Interview: Carly Ozard of VOICES OF COLOR Concert Series Debuting January 15

From the subways to the airwaves, Carly Ozard is looking to make music and make change.

By: Jan. 06, 2021

Interview: Carly Ozard of VOICES OF COLOR Concert Series Debuting January 15 Carly Ozard is making her voice heard ... and those of other artists in whom she places a lot of belief.

The singer-songwriter who has appeared in the cabarets, nightclubs, and subway stations of New York City has taken a little bit of time from her own music and used it to create VOICES OF COLOR, a new online concert series designed to shine a light on the BIPOC performers of the music community, performers that Ozard takes umbrage at seeing passed over for bookings, invitations to group shows, and inclusion in an industry that, at times, seems to be nonplussed about the value of their contributions. Ozard, a staunch activist with many causes, decided that she neither could nor would stand idly by as the artists of color who command her respect should be rendered invisible on the stages of the world, and she determined to do her part as an ally, a supporter, a friend.

The Voices of Color Concert Series will debut on January 15th at 5 pm EDT/2 pm PST with a concert titled ALL THE COLORS, and Ozard is ready to rock & roll with this exciting new work for which she has such passion. Longing to hear more about the series and about Ozard's activism, I reached out for a chat about her work, her puppies, and her ever-changing hairstyles.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced with minimal edits.

Carly Ozard, welcome to 2021 and to Broadway World! How are things out West for you good folks?

It is so beautiful out here with the ocean and the scenic drives, I can't believe I am back in my childhood home! It's great to have a backyard and some familiarity during these tough times.

Are you a New Year's Resolution person, or more of a "resolve something when it comes up" person?

I think I am a resolve something when it comes up WHILE also honoring the New Year. Continuous growth is a full-time job year-round.

I like to use every opportunity possible to help our non-binary citizens to get their truth out, so if you will please indulge my next question, in the name of informing others: a bio provided to BWW by your office begins with your pronouns and the information that you are non-binary. Would it have been appropriate for my previous question to have used the word 'woman' instead of the word 'person'?

I don't mind using "woman" or "person" when it comes to me, but each person is a case by case situation.

As you know, it is very important to find out who needs to called what, out of respect for ever-evolving identities. People can call me they and them, she and her but I've never felt female OR male my whole life..... I always felt like a man in a dress. Aka a drag queen. I'm a them.

There are people in the world who are still coming to understand what non-binary is; what light would you like to cast for those fine folks that will come from a human being, rather than a google search?

There are many of us who never felt truly right in the body we were born in. Of course, there are varying degrees of this. For me, there was no word or term for how I felt.... until the last handful of years. I am bi-curious but look to everyone like a straight woman (being married to a cis man) but it has always been so much more complicated. I dated a woman for a few months a long time ago and I learned so much. I learned I wasn't a lesbian but I learned that I could love a person, not a gender. I think about Susan a lot to this day.

I always looked in the mirror and saw a gay man in a dress but never was very vocal about it. I didn't want to take away space from actual drag queens. One day I performed a gig with the Metropolitan Community Church and my friend Michael Cronin who didn't know my feelings introduced me to the choir as a drag queen. I asked why he said that and he said "that's how I've always seen you." And I was like OMG MY SECRET IS NOT A SECRET. EMBRACE THE QUEERNESS!!!

Pretty soon many came forward with their variations of gender fluidity and identity and I looked around and realized these were common feelings. Then terms were developed. At first the word neutrois was said, defining oneself as neither female nor male. So I thought THAT is me. Then non-binary came out and either term is what feels right for me at my core.

What I would tell someone with questions is...... even if you don't understand it, please call people by the names and pronouns they wish to be called.

The spectrum is open for people to claim and please respect its resonance even if it doesn't resonate with you.

Non-binary can be a combination of both male or female energies OR you might not feel like either, and you're smack in the middle. It is different for each person. Peoples' terms evolve, so please hold space and tolerance for that growth as well. The more a person is allowed to be themselves freely and openly, the more authentic everything about their journey will be.

