up and go to school and just try not to fall asleep.

Be happy and thankful for them. School lunches that got me through the day cuz I wasn't often eaten at the foster care place where they were getting a check but wasn't feeding me. So let's keep it together, that I decided since I've been an advocate for other things, such as domestic violence and anti-bullying, I couldn't be an anti-bullying advocate without people understanding why at 46, 47 and 40.

do you still give a shit about bullying because you don't understand that even in the workplace today, because of my differences, if my autism is visible to them, then bitch, it's gonna be visible to everybody. And that means me too. And that means me exercising my freedom to walk freely in the space of art with it because it is who I am.

So instead of masking my art and trying to create from a space of a neurotypical person, and then judge like. I belong to over a hundred artist groups right now on Facebook. That won't take my platform. I decided to make my fucking own. I am my bar. I'm the first. I will, I, I'm not sure I need to research this cuz I don't pat myself on the back.

But I say as far as breaking generational curses, if, if I'm not the first, I plan to be one of the very, um, most influential black autistic, black autistic writers. Black autistic writers, black autistic filmmakers, black autistic artists and performers. You know why? Because they don't even hire actual autistic people for autistic worlds in neurotypical America.

The those roles are being played by regular people and they're playing disabilities. Bitch, I'm autistic. Hire me. It's me. I, I am the. This is why I was bullied. So now you're going to eat it back and you're gonna get sick of me and I'm gonna throw it down your throat in every, the reason why I'm quirky, the reason why I don't speak right, the reason why I may not be able to get that left, right, left chain ball step omere that I got kicked outta dance class for is because I'm autistic.

But now I have a whole autistic audience waiting to see me dance even with my. Yeah. Yeah, it's, it's about a representation of a whole community who's been silenced, whether we're black or not. It's the silencing of autistic people, period, that we don't belong in the artistry world. So I'm pretty much kicking down the motherfucking door.

Micah: Rightfully so. Um, and I, I, I genuinely, I genuinely love like, first off, the passion shows through, like it's very clear and honestly there's a lot of truth to what you said. Like, where is the line for so long we have lived in a very, uh,

I don't, can't even like fully, uh, phrase this correctly, but like there's this sense of, or this idea of normal that has been just kind of perpetuated across the board. Um, uh, and that's from, you know, things as rigid as business or things as fluid as arts, but still like there's this baseline that's been established of like, oh, you have to be at, at least at this threshold to be an artist or to be a successful business.

On either end of the spectrum, which is baffling to me. Um, and yeah, it, it is, it is, uh, such, such. Sad and strange anomaly for, um, you know, these stories to be told about a community, um, when that community is eager to be a part of this experience. Um, absolutely. Especially in the artistic world. So, um, I love that.

I, I, I genuinely love that. Um, I'm gonna kind of shift a little bit. I, I know you spoke really briefly at the beginning about how you were first introduced to, um, you know, Grey Box Collective and, um, uh, having all of those experiences sort of just kind of land in your lap at once. Uh, with that, with that experience, which is such a blessing, um, I, I'm, I'm, uh, curious what was so that shift into full-time.

uh, was there a specific show or experience once that ball started to roll that really has stuck with you, um, that you would maybe like to revisit or you think back fondly on? Like what, what, uh, what part of that experience sticks out the most, I guess.

Ray: Um, if I could, I'd like to put it in more of a genre, um mm-hmm.

because when I did this audition, it's not the only one I landed, I actually landed a couple of roles in web series. I've done some background work for regular, um, Web series that they were trying to get on platforms like Netflix and stuff like that. So TV shows and things like that. And when I was growing up, I always wanted to audition for reality tv, things like that.

And, um, this experience, auditioning this time that just happened to, um, have two panelists from the theater world changed my life because it sucked me in the theater. Now I was exposed to theater as a youth and in college. that's theatrical performing arts. Um, also choirs. Um, in church we often do theatrical plays.

