LPTrendsCreators: Naima Mora Creates Her Own Life.
September 10, 2012
Naima Mora, former America’s Next Top Model winner (Season 4) and co-founder of the band Galaxy of Tar has a new eBook out courtesy of Possibility Publishing & Entertainment; a division of The Possibility Place, where all things inspiring (if not down right spiritual) toward positively achieving ones goals can be found.
Model Behavior (if you ask Naima Mora) is all about mastering some difficult human concepts such as self-discipline, focus, accountability, and a willingness to try-try again until getting it right. It is having a clean healthy mind and body that equally exudes exemplarily character – such as being honest (with ourselves and others), having integrity, compassion and empathy for those we cross paths with, and an iron clad work ethic. Simply put, the book is profoundly simple yet simply profound.
America’s Next Top Model Background
Why did Naima decide to audition for America’s Next Top Model Cycle 4? (You Tube video) A scout had visited her where she worked at the time and encouraged her to pursue it. Naima was originally thought to be a long shot for the title but ended up being a strong contender – start to finish – including her amazing feat of being an undefeated Cover Girl of the Week for the entire season!
Judges were swayed by her final performance on the catwalk. Tyra Banks noted that Kahlen was “the girl who did excellent during the semester and kind of failed the final exam,” while Naima was “the girl who did fair during the semester but killed her final exam!” It has been written that Cycle 4 of America’s Next Top Model gave us some of the most memorable contestants and moments in the show’s history. The season remains, to this day, a fan favorite.
Roots Are Important
Mora comes from a family of inspirational artists and achievers. Her mother is the talented jazz vocalist and entrepreneur Theresa Mora and her dad is Mexican jazz percussionist Francisco Mora Catlett. Naima’s paternal grandparents are painter Francisco Mora and sculptress, painter and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett. (She is the inspiration for her grandmother’s 2001 black marble bust entitled Naima.) Miss Mora boasts of 5 bodacious sisters, including a twin, photographer Nia Mora. Nia did a lot of the very real, edgy and straightforward photography in Model Behavior – mirroring the theme of the prose perfectly.
I met Naima at the design college where I recently worked. She emceed our first fashion show shortly after winning America’s Next Top Model Cycle 4. A vision in red, this young woman poised well beyond her years was so obviously an old soul haunting a young, well structured body. Not the same image that appeared in my office – makeup free, hair down, and wearing unassuming jeans with a simply T. I recognized her by the warm smile that lit up her whole face, whether in front of an audience at the Crest Theater or one-on-one in a confined office.
She asked me if I would look at a book she was writing and possibly edit her work. I had no idea what the melding of an old soul and youthful smile could produce in the way of literary excellence but I somehow knew it would be worth reading. I was right. The eloquently stated prose is dead on for mind changing mantra. Add to that some very chick and sassy photos that illustrate the thought process beautifully and you literally have a very literary experience.
Recently I asked Naima some questions about her background, family, goals and dreams. Her answers tell us why the book is worth reading, and what’s at the core of this confident, poised woman accomplishing all that she sets out to do, and then some.
What do you love and appreciate most about your family?
My family is fun, loving, supportive, crazy, dysfunctional, stressful and bizarre. In a word, normal… just like everyone else’s. Every one’s family has these traits, in one way or another! But there’s also something distinct that separates one family from the next.
I come from a family of artists, people who I believe see the world in a poetic light. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where that sense of perception was nurtured and encouraged. My mom and dad are both musicians. I have fond memories of my mother singing to me all the time. To this day my mom breaks out in song and dance while doing the most mundane things, like grocery shopping. I LOVE IT THOUGH!
My dad is a drummer and composer. One of his favorite things to do when I was younger was to wake us up in the morning with some kind of world music blaring in house at 8am. When I was a teenager and wanted nothing more than to sleep, it almost drove me crazy! But I would never have traded it for the world! I love that my father constantly strove to expose me to other cultures and people of the world through music and that my mom makes a living musical of life!
My grandfather was a painter. He and my grandmother met while working together at the “Taller de Grafrica Popular” in Mexico City. This was an artist workshop that hosted them and their contemporaries including the likes of Diego Rivera, his wife Frida Kahlo and David Siqueiros. They were part of a movement of people that wanted to educate others through art and what were most popular – public murals.
My grandmother, who recently passed, was still working at the age of 96 as a print maker, lithographer and sculptor. They have both been granted numerous honorary doctorates from prestigious universities around the country for their artwork and constant striving to educate people through it. I guess I adopted a lot of inspiration in my life from the way they have led theirs. My grandparents have been one of my best examples of love, marriage, family and artistry.
