AWM Spotlight: Tash Elzie

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AWM Spotlight: Tash Elzie

Next up in the AWM spotlight is Tash Elzie, co-host of the @preezeedoesit podcast, photographer, stand-up comedienne AND super-mom. Read all about her carnival love story, how she enjoys carnival despite her challenges with sensory sensitivity, and her perspectives on battling the mental health stigma in the black community.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. Were you raised in Caribbean culture? How did you become familiar?

    1. I am a Black American, born and raised in Lynwood, California. I graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Technical Theatre.
    2. I didn’t know many people with Caribbean heritage. I’ve always enjoyed all kinds of music and loved to dance. I grew up listening to everything from Opera to Spanish Rock. I also did traditional West African Dance for several years, so once I heard Soca, my waistline knew immediately what to do.
    3. I am a mom, I have three kids. I don’t share them much on my public page, but they are my world. Each of them are kind, funny, and so intelligent. I am so proud to be their mom.

2. Okay—you have to tell me…. How did you come up with the IG user handle: @carnivaljedi?

Two of my absolute favorite things are Carnival and Star Wars. During my very first Caesar’s Army AMBUSH, I was there with my camera. I had it wrapped carefully in plastic to protect it from the paint, powder, and water. I put it on auto focus but had to adjust the f-stop and shutter speed by using the force. I felt like a Jedi with my camera. I know that is the nerdiest reason for my name, but I think it fits me.

3. When you’re not delivering splashes of humor on social media, what other hobbies/interests are you engaging?

    1. I hate/love to workout. I usually workout twice a day. Keeping active makes me feel great and releases so much tension from my body. I hate it while I am working out but it feels so good after.
    2. I am a photographer. I shoot events and portraits. I am the kind of person who will stop any and everywhere to take a picture.

4. Tell me how you got into becoming a stand-up comedian and your journey with the PreeZee Does It! podcast.

I consider myself a writer. I am always writing stories and sketches. I’ve told a few friends that I want to be a comedy writer. One of my closest friends from high school text me and asked me to come to a stand up comedy class that she was the TA for. I told her that I would never under any circumstance do stand up because I want to be behind the scenes as a writer. She asked me how would people hear my comedic voice unless I put myself out there to perform. She stood behind me and encouraged me to perform. It was really hard for me because I would get so anxious before and after performing. I would bring my mother to every show because she is such an extrovert and she would make sure that I was there after every show talking to people and networking rather than running away. My mother is extremely supportive and has been really instrumental in helping me feel comfortable to talk to people and book more shows and auditions. She’s actually my biggest instagram fan.

Mentioning that I wanted to be a writer also is what brought my friend Mr PreeZee back into my life. He was looking for someone with a unique perspective to be his cohost for his podcast. I’ve known him since elementary school so our chemistry is effortless.

5. Tell me your carnival love story! Take us down memory lane with your first carnival experience.

  1. My first Carnival experience was Crop Over in Barbados. It was 2017, so I am a Carnival toddler at this point. This trip was taken at the lowest point of my marriage. The year 2017 was rough for me. I was battling depression, I started working out and I lost over 50 pounds. I still felt like I wanted to be invisible. I was at a point where I could not even remember the last time I was called beautiful or felt sexy. I went to Barbados and I saw women of all shapes and sizes enjoy themselves. Women who felt and looked sexy. In the beginning, I wouldn’t dance or drink. I probably looked like I was stush. I started to meet people and talk to people and I slowly started to come out of my shell. However, I was so afraid to wear a costume. I was in the t-shirt section and I did not make it sexy. I left Barbados with so many new friends who have been my closest friends ever. They have also helped me after my divorce.

6. What is your favorite carnival memory? What happened? What made it so significant to you?

December 2019 I had a major stomach surgery to correct a birth defect. It left me with a scar from my ribs to the inside of my belly button and extra skin as skin was removed in some areas. The estimated recovery period was completed the day before I boarded the plane to Trinidad in February of 2020. I could not work out at all. On Carnival Tuesday, I was extremely nervous about wearing my two-piece costume. I felt embarrassed about my scar. I came up with the idea that I wanted to be a villain. Since I played with Rogue and their theme was Badass, I felt that it was the perfect role to play. Villains are free to have scars. I even asked the makeup artist to make me look evil. Once my whole look was done, I looked in the mirror and cried happy tears. I immediately had to be retouched, but I felt such a freedom and a release that I couldn’t help but to shed tears. This experience on the road was so empowering for me. I felt badass.

Trinidad Carnival 2020.

