Ayeesha Ash: “I Think As A Culture And Society There Is So Much We Can Learn About Each Other Through Storytelling”
4 months ago | Features|
Ayeesha Ash wears the Switchback Sports Bra and the Centered Tights, both fairly-made from recycled plastic by Patagonia.
If you’ve followed Well Made Clothes for a while, you’ll recognise Ayeesha as someone we photograph regularly. But we discovered Ayeesha by engaging with many of her creative projects, so we thought it was about time we asked her about them and shared that conversation with you!
Ayeesha is a creative director (of Black Birds), actor, dancer, podcast host (of No Offense, But – we’re obsessed), who tells profound stories, particularly of marginalised and minority communities, through her work.
We caught up with Ayeesha to chat about all of the projects she currently has on the go (including starring in a current production of Honour, and a forthcoming production about the environment and climate change), the kinds of stories she tells through her work and why it’s important to tell these stories, and how exercise and movement helps her creativity. Onwards!
Well Made Clothes: Hey Ayeesha! Our audience will be very familiar with your face but don’t know much about what you do! Can you give us a little intro about yourself?
Ayeesha Ash: Hello! I’m a proud Maori Grenadian woman (Grenada is a beautiful, tiny island in the Caribbean). I was born in Grenada but grew up in Brisbane with my mum, my grandparents and my cats. After high school I studied acting at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and then went on to study a Bachelor of Communications (Social and Political Sciences) at the University of Technology Sydney. I’m a huge fan of The Real Housewives series, Seinfeld and Law and Order SVU.
WMC: You do so many different creative things! You’re an actor, an artistic director, a radio presenter, and a podcast founder and host! Can you tell us a little bit about where all this creativity began, and how your career has evolved to encompass all these things?
Ayeesha: In primary school I tried so many after school sports and I really didn’t click with any of them. I didn’t mind tennis, but mostly because the instructors gave us lollies at the end of each lesson. My nana ended up enrolling me in a Saturday morning dance class when I was 8 and I loved it - so much so that dance became my whole life. I did class all throughout my schooling and at one point was doing about 40 hours of dance a week. From grade 10-12 I went to a creative arts high school and that’s where I developed a love of acting and theatre. Acting is a very hard and unpredictable career. I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket and limit myself creatively by just focusing on one artform, so I decided to diversify and use my skills to storytell on any platform that I could.
WMC: We’re interested in how art, culture, and communication can push society forward, and this seems to be something that really underpins your work, across all mediums. Can you talk us through the ‘why’ of what you do?
Ayeesha: I think as a culture and society there is so much that we can learn about each other through storytelling. Sharing our experiences authentically is a powerful way for us to bridge gaps and instill empathy and understanding. It’s especially important that people from marginalised and minority communities have opportunities to share their stories, and to also see their stories reflected in the world around us. I didn’t get to see or hear women like myself on television, stage or radio when I was growing up and that really made me question my worth and my value. I don’t want any other Woman of Colour to ever feel that way. And that’s why I do what I do!
WMC: More specifically, you’re the artistic director of Black Birds. Can you tell us a little bit about what this collective does.
Ayeesha: Black Birds is a company that creates work for, by and about Women of Colour of the diaspora in Australia. We work in a lot of different spaces and mediums, including film, theatre, visual art and events. One of my favourite things about Black Birds is that we collaborate with so many different creatives, from so many different cultural backgrounds.
WMC: And you’re the founder and host of Podcast ‘No Offence, But’, which I’m an avid listener of. For people who haven’t listened (and you should!) can you tell us a little bit about the No Offence, But podcast? Why did it start? What topics do you cover? Do you have a favourite episode that we should tune into asap?
Ayeesha: I’m a huuuuuuuuuuuge consumer of podcasts. I’m addicted to them! No Offence, But is a podcast where I interview creatives of colour about their practice and their story. It started about a year ago - I was recovering from a big surgery and living back in Brisbane with my mum and then COVID hit! I’d wanted to start a podcast for a while, so when everything stopped it turned out to be the perfect time to start.
We talk about a lot of different things on the podcast: body image, friendships, romantic relationships, racism, pop culture, mental health, creativity - just to name a few things. I truly love every conversation that I’ve had on the show but some of my favourites would have to be the chats about mental health with my mum, Georgia (she’s a clinical psychologist), my conversation about identity and body image with Mel Ree and the chat Stelly Gee and I had about sisterhood, self awareness and personal growth.
WMC: You’re currently starring in Honour at Ensemble Theatre. Can you tell us a little bit about this production and your role.
Ayeesha: Honour is an Australian play that was written by Joanna Murray-Smith in 1995. It’s been performed all over the world including on the West End and Broadway. I play Claudia, who is a 29 year old journalism graduate. On the surface she’s bold and self assured, but there’s definitely insecurity lying beneath the surface. She causes *a bit* of drama but she definitely learns and grows by the end of the show.
WMC: If anyone follows you on Instagram they’ll also know you’re a gym / pilates / exercise regular. I’m a runner and I really ~need~ it for my mental health. Is exercise cathartic for you? Can you tell us a little bit about how it helps with your practice?
Ayeesha: I love exercising! I think because I did so much dance growing up I feel odd if I haven’t moved my body. I definitely exercise for my mental health too! If I’m not doing a class at the gym, or somewhat pathetically lifting weights (lol), or doing pilates in my room (often in my pjs) I love to go for a long walk. It’s the best way for me to clear my head and get out of my own way. When I exercise I feel clearer and I can make room for new creative thoughts - I’ve had some of my best ideas post gym!
WMC: If there’s anyone out there who’s apprehensive to start going to the gym or starting pilates do you have any words of wisdom to get people kick-started?
Ayeesha: Don’t worry about what anyone thinks! If you’re not confident on the gym floor then definitely book into a class. Absolutely no one is judging you! And if you don’t feel comfortable wearing tights and crops that’s okay too. Exercising is not about the way you look, it’s about the way you feel. Be patient and take the time to find what works for you - you won’t regret it
WMC: Finally, is there anything you’ve got coming up across your many projects that you think we should check out?
Ayeesha: Yes, we’ve got a Black Birds show coming up on Gadigal country (Sydney) in mid July. I can’t tell you much about it just yet, but it’s called ORA/mate (say: mah-teh) and it pushes socio-cultural boundaries to tell very important stories about the environment and climate change. Keep your eyes peeled!
Ayeesha wears fair, sustainable Patagonia activewear. Check it out the Switchback Racer Bra and the Centered Tights.
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