Do you think that your experience as a non-binary person is a main component of your quest for causes? You are, after all, a prolific organizer and producer of concerts and shows that benefit many different organizations and peoples in need, as well as the critters of the world.

I am always learning. Identifying as non-binary has no influence on my drive to bring things into the light. What drives me is injustice, being heard, and being kind and welcoming to anyone who feels like an outsider. In this instance, theater and the world have put people of color on the outside. This enrages me to no end. Rage and anger have no place on a stage, but beautiful art and storytelling does. I use those things to contribute to getting justice and recognition for people and organizations that deserve it. Leonard Cohen said "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in" and right now the foundation that needs to SHATTER is racism. I am writing a new EDM song called Fighting for the Light with my Dj Dan Arion. We are all fighting for something in our lives and we need to be fighting for the light in whatever we are pursuing.

That doesn't mean I don't make mistakes. I do. I am not an expert but I am a practicing ally.

Your latest venture is a really exciting online concert series called VOICES OF COLOR. Let's start at the top: use one high-concept sentence to tell our readers what this concert series is.

Installment 1: All The Colors -- Serving up talent in one place that is "hard to find" for booking and casting agents to mindfully choose to include people for their future projects.

Promoting the work of BIPOC performers is something about which many people are very passionate, from the members of the diversity communities to their Caucasian allies. With so many behind this force in the industry, to what would you attribute the continued struggle to provide work and a platform for these artists?

Lack of access to acting and singing training (so, not nearly enough outreach, funding, focus) combined with too many people who cast their friends or their usuals over and over. No room at the table and no welcoming outreach to enroll folks to bring them in. We do an interview with Director Gary Stanford Jr. all about this in the concert!

Aside from your own efforts with this new concert series, what can people do to help our brothers and sisters and fluid family members to claim the visibility they so richly deserve?

Listen. LISTEN to what they say, and create a safe environment based off of what they've shared. Even if you don't agree.

I am going to be candid about something: We lost a singer in this process. They chose not to participate and I felt very misunderstood. At the end of the day, your story doesn't matter more than someone else's.

Everyone has different experiences and it's the EXPERIENCES that matter, and holding space for those experiences, even if you don't get what YOU want in the end.

People have to be willing and able to have a tough conversation if something goes wrong. Take the time. You have to be willing to hear when someone thinks you're wrong-EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE.

Approaching conflict respectfully is what I continue to practice, and not always perfectly, might I add.

You must be willing to take risks in order to practice radical inclusion. Define what radical inclusion looks like to you. Maybe your first project has all different backgrounds. Yay! Go you. But are there different body types? Any room for a trans artist? A disabled artist? How can you next time go further to include more diversity? Part of radical inclusion also can mean taking personal inventory. Why aren't there any POC in your line up? Why aren't there plus-sized bodies being celebrated in your show? Are there people in your project who you have used multiple times? Why is that? Are there only famous people or people with tv and Broadway credits in your line up? Are you making room or trying to make yourself look important? A LITTLE SECRET: People in general- not just POC, don't WANT to come back if you keep dismissing them. Take risks. Practice radical inclusion. Be open to offending someone and listening to them if you do. Have hard conversations.

Accept that others have different experiences than you and welcome them, conflicts and all, to your table, even when they choose not to sit at it.

We've talked about the mission statement of VOICES OF COLOR, but how did the series come to fruition? Was there a defining moment that led you, mentally or emotionally, to stand up and say ENOUGH?

Obviously, the global awakening had a huge HUGE impact on many of us. But I began listening and tuning in a couple of years ago because of a very special person: Rey Naldo, (@reypurposed) an incredible black queer artist who hosted an amazing art show once a month that I sang in. Often I was the only white voice there. I became a guest in their space. What taught me about injustices was spoken word artists. The lineup was full of incredible poets delivering their experiences as black folks and I would sit there and cry inside. Precious words from significant arts poured out and in between their lines were their stories of injustice. Then I would get up and sing and sit down. That show was the highlight of my month and I want to create a community like that once covid is managed.

What will be the general aesthetic of the shows you will be broadcasting?

