Creator Spotlight: Laquesha Bailey

by Vocal Spotlight 24 days ago in spotlight

"My desire to share my viewpoint on a variety of topics compels me to write. I write because I feel that I have something to say." -Laquesha Bailey

Laquesha Bailey is an expressive, kind-hearted soul currently based out of Ottawa, Canada. Being nearly 2,600 miles from her birthplace of Trinidad and Tobago, she continues to widen her worldview as she perseveres through undergraduate Global and International studies with a specialization in Latin American and Caribbean studies.

The appeal to Laquesha's work is found within and beyond the range of topics she covers, as she effectively takes seemingly surface-level prompts to unexpected, revelatory depths. From pop culture to mental health, creator resources, and social commentary, Laquesha's voice, defined by passion, reason, and humanity, translates beautifully across all interests and beliefs.

While she's only been publishing her work on Vocal for a couple months now, the native Trinbagonian already finds herself with 2 shiny trophies atop her Vocal author page. Laquesha's first appearance in the winner's circle came after claiming second place in the Vocal+ exclusive Dear New Year Challenge with her piece "Back to the Present - A Letter from My Future Self." Her second win came soon thereafter in the Vocal+ exclusive In The Stars Challenge with her piece "Shakespeare Was Right About The Stars."

We couldn't be happier that Laquesha found a home on Vocal; and, what better way to welcome her than with a #VocalSpotlight! Without further ado, we're proud to introduce the incredible Laquesha Bailey. Enjoy!

On Her Background, Family, and Life-Changing Events:

I suppose the first thing you should know about me is that I think ‘Tell me about yourself" is the most terrifying statement to ever exist. Suddenly, I have no clue what to say or where to even start. My name is Laquesha. I'm 22 years old; I'll be 23 this year on October 1st. I was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, two Caribbean islands just off the coast of Venezuela. However, I live in Ottawa now because of university. I am the product of a teenage pregnancy; my mom was only 17 when she had me. Although I come from a low-income household, my parents worked hard to provide a good life for my younger sister (who's 18!) and me and I had a relatively normal childhood: played with my friends, went to school, went to the beach, ate a lot.

I actually don't remember that many specifics from my childhood. My mom disagrees, but I think it's because I got hit by a car when I was four years old. I was playing football (I think?) in the middle of the street with my cousin. My neighbour didn't see us and rammed into my head. I don't remember this happening, but my parents swear it happened, and I have the scar to prove it. Some fast facts about me! I'm fluent in Spanish, and there's a standardized test that everyone in the Caribbean takes in sixth form, and I placed first! My uncle was killed in my childhood home during a home invasion when I was 9 years old. I slept through this entire ordeal and had to be woken up by the police. I'm left-handed, which is pretty neat because only 10% of the world is. It's like we're in a super-secret club. When I was in secondary school, I participated in debate and youth parliament. I got the opportunity to travel to the Cayman Islands to partake in the Commonwealth Youth Parliament, where we presented our arguments in front of actual politicians. It was pretty scary. Also, despite growing up on an island, I don't know how to swim, which is pretty embarrassing.

On Falling in Love With Writing Again:

I was an avid reader and writer when I was younger. There were obligatory reading times in primary school following lunch breaks, so I think that's where my love for reading first blossomed. We had a small class library, and after a few months, I had finished every single book. Creative writing was a mandatory subject in school as well and was actually a prerequisite for entrance into secondary school. Being forced to read and write daily is ironically how I found my passion for writing.

When I was twelve, I had a stint writing (terrible) fiction on Wattpad about teen romance, bad boys and supernatural creatures. So Twilight but worse than Twilight, if you can imagine. I enjoyed dreaming up fictional worlds where beautiful people have experiences so far removed from our own realities. Eventually, life and school got in the way of my writing, and most of the work I produced became academic. I wouldn't return to writing for the pure joy that the act brings until I discovered Vocal in December of last year. I feel like now I'm rediscovering a lost passion. I describe the feeling of diving back into writing like someone moving back to their hometown after a long period away. It feels familiar, but it's simultaneously new and sparks a tentative curiosity, inspiring wild experimentation.

