You should know that Bassey is whimsical. Or, more accurately, prone to whims—one of which occurred when, with less than a year left at the University of Maryland, she moved to New York City. She picked up enough amazing gifts at the Tyra Banks Academy for Smiling With Your Eyes to grace the pages of magazines such as Nylon, Bust, Marie Claire, The Source and Glamour and even enjoyed a brief but exhausting career as a shoe model for Royal Elastics. But it is her gift with words that opened doors for this former BET Teen Summit cast member, most notably as a celebrated live performance artist whose thoughtful, gut-wrenching prose got her onto HBO’s Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry Jam a record five times. Those appearances led to a career as a professional spoken word artist performing an original poem honoring Venus and Serena Williams on the NAACP Image Awards, at the 2004 Essence Music Festival, and as the opening act for Grammy Award-winning artists.
Bassey also joined the Tony Award-winning Broadway cast of Def Poetry Jam for a six-week engagement headlining the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, a performance that was so well-received that she was invited to join the show’s cross country national tour. When she wasn’t on the Def Poetry Jam stage, Bassey performed her work at college campuses across the country and held down a second career as a voice over artist and copy writer, doing work for brand heavyweights Secret Platinum Protection and Sony, as well as penning original poems for Kaiser Foundation’s HIV Awareness campaign, Knowing is Beautiful.
But just as Bassey’s boundless, superhuman schedule had her flying high, it also made her crash. Hard. Just ten minutes before a Def Poetry Jam show in Chicago, Bassey suffered a severe mental breakdown— a traumatic episode that forced her to leave the tour. She soon was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. But true to her voice and style, Bassey used her uber successful platform to become an outspoken voice for mental health education and awareness. Her personal slogan, “Never apologize for how you choose to take care of yourself,” has helped give scores of people the strength to seek help and treatment for their own mental health issues.
These days, Bassey is a Twitter and FaceBook Goddess whose biting, thoughtful, no-holds-barred social commentary is the stuff of legend. Most recently, she recorded another original poem for an HIV/AIDS campaign, There Is No Comfort In Silence, for the popular Global Grind social network, in partnership with Bristol-Myers Squib and World AIDS Day. The accompanying video reached thousands of Youtube viewers and became a viral sensation in its first week of release. Bassey also writes commentary about mental health and pop culture for several media outlets and has appeared on NPR and XM Satellite Radio as a pop culture critic and social commentator.
In addition to her writing, this past summer Bassey produced, directed and starred in Basseyworld Live, a three-city stage show which infused poetry and interactive panel discussions on everything from politics to pop culture, with a huge emphasis on mental health issues. Basseyworld Live, which featured commentary from art, film and journalism heavyweights like Jay Smooth, Dr. Imani Perry, Danielle Belton, “The Real Hitch” Paul Carrick Brunson, Helena Andrews, Patrik Ian Polk just to name a few played to sold out audiences.
Bassey is currently the co-host of the popular podcast, Blacking It Up, with vlogger and comedian, Elon James White. Her quick, sharp wit, self-deprecating humor and raw emotional honesty has made her a popular mainstay on social media sites such as Tumblr, Twitter and her personal fan page on Facebook. Her online presence boasts more than 10,000 followers and continues to grow.
Of course, like her personal hero Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables, Bassey has wanted to quit everything and follow her true passion. But she found it difficult to combine her love of writing and performance with her love of reality shows about drag queens and the ex-wives of various sport stars. Failing this, she’s decided to work on her first book instead. She’s still open to the reality show thing if anyone has any ideas they want to run past her.
SHOWS: Blacking It Up!
FACEBOOK: Bassey Ikpi