I've been in, in a lot of church plays, so, but as an artist, I'm gonna, I'm not gonna lie, I also was driven by what I mainly see in mainstream, which as a black artist, we wanna, which I also do rap, but we wanna rap. We wanna be musicians, we wanna be actors. And I thought, The experience or the lifestyle or even the recognition would come from that side and coming in the door with theater changed my life because again, like we're speaking, um, I couldn't land auditions because I can't give direct eye contact.

That's a trait of being autistic. So I was literally getting turned down for jobs in Hollywood for just being me, whereas theater doesn't give a fuck. You understand? Yeah and I decided like I'm a very loyal person. If theater was gonna be the one to accept all my diversities, , that's where I'm gonna stay and I'm gonna branch off a theater and I'm gonna grow because that means theater is inclusive, whereas what you were just speaking on, it's, it's not inclusive in all other mainstreams forms of, um, artistry.

So it changed my life in this, in the aspect of me stopping. Um, chasing, um, auditions for other roles and focusing more on my role as a theatrical performer because I learned we do all of that. We act, we do radio, we do, um, something that seems like a web series. You get the whole experience in, in, in theater, my bro, I can bring music into my theater, whereas the music world won't accept me because sometimes I say.

Are you fucking kidding me? You know what I'm saying? Or, or that I'm weird because I wanna rap about science and evolution. You know what I'm saying? And I'm not glorifying the life I came from. I would never give up the life I came from. It's gonna be with me always. Um, but that doesn't mean it's gonna be every topic in my music.

I wanna explore everything else. I want a journey around the world. I wanna taste different cultures. I want the experience that unfortunately, coming out as an artist in some of the other genres. Um, kind of keeps you stifled, it keeps you set to that As a theatrical bitch, that means theater. Whatever I do is what I could do.

Um, except for, um, versus, um, mainstream. You, if you're a musician, you have to be a musician. And how many times have you seen a musician try to switch from musician to actor and their shit doesn't pop?

Micah: It's really interesting that point that you brought up. I've, I've always had a love-hate relationship with labels in particular.

It's so great to be. Almost validated in a sense when you find a community that, uh, that you are truly a part of. I remember like speaking specifically to like, uh, your theater experiences, one of the first shows that I did professionally, uh, back in Phoenix where I, where I grew up. Um, I was so excited to see a call.

That was literally exactly me. It was like, um, African American kid, uh, 20 years old, um, wears glasses as a European style like, uh, fashion sense. And I was like, that's literally me. Like that's a hundred percent me. And I was so excited and I was so pumped when I got the roll and it's like, these are like labels.

These are ideas, these are like stereotypes for lack of a better phrase. But I was so excited to be a part of a community that was like, Hey, I see you. And I felt [00:21:00] seen in that. But on the flip side of that, you have these preconceived notions of like, oh, you're a musician. Oh, you're an actor, so you need to stay in your lane.

And it's like, you know, or it's like when people do like exactly what you said, try to make a shift into a different, uh, field of, uh, art or expression. It's like, who are we to limit what they want to explore or do, um, in any semblance, uh, it doesn't matter, but they're being more

Ray: open to it now. Yeah. It's def they're, they're definitely allowing it more now than they did in my generation.

Mm-hmm. , there is many careers that, that have failed from someone trying to hop from one artistry to the next. From my generation. Yeah. Yeah. I, I love how I'm seeing now. These musicians can be influencers. They're coming out with cooking shows, they're coming out. So theater though is where I could truly operate and be totally vulnerable, even as myself with my disabilities.

Yep. And skip and be around all of those. Throw my cooking in, throw my music in it. It gave me an umbrella of protection. Hmm. And let me tell you, let me piggyback off of that. Maybe that's the clarity you were looking for when I answered the last question. What was it that got me? I was on Facebook and I actually just saw a open casting call, and the script happened to be for an a abandoned foster kid.

Mm. And my very first. I'm actually, um, that got me hired with the five panelists, including Grey Box was a a, a short, um, a short scene of me saying I was abandoned, adopted that they allowed me to take that small scene I auditioned with and they turned it into my role into the show. I performed that same role over and over again and it set to me that night on the theater stage.