I only have sisters, no brothers. There are six of us in total and we all turned out to be quite artistic ourselves. My oldest sister Crystal bakes and is a teacher. That is an art all its own! I really admire how she has transformed her love of working with children and people into something tangible. My sister Ife is a singer and songwriter. Besides mom and dad, she has been one of my biggest inspirations in following my passions of creating music.
My twin sister Nia is a photographer. She recently traveled the South Pacific by sailboat, creating a documentary of Polynesian culture and landscape. In her travels she must face the storms and waves of the ocean in order to reach some of the most beautiful islands on the planet. Her journey reminds me everyday that at the end of the storm calm and paradise are awaiting! Liethis is one of my younger sisters. She is a wonderful dancer. The youngest is Mahalia, who is only ten years old, but finding her passion in studying Martial Arts.
To say the least, we all work very hard and I am extremely proud of the family I come from, one that I am fortunate enough to have. We all work on our own individual successes and hope that those successes inspire each other. The foundation of our lives is the large amount of support and love that we share. This I think is the most important trait of my family and the thing I cherish the most.
Somehow I think having a meal with your family would be an amazing experience filled with love, laughter and lots of lively conversation! What would you like to share about your past career goals, and what are you doing presently with modeling?
I’ve been working on my career for a long time, before I even knew it. It is my strong belief that in order to be happy, we have to do what makes us happy! When I was young I loved dancing and pursued it all the way to New York City where I danced with the Dance Theatre of Harlem ballet company. The company having gone through some changes, I decided to move on and pursue another dream- modeling. Everything in life happens for a reason and I believe that it was my training in classical ballet that gave me the discipline, grace, movement and poise to be a great model.
I have modeled for such magazines as Elle, Latina, MetroPop, Inked, Teen People, Ambassador, Courduroy, Fuego, Radaar, and Jewel. I shot the covers of reputable fashion magazines including Vicious, Cover, Modern Salon, H Mag, Mami and B.L.A.C.. Besides a CoverGirl campaign, I also shot a campaign for Sheer Cover Mineral Make Up, and Samsung. I walked in lots of shows for New York fashion week over the past years including Carlos Miele, Gharani Strok, Richie Rich and Project Runway.
Within my career I have received recognizable awards for exceptional achievement, outstanding leadership, and dedication to improving the quality of life including the ‘’Spirit of Detroit Award’ presented by the City Council of Detroit, Michigan; ‘California Legislature Assembly Certificate of Recognition’ presented by the California Legislative Black Caucus; and the prestigious ‘Key of the City to Cincinnati’ Ohio presented by Mayor Charlie Luken.
I often have the privilege of serving as a guest speaker and host for schools and universities. Some of these included the Ramapo College Enerve Couture Fashion Show, International Academy of Design and Technology; Imagine Student Fashion Show, State Fair Student Presentation, Detroit Public Schools / Detroit Public Library HYPE (Helping Young People Excel) launch, the Sacramento City Unified School District African American Student Leadership Conference and the University Of South Carolina’s student produced “Fashion For A Cause” fashion show.
Modeling has been wonderful and I have been granted so many opportunities to really connect with people through my career in fashion. I do have another passion however that has actually been the forefront of my life for the last several years, music. With my musical partner and very good friend Elias Diaz V., I have been able to pursue a dream of mine to become a vocalist. I attended City College of New York and majored in creative writing. Writing lyrics and vocals for the music that Elias creates has definitely allowed me an outlet for my creative writing and provided a platform for me to express my own artistry and creativity.
Elias and I began working together in a project called Chewing Pics, with whom we toured and produced two EP albums entitled “Tarantula” and “Trilogy”. When the band broke up, Elias and I both decided to continue working together and formed a new group, Galaxy of Tar. With Galaxy Of Tar we release our debut EP “PNEUMA”. We are currently working on a follow up album and it will be released this year, 2012.
How exciting! I know how important music is to you and your band Galaxy of Tar. Who came up with this unusual name?
The name Galaxy of Tar was inspired by a play. Elias Diaz V., who I started the band with, actually came up with the name. In the play there are two protagonists that are trying desperately to reach the land of Tar – a place where everything is beautiful and all their problems in life will be solved. However, en route to Tar the pair destroys themselves because of their own dark issues, which causes them to tragically sabotage their own happiness and forfeit their chances of reaching Tar.
Almost as if the music then is a metaphor for the struggles and angst associated with the pursuit of the dream journey. What type of music is it?
