BOLD Woman To Watch: Denise Manning
It's the end of the world... and only laughs can save us. The worldwide premier of God Is a Comedian is happening this Friday, April 16th at 8pm so we chatted with comedian, actress, and model, THE Lizzo of American Theater, Denise Manning, about what sparked her creation. This interview will inspire, emBOLDen, and empower you we guarantee!
What inspired you to create your show?
Denise: ooooo "inspired" is such a loaded word because I definitely feel like I was "called' to make this show. To free myself and gain true self-acceptance. I think the catalyst to that calling was all the hours I spent in quarantine alone with not only myself but my thoughts, traumas, memories, moments....all of the stuff. That really catapulted me to freeing myself in the hopes that other Black women would feel empowered to do the same. We're never going back to the time before and there is joy in that, there is liberation in that, and "our dreams" are still valid and tangible in this new world we're heading into and the only things we have to hold on to is ourselves.
Tell us about the tipping point? The moment you got the concept. What were your first steps in creation?
Denise: I think the exact tipping point was the realization that nothing was ever gonna be the same. For me, that moment happened, in May of 2020. I had just gotten a "thinking of you note" from my mom and I remember sitting on my bed re-reading her sage advice of "hold on to your dreams" which for me translated let go of when/what that will look like, just focus on the vision, and I found that to be so so liberating. We're never going back to the time before and there is joy in that, there is liberation in that, and "our dreams" are still valid and tangible in this new world we're heading into and the only things we have to hold on to is ourselves. We are our dreams actualized. Also, Zhailon (Director) really is instrumental in the actual completion of this project. Once I wrote it, he really helped me organize and craft this into a coherent script/concept. Also, I cried A LOT while writing/making this and he never faltered on supporting me and the validity and necessity of this piece.
How did you push past the fear and what advice would you give to others who are looking to take a similar journey?
Denise: I didn't! That's the advice I'd give don't push past anything. Look at it all, face it, and see that it can't hurt you....if you do that enough times it'll become intuitive to you to challenge "fear" and "self-doubt". I specifically challenged myself during this process, to voice or write when I had a moment of "fear" and "doubt". What I discovered through that vulnerability is that the right people WANT to hold space for you...let them. Also sometimes honoring your fear frees you from its bondage. I also used mantras and prayer. I got SOOOOO many encouraging DMs...I screenshot all of them, and every time I was feeling a way (which is all the time) I would re-read and be reminded who/why/and what I was doing this for. Lastly, I put in preventative "self-doubt" measures. I told my closest friends aka Paula my bff/roomie/Production Manager, to randomly text me my 3 why's which are; For God, For me, For the liberation of other Black womxn. I put it on post-it notes all over my apt just to remind me at any given moment if fear reared its ugly head I knew the exact prayer to cast it away. For God, For me, For the liberation of other Black womxn. Purpose>Fear
Tell us about your show. What can we expect to see?
Denise: God Is A Comedian is a comedy special in the form of self-liberation. You're gonna laugh with me as I confess all my sins and re-discover radical self-acceptance and self-love. You can expect fun, fabulous, foolishness, and all-around Black girl magic. The live event surrounding the actual viewing of the short film God is A Comedian is an opulent "saint's night in" with my two girlfriends. It's giving us, very much slumber-party chic. Hope to see you there (from the comfort of your own home) on April 16th at 8 pm Why this show and why now?
Denise: Okay, so I have a confession. I actually put a reoccurring reminder on my phone in 2017 that says "Work on your one-woman show" it has been faithfully reminding me every day at 11 am. So, I think it's always been "this" show. I got clarity on its need to be a comedy special because laughing is how I cope. Like I can't tell you how many times laughter became tears became cackling throughout this last year. I was just waiting on the "now".... The now came swift lol. 2020 forced me to sit down and look at all the shameful, ugly, hard parts of myself. One thing I noticed was that they were fueling me and my actions. Where love, joy, and self-acceptance should've been were shame, secrecy, and self-hate. Since everything was already coming to an end...why wouldn't I end those habits as well? This was the God-given time to release and repair....and I was lowkey preparing for this moment for years. Who are black women creating their own work that inspire you?
Denise: Omggg so many to name. Black women really are just the G.O. A. T. I'm really inspired by Nicole Byers, Regina King, Lizzo, and Whoopi Goldberg. What I find inspirational is the cultivation of their own lanes, I hope to be able to stand firmly in my truth like all of them. Also, my friends! A lot of which appear in, worked on, or are working on God is A Comedian. Truly it's my inner circle that sets the standard for me. I would name them all but I don't want to miss anyone. Check out our Ig @GodisaComedian we feature a lot of them there! I mean what's the point of "getting on" if we all can't come.
When, where, and how can we experience your show?
God is A Comedian is a live-streamed event happening on April 16th at 8 pm. After you purchase tickets at our Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/thee-worldwide-premiere-of-god-is-a-comedian-tickets-147829115865?aff=ebdssbeac a streaming link will be sent to you the day of the event!