“To look in the mirror every day and see a constant reminder of the poison inside your body, because that’s what chemo is” – Onyx Keesha
Onyx Keesha is an Award Winning International filmmaker, actress & breast cancer survivor. She discusses her battle with breast cancer and how she overcame the disease. She had 20 weeks of chemotherapy and 9 weeks of radiation. Sadly, her father passed away from lung cancer at the same time she was battling breast cancer. But that didn’t stop her from giving up. She founded an organization, The Pink Lemonade to educate women of color on the importance of early detection of breast cancer.
Statistics show that black women are 40 percent more likely than white women to die from breast cancer. In her organization Pink Lemonade, she offers an exclusive mobile mammogram for women to get tested for breast cancer. Onyx wrote a children’s book called Pink Lemonade about her talking to her daughter about breast cancer. Furthermore, she also has fundraisers called The Pink Tie event to help raise money to help as many women as she can who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Unfortunately, Black women in the U.S. are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race.
Moreover, she is the founder of M.PoWeR Productions and the CEO of Onyx Keesha Films. She has a program named Indie pink where she offers a free filmmaking workshop to girls and women. Recently she has been in several LGBT films. One really stuck out to me. The lesbian film “Don’t Tell Nobody” by B. Danielle Watkins an award-winning filmmaker. Onyx plays a mother to her lesbian daughter who is abused by her mother’s boyfriend. These types of films are always hard to watch. It’s tough seeing LGBT teens being abused because of their sexuality. But this is the unfortunate reality that teenagers in the LGBTQ community go through.
Onyx Keesha has several films such as Church Hurt, and her HER. Church hurt is a great film to watch for anyone feeling discriminated against in church because of their sexuality. Unfortunately, this is the reality for a lot of members of the LGBT community when you don’t feel welcomed at church. Lastly, she also has a new film coming soon called Priceless: Lesbian Series.
Onyx Keesha is a powerful, motivated, and inspirational woman who proves wherever you go, no matter what the weather, there is sunshine.
17 Questions With Onyx Keesha?
1. Onyx Keesha, where did ‘Onyx’ derive from?
It’s funny when people hear my name they say “Onyx like the strip club… Onyx like the rap group… Onyx are you a stripper” and I get it, but I am always caught off guard because my understanding of Onyx is rooted in the stone. The meaning of it and the beauty of it. Black is my favorite color and the meaning of the stone resonates with me. That is where the Onyx in Onyx Keesha is derived from. THE ONYX STONE: MEANINGS: Inner strength, focused attention, willpower, self-mastery, discipline, reason. ELEMENT: Earth.
2. How did you get into writing and directing?
My background is in theater and I started my theater company while I was a senior in High School. This is all I know to do, I started just by doing it. I jumped, I tried, and I did it. That’s what I tell everyone who asks me about the industry, you get into it by just doing it. If you want to write, WRITE, if you want to act, ACT. Whatever, it is just do it!
3. You are a director, actress, designer, etc. Your sister is also a fashion designer. How did you both end up in similar industries?
Let me tell you about all the Black Girl Magic in my family. My sister Kristina is the owner of KHouse her designs have been seen on Being Mary Jane and purchased by celebs such as Angie Stone and more, She started her company after leaving a high-level position as the head designer for Carter Kids and my baby sister Kimmie Gee, is Beyonce’s Dance Captain and one of her lead dancers, She has been with Bey for over 6 years and can be seen dancing side by side with Beyonce in her music videos and live performances.
We grew up in a home where our parents taught us that we can do and be whatever it is we desire, nothing was off limits they taught us to be the best that we can be at everything we choose to do. The arts were huge in our home.
This is something I have also carried on in my home with my children. My son is a rapper and is home-schooled while we work on his career and my daughter is a dancer. You should see our family dinners, my mom is the life of the party and my Dad is a photographer. Needless to say, everything is a performance.
4. What inspired you to come out with The Onyx Talk Show and Coffee Break?
So I love coffee lol and I have found that sitting in the kitchen talking with friends over coffee or at the bookstore or coffee house is where some of the best conversations happen. I wanted to bring that element to the web with my digital friends. Bringing my supporters into my world while I get to learn more about them.
My talk show is so important to me and something I love to do. When I first moved to Georgia, I started a talk show called 1:1 with Onyx; I got the pleasure of interviewing so many wonderful people. I realized how much I loved connecting and sharing people’s experiences. My new talk show “With Onyx” is in production and I am so excited about all that is to come.
5. You are releasing a new book on how to become an independent filmmaker, can you elaborate more on your book?
My book is called #Setlife and it is not just a how-to manual, it is also a memoir where I talk about my experiences as I have navigated this wonderful world of film at the height of the YouTube digital content era.
I use my lessons, my failures, and my successes, the moments I wanted to give up, and the moments where I felt so empowered to guide the reader through what it really takes to be an indie filmmaker. I talk about my experience in film school vs what real-life experience on set is like, how to be emotionally prepared for the journey of filmmaking and equipped with a toolbox of resources to execute. I am so proud of this book.
