Women’s History Month Feature – Sharma MacDonald

For Women’s History Month I will be sharing the stories that define and provide examples of women empowerment, uplifting stories of personal triumph and businesses that are inspiring and are making a difference for women. Women’s History Month is a declared month each year that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

I want to introduce you to Sharma MacDonald – Actor and Filmmaker.

Sharma MacDonald is an Award-Winning Actor and Filmmaker from Toronto, Canada of Jamaican Parentage. She also has a passion for serving in her community. Her television credits include Breakout series on National Geographic/Discovery Channel and CTV/NBC’s Saving Hope; moreover, Sharma has stepped onto the stage in theatre performances of Nora and Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore. In honour of “Canada 150” Sharma was recognized by The Black Canadians Network as one of the top 150 Black Canadians. In 2018, Sharma signed on as Host of Urban Report on YES TV’s Let’s Talk with Woodroe Thompson. Sharma has also found success behind the camera as the first short film she wrote and directed titled No Way Out, about black youth in a low-income neighbourhood in Toronto, was an official selection at the Women’s Director International Film Festival. The short film also aired on Rogers Television Toronto as part of its special programming for the Toronto International Film Festival. Sharma serves in her community through her Church and via non-profit organizations like Women of Impact Organization, where in 2020 she created, produced, and directed an online show called I Rise Series. The goal of the series was to empower and provide tools and solutions for societal change. Furthermore, Sharma is a mental health advocate and aspiring philanthropist as she continues to speak at events and inspire youth through the Arts. With a certificate in multiplatform journalism from Seneca College, Sharma has also covered numerous events throughout the city such as, TD Toronto Jazz Festival, African Fashion Week Toronto, AFROFEST, and Toronto Raptors Championship journey! Sharma continues to volunteer her time to the community-at-large and has even walked in various fashion shows in the city as a model. Sharma was impacted mentally and emotionally by the events of 2020 in which she believes two pandemics were occurring…Covid-19 and Racism. As a result, Sharma co-wrote her second short film titled “2020” about a black psychologist (her namesake) who is now forced to confront her own suppressed emotions amid rising tension. “2020” has been an Official Selection thus far at Kwanzaa Film Festival (New York City), Ritu Rangam Festival (India), Toronto Black Film Festival, and Halifax Black Film Festival. Sharma is also Lead Actress in the film.

Here is HERstory:

I am an Actor and Storyteller at heart. I believe it is mainly because of the way that storytelling can captivate an audience and connect people together. My “Why” for wanting to build a career in connecting film and community comes from not wanting anyone to feel alone in life’s journey. There are stories to be shared and people to be heard. When people see someone on screen who physically looks like them or is going through a similar experience, they see themselves. As a result, the members of an audience feel they can relate, helping move their journey forward as one can learn from a character. I always root for the underdog in a situation. I also love mentoring youth in the film industry. For example, in the first short film that I wrote and directed, I made sure to hire black youth in particular because I knew they may never have an opportunity to learn and be involved in the industry due to their skin colour. Not only have I used my passion for acting and filmmaking to empower youth but I’ve used my writing and production skills to empower women by developing an online series called “I Rise Series” with Women of Impact Organization (WIO). I had the pleasure of serving on WIO’s committee as VP Marketing and Communication as we pushed to promote women’s rights, Empowerment, leadership, and young girls’ education. I come from a loving family with strong female influence from my grandmother, mother, sister, aunts, cousins. These women instilled in me the importance of working hard at anything that I do and valuing myself as a black woman. My father passed away from a neuromuscular disorder when I was younger, so I learned what it was like to be a caregiver and step up in my household. I also learned that life is too short and it’s important to try to bring your dreams and goals to fruition, so there are no regrets. Thus, here I am today…

What does women empowerment mean to you?

Women empowerment means truly listening, being open to learning, and sharing with the women around you. I feel that women already get a lot of criticism and judgement in society from men and at times from the media. Therefore, as women, it is vital to create that safe, judgement-free zone. More importantly, we need to be positive role models for the younger generation. There are so many girls around the world that cannot get an education because they are forced into domestic work; as if this is their only option in life or the only role that they are worthy of. These young girls need to feel loved and supported. As we speak, there are girls and women being trafficked, even in North America. We must continue to pay attention to these issues and shed light on them. This is part of why I love being a female storyteller and filmmaker, it’s all about telling stories that matter to us.

What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share with someone?

