Cynthia D. Hilaire – A Sit Down With Cyn: Monologues For Black Girls

Actress, Author and Film Director Cynthia D. Hilaire

I’m sitting at home watching reruns of Martin and my phone vibrates to notify me a beautiful Black queen named Cynthia D. Hilaire sent me an email. While reading her email, she mentioned she had a book coming out called, A Sit Down With Cyn: Monologues For Black Girls. Anyone who is close to me knows I love books so I was immediately interested in learning more about Cynthia and her book. The next day she sent over a pdf copy and, after the first story, I couldn’t stop reading. The stories were so bold, sharp and relatable; my eyes were glued. While doing some research about Cynthia, I discovered some really interesting things about this queen such as learning that she was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is a graduate of the University of Florida I also learned that she is an actress, writer and  film director. Her book is a collection of short stories that narrates the experiences of a young black girl confronting social and family issues in today’s society. Cynthia went a step further and turned her book into a film, which she directed and we will talk about that some more in the interview.

ASCSW: Hello Cynthia, I hope all is well. Thank you so much for taking time out to chat with ASCSW. I just want to say that I truly enjoyed your book, A Sit Down With Cyn: Monologues For Black Girls;the stories were sharp and relatable. I’m anxious to learn more about you and the inspiration behind your book. I’m looking forward to this interview, ready to begin?

Cynthia: Yes, I am! Thank you so much for having me, I’m excited to sit down with you! Let’s get started.

ASCSW: First, I would like to start off our interview talking about you. How have you been doing during these unpredictable and challenging times?

Cynthia: I’ve been good, anxious, silent, sad, mad, and peaceful. Coming off of 2020, it’s been a year where you’ve had no choice but to feel all of your emotions and when they come, they come loud and clear. I am grateful that the past year opened everyone’s eyes to a lot of things that Black people already knew; that in some ways, the pandemic brought families together; and, we didn’t shapeshift on the 21st.

ASCSW: Cynthia, I must say you have a very impressive resume. I have to ask, what inspired you to become an actress? What has that whole experience been like for you and what do you love most about acting?

Cynthia: Thank you! I got into acting because I liked it and it was my thing. As I matured with my craft, it became a way for me to tell stories and to speak. The experience continues to be a full body immersion and I actually learn a lot about myself and people [in general] on this journey. My favorite part about acting would be the storytelling aspect of it. When you watch a show or a movie, and you watch the actors, it’s the only time people actually sit and prepare to listen to something. They grab popcorn, lay down on the bed, and immerse themselves into a different world. They escape into the story. Same thing happens when you read a book. To me, that’s a powerful tool. 

A Sit With Cyn: Monologues For Black Girls

ASCSW: Girl, I read your, A Sit Down With Cyn: Monologues For Black Girls and I loved it. Your book speaks on relatable encounters, experiences and feelings that black women face on a daily basis in society. We are confronted with, as you mentioned, social identity, mental health, microaggressions, family traumas and more. Please share with the readers what inspired you to create this outspoken masterpiece of yours and what is the mission you want to accomplish with your book? Also,where can everyone purchase it?

Cynthia: Well, first off, thank you! I love hearing Black women say that they relate to the words and stories in this book. I wrote it specifically for us and nobody but us, really, can repeat these monologues. I started writing the words in this book as I was going through a very vulnerable period in my life. I was hyper-aware of everything and my therapist at the time, rekindled my passion for writing. To help navigate the emotional trial I was experiencing, I started writing down the scenarios, thoughts, and people involved. I noticed how each of these writing sessions took on a life of their own and I saw it as an opportunity to turn these collections of short scenarios into monologues that told stories and experiences of Black girls in this generation. Having gone through acting school myself, I knew how much diversity lacked in monologue materials for Black girls, and I wanted to change that. My ultimate goal for this book is to see other actresses perform my monologues and to even have them create short films for the ones they perform. I think this book can become a great platform for Black actresses to show their range of emotion with relevant materials. Finally, you can get the book from my website and amazon! http://www.CynthiaDHilaire.com

ASCSW: After reading your book, I can see you are not afraid to speak your mind. If you don’t mind sharing with the readers, what are your thoughts as a woman and Black woman about the current events surrounding all of the civil unrest and the talks about interfering with women’s rights? 