Now? No, I'm not at Rolling loud. No, I'm not on a BET stage with a thousand. But it's actually better because I have certain phobias and nobody's snapping cameras because in the theater it's a little bit different and you gotta be quiet. And uh, so now the artist can come out in me and the words I'm saying are more true form to character of who I am.

It's who I. So if you're gonna open the door and let me audition with a piece about my, about a disadvantaged kid, don't take it. You know, uh, some of these shows that they'll, that they'll highlight in other. I don't wanna just keep calling on Hollywood cuz there's a lot of, um, independent other film companies, uh, that are mainstream that will film these things.

And, um, it's just about a script. It's, it's just about a script theater. You to feel it. Theater wants you to be experienced. It's a, it's not just a, it's an experience. I, I, I, I'm sharing, even if I'm reading the story of someone else, oftentimes theater comes from the creation of true happened events, or spoken words or experiences.

So I'm still sharing and giving the passionate experience of an actual, of someone else, and I can take that and run with. Now that I auditioned as a foster kid, the whole theater world knows that I'm a foster kid, and that's okay. Whereas in other mainstreamers, they want you. Played the role that they give you the play, and then you're gonna get type casted as that forever and probably never be able to land another job because we met you as this Disney kid or this.

So-and-so kid or this so-and-so kid. Whereas I think theater just brings together a ation of artists to be from the, the background they're from, from the experiences they're from with the disabilities and the di disadvantages they have, and, and that's what makes our scripts, that's what we create off of.

Micah: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. So here's kind of a, a, maybe a bit of a curveball question, but if you were like speaking like hopefully some of somebody in our audience is. ,um, resonates with one of the communities that, you know, we're a part of, whether it's the African American community, someone that's been through the foster system, uh, someone who is, uh, you know, um, navigating autism.

Um, I'm curious, is there a word of advice, uh, from one artist to another that you would give, uh, that shared community

Ray: Absolutely. I come from several intersect marginalized communities of oppression, period. I identify with the African-American community, which is nothing but oppression. I identify with the LGBT community, which LGBTQIA+ community, which is.

Under the umbrella of oppression. Then I identify with the autistic community and the neurodivergent com, all of that. I say all that to say, um, a representation matters and the only way we can fight oppression is through rebellion and representation. So I just said, fucking do it anyway. I literally had to develop an attitude of, I don't.

I'm gonna do it anyway because if I listen to black people, why are you in theater? That's a nerd position. Or just the general LGBT issues of. Of being out, um, because, um, a lot of my theater experience happens to be with me and masculine women, women of masculine of center, and they wanna stay hush sometimes.

Don't bring that out because the LGBT community, we don't wanna, we don't wanna stir no pot. And here I come with a big ass pot because I feel like we gotta do it anyway. Nobody knew that walls could be broken down until somebody threw the first fucking brink. Hmm. You gotta, you gotta do it anyway. I have phobias.

I do it anyway. I do whatever I have to do to get past my fears. I'm not doing this as a a, a, um, Someone that doesn't have my own reservations. I'm doing this as someone despite my rev, my reservations, my convictions, and my fears. And that's the advice I would give to anyone else, because I would've never even found out that I even had a chance had I not done that first audition that people told me, give it up.

You're a mom, da da da da da. But I did it anyway and because I did it anyway, I landed five fucking rolls. You know what I'm saying? Like, yeah. Yeah. My biggest being bullied. Um, yeah. I'm a, I'm a survivor of narcissistic abuse. Mm-hmm. , um, it totally strips your confidence. It, I, I, I have no confidence, and yet I will get on social media with no clothes on, and my, and my motto is, do it anyway.

Do I, at that moment, inside feel insecure? Probably fucking so, but, but I bet you 90% of the artists that go do on stage performances, Eminem, who used to throw up before he would ever walk on stage. They do it anyway. And, and you have to be crazy. You have to do it anyway in order to break through and really become the artist you wanna be.