My advice would be to create your own path in life and stay on that path. Sure, people will want to come and walk alongside you which is fine but don’t let anyone or anything veer you off your path. Furthermore, don’t pay attention to someone else’s path because it only leads to something that is not for you. The grass is not always greener on the other side and often people only show you what they want you to see. Stay true to yourself. As for words of inspiration…my motto in life is to “Love, Live and Give”.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want my legacy to be someone always encouraging and motivating others. “Love, Live and Give”.

She has not authored books as of yet but she has written, directed, and acted in films that have been Official Selections in numerous film festivals around the world. Her first Official Selection came from the Women’s Director International Film Festival, which was extra special as the festival celebrates women filmmakers. Her recent short film titled “2020” is a Winner at Kwanzaa Film Festival in New York City.

What does self care mean to you?

Self-care to me means prayer and meditation. I am a God-fearing woman so taking that moment each morning before doing anything else to thank God for another day and read a scripture in my bible or on my favourite Bible app, is something that I have finally worked into my daily routine. Initially, throughout my daily hustle, I wasn’t taking time to recharge and as I result, I was making poor business decisions. It took a lot of patience to learn meditation, but it has worked wonders for my mental health. I consider myself more of an extroverted personality and 2020 was a rough year for me mentally; I felt like I was lacking structure, and that I was losing myself. Listening to meditation music or words before I go to bed helps to calm be down. Also writing my thoughts in my journal as often as possible. Practice and I promise it will become habit; I cannot stress enough the importance of not taking your mental for granted.

What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your business and personally?

In addition to creating a ground-breaking television series that breaks barriers in diversity and stigmas around mental health, I would like to create a studio that would be a safe space for all artists to come, learn and create their projects and be accessible to everyone regardless of economic status. It would also be a space for Industry experts to come and mentor students and/or lead a workshop. Moreover, I have goals to win awards in writing, directing, acting, filmmaking of course! Who wouldn’t want to win an NAACP Image Award, an Oscar, an Emmy, and Canadian Screen Awards? Personally, I can’t wait to master that balance between striving for my business goals and taking care of my physical and mental health. Lastly, I would love to write and publish a book about my life journey.

Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today? Tell me about them.

A life-changing experience for me was the loss of my dad. He was the one person throughout my life that always told me no matter what, he was proud of me. I needed to hear that. I hold onto that until this day and I still hear his voice in my head saying so. Through him I learned how to fight, I also learned how to put all my trust in God no matter how a situation may turn out. He taught me to realize that each day is a gift; to appreciate having the sun shining on your face and the wind blowing through your hair even though he knew he wasn’t going to be able to experience that on this earth for much longer. Most of all, he taught me that as a woman I deserve nothing less than someone who will treat me with the utmost respect, like the Queen that I am. I learned through my dad’s passing that life is too short. That’s when I started to take my career as and actor and filmmaker to the next level. I am doing what I love to do. I say all this because I believe that although as women, we need to empower each other, it is important that men do their part to respect us and they need to be involved in the women empowerment conversation.

What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?

Look out for my film “2020” continuing to circulate at festivals. I co-wrote the film and I am the lead actor. I feel honoured to be a black female actor and filmmaker. The film connects the two pandemics of 2020…Covid-19 and Racism. All through the eyes of a black psychologist who is forced to confront her own suppressed emotions amid rising tension. It has been getting great reviews thus far! Feel free to follow the film’s journey and find out where it is showing next at our Instagram page @2020motionpicture I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Women’s History Month Feature – Tanisha Hall

For Women’s History Month I will be sharing the stories that define and provide examples of women empowerment, uplifting stories of personal triumph and businesses that are inspiring and are making a difference for women. Women’s History Month is a declared month each year that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

I want to introduce you to Tanisha Hall, Founder, White Hall Arts Academy.

Tanisha Hall, Founder of White Hall Arts Academy, has spent nearly two decades in the entertainment and arts education industries. Hall has provided management, production, and operations for GRAMMY Award® winning musician and record producer Keith Harris, Chaka Khan Believes, Warner Bros Records, Edmonds Entertainment Group and more. The White Hall Arts Academy, founded in 2011, has been home to successful artists that have topped the Billboard Charts, and many students who’ve been featured on talent shows like America’s Got Talent, American Idol, and The Voice.

Her business is White Hall Arts Academy.

What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share with someone?

