Teila Williams is the Creative Director and Owner of AYO Creative Ventures. The plus-sized dancer and model represented Barbados at the recently concluded CARIFESTA XIV and also made the semi-final round of Brooklynettes auditions which were held in Barbados a few weeks ago.
Positive Vibes sat down with Williams to discuss her business and the experience of representing Barbados in those two events.
Q: What is one thing the public would not know about Teila Williams?
A: One thing the public would not know is that I am a certified Events Manager.
Q: What does Teila do for fun?
A: I enjoy quiet time at the beach and holding a good vibe with the amazing people in my life.
Q: You are the owner of Ayo Creative Ventures. How did this come about?
A: [I became] the Creative Director and Owner of Ayo Creative Ventures in 2014 after I knew for sure this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I want to be a creative, performing arts practitioner and performer for the rest of my life while making money and sharing the joy with others.
Q: You also represented Barbados in Trinidad at CARIFESTA XIV. Tell us a bit about that experience.
A: It was amazing! Being able to represent my country doing what I love was one of my most memorable moments thus far. Seeing the love and energy among the countries, the sharing of knowledge and cultural art forms was a moment in life that all Caribbean people should experience. So, take part in any CARIFESTA activity in your country. My highlight would have to be working with some of the most talented artistes from Barbados. It was truly an honour to share the stage with each and every one of them each night we performed. I could go on and on.
Q: You also made it to the semifinal round of the auditions for Brooklynettes. How was that experience?
A: It was only the semifinal round, but I felt like I made it all the way to the finals. I was super proud of myself for even attending and then to make it that far, I was pleased. [It was] a challenge for my mind, body and soul and a memory that will propel me much further into my professional performing career. It was a life lesson that I experienced and learned and I am thankful.
Q: You are a professional dancer. At what age did you realize that you were interested in dance?
A: Dance is in my DNA. I knew from the time I had the understanding of this beautiful art form which would have been around the age of seven or eight. Growing up, I always used dance as my escape. However, I only started professional training in 2006. Before that, I was just dancing with the community and taking short developmental courses offered by the ministry at the time.
Q: You also choreograph dances and worked behind many artistes at the inaugural Soca Monarch. Tell us a bit about that.
A: Being a choreographer and dancer for some of the talented artistes for Soca Monarch and Crop Over is fun because it is what I love to do but it can also be very tiring, stressful and much more. For me, it is a process as I have to understand the song and make sure the concept executed matches the artists’ vision and makes sense. It is a process; dancers do not just show up, we work really hard. Always a pleasure and a humbling experience when artistes like Biggie Irie and Faith, just to name a few of the artistes I have worked with this season, allow me to bring my talent and trust me with my craft.
Q: There is a stigma that dancers must be of a certain size. Have you found that to be prevalent in Barbados?
A: I have dealt with this stigma my entire performing arts life. Being a plus-sized dancer and model makes it harder to break through as you are judged by your appearance and not your talent. When I say to a stranger, “I dance”, you see the amazement on their face as they witness what I can do when I perform because of my size. Now, my shape is ‘in style’. People are a bit more open to the idea but the stigma is still there, and you are blacklisted from certain jobs because of your size.
Q: You are also a teacher by profession. Did you always want to be a teacher?
A: I am a Dance and Theatre Arts teacher and yes, I always had a love for teaching. Growing up, I was always teaching in the community or I was a camp counsellor, so I knew it would happen.
Q: What advice would you have for anyone who wants to become a dancer or a teacher?
A: Follow your dream, ignore the noise and be you. Do you the best way you know how to. Take it seriously, especially the arts as it is not just a hobby. Respect and understand your value and be patient.
Q: What is one thing you would like to see changed in the creative landscape of Barbados?
A: Incorporating our culture and more especially in the schools. A little child shall lead us and the young generation of today have no clue or do not even know our Barbadian cultural identity. As Bajans, we do not embrace and focus on sharing and handing down what is ours. We are Bajans 365 days of the year not just during Independence. I would love to see more Bajan within the arts and a curriculum in schools to show our young kings and queens who we are but we have to teach them.
Q: Where can people find you on social media?
A: You can find me on Instagram @teilawilliams or @AYOcreativeVentures and on Facebook at Teila Ayo Williams and AYOcreativeVentures. (LG)