Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Interview with writer and photographer Alyscia Cunnngham

Writer and photographer Alyscia Cunningham joins me today. We’re talking about her new photography book focused on women’s hair loss, I Am More Than My Hair: My Outward Appearance Does Not Define Me.

During her virtual book tour,
Alyscia will be awarding a limited edition 2019 calendar for "I Am More Than My Hair" (US only) to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Alyscia Cunningham is an entrepreneur, author, filmmaker and photographer who has contributed to the Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and AOL. In September 2013 Alyscia self-published Feminine Transitions, a photography book encompassed with portraits of raw feminine beauty. Her recently published photography book and upcoming documentary film, I Am More Than My Hair, features 138 portraits of 46 females and the stories of their experience with hair loss as well as females who cut their hair in solidarity of a loved one. Alyscia creates these, and future projects, with the consideration of art for social-change.

Alyscia specializes in promoting our natural beauty because she believes the media does a good job of focusing on our insecurities by bombarding us with ads proclaiming that their appearance without enhancements is inadequate or faulty. Her portraits are unaltered by Photoshop and reveal women as they are naturally, without the façade they put on for others.

Her work has been featured on Fox5 News, The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, APlus, and Proud2BMe.

Welcome, Alyscia. Please share a little bit about your current release.
I Am More Than My Hair: My Outward Appearance Does Not Define Me, is a photography book that features 138 portraits of 46 women and the stories of their experience with hair loss, as well as women who cut their hair in solidarity of a loved one.

What inspired you to write this book?
I cut my hair in support of a Big Chop for a non-profit organization and was shocked at the negative responses. In turn I created a project that would capture portraits of women who've experienced hair loss accompanied by their essays about their personal experiences. My goal was to show society (the naysayers) that despite the pressure placed on women about hair, without it we're still beautiful.

Excerpt from I Am More than My Hair:
Debbie, 31

My friends and family supported me

On May 24, 2011, I discovered a large mass in my left breast while I was doing my self-check. Later that day, I went to the National Cancer Prevention Institute in Lagos for a breast screening. A nurse screened both my breasts and my cervix and referred me for sonography, which was done at a local scanning center. On June 3, 2011, I had a Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology procedure at Me Cure Health Care Limited to diagnose my condition. I was told that the breast lump was benign and that the left auxiliary lymph node was negative for malignant cells. On June 11, 2011, I had my first lumpectomy at a local medical center.

Barely four months later, I discovered another lump slightly above the previous operation site and had surgery at the same hospital. But this time, I insisted on further medical investigation to know why the cancer recurred. That’s when I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. By April 2012, I was diagnosed with Stage IV carcinoma.

I had withheld the news from my dad because he was hospitalized for paralysis, but with the latest diagnosis, I couldn’t hold the news any longer. I told my dad about it on July 31, 2012 hoping he had gained enough strength to handle the news but, unfortunately for me, he passed on to glory the following day, which was my birthday, August 1, 2012.

My friends and family supported me and, before I knew what was happening, all my friends joined a campaign for me on Twitter tagged “walk against cancer, #savedebbie.” I got the exact amount of money I needed for my treatment in the United States ($55,000), but I had to start chemotherapy right away in Nigeria.

I arrived in the United States in October 2012 and started treatment at Howard University Hospital. I had chemotherapy for 10 months followed by a bilateral mastectomy in October 2013. To the glory of God, I survived Stage IV breast cancer, but I am still fighting bone and liver cancer.

Rest in peace, Debbie: August 1, 1984 – April 1, 2016.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm working on the documentary for I Am More Than My Hair. It's in the post-production phase (editing). Once the editing is finished, the visual graphics, color correction and original score will be completed. Then I start with the film festival market. I'm super excited!!!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My love for writing started when I was about 10 years old. I enjoy writing stories and poems in English class then began writing it on my own at home. I started as a writer then and will continue to be one as long as I'm here on Earth.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don't write full-time. Aside from photography and filmmaking, which are focused on my passion projects, I own a Home Improvement company (www.UprisingBuilders.com). I know. You may think it's the complete opposite of writing but it's actually very similar. In certain aspects, both fields allow me the platform to use my creativity. On another note, I've been working on a horror/Sci-Fi script for several months and looking forward to submitting it to Monkeypaw Productions (founded by director and producer Jordan Peele) once complete.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I'm not sure why my creative juice flows more freely when I'm in an airplane but strangely enough, it does. I order a mix of vodka (preferably Reyká) and cranberry juice, open my journal to a blank page (I always travel with my journal), and start to write. I believe that being confined to my space on an airplane forces me to focus my time without distraction. I enjoy these moments.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I just knew I'd be a veterinarian when I grew up. I planned for it throughout all of my childhood life. I quickly changed my mind after having to dissect a frog in middle school. The crazy thing is, I used to watch videos on surgery (animals and humans) and never found is disturbing. But when I had the scalpel and scissors in my hand to cut the frog open, I thought otherwise. And I never mustered up the courage to do it. Maybe next lifetime.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I'm raising funds to help complete my documentary film. If any readers would like to support, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via my fiscal sponsor, Docs In Progress - www.docsinprogress.org/hair.

To learn more about Alyscia and her work, visit Alyscia.com. Alyscia also invites you to view her video introductions to Feminine Transitions, and I Am More Than My Hair.

I Am More Than My Hair is now available on Amazon.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Alyscia said...

Thanks for hosting my blog tour today!