We have incredible talents singing their dream roles, sharing sections of their club acts, and telling us stories unique to their journeys. We offer a headshot and resume bookending each performer so people can find them and hire them and follow them. Lastly, the interview with Gary Stanford Jr. Spells out the work that needs to get accomplished.

What is the long term picture in your head of what VOICES OF COLOR can become and where it can take us?

I want to do multiple installments. I need to showcase All the Colors, if you will. Each installment will be called something different. We want trans voices, disabled performers, people of size (big and small and in between) just representation across the board. I want everyone to get followers and hopefully some offers to participate in New projects!

Is your activism a frame of mind instilled in you by a role model, or is it something nurtured to life from your own instincts?

Raised by Drag Queens in the Castro, I followed in their heels singing and emceeing in SF for HIV/AIDS, the Homeless community, Pets are Wonderful Support, and more. Basically, the queer art of San Francisco is always benefitting someone or something. My mom brought me up understanding the importance of giving back and volunteering. So.... my mom and Drag Queens.

You're out on the West Coast now - how many critters are there in your family and how are they enjoying the wide-open spaces of California?

I currently have 3 rescues who rule the roost here in Belmont. A demanding Shih Tzu, a jealous Wookie, and a silly Frenchie. They're our heart and soul of our family. They love having a yard and I love not having to walk them everywhere but I miss Boris and Horton Cafe and Tompkins Square Dog Run every single day.

One of the things for which you are most well-known is your changing hair fashion. How do you know when it's time to try something new, and how outrageous you can go with it?

Oh man. Festival burner hair is out for good cuz that shit HURTS lol. My dreads came from the cybergoth community and those are retired due to not wanting to disrespect folks of color. I discovered Overtone products and they had the exact shade of blue I wanted and they make it so easy. Why not be dark blue if you can be? What usually makes me decide it's time for a new look is honestly some gay event that wants me on their stage. This time around it was covid....and being bored lol.

When it comes time to curate a cast of actors to perform in VOICES OF COLOR, what is your process for the choosing and booking of the talent?

I choose people I have seen and people who come highly recommended. For instance - Natalie Douglas I have seen for years but haven't yet met, Mr. Richard E. Waits - both of who are sensational in this show.

We're here, in print, on Broadway World - is there anyone you don't know, personally, to whom you would like to extend an invitation to appear in one of the VOICES OF COLOR shows?

Omg...... Jon Jon Briones. Have you seen his Engineer in Miss Saigon?

Norm Lewis (he almost went to Burning Man with my camp- can you imagine? ) and we studied with the same singing teacher. Huge crush on that talent.

Ann Harada. Wilson Jermaine Heredia. Jesse L. Martin. Omg, I would die.

Evan Ruggiero from Bastard Jones. Alyson MacKenzie Stroker.

Also extending the invite to Josephine Phoenix, Alison Lea Bender, Sean Patrick Murtagh, Julia Abueva, Luis Mora, Luis Villabon, Skie Ocasio, Aidan Orville, Chave Alexander, and Kurt Perry in the next one!

I need trans, Indian, Native American, and Arabic voices!

There. That should be the next one.

Wait you said, one person. I don't follow directions. #takerisks !!

oh, WAIT! Would love fellow busker, American Idol Winner, Just Sam.

Also, I have about 300 more names to add to this list.

I believe in manifestation!

Where and how can people find and see VOICES OF COLOR? Tell us all the details so we can spread the word.

It's on my YouTube channel, and once it's up, it's up!

Follow these folks. Hire them if you are in a position to do so. Recommend them if you can. Wait for the next installment and tell your friends.

Reach out to me @carlyozard on IG to be part of the next one.

Carly Ozard, I can't thank you enough for creating this important series and for speaking with Broadway World about it today. I will be sure to tune in on January 15th!

You are an incredible force in the community and I am honored to have been given this time. Thank you for your kindness.

Visit the Carly Ozard Website HERE

See ALL THE COLORS on Friday, January 15 at 5 pm EDT/2 pm PST HERE

Interview: Carly Ozard of VOICES OF COLOR Concert Series Debuting January 15