We had the good fortune of connecting with Iyabo-Mesa Serikali and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Iyabo-Mesa, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I am most inspired by my community and the places, people, and experiences that I surround myself with. When I see others reaching goals and chasing their dreams and actually coming up it just inspires me to do more, go harder and whatever you do just don’t stop, it’s okay to rest but keeping that momentum and consistency will always get you there. Love definitely keeps me inspired. I have so much love in my heart, some would say I am definitely a hopeless romantic but love inspired me to create and gives me insights and perspectives that help channel growth in other areas. Community, love, and connections with people just fuel my need to grow and expand and also share that with the next person in my community so they can too.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think my background usually sets me apart. Often times when I walk into a room there is a lot to be interpreted, from my style to my dress, to my tone of voice. I come from a background of a very large family–it takes a village to raise children and that is exactly what we have. We grew up very Afrocentric and free-spirited and my parents were open to all cultures and believed that we should learn about the world. Their aim was for us to be free and Black and to know our worth and place in the world.
When I started photography 10 years ago I knew it was something I loved. Capturing memories and playing with light was just something I found joy in. Once I started learning how to monetize from it, I just took off. I started shooting weddings and portraits in high school and went on to become a photo editor for my school’s publication. This position gave me early opportunites to do what I do now, interview artists, visually tell stories, and just be creative. I shot photos of Reggie Watts and Barack Obama, interviewed comedians like Anjelah Johnson. And developed a rapport in my city with my peers–word of mouth travels fast. After high school, I went to Northern Kentucky University, right outside of Cincinnati where it made me gain a deeper appreciation for culture and music and how they influence one another. I met and captured so many big names– and it’s not like I never thought I would get to this point in my career, but I was just so stunned that I had become a well-seasoned photographer at such a young age. I graduated college at 21. I photographed Erykah Badu, Noname, MosDef, Valerie June, CharlyBliss, and SOO many others. It wasn’t until this year that I finally made up my mind and realized that artist development is where I wanna be. I want to work with musical artists to build and support their brand and keep them making influential and inspiring music that can change the culture and also create a new one. Music is just so powerful to me, I believe in its effects on the mind, body and spirit. So when I see an artist that is just so passionate and creating masterpieces from notes and tunes, it will always be something I want to have my hands in.
For me to get where I am professionally; it took a lot of time to understand myself personally. Once I took the time to understand and ignite my inner child, my professional goals leveled up. It wasn’t easy in the slightest and I did make some mistakes but I have been rocking with the creative industry for 10 years and have learned so much to still be so young. I sought out a lot of self-help resources. Healing whatever trauma or insecurities you hold on to and letting them go will open doors and bring people into your life you never thought you’d cross paths with. I spend a lot of free time daydreaming about where I want to be in life and who I want to meet along the way and a plan and steps to get there. I think the power of my goals and dreams is that I can actually place myself there, I can see it, I believe it and I can reach it. Having that resilience, persistence, and knowing when to ask for a resource brought me a long way. I am still being challenged, I have overcome many many challenges but still to this day face adversity in a white-male dominated world, I have an obligation to seek to find resources and put myself in circles that want to see me win and keep going– it’s a must for Black women.
Lessons I have learned along the way would be to never put yourself in a box. Socially or professionally. It’s okay to switch things up and do something you’ve never done before. Wear something that may not be your usual style. Do something you wouldn’t normally do. Don’t be afraid of growth! It’ll take you so far. Keep yourself wide open– love, compassion, gratitude will come flowing towards you.
Know your worth, if you don’t know it, find it. Be resourceful, always ask questions, talk to yourself even if it doesn’t make sense yet.
If it’s your calling it will keep calling.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite spots in the city are mainly restaurants– we love a good meal. Eden & Kissi and Panchito’s would be my top 2 favorite restaurants. The best Caribbean food and the best Mexican street food out there right now. I also love spending time in nature so, Cherokee Park is a must, The Big 4 Bridge is also a great spot to watch the sunset and take friends to chill and be social. I also love the arts so 21C Hotel and Art gallery is a must when you visit, Speed Art Museum, Fraizer Museum, Roots museum, love them all. I also am always on the lookout for pop-up events around the city at different bars and spaces. My social life kinda went to ruins after 2020 so I mainly create my own events at home in a more intimate setting.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I think when it comes to my success and my journey it was a handful of people who kept the wheel turning for me. As I previously mentioned my community that I surround myself with aids in my support. My mother, Naela Serikali as been a strong foundation for me to be able to grow my skills as a journalist and photographer in my early days. She bought me my first camera, Canon T2i, for Christmas in high school and a MacBook for college, those two things were pivotal to my professional growth. As an adult, my brother, Obi Nana Serikali, and close friends Carter Hatchett, Mo Viviane, and Miracle Stewart keep me encouraged, grounded and show me the love, compassion, and perspectives I need in order to not only be efficient in my industry but also just understanding the idea that as a human, our worth is not based upon how productive we are in a given time. They remind me every day that I am enough, we are enough and we can do this.
Facebook: Mesa Pisa
Evironmental Photo of Mesa Serikali shot by: Curtis Anthony @fka.niceguy