Meet Alana Mayfield!
Alana is a current Senior at STEM Academy in Chester PA and is already following her dreams as a songwriter, singer, actor, and recording artist.
Born in Camden, NJ, Alana moved to Chester, PA when she was four years old and currently goes to STEM Academy. Outside of school, Alana used to be a principal member of People’s Light’s New Voices program, that produced and performed original plays. After asking her what her current hobbies are, Alana began to explain that all of her passions go beyond hobbies: “It's hard for me to define something as a hobby because it's not a separate thing...like I would say singing is a hobby but it's a thing that I do every 5 minutes. I never stop singing.”
In remembering her childhood, Alana describes herself as being”spoiled” and looks at the different way in which she grew up compared to some of her other siblings:“I have to look to them and think about the struggles they went through that my parents,” Alana explained to me. “Fortunately that I didn't have to go through because my parents’ State got better and they were able to make a better life for me.
The familial/economic privilege that she had is only one thing that she recalls from her childhood, Alana also learned a lot about gender from a young age. “When I was younger I always understood the idea of gender roles and stuff like,” she says “but if you like something you like something.”
Being an artist
Recently in the past year, Alana has taken the next step that many artists have to take: getting the ideas onto paper and out of your head: “After recording, I've been more like writing and developing, and recording more….I can go on my phone and listen to and be like hey that's me or that's mine and I wrote that it's kind of really really fulfilling.”
After listening to a few of Alana’s song, I definitely found my favorite, and it turns out it was actually one of the songs that Alana recently recorded. Nothing Better (which you can listen to here) is an R&B track expressing ‘gratitude toward the precious and unique, long-lasting love of another.’ Despite not loving most R&B songs, I have loved so many of Alana’s tracks, and you can listen to them here.
“I'm just so proud of myself,” Alana explained to me. Alana was also telling me about her process, and since we are both writers, I was able to relate to a lot of what she said: “ I usually take forever to write a verse of a song,” she explained to me. “I'll write something and then I'll be uninspired or I'm like going through some kind of moment in my life where I can't finish something creatively and I'll take two months to write a verse.”
Within the field of music and in expressing her likes as an artist, Alana has seen some clear prejudices. “There are stereotypes that people put on me based on my gender,” she said. “I tell people I listen to J-pop or I tell them I listen to country music [and] they kind of give me this weird look as if the only thing I'm allowed to listen to is either pop music because I'm a girl or rap or hip-hop music because I'm black.”
So often, people are put into boxes due to their minorities. Those boxes deem what is and what's not appropriate or acceptable for those minorities; what they can live and what they cannot like, and black women have the smallest boxes out there.
While talking with Alana about stereotypes she faces as a black woman, she talked about her voice, specifically, and how her success is based on whether she can “Talk White” or not. “I feel like so many black women have to deal with this,” she told me. “It's degrading and it's dismissive of me being able to be successful because I'm black.”
Even talking about race, Alana has described to me that she has had to “dilute” her opinions or shift it in a way that seems “less harsh” to keep other people comfortable. Alana described to me how intertwined sexism and racism is for her, and how she has experienced discrimination in her school as a young girl dealing with dress codes. “I was told “I hope you know by Monday all of these girls will be in uniform because wearing stuff like this is too much of a distraction!’” Alana said to me. “I hate the word distraction when referring to a girl's body especially in a school setting because...why should I feel like my existence is such a distraction from someone else's priorities? Why isn't that same thing applied to boys?”
Alana is not the only girl who is feeling this way about dress codes and the reasoning behind them. Girls across the nation are beginning to speak out against the unfair and sexist dress codes within their school. So, like I end all of my interviews, I asked Alana what her message was to young girls, and this is what she wants to say: “Being yourself and being creative is always a good thing, even when it feels like your doing something against someone. If you're doing something someone else might not like but if you loved it and you're expressing yourself, then it's always a good thing.”
So despite society’s suspicions and expectations, whether they have to do with gender, skin color, or any other attribute, be creative and be unique at all costs, and if you are, your success will be limitless.
Inspired by Game Changers
Written by Sabrina Schoenborn
Transcribed by Amanda Lucas
Photography courtesy of Alana Mayfield