Meet Alexandria Gregory. This North Carolina native had dreams of working in criminal justice before committing herself to the impact she can make with a paintbrush in her hand. In her paintings you will find realism and fauvism brought together in the dissection and celebration of blackness. We had the joy of connecting with Alexandria (Gregarious Ali) to chat about inspiration, confidence and the importance of seeing your own reflection in art.

Blavity: What has kept you motivated to keep improving as a painter?

Alexandria Gregory: I feel like self-esteem is very influential in the life of a little black girl, especially if she is overweight. I've had teachers tell me that I wouldn't amount to much; I have had art teachers tell me that they didn't like what I created and that I wasn't a good artist, although they would shell all their attention out to the white girls in my class. All of these things affected my self-esteem and momentarily discouraged me from art, but visual art has always been therapeutic to me and a passion. Regardless of what anyone said, I decided to never let anyone's opinions discourage me. Therefore, it became important for me to express my feelings through my art, to paint what resonated with me and what I felt like represented me. This is also what motivated me to improve my craft. To prove the naysayers wrong. To show certain people that I am beautiful, what I create is beautiful, and that everything about me and my craft has worth.

B: When did you realize the impact of your art?

AG: Most recently, I would have to say when my little niece asked for a sticker of my piece, “The Afropuff Girls,” to put on her cell phone because she thought “the green one with the big afro” was her. She has been struggling with liking her complexion and natural hair. She got a tan from swimming and got upset because she didn’t want to get darker. She sometimes wishes her mom would let her go back to relaxed hair. However, when she saw “the green one” in my Afropuff Girls painting, she lit up. She thought that it was her and it made her feel good. She told me that, “It looks cool and it’s different from other paintings. It feels good to see somebody in a painting that reminds me of myself. It makes me like my hair a little better.” I want to evoke that feeling in others. I want other black people and little black girls to see something in my art that will encourage them to feel better about themselves.

B: What motto do you live by?

AG: This might seem cliché, but “Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

B: How does it feel to share your art with the world and what advice would you give to artists sharing their work for the first time?

AG: I feel vulnerable but liberated. And to other artists I’d say don’t be discouraged by any of the negative things that people have to say about what you create. We all think and create differently and in our way; it is what makes you unique from others. Cherish that uniqueness and be proud of everything you create.

B: A lot of people in the Blavity community are up-and-coming creators. Any advice?

AG: Stay focused and keep grinding. Don’t focus on what the next person is doing in their lane. Think about how you can create a lane of your own. There’s room out here for everybody to prosper.

B: Where can we follow you?

Twitter: @GregariousAli Facebook: Art Instagram: @GregariousAliSnaps Personal Instagram: @GregariousAli Blog: Shop:

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