An iCon Among Us: Poetry Champion Returns to Dreamport

If you haven’t hard of Sha’Condria “iCON” Sibley, two things are true:

  1. We need to fix this problem stat
  2. You’re clearly not Facebook friends with me, because I’m social media obsessed with her. (Insert “crying tears of laughter” emoji here to make this statement slightly less creepy.)

iCon is an artist who lives up to her name. Raised in Alexandria, Louisiana, she has taken the country and the internet by storm. Focusing on empowering women and those who might feel marginalized by society, her message has transcended barriers – she has won National Poetry Slam championships with her group, Team SNO, and is the first female winner of the Texas Grand Slam, Texas’ largest annual poetry competition, winning with her piece “Black Girl Steps Up To the Mic”.

She has been featured in magazines, on Fusion.Net, Upworthy, and Huffington Post. She’s performed at the Essence Festival in New Orleans. She’s been on national television.

Her piece “To All the Little Black Girls with Big Names” has been featured on at least twenty nationally-reaching websites, and she’s bringing her act to #Dreamport this Saturday, January 21, thanks to Marcus Mitchell & Artipsy.

(This will be iCon’s second Shreveport performance.)

I sat down for a chat with the iCon herself to learn more about the woman behind the magic . (Disclaimer: she was totes my junior high BFF, and I’m A-town proud as hell.)

Who inspires you most? Besides your social studies partner in 7th grade, obvs.

I find inspiration in so many people and so many things—everyone from my 2nd  grade teacher Mrs. Gistorb, to Maya Angelou, and everything from the calming sound of rain falling on my rooftop to watching a runner cross the finish line! But I am most inspired by my parents, the work ethic and values they instilled in me and showed me by example. The other person who inspires me the most is my little cousin, Mya. She is the closest thing I have to having my own child, and I love her like my own, so I am motivated to do and be my best in order to show her that she, too, is limitless and powerful beyond what she and the world may think. (Oh yeah, and of course, one of my original inspirations, my junior-high bestie, Jaya… ☺)

Who, moi? This is so unexpected! But seriously, that’s awesome. What about other artists – any favorites?

Again, so many! Toni Morrison, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Amel Larrieux, J. Dilla, and The Roots. Also motivational speakers Les Brown and Iyanla Vanzant, my good friends Sunni Patterson, Asia Rainey, and Tarriona “Tank” Ball, and my slam team Team SNO (Slam New Orleans)!

Okay let’s get to the nitty gritty. Why are you such a badass?! Where do you get your badass fuel?

Ha! Well, I guess I am pretty badass when I think about it, but not for the reasons most may think. I think I’m badass, because of my ability to overcome amazing odds—from choosing to thrive and grow despite being born to teenage parents, growing up in a neighborhood devoid of hope and full of despair, and still not only daring to dream but to actually pursue those dreams… relentlessly. I refuse to take “no” for an answer. I will always find a way around “no,” especially if that thing I am pursuing has truly been placed inside my heart. My fuel for being a badass comes from knowing that, at the end of the day, people will dislike me or plot against me or not believe anyway, so I might as well “do me” and do what I was ordained to do.

Can we get an amen?! So this is your second time performing in Shreveport. How was your first experience?

Shreveport has always been another home for me, considering my dad’s family has some roots there. I remember traveling to Shreveport quite often as a child and visiting my great-grandmother, uncles, aunts, and countless cousins, so I feel like there was already an established connection with this city. My first performance experience in Shreveport definitely reflected that. So many of my friends from junior high and high school, who have since relocated to the area, were in attendance. Some of my cousins who live in the area were there and even my PARENTS drove up to come and support! The other people who came out were open and willing and ready to both give and receive all that energy, so with all those connections, the room already felt electric before I even opened my mouth!

Yay us! Your message and art already speak to so many, but is there a take-home message that you hope to relay? Is there a particular demographic to whom you’re speaking?

My prayer each and every day is to impact the world in such a way that it moves at least one step closer to Love (with a capital L!). In order to accomplish that, I do my best to promote understanding, empathy, and acceptance. My perspective is generally from that of a black woman living in this country, because I feel that if people can empathize with and understand that perspective, they can definitely open themselves up to understand others. I wish to leave black women and girls with a message of self-love and acceptance, individualism, and the idea of daring to be different—of daring to be bold and black and woman in a world that promotes everything opposite of that.

At what point would you say to yourself, “Okay, it can’t get any better than this – I’ve reached the pinnacle!”

Never. As long as there is breath in my body, I will continue to strive to outdo myself. I will not stop until I have conquered all there is to conquer here.

Get it! Okay, time for a weird one: If you were a cocktail, what would you be?

Hmmm… I guess I would be MY favorite drink, Grand Marnier neat with a slice of lime—brown and strong and sweet. However, don’t be too fooled by the sweetness! That’s where the slice of lime comes in… to cut the extra sweetness. Ha!

Now I’m thirsty! Last question: Do you have a favorite moment as an artist to date? At the risk of sounding Oprah-y, an “AHA!” moment?

Aw man, I have had several! I guess my top three would be:

  1. When my team won the National Poetry Slam for the first time. This solidified for me that I was one of “those” poets, that my name would forever be attached to the word “champion.”
  2. When I was selected to be on the 3rd season of TV One’s Verses and Flow. I had only seen one other person from my hometown on national television before, so this was monumental to me and my community. I remember being on set during taping and breaking down to tears, because although I had dreams of reaching this kind of level, I sometimes questioned if it would actually happen, and it was happening!
  3. Being a part of the first poetry act to ever grace the main stage at Essence Music Festival last year, performing in front of over 70,000 people, and going on right before Kendrick Lamar. This moment showed me that there are platforms and room for what I do in the mainstream. It also motivated me to continue to knock down those walls and use the wood to build my own platforms for those who will come after me.

iCon performs this Saturday, January 21, at Artipsy at 8pm. Tickets are on sale for $10, and the event is 21 and up only. See you there!

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