Cynthia: Tired! That’s the word that gets passed around my friends and I all the time. These events, these images, and these feelings are not new to us. Even though we’re younger,, we carry the emotional trauma that’s passed down through generations, and all  the pain they experienced during that time. We encapsulate all our ancestors when we say “we’re tired.” As black women, I urge us to find a moment of peace in all of this. That could mean a week-long trip, a morning meditation, time with family, or prayer. [We need to] take some time to calm ourselves and set boundaries. We don’t have to be heroes for everyone. 

ASCSW: In your book, one of the stories covers a topic very important to me — skin tone. The story, “Sit Down” was so relatable; it brought me back to when I was a young girl around 10 or 11 years old living in North Carolina during the early 90’s. I’ve heard many comments about my skin and tone not only from Black boys but Black girls as well. Some of the comments would break me on the inside and others would leave me puzzled trying to figure out the purpose of their comment. There are plenty of girls/women of color who encounter situations that leave them questioning their beauty or how they were created. What advice can you give from your experience to girls/ women who may have experienced a similar situation like in the story “Sit Down”?

Cynthia: My advice is you have to go through that moment where you literally sit down, and figure out the puzzle that’s now been planted in your head. Once you put that puzzle together, you decide how you want to look at it. For me, it helps to have the understanding that we still operate in a world and systems where white skin is privileged and anything close to it is viewed as “right”. With that knowledge, I know the problem is not me and I choose not to succumb to that energy. I want that [mentality] to change, and me denying men or gatekeepers with that mentality, is me working to breakdown that system. Me — standing proud and comfortable in my skin tone and all things Afrocentric about me, is me working to breakdown that system.

“This project took me a total of two years to complete! It took so long, because I also released an accompanying film A Sit Down With Cyn: A Short Film.”

ASCSW: Another story I truly enjoyed was “My Therapist Said ‘No More’”. I like this one because it covered how good therapy made you feel and how we shouldn’t hold our feelings inside. I’ve had a therapist before and just like you said in the story, “therapy has been one of the most enlightening experiences of my life.” Could you explain to the readers why maintaining mental health and practicing self-care is so important, especially for women of color?

Cynthia: Ohhh yes! We need it! Black people are the first ones to denounce therapy and “telling a stranger their business,” but collectively, we suffer PTSD from racial trauma. And today’s events don’t help us to forget that. I believe generational trauma is passed down, and until we take the time to learn them, address them, and work through them we will just continue to pass it along to each child born. To help break cycles, heal oneself, forgive, and give your life a different trajectory — it’s important for us to learn how we operate by talking to a licensed professional. Especially if we have the privilege to; and best friends don’t count! For Black women, the mothers and creators, I think it’s so important for us. Our peace of mind is so crucial for the purpose we are destined to fulfill, a [purpose] that is not limiting us to having children. We have to learn to take care of ourselves before we nurture others and our purposes. Plus, it’s fun! Self-care and self-love is a beautiful journey that I hope all Black women get to practice and experience.

ASCSW: Writing/putting together a book can be challenging, but seeing the finished product is so rewarding. How long did it take you to complete it? What were some of the challenges you encountered along the way of writing your book and how did you overcome them?

Cynthia: This project took me a total of two years to complete! It took so long, because I also released an accompanying film, A Sit Down With Cyn: A Short FilmI faced budget challenges, resource challenges, and motivation. It costs money to put out a product and when I began this book, I wasn’t in the best financial situation. Also, this is my first time writing a book and completing a short film of this nature. It took time to pull resources, find people to work with me, and learn some of the skills myself. Finally, when you work on a project for so long, especially through 2020, you need motivation juice! You just keep pushing and remind yourself of your why. For this project, Black girls were my why. I’m happy it’s out and I am so proud of it.

ASCSW: While reading your acknowledgements you stated,“I have learned to edit, collaborate with creatives, pitch my idea, create storyboards, direct, have the last say-so, and be the mothership.” This is all part of being a creative entreprepreneur that forces you to wear many hats and take charge because only you have the vision to create what you want the world to see. What part of the process did you enjoy the most and why, while putting together your film? What part of the process did you least enjoy or found challenging and why? How did you overcome the challenge? 

Cynthia: The process I really enjoyed the most while putting the film together was storyboarding and seeing that translate in the edit room! It made the whole process so surreal to me. To draw in 4×4 squares how you want the scenes to go and film those shots and then put them together on the edit track was amazing! What I enjoyed the least was probably carrying everything you needed to film that day to production and then breaking down the set at the end of it. I also had to wear that hat, haha! To overcome [all] that [work], I lifted with my knees.

