Dear Sweet, Creative Chickadee,

by Frankie Ann Marcille

Photograph by Alex Colavecchio Photography

I have spent my entire life trying to define creativity.

Like so many others, I thought being creative meant just doing something in the arts. Being a dancer, singer, actor, visual art, writing. And as a women, I felt like the only way I would be successful as a creative was by fitting into this perfect type we saw represented-this thin, doll-like stereotype that had been labeled as the “perfect” look and attitude for women. So in my mind, being creative meant looking like those women in magazines, in movies, or on the stage. Fitting into the “perfect” look and attitude of being a star. 

FALSE!!!! This is far from what the true definition of creativity is. Creativity goes far beyond the stereotypes we have been conditioned to associate with the term. We have been conditioned to believe that the only people who are creative are the “perfect” people of the arts- people who sing, dance, perform. And while some of the most talented and creative people I’ve ever met are artists, their artistic talent is not the main thing that makes them creative.

I realize now that being creative is how you take the life you’ve been given and make the most of it. As our favorite chickadee, Tara, says “let’s make our own puzzle instead of trying to be a piece in someone else’s”.

I also realize now that I have been putting my own creative puzzle together since the day I was born.

First piece: It’s not about what you see, it’s about what you do.

I was born with septo-optic dysplasia, a condition that resulted in legal blindness that cannot be cured. Because of this, I have spent my entire life learning to adapt to the world around me; finding creative ways to do ordinary tasks I otherwise wouldn’t be able to because of my vision impairment. I had to learn to exist in an overwhelming, visual world without being able to see a good amount of it. This was difficult to understand, but I was very fortunate to have parents and teachers who always encouraged me to try. Who encouraged me to get out there and experience the world for myself even if I couldn’t see as well. Who told me “Yes”.

That simple word pushed me to do so many things. I quickly learned to read even though many thought I wouldn’t be able to. I started writing my own stories for fun. And my parents signed me up for dance classes when I was just two years old.

Second piece: Dancing through life.

I quickly fell in love with dance. Being a blind dancer came with it’s fair share of challenges and creative adaptations. I had to stand at the first barre next to the teacher in ballet class so I could see the movements. I would need to be in the front center spot for jazz class to see the combinations. But I did it. 

The dance style I fell in love with the most was tap. I started tap late, didn’t get into it until i was about eight years old. I was clearly way behind the other dancers my age. So when I decided to take class, the instructor put me in the class with my age group but also gave me private lessons. And it just clicked. With tap, once I learned a step, I could identify it by sound. I didn’t have to see the movement so much in order to know what was expected. I quickly caught up to my peers and tap became not just my favorite, but my best dance style!

Dance provided me with an outlet to express my feelings creatively. When I was dancing, I didn’t feel different. I wasn’t focused on the fact that I was blind. It was just me, out on the stage, making something beautiful. And it was the best feeling in the world.

I had several amazing opportunities as a dancer. In middle school, I got to dance at TD Garden as a part of the pregame show for the Boston Celtics. In high school I performed at Hershey Park and participated in the Rockette Summer Dance Intensive in NYC. In college I had the pleasure of studying under Tony nominee Elizabeth Parkinson. 

Now, dance is what I do to stay active. It is still a vital piece of my creative puzzle. But as I add more pieces to that puzzle, dance has become something that is more recreational and cathartic. I will always be a dancer in one way or another, and I am so proud of that!

Third Piece: Blind Ambition

After moving the the city four years ago, I found myself on a different path than the one I originally thought I would be taking. I moved to the city to pursue a career in the arts, and found myself teaching. And though I loved my job, I found myself craving more creativity.

Teaching allowed me to be creative every day, but for other people. I was creative for my students and for my teammates. I needed something that was purely creative for myself.

