This month, I wanted to highlight some people, mostly creative spirits, that I find inspiring because of their gifts and hustler mentality. Many of us dream about “stepping out on faith” and pursuing our God given talents and entrepreneurial dreams, but for various reasons few of us succeed. The human-interest subjects that I have chosen to highlight in this series are people that literally started with a dream, limited funds and massive faith to create a path to their dream life. I find that the common denominator in many successful people is evidence of a spiritual journey that is interwoven with their route to career success, and these are the types of questions that I delve into during my interviews with each person. First up, let me introduce Kiretha Pratt, phenomenal visual artist and actress.
I first met Kiretha back in 2007, when I committed to doing a play entitled Girl Talk. The play was about a church affiliated book club where the topics discussed were about much more than the assigned book. I played a character, which was a lesbian friend of one of the regular members and was invited to participate in the book club. One night after rehearsal, one of the young ladies that was helping out backstage came up to me and introduced herself as Kiretha, a budding actress and a Believer. She specifically wanted to know if the character I portrayed was how I viewed myself in real life, and I said, “Yes, I am unapologetically Christian and openly gay”. I gave her my info and we agreed to stay in touch. I loved her bold and candid approach in asking me about such a taboo subject, so she intrigued me. I also figured that this was not a “chance meeting”, since I believe that everyone in my life is placed there by Divine order.
The thing that I have always admired about Kiretha is her joy; despite her circumstances, she always gets back to that place of joy. She has dealt with homelessness, betrayal, devastating loss, and a multitude of life’s other challenges, but every time I see her, she is filled with joy and gratitude. Celebration, spirituality and empowerment are the words that leap into my mind when I view Kiretha’s pieces and I wanted to delve into the journey that birthed such beauty.
Another quality that I admire about Kiretha is her constantly evolving style. I feel like one of the things that showcase a person’s spiritual growth is their sense of personal style. Kiretha is so talented at taking the simplest of materials and thrift store finds to craft bohemian ensembles that thoroughly convey the quirkiness of her personality. Every time I see this Queen, she represents pure artistry from the stunning hair colors and styles to her unique accessories. When I arrived to interview her early on Sunday morning, she did not disappoint, greeting me with her bubbly demeanor wearing some beautiful African print harem pants topped by a burgundy knit tank. Her fashionably shaved head was coiffed with grey silky locs and since we were comfortably at her home, no shoes were needed. I love her Afrocentric Boho Chic style from head to toe.
Who is Kiretha Pratt, the artist? She defines herself as “ an optimist, a healer, a lover, childlike, affectionate, passionate, open to life and open to accepting new things and being compassionate towards people.” Being open to learning new things, such as Kemetic history and other spiritual beliefs besides orthodox Christianity has, in her opinion, allowed her art to become more robust. Expanding her consciousness caused her to give more depth to her subject matter and express her passion for seeing the beauty in everyone. “ I see things in people that they may not see in themselves and I want to bring that out in them. I am a believer of others, and that’s art within itself, loving people, seeing the beauty in others.”
Kiretha’s initial supporter of her creativity was her Mother, Sylena Pratt. “My Mom always bought me art supplies to encourage my creativity, even though I always made a mess. LOL She would threaten to stop buying me things like colored sand or beads, but she never did. That was true love, her belief in me was her way of showing true love. She always kept me in dance class or any activity that allowed me to explore my artistic side, and I always wondered why she used to do that, but now I know it was because she saw something in me, she believed in me.”
Kiretha experienced horrible tragedy as a teen in 2002, when her Mother was killed accidentally while crossing the street on Christmas Eve. She was 15 at the time and the experience left her numb with grief, which also numbed her creative gifts. Her father passed away when she was 11, so this loss left her to navigate life alone. “I had to learn to live at 15 and I went through some shit. I stayed away from painting for 12 years because the last thing that I wanted to do was something to remind me that my Mom wasn’t physically present. “ During this difficult period, Kiretha became involved with the creative arts ministry at a prominent local church where she was able to exercise her acting gifts and keep some creative juices flowing. Meanwhile, she also began dealing with her burgeoning sexuality, simply put she discovered she liked women. Unfortunately, this got out to the well-meaning “church folk” who considered it sinful behavior and publicly shamed her.