On Her Vocal Presence:

If I could describe my presence here on Vocal in one word, it would be 'ready.' My writing and process are random. I tend to write stories about anything that attracts my attention. The Notes app on my phone is filled with incomprehensible ramblings that encapsulate the moment when inspiration strikes. I always jot one or two sentences down and hope that I have the energy and motivation to turn back to it later. For this reason, I always have a list of untouched topics to choose from.

I most enjoy writing about things that I'm passionate about. That's a cop-out, but I have multiple interests, and I think my writing reflects that. More critical than pigeonholing yourself into a niche, I believe, is making sure that your writing is infused with care and passion. That energy translates to your readers and provides a compelling narrative that inspires them to read through to the end.

On What Inspires Her to Create:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe was once assigned in my English Literature class and is, to this day, one of my favourite books I've ever read. The novel is riveting because it covers the changes to an Igbo Tribe with the arrival of European missionaries who essentially colonize and destroy the rituals and practices of the tribe. Through the eyes of the Igbo protagonist, Okonkwo, we can see and feel the devastating impact of this loss and understand the richness and vitality of this lost culture. This book is an antithesis to Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, which deals with precisely the same theme but through opposing eyes and paints African tribe members as savage, uncivilized and unworthy of human dignity and consideration. I think the contrastive nature of these two novels proves that everyone has a story to tell, and depending on your vantage point, that story, even when covering the same material, can look very different.

My desire to share my viewpoint on a variety of topics compels me to write. I write because I feel that I have something to say. Even if that something is starkly different from someone else's opinion, I think both points of view are necessary and worthy, if a bit disagreeable.

On Her Goals as A Writer:

Short term: I want to hit $500 on my Vocal Cookie Jar. That was a weird sentence so let me explain. Whenever I publish a Vocal story, I stash away $5 in a savings account and $10 if that story happens to make Top Story. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. For one, I’m stressing the importance of self-reward and recognizing my efforts in drafting and publishing a story. It also allows me to save money in a small way that I can then use later for some discretionary purchase. Currently, my Vocal Cookie Jar has $275, and I hope to reach $500 by the end of this year. To achieve this, I would have to publish 45 more stories this year, which I think is manageable.

Long-term: I want to eventually publish a book. I haven't landed on what the topic of this book will be specifically, but how cool would it be to walk into a bookstore and see the fruits of my labour sitting pretty on a bookshelf amidst a sea of other novels?

On Creative Outlets She Enjoys Besides Writing:

I love to draw. I’m no Picasso or anything, I promise you, but it's a skill that I picked up during the height of the pandemic last summer when I was stuck at home. Maybe I should include some photos of my "masterpieces."

I love the peace that sitting for long hours putting pencil to paper brings. I want to continue honing my drawing skills. I also would like to learn to draw digitally. I downloaded the Procreate app ages ago but haven’t done much in the way of learning, so that's something that I hope to delve into once this semester at school is over.

I’m unsure if this counts as a creative outlet per se but growing my yoga practice is at the top of my to-do list. I’m comically inflexible and only recently managed to touch my toes. Still, I'd love to advance to such a level that I'm able to contort my body into some of the artful shapes that I've seen on my Instagram feed. BrightxSalted Yoga is a constant inspiration.

On "Shakespeare Was Right About The Stars":

Despite my hearty cynicism for all things related to Astrology, I support people's right to believe in whatever they choose. Like Shakespeare, however, my criticisms run deep, and the overarching takeaway from this story (I hope) is that you have way more power and free will than you realize. Despite the premonitions of a birth chart and star sign calendar, your personality is a clay mould that you shape every day by your thoughts, emotions and actions.

Can you recall a situation when this perspective proved essential in retrospect?

When I first moved to Canada in 2018 for university, I was alone. I don’t have any family here, so it was a rough adjustment period. The weather was also about 25 degrees colder than I was used to (in September!). I missed my family, my friends and longed to return home. During this adjustment period, I cried a lot and generally felt terrible about myself and my decision to come here. One day, I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and things started looking up. When we’re in the thick of a terrible situation, it’s difficult to see outside our bubble of sadness and self-pity. You have to step back to view your circumstances more clearly. Then, you must learn to adapt to your new environment. One of my favourite quotes comes from Dave Chappelle.

In one of his standups, he says: "initial reactions — as we all learn as we get older — are often wrong or incomplete. They call this phenomenon 'standing too close to an elephant,' the analogy being that if you stand too close to an elephant, you can't see the elephant. All you see is its penis-like skin. You gotta step back and give it a better look."

