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Interview: Keah Moffett, Actress, Director, and Screenwriter on the Culture and Influence of New Orleans and the Spirit of Authenticity


Interview: Keah Moffett, Actress, Director, and Screenwriter on the Culture and Influence of New Orleans and the Spirit of Authenticity

Jasmine Edwards

 Photo: Keah Moffett

Photo: Keah Moffett

Keah Moffett, born in Mississippi and raised in New Orleans, is an actress, dancer, director, and screenwriter. She is a graduate of Hampton University and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She is currently writing a play with a theatre in New Orleans named Southern Rep.

Check out the interview I conducted with Keah to find out her experience with bullying and how she overcame it; the rich influence New Orleans has had on her life; how her sister was her first dance teacher; how she stays true to herself; the decision to stand tall in the face of adversity; and the vision she has for her future.

Interview: Keah Moffett, Actress, Director, and Screenwriter on the Culture and Influence of New Orleans and the Spirit of Authenticity


Jasmine: Thank you doing this interview, Keah. You were born in Mississippi and raised in New Orleans. You are an actress, dancer, director, and screenwriter. Well educated, you are a graduate of Hampton University and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Being New Orleans raised—rooted in the culture and talented in performance—you have participated in a great number of Mardi Gras parades as a dancer. Tell me some things I might not know about you.

 Photo: Keah Moffett

Photo: Keah Moffett

Keah: Hmm… When I first moved to New Orleans, I was bullied. A LOT. I was going to summer camp and people made fun of me because I was “country.” When I told them they had accents, too, they called me crazy. I was pushed around and talked about every day, and I would cry because I was only trying to be nice and fit in. It made me very insecure. I guess that’s where I get my sense of humor from. The adults at the camp ignored it until one day, one pushed me and I punched her in the face. I was fed up, you know. After that, they didn’t bother me. Anyway, around end of camp, there was a talent show and I sang and won first place. The girls all wanted to talk to me after that. Years later, a few of them went to high school with me and were all, “hey girl!”

They probably didn’t know how they made my life a living hell and made me insecure. It showed me any and everyone can have an impact on your life. I hope that I always have a positive impact, though.

Jasmine: New Orleans influence. New Orleans is your bread and butter, the place that fills you. The place your roots are firmly attached. Though I no longer live there, I’m from Cleveland, Ohio and my roots for it are strong. So, I understand this bond. If someone were to glance over your Instagram account, your love for it would be evident: you’re in full Mardi Gras attire; there are photos of you in Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair” creative projects (Solange being widely known for her family’s roots in Louisiana); and you’re seen living out life with yourself, family, and friends. Tell me what New Orleans means to you. 

Keah: Whoa… New Orleans means… home.

It’s culture, it’s music, it’s the way we sway our hips… the way we call each other baby.

 Photo: Keah Moffett

Photo: Keah Moffett

New Orleans is so many things. I have a love/ not so love relationship with New Orleans. I feel like… and a lot of people feel this way… that you have to leave New Orleans to “make it” if you’re an entertainer. Sometimes you feel stuck. But when you leave, like when I left for school, you feel empty… like something’s missing. There are things here in New Orleans that you can’t get anywhere else, and I don’t mean like cajun crawfish sushi and drive-thru daquiris [smile]. There’s a spirit here where you can be your true self, fully, with no shame and no one cares (in a good way). You can be you and other people can be them. There’s an authenticity here that I hope doesn’t leave.

Jasmine: Let’s talk about the growth of Keah. Tell me about your upbringing in New Orleans and how it’s shaped you as the talented woman you are today. 

Keah: Thanks for saying I’m talented! Well, I talked about the bullying, but after that, I didn’t have a problem making friends. I’ve always loved reading and learning, so I went to great schools here and had great teachers and made good friends. 

One thing that’s important, I didn’t start really dancing until I came to New Orleans. In Jackson, MS, my sister danced for a team (sort of like the Dancing Dolls on "Bring It") and she would come home and show me all of the moves. She was my first dance teacher. After a while of being in New Orleans, I realized that most of my friends were in dance school, but we couldn’t afford dance school. My sister was on her high school dance team so I would catch the bus to her school every day and sit in her dance practices after school. I would watch (because I couldn’t participate) and I learned how to dance by sitting and watching. When I got home, I would try things out that I saw in her dance practices and on the streets of NOLA.  When I went to high school, I auditioned for the dance team and made it. The next year I was co-captain and the next year, captain. Then I went to college and made that dance team. New Orleans helped to mold the dancer that I am now.

Jasmine: I want to discuss authenticity. I’ve learned that being yourself can either attract people or turn them away. Regardless, it’s important that you learn to live as yourself and yourself only. Balancing multiple personalities, fine-tuning them to match the person you’re interacting with, or the mood of your environment is exhausting. You risk losing yourself all in the name of accommodation— an accommodation that excludes you. How have you been able to walk the line of authenticity? Tell me about what motivates you to truly be Keah.

Keah: These are really good questions. I think my family has had a big influence on my ability to stay true to myself, especially my brother who has taught me to be proud of myself as a Black person and as a woman. I’ve always been “smart mouth” (that’s what my mom says) so I never truly learned what not to say. But, in the same vein, I’m from the south, so I was always nice. When I went to school in SF for film, I really had to learn to trust myself and stand for what I believe in because I encountered many people who didn’t think that I should be in a leadership positions (in school, at work, etc.) because of where I was from, my race, my gender, etc.

I had to learn to fully believe in myself and stand by my ideas and be unapologetic while still being open to others helping. It’s still hard, though.

I’m writing a play right now and some people said they didn’t like it and I was so down. It’s hard when people don’t like your work.

 Photo: Keah Moffett

Photo: Keah Moffett

But one thing I’ve learned is that, especially as a black woman, not everyone will agree or understand your point of view or experience, but that doesn’t mean that it should be silenced. I want to tell stories that aren’t always told and I want to be intentional in everything that I do, so I have to stay authentic, no matter how hard it may be.

Jasmine: When you stop to think about where you are now, what kind of difficulties can you say you’ve faced and conquered?

Keah: One difficulty I’ve faced (and still do) is people thinking that I do not have the knowledge that I have because of the way I look (Black and woman). It has taught me to be strong in my actions and my voice, despite the names I may be called.  

Jasmine: Where do you see yourself going from here? Tell me about the vision you have —without divulging too deeply into the dreams only meant for Keah’s heart— for your life in whole. I’m speaking personally and/or professionally. Sometimes the personal is professional and vice versa. Speak on what you have in store for yourself. 

Keah: I want to do more acting, directing and screenwriting for television and film. I want to one day have my own show. Also,  I want to travel out of the country because I never have had the opportunity. I hope that I can travel and do the work that I want to do in entertainment. That’s the dream!

Jasmine: Tell me one word that would describe your journey thus far.

Keah: Adventurous

Jasmine: Are there any current or future projects you’d like to talk about?

Keah: I’m writing a play with a theatre in New Orleans called Southern Rep. Also, I hope to make my own show soon (maybe a web series). Other things will happen because my life is an adventure, so I never know where the next opportunity is coming from.

Jasmine: Where can you be found online/off-line?

Keah: I’m on facebook. I’m on twitter @lyfeizamusikal and ig @kdmofo

Offline, you can find me binge Netflixing [laughs].

Jasmine: Thank you, Keah!