ASCSW: Please share with the readers when and where everyone can see your film A Sit Down With Cyn: A Short Film?

Cynthia: On my website, www.CynthiaDHilaire.com

ASCSW: Cynthia, you are doing some amazing things; you’re an Actress, Author, Film Director, College Graduate, you’ve done Theatre and so much more. My question is, what would you tell women and young girls who feel they don’t have what it takes to achieve their goals? What would you tell them about the importance of having self-confidence and following through with their goals/dreams?

Cynthia: I would first say that self-confidence is a practice and it’s a variable. Confidence is not something you always have and it’s something you have to work on. It’s both internal work and external validation. So knowing this it’s important to form habits that allow you to build your confidence and surround yourself with people that help build it up. This also helps with goal setting and achieving. Accomplishing something you worked hard for will boost your confidence and allow you to continue to reach new goals and heights. You may not have every tangible thing you need to achieve your goal, but you have you and that is most important. As long as you are still here, you have the will and desire to make that goal happen.

“I embrace when I am feeling lazy! Sometimes, you just have to let the wave of lazy wash over you!“

ASCSW: As we’ve said, mental health is very important and it’s crucial for us to carve out time for self-care. How do you prioritize your time between acting/auditioning, writing books, now directing films and achieving your goals? How do you unwind? Do you have any self-care rituals?

Cynthia: I have to admit, right now, I am not probably doing my best job at this! I’ve been trying to keep a consistent schedule but it gets thrown off every now and again. In the mornings, it’s water and breathing time for sure. I try to work out three days a week. And I embrace when I am feeling lazy! Sometimes, you just have to let the wave of lazy wash over you! You make time for the things that you want and that [are] important for you. Carving out time for writing, acting classes, work, friends, and family will help you accomplish that. And if I fall short that week, I buy myself some sweets! I love the bakery section, haha. I can always start again on Monday. 

ASCSW: What are some experiences you have encountered both personally and professionally so far during your journey of life that has helped you grow into the woman you are now?

Cynthia: I think the biggest thing that I’ve encountered, personally and professionally, is losing money and being taken advantage of. It’s not money lost on the train, but money lost in a bad agreement or deal.  And [they were] agreements and deals that were never legitimized by a written contract. Verbal agreements may hold weight, but it’s easier when it’s written down. I’ve had to learn from a few bad lessons and [those lessons] push me to be more legit and more business-minded. I’m still growing into that woman.

ASCSW: When everything is all said and done, what do you want people to remember you for? What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Cynthia: I kept trying. I had tremendous growth. I really connected with people. And, I told great stories about Black experiences.  

“Accomplishing something you worked hard for will boost your confidence and allow you to continue to reach new goals and heights. You may not have every tangible thing you need to achieve your goal, but you have you and that is most important. As long as you are still here, you have the will and desire to make that goal happen.“

ASCSW: When you were growing up was there a woman in your life that you felt represented A Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman? If so, what are some of the characteristics they displayed that made them A Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman?

Cynthia: There were representations I looked up to that embodied a Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman and it was, and still is, Beyonce´ and Michelle Obama. Both of them were always professional, always on time, and developed a brand and image that was dependable. You knew that Beyonce´ would always deliver you a show and album. You knew that Michelle Obama was always going to be a role model and lead by example. They speak their minds and I appreciate that about them.

ASCSW: Cynthia, you are a beautiful, bold, talented, educated gorgeous woman. In your opinion, what do you think makes you A Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman?

Cynthia: Thank you, ummm… I speak my mind. I like fashion. Finally, I’m aware of my image in this world, haha! 

ASCSW: Last question. What would you want the readers to take away after reading your interview/story on ASCSW?

Cynthia: A girl who had a dream and followed through to make that idea a reality. 

ASCSW: Cynthia, thank you once again for taking the time to speak with ASCSW, I greatly appreciate you taking time out to talk. I wish you nothing but continued success, but before we go is there anything else you like to share with the readers that we may not have touched on?

Cynthia: Thank you for having me! Yeah, I want to say thank you for creating a safe space like this for other women to reach out and have conversations. These platforms matter. 

ASCSW: Thank you so much!

Be sure to follow Cynthia D. Hilaire

Website: www.CynthiaDHilaire.com

Instagram: @Cynhilaire

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