Laila Woozeer is a musician, performer, writer and blogger. She has performed in New York, Amsterdam, Paris and Kenya and has had work premiered at Southbank Centre, Disneyland Paris and the Barbican. She has written extensively about race, representation and identity.
It’s a joy to welcome Laila to the blog!
Describe a typical day for you?
A typical day varies a lot – if I’m performing (for example I’m at Fringe Festival currently) then the day will revolve around the performance; warm-ups in the morning, rehearsal and practise in the afternoon before a show in the evening and the inevitable wind-down afterwards! Outside of touring and performing, my days are split between doing admin and writing work at my office base in East London, or staying home and practising/writing music. I like the variety!
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
I’d like to think my biggest achievements are on the way! I’m very optimistic and ambitious. In 2012 I became the youngest speaker to present academic research at Senate House which I’m quite proud of, even though I haven’t continued working in academia. Other than that, I’m so proud to be making a career in the creative field – it was my dream as a kid and seemed basically impossible. But here I am!
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
My diary, a notebook and a pen. I really don’t have a head for dates – if it doesn’t get written down, it doesn’t happen! I often take my laptop out and about as well which means any spare moments I can just sit down and crack on with work. There’s always something on the to-do list! I use crystals to meditate as well and normally have a couple on me.
What are your ambitions in life?
Many! Definitely to continue performing; I love being on stage. I want to continue to grow my blog and reach more people – I write a lot about being mixed race, working creatively and growing up. I also want to write books, compose for films – basically continue the things I’m doing now but to much greater levels. I would really love to do more with educating people about race, maybe hosting or doing something in TV and radio – there are so many people out there who want to join the discussion and don’t know how to. I have an idea for a documentary series as well which can be my passion project when I’m done with theatre!
Outside of my career, I’d love to live abroad – I spent two months in Japan earlier this year and fell in love with the country.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
‘Contacts’ and ‘audience’ are people you know! Anyone can be either. When I started in music there was so much talk of ‘use your contacts’ and so on and once I realised that could be literally anyone I met the world seemed a lot more welcoming. I also would have liked to know the importance of working to your own potential. I went through a phase of being obsessed with different productivity regimes, but nothing compared to working out how I operate best as a person and just going with that!
What helps you when self-doubt sets in (as it does for all of us)
It sounds cheesy but remembering how far I’ve come. I had no idea if I’d be able to do music when I was growing up and things felt very unsure for a while. But if I could get this far then what’s to stop me from continuing? I’ve kept a diary for years and being able to look back and see how things have come together is amazing. Looking back at going from an audience of 0 to literally thousands is amazing. I also look to other women around me; I’m lucky to know many inspirational women who are just absolutely smashing it and that helps me get over my doubt.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Either living abroad or back in London having spent some time abroad, writing books and working mostly in composition. Hopefully still blogging as well as I love it! It would be nice to have a space of my own to live in as well by that point.
What advice would you give a budding writer?
You learn as much from writing 10 totally different things as you do from editing 1 piece 10 times. I used to spend months and months on one bit of writing and recently I’ve enjoyed hitting ‘publish’ before the endless editing kicks in. Also, try to write new things and push yourself. Setting yourself exercises like imitating your favourite writers, or going from one word as a starting point is important to do once in a while. (I do this with writing music as well!).
Finally, happiness is…
Creating something you’re really proud of and being able to chart your own progress via things you love. Failing that, a well-made gin and tonic or Ella Fitzgerald’s voice!