If you have a dream, start the process while you still have the security of whatever job or position you’re currently in. It took nine years before my 6-10 became my 9-5. Sleepless nights are part of the process.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want my legacy to be that I created a space to create opportunities for people, especially women and people of color, to pursue their dreams. A real life fairy godmother.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by people who work hard to overcome obstacles or oppositions, be it external or internal, to accomplish their goals. I am always inspired by hard work and those who are willing to sacrifice and be uncomfortable to make things happen.

What kind of impact do you want to have on those around you?

I want to be impactful in that I strive to be a resource for those who need encouragement, accountability and access. If you don’t have anyone else who believes in you, let me be that person. If you believe if you, I believe in you too. Having someone believe in you is a key elements of success in my opinion. My family, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles as a child and now my children as a parent, have always been my biggest cheering section. I don’t believe I would be where I am today without their encouragement and support.

What obstacles have you overcome or hurdles did you personally face and how did you overcome them?

Most of my obstacles were internal. I’ve always had external support from my family and friends. My biggest hurdle was the negative script going on in my head telling me reason after reason why I couldn’t or shouldn’t take the leap into entrepreneurship. I was very comfortable running other people’s business and helping make their dreams come true. 10 years ago God had to literally force me into a situation where my only option was to lean on myself. I’m so grateful for that time which then was very scary! I’m grateful that God saw in me what I didn’t and He lead my steps, and continues to.

When did you realize entrepreneurship was right for you?

I realized entrepreneurship was right for me at some point in my 20s working a 9-5 job, doing menial tasks never sat well with me. It wasn’t until my mid-30s when I actually stepped into the role of being an entrepreneur. I’m happy I took the time to hone my craft and develop strong business skills before launching my first endeavor. This saved me a lot of heartbreak many entrepreneurs go through in the first 5 years. Most of my mistakes were made beforehand.

What would you say is your most driving motivation to keep doing what you to do?

Currently my driving motivating is expanding my reach. I’ve worked really hard to create and establish my brand. Now, the hard work begins in expanding that brand beyond our core customers and supporters. I am also motivated by the opportunities that expansion can bring to the work we are doing.

What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your business and personally?

Goals I want to accomplish in my business are partnerships and collaborations with more corporations and industry leaders. Personally, my short term goal is to get my daughter off to college this fall. We are VERY EXCITED!

What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?

What’s next for White Hall Arts Academy is expanded programming. We just added a Music Production class to our virtual children’s music education program, HeARTbeats. This is a big step thanks to technology like Chrome Music Lab and Soundtrap. We are also working to bring more music industry collaborations to our Songwriter Series program. In the past we have had guest speakers from Universal Music Publishing Group, Atlantic Records, Sony Music Publishing, attorneys, managers, recording artists and more. We are working hard to make White Hall Arts Academy your go to brand for fun, affordable contemporary music education.

About White Hall Academy:

Recently, White Hall Arts Academy hosted their virtual Winter Spectacular Showcase, an annual recital of WHAA’s private students, that was live-streamed on February 13. Replays of the performances throughout Act 1, Intermission, and Act 2 are now available for viewing. Upcoming programs, like the popular Songwriter Series, are set to begin on Thursday March 6, 2021 at 6pm EST, featuring special music industry guests every week. Registration is $25 per class, or $85 for the entire month.

One of WHAA’s most inspiring student success stories is that of multi-platinum, Billboard chart-topping singer-songwriter, Ant Clemons. The rising star has remained in the WHAA’s community as a mentor through the Songwriter Series, and recently performed his single “Better Days,” alongside superstar Justin Timberlake during President Joe Biden’s 2021 Presidential Inauguration Day TV Special. Clemons’ credits include a growing number of collaborations with hit-artists such as Kanye West, Ty Dolla $ign, Camilla Cabello, Timbaland, Pharrell Williams and Diplo.

For three consecutive years, WHAA has been awarded “Best Top 3 Music Schools in Los Angeles” by Three Best Rated. The black woman-owned non-profit offers a robust selection of private lessons and group classes. In 2020, the academy was awarded the highly-esteemed Lewis Prize for Music Grant for their exceptional effort to pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing them to donate instruments to children who could not afford to purchase them.

For more information about White Hall Arts Academy, to register for classes, or inquire about making a private donation, visit WHAA’s official website at www.whitehallacademy.org

Meet Alexia P. Hammonds – Making HERstory with Eat. Sweat. Undress.