So I started Blind Taste Test, an Instagram blog devoted to my love of food. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a true idea. I just thought, “Hey I love food and I want to try cooking more. Maybe documenting it will help me stay on track”. That idea evolved into sharing my experiences and cooking tips as a blind person. I then started writing about restaurants I would visit, how accessible they are, etc.

Now, after two years of blogging, the account has become something beyond what I could have imagined. I changed the name to “Blind Ambition” and I now write about every aspect of my life as a blind individual. I still feature blind taste tests from time to time, but they focus more heavily on my own cooking experiences. I’ve written about my teaching experiences, assistive technology, general accessibility, advocacy, and self-care. “Blind Ambition” has become a huge creative outlet for me. I love that this silly idea I had for myself has turned into a way for me to connect with other blind individuals, and share some helpful information. I love this little piece of my puzzle and I hope I can continue to develop it further!

Fourth Piece: The Power of “Yes”

This piece of my creative puzzle is still in the works. One day, I was sitting at home and thinking about my childhood. I thought about all of the people who told me “no”- that i couldn’t be successful and creative because of my vision. And then I thought about the first person (other than my parents) who told me yes.

Writing has always been something I loved  doing. I loved creating stories, poems; I’ve done a lot of journaling throughout my life. So as I sat and thought about all of this, I began to write it down in a note on my phone – 2017’s version of scribbling on a napkin. When I had gotten it all out, I closed the note and didn’t think about it again until a few months later. I stumbled upon the note, read it, and thought to myself hey…maybe this could be something. 

So I brought it to my computer, formatted it out, and created the first draft of a children’s book. 

It would be a few more months before I let anyone read it. I was surprised by the positive response I got from it. And now, three years after writing it, I’m very excited to say that my first book “Yes” is in the process of getting published! I am so excited to have my lifelong friend Patrick Regan working on illustrations and cannot wait to share it with the world when it is ready!

What I think is important to take away from this piece is to not hide your puzzle pieces. Yes, some things we create for ourselves. Somethings are meant to be private. But when you create something and share it, you never know where it could take you or who you could impact!

Fifth Piece: “Lights! Camera! Advocate!”

The most recent piece of my puzzle is one that feels truly like a dream come true. My whole life I have been pursuing the perfect position that combines my love of the arts and passion for accessibility. And it just so happens that in the midst of the chaos that is 2020, I have been able to find it.

I have just joined the incredible women led team at Elle Jones Casting Company as a Casting Associate and Accessibility Specialist. Moving forward, I will be working to create accessible conditions on TV/Film sets for actors and crew members. I will be helping professionals of all abilities speak up for their needs and helping cast inclusive productions to diversify our industry. I am going to literally be living my dream.

So my point, ladies, is this:

I didn’t write this letter to gush about myself and my accomplishments. I wrote this letter to show you that creativity cannot be defined simply. My definition of creativity is different from yours. How I have built my puzzle is different than how any of you will. My point, however, is that I let go of the idea that I need to shape my piece to perfectly fit in someone else’s puzzle and went out and found ways to build my own.

Creativity is all about how you express yourself. It’s about your personal interests. It’s about your ways of problem solving. Whether you’re finding ways to adapt to the curve balls life throws at you, dancing on stage, starting an Insta blog, writing a book, or even just taking a step towards a dream…. it’s all up to you, girl. Don’t let someone else dictate how you put your puzzle together, how many pieces it has, how long it takes you to put it together. This is your life. This is your puzzle.

Now get ready. Get set…

Create!!

Xo, Frankie Ann

Photograph by Alex Colavecchio Photography

A note from the Editor:

I met Frankie in 2012 during my senior year of college where we became fast friends. I am so grateful that she has remained an unwavering cheerleader for, not only my success, but for my ambition. She has always been an advocate for women and individuals with disabilities, especially in the arts; and I am elated that she has grown so rapidly into such a well-rounded artist. The world is lucky to share in her many talents.

Published by tarallew

Actress, Writer, & latte-loving Manhattanite ✨

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