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‘Poetress’ Ernestine Johnson speaks words so truthful they kick you in the gut

Photo provided by Ernestine Johnson

Ernestine Johnson is a compelling actress and internationally recognized spoken word artist born and raised in Los Angeles. She is infamous for being raw, uncensored and untamed on the mic, speaking on matters dear to the heart. Her original spoken word piece “Average Black Girl” performed live on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” went viral with over 30 million views on the internet. She followed up with her original piece “Red Bottoms” which also took the internet by storm. Johnson went on to perform live on the OWN Network’s hit show “It’s Not You It’s Men,” hosted by Tyrese and Rev Run. She started her public speaking career as the red carpet host in Las Vegas.

How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
I remember being 10 years old and watching Cicely Tyson in a movie called Mama Flora’s Family. Her performance in that film made me feel emotions outside of my own. I wasn’t yet aware at the age that films or art could do that. Make you feel. I told my mom, “I want to do that.” I wanted to make people feel. The following week she got me my first acting agent. That same year, I had a homework assignment to write a Haiku. Whoever wrote the best Haiku won a pencil box. I had to win that pencil box. That’s where my creative writing skills were birthed. The poet in me was brewing. It was there in the fifth grade I discovered and identified my gift. I’m a poetress.

What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
There are many talented artists. And, I say this very humbly. But when it comes to my art, I’m God gifted. The way he lives in me, the way he uses me, the way my words stem from truth, fire, raw and uncut passion, is just different. He chose me to do this. My words will kick you in the gut. They will make you still.

For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
To me, all art should stem from truth. Get to know you first. Know exactly who you are. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Walk in your truth and your power and let the art spill.

How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
I’m always thinking of ways to raise the stakes. Whether it be shooting edgy videos for my poems, or creating content for my social media platforms to stay motivated and stay in the loop. I’m very intentional about staying in the atmosphere of the art and staying aware of how quickly the industry transitions.

Do you think there are widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
Ha! Yes, absolutely. Outside of being a full-time actress and a full-time traveling poet, I also run my own concierge company. I have about 30 professional athletes on my client roster so sometimes people are confused as to what it is I really do. I don’t dispel them. Sometimes, I like to keep people guessing.

How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
Every year, at the top of the year, I host a vision board party with my girlfriends or I attend one. I love vision boards. I like to see my goals. I don’t have to be famous or the most popular. Success to me is being able to touch people, to be able to do what I love and to get paid to do it.

Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate? Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
My mentor Terri J. Vaughn is one of my role models. She is just truly a phenomenal woman. Her tenacity, her resilience, her genuine spirit and her will to win is something I will always look up to.

Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life and/or yourself.
I read this book Secrets of the World Class. That book taught me about taking risks and to just jump. Lorraine Hansberry, To be Young, Gifted and Black. This book showed me how magical Black women are. Illusions by Richard Bach.

Why do you consider continued learning important?
I believe you should never stop learning. Sometimes I think we should unlearn everything we have been taught and start all over. There’s so much to know and when you know better, you do better.

What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
“I am enough.”

What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
Social media. I’ve completely [fallen] into social media branding. It’s vital these days.

What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life and/or career?

Please define your personal brand.
Truthful, powerful and purposeful.

What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
Can’t say I have a favorite but I definitely enjoyed my trip to Israel. Walking through Jerusalem was powerful.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would make sure everyone knew love is what makes the world spin.

If you could change one thing about you, what would it be?
I would go back in time and tell my younger self that her differences made her special and everyone has a different assignment.

What keeps you inspired?
That out of a million “Nos” God has that one “Yes” out there with my name on it. I can’t stop.

How do you stay connected with fans?
IG: @Ernestine.Johnson and my website

What’s on your playlist?
Michael Jackson and Jazmine Sullivan