Good afternoon, YouthMundees!
Kari Seward was born in White Plains, New York and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She recently graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and is a big time Libra Brooklynite.
Seward grew up as an only child, and filled her days acting out her own Greek tragedies in her childhood bedroom. Her mother, Yolanda, is from El Salvador and her father, Charles, is African American born and raised in New York. Her childhood was never boring, and was always encouraged by her mother and father to try her best and never give up. Seward has been acting singing, and writing since I was a kid. She often found solace in art as a child. She always questioned everything, read constantly and looked to art to make sense of the world, as well as her identity. Art has given Seward a way to express herself and has opened so many doors for her intellectually/spiritually/socially.
Life has never been perfect but it’s definitely been exciting for Stewart. She acknowledges that she's extremely lucky to have such strong support system of people in her life and is grateful for all the opportunities that she's been given so far. Lookout for Seward in upcoming modeling projects with Burgundy Fox, ASOS, and a couple tv spots, as well! Also be sure to check out Stewart's Theatre Company, PrismHouse’s, new show ABLAZE at The New Ohio Theater this month!
What inspires you and your creative process? I would have to say love, just purely love and the forms it comes in. The love in my friendships, family, and romantically always gives me the fuel and motivation I need to keep going and reach my goals. I’m very big on showing love and giving when I can. That inspiration reminds me to care for myself and to care for others. I also find inspiration from significant figures, like Angela Davis, Michelle Obama, Sidney Poitier, and Toni Morrison, and writers like James Baldwin, Walt Whitman, Zora Neale Hurston, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall. Their words helped me understand my place not only as an individual with a voice, but as a woman of color in this world. This in turn drives me to explore that in my acting, writing, and modeling. If anyone can find more love for themselves, love for others and comfort when they see my image or hear my words then I’ve accomplished one of my many goals.
What is the connection between your art and social justice? Why? There’s been a great shift in music, film, stage, and the fashion industry in the last few years. I never thought I would be in the epicenter of change like I am now but I’m appreciative of it. We’re coming to a point where women are realizing they don’t have to put themselves in the box that society says you have to stay in. They can be beautiful, smart, sexy, at whatever size they want to be. We can make our own choices and are demanding to make them. Women can be whatever that means to them! These realizations are dismantling and enraging those who seek to maintain the Eurocentric, white, non-eco friendly, status quo that has been upheld for years. Many of the brands I’ve worked for, my theatre company PrismHouse, and my NY agency, The Between, have embraced this message to focus on inclusivity as much as they can. This includes trans individuals, plus size individuals (not just one type of plus size shape), disabled persons, the gender non-confirming, and people of all races and backgrounds. It’s a very different time right now; people are able to look up and see someone who they can relate to in some way, and I find that amazing. When people see these images and my image, the hope is that they are encouraged to follow their dreams no matter how they identify and what they look like. We live in a controlled patriarchal society and little by little we are trying to break down those limits that were set up by those in power so long ago. Although there is progress happening, there are still deeper issues to be tackled in the long run like colorism, police brutality, internalized racism, homophobia, and internalized self hatred for your own self/physical appearance. There must be more women identifying leaders in power, in entertainment, in business, etc. There must be an appreciation and protection for black queer, and trans people, not just when they are providing entertainment for the masses and of course safety for immigrants. There must be more respect, and love. These issues are deeply embedded into our communities. Change doesn’t happen overnight and it’s true that some brands are trying to capitalize off of this narrative, but I have hope that the small impact I’m having can help people begin the process of acknowledgment, healing and respect for one another.
What inspired you to pursue your art? What were the challenges you overcame in this? I truly wanted to do what I loved. My parents always pushed me to be my best and always encouraged me to reach for my dreams. Growing up I always wanted something bigger for my life. My family inspired me a lot. They’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity in their lives, the biggest being immigration and addiction. I do this for them and for people who share a similar story. My biggest challenges have been self doubt and negative thoughts pertaining to my weight, looks, and what others might think. It hasn’t been a walk in the park but the more I accomplish the more those voices drown out. I’m at point now where I choose every day to be my best self, to love myself for who I am, and that’s made all the difference in my art.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists? Most rewarding is definitely the relationships I’ve made a long the way. I’ve met some of the kindest, coolest, most talented people ever and I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and moved to New York when I was almost 19. It’s been a crazy ride but to any artist I would say don’t give up, do not ever compare yourself to anyone else, and jump. Always jump.
Is there a connection between your modeling and your art? Would you consider modeling to be artistic? Modeling has really opened a lot of doors for me in the acting world. It’s gotten my face out there a little more, and has helped me feel more comfortable in front of the camera. The movement, emotion, and long hours on set are similar to acting. It keeps me ready and I really like that. I believe you can find moments while modeling that can be art. The beauty of makeup, lighting and design all come together. Art takes many forms, it’s all how you perceive it.
Thank you for your continuous support and love,
Lots of love, #Team IVA
Interview edited and conducted by Tessa M. Dobrow