We had the good fortune of connecting with Madeleine Wood and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Madeleine, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through acting is that everyone is doing the best they can with what they know. They make the decisions they do based on their knowledge base, experiences, and background. To judge someone based on my level of understanding and my perspective of how things should or shouldn’t be, what seems right or wrong to me, is arrogant. In order to play a character – to really dive deep into the character – it’s better to approach the process with understanding rather than judgment. I learned to identify where we share similar values and skills or have made certain choices and where we differ. Where we differ – that’s the gap – and it’s where the true character work begins. Understanding that was a powerful tool for me, not only in my work, but in my life. I realize how much freer I can be in my relationships and interactions with the realization that they are all doing the best they can and we’re all trying to connect and navigate this existence the best way we know how. Leading with empathy is the best way to live.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
From canvases to tv screens, My artistic work knows no bounds. The aim of my art is to beautify spaces, bring visions to life and make people feel seen and heard, which can be seen through my children’s books, paintings, digital portraits, as well as in my acting work. I work as a painter, illustrator and graphic designer, with work spanning digital and painted portraits, children’s books, logos and other mixed media designs. As a theatre student in New York in 2017, I co-created an annual showcase, Platform, for emerging visual and performing artists of color to share their artistic work for free, after recognizing how challenging it can be to gain exposure in the New York industry. Upon returning to Atlanta, I co-created a similar space for like-minded musicians, actors, dancers, writers etc. to collaborate and hone our skills – a theatre collective called AFRO Uncut. We put on live performances centered on a chosen theme every other month at the Southwest Arts Center every other month centered on a chosen theme for the surrounding communities.

I currently lead my illustration business, Madeleine Alyse Designs, and FreeQueens Media with my business partner, Kat Fana.

I have often found myself frustrated thinking about the various tropes I’ve seen of women in the movies and shows I grew up watching. There was the mother/wife, the bright and focused student, the businesswoman, the promiscuous woman, or a number of others. The truth is that women are multifaceted beings, but time and again, we are expected to fit into one category or another. We are inherently both spiritual and sexual beings, but when will it be okay for us to be both? I became curious about this topic, mostly in relation to women being taught to know themselves more deeply. We can’t fully know ourselves without fully embracing our sexual nature, as it is just as valuable and important.

Outside of the most basic biological facts and health risks, I had not learned what all my body was capable of or even how the cyclical nature of our bodies can affect our success at certain times within that cycle. What I have learned, however, I have taken the initiative to get the knowledge myself. I’m excited to be venturing into doing work with the aim of educating, empowering and encouraging women to be experts on themselves and their bodies. and to feel emboldened to speak up when concerning their needs, and even, quite frankly, their own pleasure.

My artistic journey has not been easy by a long shot, and I still have so much more I want to do. The hardest lesson to learn has been allowing myself to be more open and honest with my work and not being afraid to release the need for people to accept it and understand it. Working on commissioned pieces and producing art solely for creative expression – it’s a gentle balance because the professional work depends on the other person’s acceptance and taste and vision, and my own work is based solely on my own. Turning off that critical part of my brain while I create is an area of growth for me.

Navigating being both a visual and performing artist has also proven to be quite challenging,but I think this creative climate we’re living in right now is more accepting of people being multi-hyphenate artists and I’m learning how to integrate the two areas.

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.
Atlanta has changed so much in the time that I moved away, so I’m honestly still getting to know the city and finding all the hidden gems. I love supporting black-owned spots, so I’d definitely want to take them to as many of them as possible. I’m not really a turn up queen – wouldn’t know the good bars or clubs to go to – so I’d keep it pretty chill. On Monday, I’d take them to Triton Yards food park – love going there. I believe they have food festivals all week, but Monday is vegan and vegetarian food. The energy is always right and the food is amazing.

Tuesday, definitely drop in for $10 Tuesdays at Pink Poles Studios. It’s definitely a
workout and a fun lil way to end the day.

Cascade Skating rink would be our Wednesday night. I’m not a pro skater, but it brings me so much childlike joy. I’m still learning how to do basic things like skate backwards and spin and round the corners more gracefully, but I love the energy and watching all the skate influencers kill it and make us all hang our heads in shame.

For Thursday, not that this is limited to Thursdays, but I’d want them to check out

Urban Grind Coffeehouse. I’ve spent a lot of my time here doing work, meeting with people, or just hanging out. It’s a black-owned spot with a super chill vibe and they love supporting local artists.The manager, Lauren, always makes everyone feel welcome. We’d have to end the night at Rock Steady. I just discovered this place and I’m in love with their food and the atmosphere.

Friday, I’d take them to Slutty Vegan, Ponce City and the Beltline – cause what trip to Atlanta is complete without these?

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would be nowhere without the constant support of my parents, family and friends who have believed in me from the beginning, but when I think back on my story, the Southwest Arts Center was where my artistic journey began. My time spent at SWAC has played a key role in my development. Starting at age 7, I took tap lessons, African dance, hip hop dance, printmaking, painting, and voice classes. It’s where I took some of my first acting classes and saw my first play. It’s the home of the theatre collective I co-founded in 2019. I’m forever grateful for this space and the relationships I have built and cultivated. Being involved in the Teen Artists Academy in the summers and working under Freddie Hendricks really changed the game for me. His teaching is what propelled me deeper into my craft and showed me the importance of work and focus to achieve greatness. Gotta shout out Julian and Loni who allowed me the space during a time where I was trying to find my artistic voice and build my community when I first moved back to Atlanta. And my A.F.R.O Uncut family – we created some beautiful work together through our “Into the Black Box” series, where we created collaborative theatre pieces which we performed every other month. I’m forever grateful for them and our time together.

Website: madeleinealysedesigns.com

Instagram: @madeleinealyse

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