My approach to Astrology is the same as my regard for anything that I have no passion for: don't yuck anyone's yum. It's not a poetic philosophy, but our world is laden with cruelty, judgements and harsh realities. Any belief that makes life a little more bearable for someone without hurting anyone else gets a pass in my book.

Is there a “yum” of yours that others tend to view as a “yuck”?

I love Twilight, and almost everyone I've ever met hates it, so that's my yum that gets a universal yuck.

On the flip side, everyone everywhere seems to love Friends, which gets a yuck from me.

On How Her 2021 Objectives Have Played Out So Far:

2021 has been uniquely terrible for me, and I’m assuming for most everyone else. I would characterize myself as an introvert, but it wasn't until this pandemic that I truly recognized how important daily human interaction is to me. If nothing else, this uncertain time has taught me that I need to lower my standards for myself and stop wishing and hoping for perfection.

This realization has gotten me through a lot of tough spots these past couple of months. I’ll admit I have a ways to go to keep my promises to myself to "lead a healthier life" and "improve my relationship with money." Still, I wake up every day and try. And I can confidently say that I am 110% better than the person I was last year in both areas of my life.

On Her University Studies:

I'm in the third year of my undergraduate degree. I'm studying Global and International Studies with a specialization in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. My program is relatively new at my university, so it's a hodgepodge mix of history, politics, geography and law.

A great accomplishment for me is just being here at university. I know that sounds silly, but I'm at university in Canada on a full-ride scholarship that I earned through blood, sweat and tears and countless sleepless nights that I spent studying. That period of intense study was the most difficult of my life, and it had a pernicious effect on my mental health, so I’m immensely grateful to be where I am today.

I learn many random tidbits of information in my program that always leaves me thinking, "Wow, crazy!" I find the US's historical involvement in Latin America to be fascinating. Did you know the CIA once coordinated a coup in Guatemala overthrowing democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz over a dispute about bananas?! That’s kind of bananas!

On How Becoming a Vocal Creator Helped Develop Her Online Presence:

I have a love-hate relationship with social media, so my feeds across various sites are a bit threadbare. However, I think Vocal has incentivized me to use them more meaningfully.

I have had the opportunity to interact with so many wonderful creators. The community on Facebook (Vocal Creators Saloon and The Vocal Creators Lounge) is unbelievably supportive and has motivated and pushed me to write more consistently. I have a tendency to ramble on and on when I get excited about a topic, so the long-form storytelling format of Vocal has been invaluable. I’m well aware of the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words," but as a writer, I desperately need a thousand words, and pictures aren't enough.

Join Laquesha and Over 20,000 Other Creators and Become a Vocal+ Member Today

On What's Keeping Her Sane During These Crazy Times:

Yoga has kept me grounded since the start of this pandemic. Also, making a concerted effort to reach out to my friends and family. Studying and sleeping in the same place has also made it challenging to separate work and play. Daily walks and ensuring that I leave the house once a day, if only to circle my neighbourhood, is a lifesaver. The fresh air does wonders for clearing the head and releasing the strain on the mind.

This pandemic has taught me that many things that previously left me suspended with worry and panic are truly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Before the onset of this pandemic, I was the student with a 4.0 GPA that attended every class and did every reading because…well, I don’t know why. It was just something that I did to aspire to this false sense of perfection. That perfectionist part of my personality ultimately didn’t serve me much during these uncertain times and compounded the stress and anxiety that I felt. It’s taught me that less than stellar work is still pretty damn good. At the very least, it’s good enough.

On Her Favorite Story She's Published on Vocal:

"Code-Switching: On Having Two Linguistic Personalities"

I got a lot of flak for how I talked growing up. In my country, there's a distinct English Creole that combines many elements of English with inspirations from other languages such as Spanish and French, as well as local colloquialisms. This is how the majority of people speak, and this is how I speak with my family.

When I went to school, I wouldn't talk like that, however, and expressed myself in a manner more in line with "proper English." Whatever proper means. This act of switching back and forth between creole and English is something that I’ve always felt insecure about and something that many would comment on. People would say things like “you talk white” or “you’re an Oreo, black on the outside but white on the inside." It's only after attending university and minoring in Linguistics that I started to regard this act of code-switching, of adjusting your tone and your delivery to suit your audience, as a unique strength rather than a weakness. I was thrilled to share that perspective.