Regardless if your artistry seems weird or different or controversial or rebel, out of rebellion or out of healing, do it anyway you, because if you don't a, you're gonna regret it. Don't regret it. The only way not to regret it is just to fucking do it regardless to who tells you. You'll figure everything else out on the way.

Uh, blessings fall in your lap. Do it anyway. Nothing comes to you if you don't step out there first, though.

Micah: Absolutely love that. And I think there's so much, not, not, I don't think, I know there's a lot of truth to, um, there's complete truth, exactly what you said, to do it in spite of, um, to push past regardless of your given circumstances or how the world perceives you, because the world is always gonna perceive you somehow, right?

Um, I, we think about every. Standout event artist, uh, individual experience that we've witnessed or heard of in the, in our lives in general. And I think that common thread for all of those individuals Yeah. Is that they did something in spite of. No, in spite of this or that or whatever, like regardless of the, you know, oppression or the, um, resistance or the hesitation from the, from others.

Ray: Uh, lemme tell you something, lemme tell you something. My muse, my mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Now I don't, I don't get into idolization. Um, but I definitely feel like representation matters and. Let me tell you something. So who would be my ultimate representation? Somebody like Mary J Blige, who was I, who was illiterate, could not read from the Boogie Down bro projects when she did it anyway.

And now look at who she is. So when I think about that, when I think about all of the oppression or, or the different look at how life beat her down, um, our insecurities are, are just mostly. And so a big I I'm a, I'm huge on mental health and the way we combat mental health is to stop these false beliefs that it can't be done.

Mary J Blige did it. She's from the same atmosphere that I met and I actually have an advantage I can read. She learned to read later on, but when she started and cut real love, the Mary J Blige that I know, that child was on stage and on Soul Train with, with absolutely no ability to read or. That tells me that, that, that's why I said representation matters.

I've been chasing my dream this long because if a black woman from the projects who could not read or write can become the mogul she is today, then so the so the fuck can I do it anyway? I'm 40, I'm, I'm 48 years old, starting late in the game. Do it fucking anyway

Micah: I love it. I love it. And yeah, that's the thing, right?

We think of all these great artists that we admire, we think about, and we're like, oh, they're so lucky. It's no, it's not that they're lucky, they just pursued it, uh, in spite of, um, and I, I, I love that. I love that. Sweet. Oh my goodness. That's honestly such a, Got me in such a good boot right now. Um, . Uh, I love it Ray.

I love it. Um, so, okay, I'm gonna flip the script. I'm gonna let you hit me. Do you have any other anythings, anything you wanna say? Anything you wanna shameless plug? Any other anythings that you wanna bring to the stage?

Ray: Um, uh, any other anythings I would like to say, uh, thank you. This was way comfortable.

It made me feel much better. I didn't stutter as much. And you're totally right. I, I fight and I advocate for visibility. Um, disability visibility. Mm-hmm. . So I'm going to show up exactly who the fuck I am. Thank you for accepting me with that. Um, I guess a shameless plug would be, I can't wait to, to grow.

Just know. Um, especially if you have a spouse, um, yes, I might become a junior stalker of yours, but I want nothing from you other than to develop my radio skills. Hmm. So if I could be blessed to be able to sit up underneath you and to learn some shit. That would be my, my shameless plug, definitely knowing that you are way ahead of me in the game of the radio.

Um, and, uh, I, I just can't wait for future projects and to learn and hopefully not piss you off with being the blunt artistic that I am. , um, uh, I, I'm, I'm ready to work. And, uh, I, I'd love to see what we can do and what we, we can create from here on out. Just thank you for this opportunity. Yeah, no,

Micah: this has been great.

And you've done the opposite from piss me off. I don't think I've stopped smiling this whole time. So we're feeling good. We're feeling great. Um, no, this has been a pleasure. It's been an honor. Um, thank you listeners. Thank you, Ray. Uh, it's been another great episode of Any Other Anythings.

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