Alabama native, Alayna Pernell is more than just an artist and a photographer, she is a kindred spirit whose battles led her out of the dark and into a renewed life of light, love, and recovery. Since a young age, Pernell has battled with depression because of her skin color, hair, and different features of her body. Though her battles with depression pursued into her teenage and college years, at The University of Alabama, Alayna has found solace through her painting, sculpting, photography, and humanitarianism. Join me, as we embark down Alayna’s journey of the darkness and vibrancy that has pursued her life.

Q: What is your full name?

A: My full name is Alayna Nicholle Pernell.

Q: Where were you born and where do you currently reside?

A: I was born in Anniston, AL, but I later moved to Heflin, AL and then Oxford, AL. I currently reside in Tuscaloosa, AL

Q: Are you a student? If so, where do you attend school?

A: I am currently a junior at the University of Alabama.

Q: How long have you been painting?

A: I have been painting since I was 9 years old.

Q: Where did your inspiration come from to paint?

A: No one else in my family is artistic at all. At a young age, I really enjoyed arts and crafts in elementary school and one Christmas I asked for a painting easel and paint. After that, I couldn’t stop doing it and I fell in love. It was my escape from some traumatizing moments in my childhood. 

 Q: When you paint, what feelings do you usually embody as you take on your art?

A: For many years, I used to only paint when I was angry or sad because that was how I released my stress. Although, the older I got, I realized that I could make pretty decent paintings in lighter moods as well. Now, I mainly paint when I’m calm or feeling joyous. I try to avoid creating angry paintings, but they do come out frequently as well. 

Q: What do you usually find yourself painting, when you do?

A: Whenever I am in my best or light moods, I love to create non abstract paintings because it requires me to not be frustrated and stay focused. Contrastingly, if I am upset or angry in any way, I portray that through abstract paintings. Creating what looks like anger and frustration through lines, marks and different colors relieves the built-up tension that I may have in the best way. Even though they are angry paintings, I always find that there is a beauty to them in the end. 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with depression, suicide, and being disowned by your dad, as well as how that has influenced your art?

A: As a child, I was never physically abused but the emotional abuse was very much present. Beginning at age 9 (which was also when I started painting), I was heavily bullied and picked on about my skin color, my hair, and different features of my body, like my feet. As a result, I began experiencing premature depression. I didn’t know that that’s what that was at the time, but as I went through diaries I had when I was a kid, I know that that’s what that was. It started off by me saying that I wanted to run away, and then it shifted to me wishing I was never born. I wasn’t even a teenager yet. In my teen years, of course, it got worse. I had serious low self-esteem and isolation issues. There were so many nights filled with tears. With suicide, I didn’t start having those thoughts until I got to college and that is when I knew that I needed extra help, so I did that and began going to therapy. Therapy is one of the main things that saved my life besides my mom. With my dad, I love him with all my heart, but I struggled with not feeling the same in return for a long time. I felt rejected, but even with him, I try to look on the bright side because he is still my father. All of these experiences made me rely on my art even more to get a message out to those who have internal struggles just like me. By doing that, I not only helped people, but I helped myself, too. 

Q: You also do sculpting! What can you tell us about your background with sculpting?

A: Sculpting was something that I had learned in college and once I got the hang of it, I began doing it more behind closed doors. It’s not my best medium to work in, but it has helped me push the limits on a couple of projects I have worked on. 

Q: What do you usually sculpt, when you do?

A: I sculpted an abstract piece in the past and recently, I sculpted two models of people on a piece I created entitled, “The Curse of the Apartheid” regarding the issue of segregated schools. I found that by using sculptures, it would make viewers more engaged. 

Q: When it comes to your photography, aside from sculpting and painting, what do you usually find yourself shooting?

A: I love shooting people and architecture, but not the cheesy photography at all. That’s just not where my heart is. I love using people to embody emotions for me (such as my roommate Ashley who is in theatre) to depict emotions and moments that are never happy moments at all. There’s always a dark side to them. As far as architecture, I capture places that are either abandoned or not so popular. I try to give meaning to places that have no meaning. 

Q: Do you plan to go beyond your current shooting aesthetic?

A: In the future I do plan to go outside of my box of shooting. I have in mind that one day I would like to do photo interviews with inmates and capture their stories. I have a lot of growing to do before I can do that though.

Q: How long have you been into photography?

A: I didn’t start doing photography forreal until I was about 18 or 19 years old. It was at that age that I realized I was pretty good and I began to shoot like crazy and I stuck with it.

Q: When you’re behind the lens, what kind of feelings do you get?

A:  Behind the lens, I either feel nervous, anxious, or somewhere in between. Constant thoughts about getting the right shot, the right angle and the right message all at one time drives me insane because I always want it to be accurate. It can be really hard at times to get my vision accurately captured and sometimes things just don’t work out that way, which is also the frustrating part. 

Q: Aside from being a triple threat in art, what else do you do?

A: Aside from art, I already consider myself a humanitarian because that’s what I spend my spare time doing. I hosted a clothing and food drive this past October. There were so many donations made that I was able to take car loads of items to Anniston, Oxford and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was magical. Spending time with those in need and in poverty is also something I cherish as well. Whether in a school or the community, I always do what I can do. Apart from humanitarianism, I used to create Youtube videos and I love traveling.

Q: What advice would you give to those who are battling depression or are suicidal?

A: If I had to say anything to anyone battling depression or suicide, I would say to discover your solid source of relief that you can truly depend on and stick with that source every single day. For me, my solid source was not a person. It was my diary. Through that, I could say whatever I wanted and I would read it aloud to let my hurt go. Even though I was basically talking to myself, I didn’t feel alone. I will say that there are times that you will need a person to talk to. Just make sure that that person is an honest person and won’t just tell you what you want to hear. Those people are dangerous. I also prayed constantly. Lastly, never give up hope because you are important and there are people who may be looking up to you and you don’t even know it. Trust your process. 

Q: How has art helped you and your depression?

A: Art has helped my depression in the best way ever. That is how I get through tough moments and in those tough moments, I create beautiful paintings. Quite honestly, every now and then I do still experience depression, but knowing that I have a gift that helps me get through those moments, gives me hope that everything is going to be okay. 

Q: What would you like your fans/the audience to know?

A: I would love for all of my supporters and future supporters to know that I firmly believe that every single experience that I have went through in my life, I was created to go through for them. I love them all so deeply and they’ll never truly know the extent of my compassion. Without my supporters, I wouldn’t be having my own art show the coming January 2018, with my opening ceremony being on January 6, 2018 at 5pm. 

Q: What advice would you give to other women on the rise?!

A: To the wonderful women on the rise, trust yourself and know that every detail of your life matters. You will thrive and you will succeed as long as you trust yourself and your journey. 

Q: What can we look for in 2018 for Alayna?

A: In 2018, my art exhibit will open on January 6, 2018 and apart from that, expect more and even better art than ever before. This is only the beginning. 

About The Author

CEO, Editor-In-Chief

awkward. college student. entrepreneur. womanist. radiant. lover of all things. growing, blossoming each moment.

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