Interview by Tia Williams
InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each month ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This month ELIXHER spotlights Detroit native and Atlanta-based artist Toni Fields.
ELIXHER: Who is Toni Fields?
TONI: I was raised in Detroit, Michigan’s east side. Youngest of six males. Valuing the power to heal and maintain good health with good raw foods, I have sought to extend my knowledge of holistic health since I was in middle school. Now a certified firefighter, I still strive to find ways to better the community in which I live.
ELIXHER: As a child, what did you dream of being when you grew up?
TONI: I saw myself growing up to be a traveling artist going from city to city sharing my talent. I love being able to create something that has the power to move someone to experience their emotions in the many different avenues in which we could possibly feel. Love, joy, and pain.
ELlXHER: How did you get into acting?
TONI: My mother always did stage performances and when I became of age, she assisted me in doing my own. Never did I think that this was something that I’d still be doing. As a kid, I wrote and directed mini films using friends and family as actors. I executive produced and directed my first short, “A Lover’s Block.”
ELIXHER: When you were asked to play the role of Channing on hit LGBT web series StudvilleTV, did you feel she was just like you or was it hard to get into character?
TONI: I feel that many of us have a little “Channing” in us, especially if we identify with the hopeless romantic. I enjoy playing that character. We do have a lot in common, but I feel like I wouldn’t have made half the sacrifices she did for love. After a while a wall would build around my heart.
ELIXHER: Your last scene in the season 2 finale episode of Studville was intense. What was it like for you in that last scene?
TONI: I have had to build up for that scene since episode one season one. I knew I would have to reach in to a part of me that I love to hide and expose it for everyone to see. I’m glad I did it. Many people have dealt with intense emotions where we may have lost our sense of rationality. Seeing how Channing coped with it was hard but it happens quite often. Finding different ways other than getting trapped in the negativity would be beneficial for those who may feel such intense emotions.
ELIXHER: Was it the most difficult scene you’ve ever had to do?
TONI: Playing myself in my short film, “A Lover’s Block,” was difficult because I wanted to display live arts in a very short period of time. My video only lasted about three minutes and to be quite honest, I can barely mix paint in three minutes! Painting and showing the sorrowful side of love was quite difficult. After everything was finished I really felt that it was an experiment gone well.
ELIXHER: What is the weirdest, wildest thing a fan has ever done for you?
TONI: I have a lot of crazy and funny fan moments. One of the weirdest was meeting the Pomchi [Pomeranian and Chihuahua] dog named after me. I think that was the first time I was left speechless.
ELIXHER: How did you get into painting? What mediums do you enjoy using?
TONI: My mother, who is a very talented artist, helped me develop my talent in doing portraits and in shading. I didn’t try painting until I attended a university in Detroit and took a painting class. A medium I absolutely love is clay. What many don’t know about me is that I used to teach ceramics after school to both special needs kids and the privileged alike.
ELIXHER: Where can people find out more about your work? Can pieces be commissioned?
TONI: I do plan on commissioning my work but as of now pieces that I do can be seen live as they are created when I am invited out to different venues as a special artist and on my social media, and website www.ToniFields.com as well.
ELIXHER: Tell us about an elder that has touched your life.
TONI: My parents are constantly being that role model for me. They have been together for over 40 years and they still have an unconditional love for each other. Although their love is rare, it moves me to love my fellow humans with an unconditional love. Agape.
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the Black queer community?
TONI: The Black queer community is so resilient! Being Black we fought for rights and acceptance, being queer and Black makes our battle just that much tougher. We find resistance with church, states, and even sometimes in ourselves. As a whole, we continue to smash the mold and move mountains. I am beyond proud of the movement of the Black queer community.
ELIXHER: What kind of healthy critique do you have about our community? What are some areas of growth?
TONI: I feel it’s important to find happiness within our joy and in our struggle. Knowing that both can offer knowledge and overcoming certain things can give us a deeper understanding of our own strengths. This love can become contagious within us.
ELIXHER: What’s next for Toni? Where do you see yourself in five years?
TONI: I find myself becoming even stronger in my knowledge in holistic health as well as starring in an action-packed role with Will Smith. Call me a dreamer but it’s my dreams that have gotten me this far. Dream on loves.
Tia N. Williams is the woman behind The Buddha In Me, an agency of artists, speakers, poets, and activists based in Atlanta. The Buddha In Me specializes in providing quality programs to educate, enlighten, and entertain. Tia recently received her M.Ed. from the University of Georgia in College Student Affairs Administration.