6. What is your favorite LGBT web series out right now?
Oh, man I do not think I can really answer this question because I truly have a love for LGBT web series. Just the fact that we have so many makes me so proud. I commend everyone who is out there grinding and producing content that gives our community a voice. I have a Web Show night in my house once a week where I watch LGBT content and support others in the industry.
7. How was it being on, “Say yes to the dress” and are you still married? If so, how long?
Oh, it was so amazing, but the producer in me was so consumed with how the show was produced that I did not truly get to enjoy it as a “soon-to-be bride”. I loved watching how to director, the producer, and everyone worked together to make that magic happen. I was mentally taking notes the entire time. LOL. Though I am currently separated, the experience is one I will forever treasure with people I truly love.
8. What would non-married LGBT couples be surprised to know about being legally married?
It is not a game. Marriage is so much more than the dress, the cake, the attention, and the wedding. It is work and being able to be legally married means walking away is not something that can be done or should be done easily. So be sure that it is what you want. Also, just because marriage is legal doesn’t mean it is supported by all, couples should still expect to come against discrimination and homophobia.
9. What advice can you give to upcoming filmmakers? What have commonly seen mistakes that independent filmmakers make?
I have a web class called the “Not-To-Do List” where I talk about this, I go over the top five mistakes new filmmakers make. For me, I believe it starts with a lack of true pre-production, the lack of a solid well thought script, and working with friends and family rather than those who are in the industry. My advice to upcoming filmmakers is to do your homework. I spend about 60% of my time researching, learning, reading, and watching; it is so important to know your craft, that does not mean you must go and enroll in film school, not at all, but take the time to truly prepare for your film or web show.
10. What talent do you prefer over the other?
Act/ Director/Lingerie Designer. Acting is my passion, hands down it brings so much joy to my life, but creating content is something I feel a strong responsibility to do. Our stories need to be heard and I want to be a huge part of telling them. Designing lingerie is my creative release.
11. Have you ever been romantically involved with someone you were working with?
Please share a positive and negative perspective of your experience or thoughts. Oh gosh! Yes, I mean all I do is work so rarely do I ever interact with people I am not working with. The positives are when things are good, things are GOOD, you get to see that person all the time and share in the experience of making magic together. However, when things are BAD…lol… well I am sure you can imagine.
12. What is your biggest creative accomplishment by far?
Right now it is being selected to produce and direct a documentary on Tony award-winning producer and press agent Irene Gandy who is the first and currently only African American woman press agent on Broadway. I am not only meeting and interviewing some amazing people, but I am learning so much from this 74-year-old legend, she has become my mentor and is helping me to believe I have what it takes to go to the next level. Because of this, I am relocating to NY to complete the project.
IndieFEST Film Awards amongst what other awards received that you feel are most rewarding? Oh my! Every time my work is celebrated I am honored. I really love when actors in my films win awards, I tell them that my goal is to help them gain exposure, win awards, and have their talent celebrated. It makes me feel really good as a director when I can achieve this. Recently my film “Sincerely Yours” won the best actor and actress awards in Georgia and my film Shower won best film and actress at a big festival in Italy.
13. Was the “Church Hurt” film concept based on personal experiences, if so what did you experience? b.) What advice would you give church members who discriminate against people in the LGBT community in church?
It was not based on personal experience, my sexuality has never been in conflict with my spirituality however when I moved to the bible belt I found that so many people wore the shackles of “church hurt” I saw so many people here in Atl in pain, the film is based on those stories.
My advice is to look at the person first, when you connect to the heart and hurt of someone you realize you have more in common it is a deeper connection. By doing that you see them as a person and not as their “sin” (if this is what you believe) You do not have to agree with them but to discriminate is unacceptable, period.
14. In Between Women web series, your character was in a domestic violence relationship. How did it feel playing someone who is a victim of domestic violence? What advice can you give someone facing violence in their relationship?
I loved playing Allison because I felt like it was a storyline that needed to be told, and I felt honored to tell it through my acting. My advice would be to know that you are not alone, you can get out, get help, and get through it, though it may seem like the end or impossible, know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Believe you are worthy of that light and reach out for help.
15. One Night in June, is it about suicide? What inspired this film and have you or do you know someone who has dealt with suicide or depression personally because of a relationship?
One night is written by B. Danielle Watkins, and she has a knack for shedding light on issues through film. The topic was heavy, but it was real. Depression is something I struggle with, and sometimes it is triggered due to a relationship. My advice truly is the same for those going through domestic violence, get help, and have hope. Do not be ashamed.
16. What is the ultimate role you would like to play?
A role that is similar to Mary Jane in Being Mary Jane. A layered, sexy, professional, smart, funny, vulnerable woman oh yea, and she would be a lesbian lol!
17. Who do you want to work with, and who has been the best person to work with?
B. Danielle Watkins has not only become a dear friend but also my partner in crime, and a good partner in filmmaking. We have big dreams, and we work hard to achieve them, she matches my crazy, and we execute. I would love to work with so many of the series that are out now, I am all about collaborating and making magic together.
“It is just a moment in life” – Onyx Keesha
Contact Onyx Keesha
- Website: www.onyxkeesha.com
- Instagram: @onyxkeesha
- Facebook: @onyxkeesha