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 Indya “Icy” Wright.
Indya Wright is an award-winning media professional from Washington DC. Brand strategist and curator of good vibes. Indya believes in cultural advocacy through creative exploits. After having success as a producer, graphic designer, Capital Hill commercial banker & Superior Court deputy clerk, Indya decided to use her broad expertise to serve other creatives. She founded the public relations and production firm Artiste House. Her mission is to help preserve DC urban culture through media & work with DC creatives to give them the support, tools & skills necessary to live their dream full time.
Here is HERstory:
I had been working what most older folks in my (Black) community would call, ‘One of those good government jobs’ for about 10 months. Only two months away from my probation period ending. The money was good, but I had been insanely unhappy. At 28, I was one of the youngest people in my branch and also the only one with seemingly any bit of happiness left. I was surrounded by older people that were so miserable and full of plans of how they would finally be able to pursue their lifelong dreams, AFTER they retire. I knew I could not wait that long. I’ve always been a bit off-center & marched to the beat of my own drum. An artist to the core, my greatest joys and hobbies included random doodles, foreign films and journals full of stories that I prayed would end up in the hands of an amazing agent.
I knew from an extremely young age that I wanted to be a director and to write movies. My first mistake was telling my dream to the wrong person. A family friend who found great success as the owner of a company that created standardized tests for various school districts. For the sake of anonymity, we will call her “Sarah”. Sarah was my idol. As a young 13 year old insecure kid, she had everything that I admired. A husband, a nice car & money. Sarah, my unofficial godmother, would whisk me away on weekend excursions that my family couldn’t afford. We’d go horseback riding, eating at nice restaurants & she’d buy me makeup. It was always an adventure with her.
I remember the day I told her about my dream of creating films, and how I was looking into the same college that Spielberg went to. She laughed and said “There’s just too many aspiring directors out here, and very few that make it. Even less are black. You may want to consider something more sustainable”.
As a young teen that had no doubt in my mind before hand, those words crushed me. It hurt because I valued her opinion and her experience. It hurt because these were words from someone that loved me. It hurt because Sarah was a white woman. At that moment, I let my dream go. I lowered my ambitions and started working towards what I convinced myself were more reasonable careers.
Years later as a young woman in my early twenties, I found myself working and making a great living. I had accomplished a lot at an early age. I started a part time business that was doing pretty well. I had also worked jobs like Banker, Court Clerk, Enumerator, etc. I was financially stable, but incredibly unhappy. I noticed I was just going through the motions. Then I met Kenneth Wiggins, the man that changed my life and inspired me in ways no one else had. Kenneth was so multi-talented. He designed his own websites, did videography, clothing design and photography. He was young and motivated and loved art just as much as I did. He didn’t believe in limitations. Most importantly, he understood how I could have attained what most consider success and still feel miserable. Kenneth always encouraged me to work on my craft and to not believe in limitations. There’s a quote that reminds me of him, “When we let our own light shine, we subconsciously encourage others to do the same”. Kenneth’s light was so inspiring.
On my days off of work I would spend time doing the things that brought me joy, like writing and makeup. It was so therapeutic. I often shared my plans to one day have enough saved up to quit my job and write full time. Kenneth would always say, “F**k that job. Do what you love and the money will come”. I’d always remind him of my bills and how hard that would be. Kenneth would always say, “You gotta jump & stop making excuses. Think of how far you would be if you had started already”. As badly as I hated working a traditional 9-5, I was still too scared to let go of that safety net. I wasn’t happy, but I was comfortable. He’d always shared encouraging memes with me, saying things like “Life begins outside of your comfort zone”. Everything I needed to hear, but was too scared to try. Kenneth was the only person that knew I was secretly battling depression. He would meet with me over drinks and would never judge me. A constant source of support and understanding. Never pressuring me, but always reassuring me that things would be okay if I just fought a little harder for my happiness. I will hold all of those conversations close to my heart.