Galaxy Of Tar is a rock band. I’ve always loved aggressive music and the emotional depth it causes within your heart and soul. Our music reflects that emotional depth and is alive with a pulse and energy that is very specific to what Elias and I write together. It has this dark dissonance and odd chord progressions that are brought together with the harmonies and melodies I write for the vocals. I love the music we create. We often mix typical Jazz chords with ‘electronic effect’ driven vocals on top of the jazz chords to create our sound.
I don’t know a lot about jazz chords and ‘electronic effect’ driven vocals, but what I do know, from having listened to some of your recordings, is that the sincerity of your music strikes a chord in me, and probably in most of us. I define it as raw, positive energy. When did you first realize you wanted to sing in a band?
Oh I have always wanted to be in a band! Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to sing in one – just like my mom. It always seemed like it would be a really great and fun experience, which has proven to be true. But I always felt this dream was too far off and too difficult to accomplish. Elias and I had been really good friends for years when one day he took notice of my voice. He asked me if I wanted to try writing lyrics and vocal melodies for some of his music. We tried it out (combining our creative efforts) and I enjoyed everything about it, but most of all I love the challenge.
Elias and I want to write music that we really like listening to and that is challenging for us to play and perform. If you stay in your safety zone, it’s hard to grow. A lot of times Elias presents me with a very strange musical outline for a song. It forces me to have to think out of the box to actually be able to write lyrics and melodies for it. But when it syncs, it’s amazing!
So I have been taking it step-by-step ever since – and finally surmounted what had seemed to be an impossible little dream. I take my craft very seriously and put 150% of myself into it.
150% is a key element to your high success rate and also a major message in your upcoming book. What’s the inspiration for the music Galaxy of Tar chooses to write and/or perform?
Elias writes most of the music and his main instrument is the Drum Set. Elias is a very talented musician and I have been super fortunate to be able to work with him. He plays guitar and bass as well. All of these instruments stimulate his creative thought process, which allows him to write and record music. I sing of course and write the lyrics, and vocal melodies. We listen to EVERYTHING! And we take a little from each to put into our music. We learn a lot and grow from listening to and being inspired by music from all over the world. I always want to write what I will enjoy listening to over and over again.
So I listen to music that captivates me, whether it be classical, rock, Salsa or Taiko Drumming. I determine why it so captivating and that inspires me to explore all the parts of my creativity. Normally when we start working on an album, I work in themes. For our first record, I wrote a lot of love stories talking about different types of love. They spoke of destructive love, and godly love. One was of a man who fell in love with the machines he invented and so on. From there I turned them into song lyrics.
What have you recorded so far besides “PNEUMA” and where can we purchase your music?
We recorded and released “PNEUMA” in 2010 and it is available at http://galaxyoftar.bandcamp.com. In 2011 we recorded and released a three song EP of some cover that we wanted to do. We recorded songs that we really liked and were inspired by. “The Covers EP” is also available at our band campsite. We are releasing our second album later this year (2012). We really want to establish our music on the west coast and tour a lot! We also are looking towards working with local LA based artists in order to create some stunning visuals and stories around our music. The west coast has a thriving visual arts scene and I am very excited about incorporating that into our music.
I’d say you’re definitely off and running with another worthy goal. One thing you make clear in Model behavior is the importance of pursuing our dreams.
I love dreams and what they give to humanity- what they have given to me! Dreams give us a reason to live and wake up in the morning. Pursuing our dreams with integrity, courage and love provides us the opportunities to learn our true potential and to grow as people. Follow your dreams with everything you’ve got and never give up on them! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
What are your closing thoughts on best practices for achieving success in life?
I think everyday life grants us the opportunity to determine who we are as people. Our true successes are measured in the decisions we make that create happiness for ourselves and for the world around us. It’s a struggle though. Life has a beautiful balance of positive and negative forces. I make it my goal to recognize these and use them to help me grow. I try to surround myself with things and people that are positive and supportive. It really encourages me.
When I am in a bad position or encounter negativity, I determine that I will change the situation as much as I can by adding positivity, understanding and forgiveness. Empathy can play a HUGE role in getting past disputes or even negative ideals we may hold onto. A smile goes a LONG way and it’s a simple start. That’s my life philosophy, to truly add value and positivity to every circumstance I encounter!
We concur. As “Model Behavior” shows us, life is full of endless possibilities for achieving success as long as we stay positive, and positively pursue those dreams!
Her audio and print editions will be out soon!
Visit her blog (Naima Mora Online) and subscribe to her free weekly column where she share expert guest advice and where you can share your story with her to be published in an upcoming works as part of her Model Life Series.