Don’t think about it—first thing that comes to mind:

What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

My Fitbit, probably - That's a stupid pick because I bought it on a whim about a year ago, but I've become a bit compulsive about checking the time, my steps and my heart rate randomly. It's weird because I'm about 60% convinced that the figures it reads are wrong, but I just can't help it.

Favorite Musical Artist at the moment?

Taylor Swift - I used to be a huge fan when I was younger, but I fell off the bandwagon and recently got back into her music. I re-listened to her entire discography. Currently, my 'On Repeat' playlist on Spotify is disproportionally filled with T-Swift songs.

Favorite Album of all time?

Pink Friday by Nicki Minaj - This is a tough question because I'm not the type of music listener to seek out full albums by artists unless I genuinely love them, but this album fills me with so much nostalgia, and it's one of the few that I can play all the way through without skipping a single song.

Favorite Movie of all time?

The Secret Life of Bees - Growing up, I would spend every summer at my grandma's house. She lived in a particularly mountainous area, so the quality of TV/Internet service available there was terrible. She had a cable provider that didn't show anything current, and this movie was on an excessive amount of times. It’s not particularly great but I suppose it's my favourite because I've seen it a ridiculous amount of times and know it like the back of my hand.

Cats or dogs?

Neither. I’m terrified of both. I think cats are creepy (don’t kill me, cat lovers) and I witnessed a dog viciously bite my cousin when I was younger, and it has left a mark (don't kill me, dog lovers).

Favorite travel destination?

Mexico City!

Palace of Fine Arts | © Lui_piquee/Flickr

Day or Night?

Day. Most definitely.

By Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Favorite local restaurant?

Cadman’s Montreal Bagels here in Ottawa. They have this perfect vegetarian bagel sandwich with eggplant, swiss cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, mayo and pesto sauce. I know my description isn’t doing the sandwich any favours but trust me, it’s incredible. I’m embarrassed to say how many times I get it each week.

What’s your go-to late night snack?

Ice cream! I currently have a tub of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream in the freezer. I also think chocolate ice cream is undisputably the best flavour.

What are you currently binge watching?

Avatar the Last Airbender. I’m re-watching it for the millionth time.

I’m also bingeing Girlfriends.

Antoinette (Jill Marie Jones), Maya (Golden Brooks), Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), and Lynn (Persia White)

What are you currently reading?

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan and The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee

If you could speak a new language, what would it be and why?

Japanese probably or Arabic. I think they're both beautiful languages that I'd love to speak someday, but the time commitment required to learn them is astronomical. If I could wave a magic wand and be fluent in those two languages, that'd be amazing.

Favorite story you read on Vocal by another creator?

I love anything by Lindsay Rae Brown. Her stories are always hilarious.

The most recent one I read entitled "Love, Liberty and the Pursuit of Public Masturbation" was fascinating and detailed a story of how an incidence of public masturbation saved her marriage. She is such an incredibly talented storyteller and I definitely recommend her writing.

Closing

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Laquesha! The connection you've built with your readers is as genuine as it gets—how could we NOT fall in love with a creator as dedicated, passionate, and empathetic as you?!

Take your latest piece, a righteous response to ill-mannered creators and their reception of "The Delicate Art of Counting to Three", the winning article in Little Black Book challenge, for example.

My inspiration for writing this story was the overwhelming disappointment, anger and sadness that I felt reading some of the comments on the LBB challenge winner's Instagram. I don't know her, and she doesn't know me either, but the character assassination and personal takedown that she experienced shouldn't be the norm on this or any other writing platform. You shouldn't get eviscerated for simply sharing your views and extending a sense of vulnerability through writing. This website is called Vocal, for crying out loud!

Our voice is our future, and it's perspectives like these that demand a sustainable environment for all the artists, photographers, musicians, and writers who make our feeds worth scrolling. Please, for the betterment of the internet, continue to be Vocal, Laquesha.

Over the last 4 months, you've proudly (and successfully) sewn yourself in as a uniquely vibrant square in the quilt of Vocal Creators. Now, we can only hope for more squares like yours. If you love Laquesha's work as much as we do, be sure to keep up with her here on Vocal and on Instagram.

Thanks again, Laquesha!

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