This very un-Jesus-like behavior emotionally scarred her towards “church folk” and a relationship with the punishing God she had been taught about. “The God I was taught about in church was an evil God, I was motivated by fear. I was always walking on eggshells with God. They always talked about being perfectly flawed, but you really couldn’t be flawed and not be shamed.” The major difference in her belief system now is the freedom to be exactly who she is without condemnation. “Now I feel free! The God I serve now makes me feel protected. When you really decide to take that leap of faith to learn about God for yourself, that’s the real leap of faith. The God I serve now, I feel like I can go to about anything. I like this God.”
We have had so many candid conversations about how she came to learn God for herself, on her own terms and how different God is from what she was taught. Even uncertainty about the concepts of the Trinity and organized religion does not keep us from really knowing God, simply because God uniquely connects to each and every person on this planet in the way that is most beneficial and effective for that individual. I believe that Kiretha’s constant pursuit of God and acceptance of herself is what led to this being her appointed time to show the world her skills.
By developing her personal spiritual practices, like meditation, connecting with her tribal rhythms at the Malcolm X Park Drum Circle and above all, constant prayer, Kiretha has released her Divine gifts. That spiritual light burst through and manifested in an explosion of artistic expression!
Moving to Baltimore in 2015 proved to be the catalyst that reignited her return to her first love of fine visual art. Being surrounded by a community of artists reminded Kiretha of her own gifts and she desired to see what she could do. “It was kind of like a Divine tap that said, Kiretha don’t forget this is your gift, don’t forget this is what used to make you happy.” So she took the time to relearn her craft and stepped out on faith and simply created her own lane.
At the core of Kiretha’s being, she is a true Hustler and Survivor. Instead of Jack of all Trades, I like to call her the Queen of the Art Hustle because she is one of the few women I know who is actually sustaining herself through faith in her artistic abilities. Kiretha is a woman of many passions and talents; painting, acting, photography, clothing designer, model and hair stylist…she does quite a few things, and does them very well.
“I wanted to be able to have complete control of my life and being artist gave me that ability. Art has always been a part of my life so decided to pursue it as a career. I also have a passion for teaching people about nutrition and exercise.” Her future goals include opening a facility for homeless singles and an art space for others to explore their creativity.
Being the music lover that I am, I was curious to know what artists get Kiretha in the zone to create. “I like Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Future, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Bas, FKA Twigs, Erykah Badu, The Hics. I like a mixture of HipHop, R&B, jazz, anything that gets me there. If I can imagine myself in the video, I can be a little hood, I can be a little gangsta, you know, that’s what I like.”
Kiretha’s images celebrate the unique strength and beauty of the feminine form. The vibrant colors and brilliant layers to each piece celebrate the majesty and multi-hued beauty of the women of the diaspora. The joy that flows from her soul onto the canvas is indicative of the passion she puts into her work. “I paint women because I appreciate them. When people see my paintings they gravitate towards them because they appreciate them, and that is something I desire. I am a woman and I thought I was supposed to be appreciated. I feel like Black women are the most disrespected people on the planet, and since I am one, I know what it feels like to want respect. I want Black women to know how beautiful they are in their many colors. I paint out of my own hurt and desire for respect.”
Creation is a very emotional experience and she feels very connected to each piece. “It’s a struggle to part with my art once I create it, I really don’t like to sell it and I pray that when I do sell it, it goes to the person that it was created for. Selling commissioned paintings feel a bit different because it means that someone has trusted me with creating art for them.”
Kiretha has been getting booked for art shows and selling her commissioned paintings for wages that are representative of her worth. She has showcased and painted live at various art events in the DMV area. Her talent even piqued the attention of the internationally acclaimed RAW Artists organization. Kiretha Pratt is destined for greatness and I know that her testimony and heart for her community will compel her to reach back and tell her story to other youth in her situation. God always gives Beauty for Ashes and Kiretha is a perfect example of this. I declare that with talent like hers, Kiretha will soon be known as one of this generation’s great contemporary African American female artists.