Despite their busy military lives, Chassidy Jade’s parents were free-spirited and encouraged her to explore her artistic side – or sides, as it turned out. The writer/director/editor/collaborator now uses her multi-faceted talent to create her own work, while also fostering the visions of others through her Crown Me Royal Labs, a Memphis creative studio producing independent films, visual branding for small businesses, and live entertainment for independent artists.
Chassidy plans to release a sneak preview of her second film, the follow-up to the amazing Brown Ballerina, in July. The film will screen in conjunction with her birthday celebration and a film and design exhibit called Vibes and Visions featuring photography by female artists. But before you take in Purple Honey at The CMPLX, meet this week’s creative FACE of Memphis, Chassidy Jade!
Where were you born and what was your childhood like?
I was born in Delray Beach, Florida. That’s where all of my mother’s side is, and my father’s side is from Memphis. They met in the military — that’s where that connection came from. So I come from an African-American, super traditional, Southern, island-Caribbean background.
How did your upbringing influence your artistic perspective?
I was a military brat, so I moved from El Paso to Kansas, to Germany, to Augusta, Georgia. I think that’s really what sparked my creativity because we were exposed to so many different things, and we saw so many different types of people — speaking different languages, coming from different cultures, experiencing different cultures.
When did you become interested in writing?
When I was in eighth grade, my uncle bought me A Rose that Grew from Concrete, a book of poetry by the rapper Tupac Shakur, so just seeing his poetry and his writing, it influenced me so much. Then I got introduced to poetry in the eighth grade, and my mom, as discipline, used to make me write out the dictionary. So, not knowing what she was doing, she expanded my love for words and poetry and speaking. Writing for sure was my first passion, my first love. That just led to everything that I’m doing.
What led you to create Crown Me Royal Labs?
Crown Me Royal Labs began with me directing my first film, which was Brown Ballerina. I came up with the idea to help us fund that film, do tours and then put on shows.
People started to see our shows and loved the recaps and the editing. I ended up filming a lot of friends’ shows and working with artists and entrepreneurs to help them get themselves off the ground. It became a business within itself. I was like, Okay — I make films; I also want to pay for films. Maybe I could have a small company helping my friends out. And it just grew from there.
What is your mission or philosophical goal for Crown Me Royal Labs?
It definitely focuses on people of color, and it definitely focuses on entrepreneurs, artists and small business owners. That’s the market that I want to stay in because I feel that those are the people who are very talented but who don’t necessarily have the funding to expose themselves the right way, with high-quality support.
What do you feel makes Memphis complementary to your art?
There’s so much underground art here that people just don’t know about. I’ve lived everywhere; I’ve worked everywhere. And the most talented people I know are from Memphis. When I was in L.A. and New York doing a lot of live shows and festivals, every band had somebody from Memphis in it — every single one of them.
Where do you go when you need space to think or recharge?
I go back to Florida, to Miami; I go to The Bahamas. Whenever I need to just break and be at my mom’s house, get some good food — some seafood, some conch fritters, some Caribbean food, jerk chicken and all that — I just go home every time.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope I’m deeply rooted into my next film. I definitely want Crown Me Royal Labs to be sustainable in a way that allows me to be in more of a director’s position and have a lot of other young, black women — and, really, all types of people — get exposed to film and learn about film. I definitely want as many people to have access to this market as possible because it’s such a secret world to get into.
There are a variety of youth development programs in music and the arts, but it doesn’t feel like there is as much support around film education in Memphis. Is that accurate?
There isn’t, and I never understood that. Of course, we have music and art — absolutely. But who’s going to record it? Who’s going to run the sound? Who’s going to do the lights? These kids could really run their own shows if they knew everything.
How do you spend your free time?
I love to cook, and I spend a lot of my time around food. As little as I am, I could eat all day. I love trying food, and going to restaurants is my thing. I think that if I wasn’t into production, I would definitely be a chef somehow. And I’m also just an advocate of art. I love going to film festivals; I love going to music shows; I love TED talks and stuff like that. But those are probably the only other things I do outside of art. My life is super consumed in it, and I don’t step outside of it very much.
What is your best advice for other creatives?
Educate yourself on your craft. Also, we’re artists, and we always forget about the business side of things. Coming up, I definitely wish I had paid attention to my livelihood as much as I did my art.
What are three things that you can’t live without, aside from faith, family and friends?
Bamboo earrings — I love big, gold jewelry. Life is just not the same without them.
Conch fritters — It is a major delicacy in South Florida and The Bahamas. I’m an island girl until the day I die, so it’s a serious thing when my family has conch fritters frying on the stove.
Crown Royal — I think everyone is fully aware of my silly love for Crown Royal.
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