Meet Alexia P. Hammonds she is the Founder and CEO of Eat. Sweat. Undress., a female led brand that offers fitness, wellness, beauty, and fashion products and services to enhance the lives of women. She’s proud to be recognized as the first Black woman to create perfume in Grasse, France, the historic home of perfume. As a classically trained Pilates Instructor, former Beauty Editor, and a regular product and fashion segment television guest, Alexia decided to channel her collective 15 years of experience into retail brand that empowers women and inspires them to live a healthy, sexy, confident life unapologetically and on their own terms.

Who inspired you to create the Eat.Sweat.Undress. hair fragrances and why?

I inspired myself to create this product! Ha! I’m obsessed with fragrance and I’m obsessed with hair care. I created a product blending the best of both worlds that adds true function, fun, and luxury to hair. My perfumed Hair Mist is perfect to use after a sweaty workout, rids the hair of smoke smells, gets rid of the smell left on hair after using hot tools, rids hair of smell after receiving chemical services at salons or home, and it’s fabulous as a daily hair ritual after styling hair, before a night out, and more! It’s so sexy.

What does success look like to you?

Success looks like me being healthy physically, waking up and loving driving to the warehouse for work, shipping orders, (I’ll never get over people buying things I put my heart into. It’s a hard feeling to explain and my eyes water up all the time), being loved and supported by those I love, and living a life that makes me happy.

What kind of impact do you want your story to leave on those who read or see your story?

I want people to be inspired to execute. Execution is king. Everyone talks about their dreams, what needs to be done, and what they plan to do. It takes audacity to execute the plan. I want people to see my journey and know that all things are possible when you take accountability for yourself, when you can identify a problem and create/find/execute a solution, build a team that strengthens your weaknesses, have fierce discipline, and a true love of what you’re doing. You have to remember that your vision and ideas are yours. Someone early on told me my perfumed Hair Mist was the most tone deaf product to launch during a pandemic and well…

What would you say is your most driving motivation to keep doing what you to do?

I know what I’m doing is important and that it matters. I’m aware that I’m inspiring people as they watch my journey in business. I’m honored to be the first black woman to create fragrance in Grasse, France — the historical birthplace of perfumes. With such an honor, I take it seriously and plan to carry this torch all the way while keeping the lane lit for more minority women to follow me and possibly carry the torch even further one day. I motivate myself which is ultimately the most important thing as an entrepreneur as this isn’t a lane for those who need coddling. I believe in myself and I know I’m destined for greatness. Work ethic, my brain, and discipline will take me where I need to go!

What are you most excited or passionate about? (In both business and life or both)

In business, I’m most passionate about continuing to create fabulous products for my smart consumer base. I’m passionate about finding authentic ways to connect with our consumer base constantly. It’s more than just a sale to me. I want to build trust, loyalty, and a community. Personally, I’m passionate about self love and self improvement. I’m obsessed (in a healthy way) with edifying myself to be the best version of Alexia. I love learning more, getting healthier, loving deeper.

What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your business? What are the goals that you hold personally?

I want my perfumed Hair Mist to be the “Band Aid” brand of hair mist. What does that mean? There are a ton of different branded wound adhesives on the market but we tend to all say, “I need a Band Aid!” I’d like to scale my company to the point where large corporations want to buy it although I want to keep it and pass it down through my family. I’m building a legacy that I can be proud of. I have a real opportunity to be a leader in the fragrance space and I plan to capitalize off of it and create opportunities for other minorities who are interested in the field.

Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Tell me about them.

My parents. They set the standard for everything and they are my North Star. I truly had a charmed childhood. My parents have always nurtured my creativity and given me the support and resources to follow my dreams.

Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today?

Tell me about them. Life changing, no.

What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?

ESU will be expanding our fragrance product offering, apparel, and opening up more availability for our custom design lingerie service. We will be expanding into the media arena a little bit in summer 2021!

About Eat. Sweat. Undress.

Eat. Sweat. Undress. is a female founded and led brand that offers fitness, wellness, beauty, and fashion products and services to enhance the lives of women. ESU is all about encouraging women to feel comfortable in their own skin and empowering women to confidently seek out what they want in life. ESU products and services are meant to build an undeniable sense of confidence in anyone who uses them. Its ultimate goal is to become a go-to resource for anyone seeking a curated, contemporary take on fitness, beauty, fashion, and anything else that makes them the best version of themselves.

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