Kaeche Liburd : this is my time

By :- R. Anthony Morrison

Lifestyle & Culture

Deciding to follow your dream is not always easy. It takes courage, optimism, planning and determination. Even with those things going for you the path is not an easy one. Add to that, the possibility of having to relocate to another country is a formidable task indeed. It may even require reinventing yourself to some degree. We met someone who had to do just that. Kaeche Liburd is from the U.S. Virgin Island, and "Island girl" as she likes to say. After spending some time working in the Public Health field -- she decided to pursue her interests in the arts. She is an example of the kind of drive and dedication that has made it possible for so many people from the Caribbean to realize their dreams in pursuing the "big things" they envision for themselves. She reminds us that no matter who you are, or where you are it is possible to achieve your dreams.


P : Hi Kaeche, lets start by asking where you're from originally?

KL : I was born in Nevis, British West Indies. I grew up in St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands, and later moved to California for undergraduate studies at Stanford University.

P : When did you emigrate to the U.S?

I didn't live long-term on the US mainland until I was 17. I am an island girl through and through. I now know that the worldview from a small island is invaluable!

KL : What influenced you to pursue your first career path?

I pursued public health before the arts because it has always been an interest/obsession.  I remember asking a lot of health-related questions and reading food labels in the grocery store.  Then I had to opportunity to work at the White House Office of Health Reform in Spring 2010 with the team that ushered the Affordable Care Act through Congress.  That allowed me to check off the major like goal of helping to make healthcare more equitably available to individuals.  This satisfaction gave way to my art that always lingered but, after high school, I rarely allowed time. I guess you can call art a second career.

P : Did you always have an interest in acting in films, and doing theater?

KL : My arts experience was built on the foundation of dance. I started as a Bamboula dancer, an Afro-Caribbean dance form, and I competed in the communication arts showcases.  In elementary school, I also started playing the piano and alto saxophone.  Theater became a reality for me in high school.  Talent shows and competitions gave venues for performances.  Public school made this all possible. A bit more exposure during college as I pursued an Associates degree in drama with a focus in dance. Theater connects to film naturally, and my continued development involves moving between theater and film.

P : How did you develop the confidence to pursue your interest?

KL : I think I eliminated a lot of "stuff;" things that I thought I wanted or needed to "be."  I was pushed  out of my safe space.  Life and circumstance co-conspired, and I found myself at my first tv show taping for a 13-hour long day in a formal dress.  At the ended of the day I was both exhausted and energized; ready to go back again. 

P : What was your first audition like?

KL : Nerve-wracking. I was given instructions to perform to a song and I was so nervous. I reverted back to my native language, Afro-Caribbean dance.  So I started performing Afro-Caribbean dance to rap music.  My dance freestyle was a little off, needless to say.  I life that audition thinking, "that was interesting...they won't call me back." I was cast in the leading role for that project.  So I guess I gave a memorable audition! I still chuckle just thinking about it.

P : Have you been able to land any acting roles?

KL : YES,  I just filmed the first feature film in which I have a principal role.  I have a good feeling that this project will be a great springboard.  I am now SAG-AFTRA-eligible and I am in discussion with a producer about a project to be filmed this summer in Texas.  I would play a leading role with a strong character.  I just got invited to a film audition in Georgia; hope to be cast in that soon. With audition invites for film, and commercials in Chicago in April, there has been some movement and definitely some positive feedback.

P : What are your goals in the industry, what else  would you like to do?

KL : The more I do, the more there is to do, and the more I want to do.  My own talk show called "So, In My Opinion," is in development stages.  I've started writing, and doing research on various topics I hope to cover.  I made a promise to myself that this calendar year will not end without releasing at least one show on YouTube. My book, "What is a Woman Worth?" is growing as a passion piece.  A whole book that I am writing myself! Books were my favorite toys in childhood, and now I get to write them? WOW!

P : Who are some of the people in the industry that you are inspired by?

KL : Sheryl Lee Ralph, whom I have met, and she was as graceful and warm in person as on stage.  Debbie Allen, Forrest Whitaker, Cicely Tyson, Samuel L. Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Freeman, Cicely Tyson... so much inspiration all around!  My fellow Stanford graduate Joissa Rae Diop, better known as Issa Rae, is doing the creative work and finally getting some of the recognition she so richly deserves!  The list keeps going, and growing!

P : How would you describe your overall experience as a Caribbean woman trying to find a place in the industry?

KL : As a Caribbean woman, trying to find a place in the industry is futile.  Go build your own place.  If you build it, and brand it, they will eventually come to it.  That's what I keep telling myself.  I was born on an island with a population under 10,000 at the time! In New York City, there's over 8 million people.  I have to do things differently, because the sheer volume of artists is just overwhelming. So I cut out the competition mentally as my means of self-preservation.

P : What advice would you give to women in the Caribbean who want to enter the industry?

KL : Start now. I pull from experiences in performance art going as far back as elementary school.  I gave performances during play time with friends.  I remember after Hurricane Marilyn devastated St. Thomas and we were home from school for several months without electricity, friends and I played all day. Among the games were dramatic interpretations of various themes we had made up.

P : When are you planning to visit home again?

KL : I really hope to make it to St. John Carnival 2015. Work caused me to miss St. Thomas carnival this year.  We have three carnivals along with  food, fun, and beautiful beaches! Make sure you visit America's Paradise, the U.S Virgin Islands!

 

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