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Diary #1: How I Became an Artist

This summer (2018) I have gone through a painful transformation. They say that when you enter into a new identity, an old part of you must die. Anyone who has ever faced their biggest fear head on knows how terrible yet extremely rewarding this can feel.

 

How did I get here?

 

My first memory as a three-year-old child is of me swirling around putting a show on for my relatives. I was wearing a dance costume in a decorated kitchen, singing Britney Spears *probably horribly* at the top of my lungs.

 

I used to watch MTV’s show Driven and cry hysterically, dreaming of the day I could perform on stage like Beyonce, JLO, and other strong female performers I look up to.

 

Dramatic, huh? It’s like I say, once a diva, always a diva.

 

Throughout elementary and middle school, I was obsessed with singing and any opportunity to perform or be around music. I was “that kid” in all of the talent shows, singing for the class (whether they wanted it or not), and auditioning for every school/community play.

 

In 8th grade, my time to shine finally came. I had a big solo in the annual Christmas pageant! (Yay Catholic school). Every day I ran home and practiced the song “Rose of Bethlehem.” When the time came, the pageant went amazingly – parents and community members came up to me with tears in their eyes saying that they loved it. It was the first time I thought: “Hey, maybe I could be good at this… this thing that I love more than anything!”

 

That spring, my whole life changed again. I was accepted into LaGuardia High School in Manhattan! The movie Fame is based on this school  and countless stars have graduated from it: Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Aniston, Al Pacino, the list goes on… I was one of the few selected to study classical voice for four years with other passionate artists like myself.

 

Though high school is somewhat painful for everyone, I still remember it as one of the happiest times in my life. I was around people like me every day, I got to sing every single day, and the world started to open up for me. Traveling to school each day for an hour and a half each way from Staten Island (where my parents live) to Upper Manhattan (school)) was not easy, but it was worth it because of all of the new people and possibilities I found there.

 

Then in college, I felt so blessed AGAIN. I was accepted to Columbia University on a full scholarship – the first person in my Cuban/Puerto Rican immigrant family to go to (and finish) college.

 

I felt guilt. I couldn’t be an artist. How could I squander away an opportunity given to me seemingly by God’s grace as a blessing to my whole family?

 

Medical school, law school, job at Google, finance – I tried to force myself to fit into all of these traditional molds.

 

Where did it put me? Near death.

 

At the beginning of my senior year of college, when I was deciding whether to work at Google, a hedge-fund, and/or start LSAT prep, I completely and utterly lost all of my sense of joy and felt like the life was drained out of me. I was so depressed beyond imagination, and started to crave and plan suicide.

 

Thank God, this story ends well. I was surrounded by a lot of support, tracked down a hard-to-find great psychiatrist, and said NO NO NO to all of the “right” options.

 

Finally, I started my journey towards being a creative person again – full time.

 

This sounds crazy, but it’s all true. In my first year out of college, I built a digital marketing company from $20 my boyfriend lent me. Within four months, he quit his job too, we had a running website, and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of contracts. We moved to Barcelona and traveled to Paris, Egypt, Amsterdam, Milan, etc., all while growing our company.

 

Amazing? Right? But it still wasn’t really my bliss.

 

I was confused. How could I still not be content amidst all of this success at 22-years-old? Deep down in my stomach, I knew why.

 

Everytime I went to see a concert, especially one put on by my idol, Lady Gaga, I’d leave with my stomach shredded into bits feeling sick and depressed.

 

I wanted more than anything to be up there spreading joy to an audience: to create music and art and videos and live a brave life. A life of truth. It was and is my dream to become a cultural icon.

 

Finally, in May 2018, I started going through the motions of figuring out how to pursue my dream. Sure, I could read music and had a ton of experience singing, but I had never produced a song before and I wasn’t comfortable with myself or my image or even know what that meant.

 

Until August 2018, I felt nauseous and miserable every single day. I was so stressed out about never being able to figure out my place in the music industry or even how to start.

 

However, little by little I have begun the lifelong process of mastering my craft.  

 

Everyday, I jump up with excitement to write music, create a video, work to have more funds to market myself, and above all, engage with my audience.

 

You are all the ones who have been here with me since day one. I will never forget the selfless love you have given, and I hope I can give back to you with a lifetime of music, art, and fun.

 

Let’s make it happen together. No matter what the pain involved or sacrifice necessary is – make your dream come true the way you’re helping me make mine come true.

 

I love you, babies.

 

Mama Cleo

 

Like what you read? Give Jacqueline Basulto a round of applause!

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