7. Tell us the funnies thing that has ever happened to you or at a fete.

While it wasn’t funny then, it’s been funny in hindsight. I was on Candy Coated Cruise in Trinidad enjoying the fete and taking pictures like usual when a guy who was incredibly drunk flips me upside down and starts to spin. I kept yelling “Help me!” To my friends. The guy keeps spinning and spinning and had to be stopped by security. In my minds eye, all I imagine was him pelting me off of the boat. I sat down for almost the whole night after that.

8. How has Caribbean Carnival and Soca music served as a pinnacle of your mental wellness?

This year, I realized that carnival is a huge part of my self care. Even though I like to make jokes on the internet, and a few videos of me may have gone viral, I am an introvert. Carnival gives me the freedom to embrace my curves, be fully in my body with dance, and it allows me to be around people who want to be in a good space. I don’t feel the need to go inside of myself because Carnival and Soca music is like a warm hug from an old friend. Carnival is a safe space for me

9. What are your thoughts on the stigma of mental health in the black community? What do you think we as a community can do to normalize mental health?

In the Black community, mental health is talked about more than it’s actively worked on. There’s still a level of embarrassment and shame that comes along with talking about it. Being willing to talk about my own mental health issues means that I could be stuck in the “crazy bitch” stereotype and not seen. A male being willing to talk about his own mental health issues risks being classified as weak. Another thing that creates a stigma in the Black community is the idea that once something is named, it becomes a problem. Grandmas love saying “everybody got something now” as if us learning how to name these issues are what created them. It’s important for us to understand that identifying an issue is what helps us create a plan to thrive in spite of it.

Trinidad Carnival 2019.

10. As someone that lives with ADHD, anxiety and sensory sensitivity, what can you tell others about the personal needs that are associated with these conditions?

    1. Being someone with ADHD, sensory sensitivity, and anxiety who loves carnival seems like an oxymoron. I feel like I shouldn’t be able to thrive during carnival with these issues. I’ve had a few panic attacks during carnival, but they were extreme situations. I had a panic attack was during socabrainwash in 2019 when we were supposed to cross a footbridge and it got really congested. Everyone started pushing and also making the bridge bounce. That was very overwhelming for me and I was in the center of a bunch of people that I did not know. Now, if I see a situation that could potentially make me uncomfortable in that way, I find another way. I’ve even spoken to security who have granted me alternate entrances and exits, and also allowed me into private spaces to decompress.
    2. I have a list of things that help me during carnival:
      1. I stay close to the stage. There’s less to focus on and the music is louder so it keeps my focus and attention rather than everything else around me. Also, I am not completely surrounded by people and it helps me feel more secure.
      2. I wear at least one earplug and sunglasses. It helps to narrow my focus and lessen some of the stimuli. This is especially true on Carnival Tuesday.
      3. I travel with friends who know my looks. They can tell when I am shutting down and need a break away from everything.
    3. I don’t have the cocktail party effect. Usually, when someone is talking to another person in a crowded space, the brain tells the body to focus in on that one conversation. It’s like tunnel vision. With me, I can hear every conversation in the space at the same level. My brain tells my body that everything is important so it doesn’t filter out the conversation happening in front of me. I can hear the conversation but I am constantly repeating it back to myself so I can understand and respond. Sometimes, I may be on a delay, but I am present and responding. Sometimes, I shut down and just smile and nod. I just need a little patience from friends.
    4. I struggle to do one thing at a time because I fixate on the idea and not the action. For instance, sitting down to write will make me thing about the act of writing so much that I don’t think about the creative things that I am supposed to be writing down. When I sit down to write, I will usually have a game on my phone and music playing. The repetitive action of the game and the music allows me to distract myself enough to be creative.
    5. I can get very rigid with an idea of something. Someone once told me that he has a surprise for me in the morning. I was immediately uncomfortable however, I was trying to be polite. Why was the surprise in the morning? Is it on a time limit? Do I need to wear something specific? How many people would be there? Is it a good surprise? What if its good but I still don’t like it? I should plan what to say if that were to happen. I couldn’t sleep and ended up asking him at about 4am what the surprise was because I lied about being ok with surprises.
    6. All of the things I listed may make me seem like a headache, but they are also the very things that make me perceptive, creative, and fun. I am usually self aware enough to communicate when I am having an issue and apologetic if I was not.

Follow Tash on Instagram

Check our her page, @carnivaljedi

PreeZee Does It!
Podcast

Check out Tash and Mr. PreeZee's podcast

AWM Thanks You!

Tash! It has been a lot of fun experiencing your humor and wit on social media. My first memory of you was a video that you made with one of my “don’t rush” challenges.  You are inspiring, and I hope that your story encourages others to step out of their fears to play mas.  The experience truly is something for all to enjoy, even those with conditions they might feel preclude them as well.  I hope that you get to cross paths soon!

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