Early in 2016, Kenneth passed away. It was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever had to deal with, and I’m still dealing with it. What I will miss most is his courage & his love for the Black community. He left his job & went into business all on his own. Creating a space for Black creatives and spreading his message of empowerment wherever he went. His life meant something. Shortly after his passing this year, I found myself back at work and trying to make peace with my situation. Trying to convince myself that even though I found my job mundane and uninspiring, that what I was doing mattered. Realizing how close I was inching to 30, I started trying to give up the notion of pursuing more for myself and tried very hard to be content with where I was in life. How dare I be unhappy? I had a roof over my head, my bills were paid on time, and I had money to eat and support a night out if need be. I started telling myself that I was ungrateful and that people “living their dream” are few and far between. I mean, few people even work in their chosen major, let alone their dream job. I had acquiesced to a life I didn’t want for myself. Subscribe to The Morning Email.Wake up to the day’s most important news.
One day last month, I was browsing the internet and found a video of Steve Harvey. It was an excerpt of him on the set of Family Feud and he was speaking about people fulfilling their dream. Steve had used the phrase “You gotta jump” so many times in that clip. I sat there with tears in my eyes, taking in every word. Many things I had heard from my friend before he passed away. It finally clicked that I wasn’t really living, and I was just existing. I couldn’t go another moment feeling like I wasn’t working towards my passions. I typed up my letter of resignation and when I gave it to my supervisor, it was like so much weight had fallen off my shoulders. It felt like the RIGHT thing to do, at the perfect time. My last two weeks at that job I heard so many comments that almost deterred me. “What will you do for money?” “Why would you quit without something else lined up?’ “Why would you quit before the holidays?”
And although these were valid questions, my personal leap was long overdue. This has been the most courageous thing I have ever done in my life and I have never felt more alive. I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what will come from this. I know that telling stories has been my greatest joy, so I figured my first step was to tell MY story. I know in my heart that this jump is the beginning of me finally living. I hope that someone reads this and it inspires them to do something brave. I hope that more people that aren’t living in their purpose make the decision to fight for their dream. I think Kenneth would be so proud of me right now. I am free falling with no safety net, but I’m confident that this journey was destined. I have been sharing my testimony with former coworkers, and people on my social networks. Majority of the response has been positive. So many people, millennials in particular, saying they wished they were brave enough to do it. I’m here to tell you that you ARE brave enough. You just don’t know it yet. I have no delusions about the trials that may lie ahead, but I am the happiest I have been in my entire life. Occasionally I still get the opinion from a Negative Nancy, or someone older that would never have made this decision. A few critiques about how I heard words of wisdom from a game show host. I believe that what we need to hear can come in many different vessels. Kenneth was definitely a vessel as was Steve Harvey (who happens to be living his dream, and is successful) . So to answer that one nagging question, “If Steve Harvey told you to jump off of a bridge, would you jump too?!”
Well, if I saw my dreams waiting on me when I land, then “GERONIMO!!!”
Her business is Artiste House.
What does women empowerment mean to you?
Supporting women and championing their efforts. Doing the work to speak loudly for those that may not be able to speak for themselves
What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share with someone?
We only get one chance at life, make it worth your while. Your gravestone won’t say you were a good employee.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be known as a woman that loved her family, did amazing work & poured her heart into her hometown of Washington DC.
What kind of impact do you want to have on those around you?
I want people to say “Icy made me believe that I can do it”. I want to empower everyone I touch.
What does self care mean to you?
Maintaining boundaries. Prioritizing self and making time for me. Being ok with saying no to anything that disturbs my peace.
What are you most excited or passionate about? (In both business and life or both)
I am a passionate about storytelling In all forms. That’s how my love of art started. It was my way of communicating the things I could not express. Photography, writing, design, etc. it all means the world to me. Film is my dream medium. I have so many more stories to tell.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your business and personally?
I really want a key to my city. I love DC. And an Oscar wouldn’t hurt lol
What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?
I am going to curate original content and do more tv/film production. We’re known for our design & PR. Now I can’t wait for them to see my film projects.