Interview

Meet Nya Simoné: The 13-Year-Old Detroit Superstar Battling Stereotypes

The media loves to portray Detroit negatively; its youth, and especially the black youth, remain a target. Nya Simoné quickly grew tired of the narrative and decided to create a stage for other gifted young artists: “Make US Known: We Lit!”

She hoped the show would attract media, talent agents, Detroit label representatives, mentors, and art/dance schools to get behind the future careers of these gifted children.

Nya has an upcoming showcase on March 18 at 6:00pm at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Tickets are available here.

If you could describe “Make US Known: We Lit!” in three words, what would they be?

Lit, unique, and revolutionary.

Has your age ever been an obstacle for you and your dreams?

No, not yet. It hasn’t been an obstacle because I am lucky enough to have full support from my family. My mom is willing to let me do things that may be a little uncomfortable or scary. My mother and sister support me to be different in a city where the media shows black youth as hoodlums. Everyone is frustrated and tired. Our city is being gentrified and we’re being left out.

Amazon decided not consider Detroit for its new headquarters and instead of listening to the reasons why and acting on those suggestions, Dan Gilbert indirectly blamed black youth when he blamed it on Detroit’s negative “reputation.” The negative reputation about Detroit is usually about the black Detroiters who have been here during its “50-year decline,” and are going ignored from the information put out on the “New Detroit.”

People want to see someone like me: black, strong, powerful, young. So, short answer is, no. My age isn’t stopping me yet. It’s helping. 

Courtesy of Nya Simoné

Mentioning your family, in what specific ways have your mother and sister supported you?

My mom, Kiwana, is a single mother. I’m getting older and noticing that black women who are single mothers receive a lot of flack and blame. I see people treating my mom rudely despite her being educated, super smart, and a professional. I call my mom a human thesaurus.

She’s incredibly protective of us and always says, “I’d rather maintain my peace than live in misery just to say I’m married. I’ll wait until someone can add more joy to my peace.” 

When I learned what the word stoic meant, she was the first person to come to my mind because she’s unwavering. I swear she would drive through a tsunami to ensure our safety, without relying on someone else to help her. She’s our Okoye.

Last year, my 10-year-old sister Nadia was diagnosed with Dysautonomia: Neurocardiogenic Syncope. Getting that diagnosis was hard on all of us. She is my fashion advisor and my defender; she will stand up to anyone to protect me and she’s the little one! For the past three years she has been a competitive dancer and cheerleader. Can you imagine living with a disease that causes you to be in pain most of the time, have difficulty sleeping and still come out on top? Nadia ended up helping her team win championships last year. Nadia was a “Spotlight Champion” in one of her competitions, meaning she made not one mistake.

Her drive and love for dance inspires me to keep the same drive. My name means purpose. Nadia’s name means hope. Sometimes I don’t feel like I fit my name, but I definitely see hope in Nadia.

What was the inspiration behind the upcoming concert and showcase?

What inspired me was the talented children in my community lacking opportunities to showcase their talents. I wanted to be the one to help showcase their talents and provide them a creative outlet.

What is the ultimate goal with the showcase?

I want to have showcases like this in other inner cities, highlighting all the gifted children from inner cities.

What are some of the acts you have lined up to play?

13-year-old singer/songwriter, Imani Forbers. She writes her own music and is self-taught! 12-year-old rapper, Patrick Jeremiah. He’s incredible. Artist, philanthropist, and designer Abby Robinson. Abby is an entrepreneur and artist. And 16-year-old bassist, Lance Gulley. Lance has been accepted to one of the few arts boarding schools in the country for next school year and is raising money for tuition. He is a great performer.

We also have a few surprises!

Courtesy of Nya Simoné

6. Where do you see yourself and your projects in a few years from now?

I see myself as a better instrumentalist, traveling the country with our shows in at least four different states and attending a Performing Arts Boarding or private school for high school. I specifically want to go either Campbell School in North Hollywood or Idyllwild Performing Arts School.

Follow Nya on Instagram and on Facebook and buy tickets to her upcoming showcase!

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