"I came to rap and dance, not model..."
TyAlaxandar knew he was called to perform at a very young age. Little did he know that God would ask him to model in American Eagle campaigns, act in off-broadway productions, sing on Reality Dance TV’s Boys Of Summer tour, and dance his way into being the CEO of his nonprofit organization, Fit to Flow.
How did you get involved in music and entertainment?
At the ages of five and six, I began performing for my family. That’s when I found out that I could sing and dance. The first song I learned how to sing was “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” so I would do karaoke and stuff for family members. At the age of nine, I started writing music. From there, it eventually progressed into me wanting to do this with my life, as a career.
When did you attend SHINE? What has been your story since the conference?
Since SHINE, I have been able to shoot with American Eagle, did a couple of commercial print jobs, then booked an off-broadway production of In the Heights. I played the lead role, which was Sonny. I recently graduated from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. I have now been picked up for a tour this Summer called Boys of Summer Tour with Reality Dance TV.
What is The Boys of Summer tour? How did you get the opportunity?
The Boys of Summer DigiTour is a group of guys who are all Viners, YouTubers, artists and performers going on tour together. We get to meet all of our fans. Some of us perform for our fans, some of us sit down and take selfies with them, and stuff like that.
I have been working with Reality Dance for about the past two years. I did a couple of shows with them. I recently did a show in Atlantic City where I was a featured “Boy of Summer.” I got a great response from the crowd, so they invited me on the tour.
What was SHINE like for you? What were some of your most memorable experiences?
My story involves going through a mental, emotional and even physical transformation to end up finding the space God wanted me in. This was followed up by some amazing blessings. I participated in SHINE two years ago, at the age of 18. SHINE was where I struggled the most, and where I was absolutely blessed. I say that because everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong when it came to finances, outfits, change-of-clothes, music. Ten minutes before I went on stage at SHINE, my CDs stopped working. At the end of the day, faith is what it is. You walk the lines in His name, and you see where it takes you.
I say it was a blessing, because through SHINE, I found out where God wanted me in the industry, and where He wants me to shine. I came into AMTC and auditioned for singing and dancing. I was not an actor and I was not a model. But the coaches recommended that I do acting and modeling. When I got my callbacks, none of them were for singing and dancing, but they were all for acting and modeling. Then I ended up receiving a scholarship for the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, and won the award for Overall Male Commercial Model. So immediately once that happened and I left, I knew those were signs. When people ask me about SHINE, I tell them it is not something I could sit here and explain. When I came to AMTC and SHINE, it legitimately changed my entire life. I tell that to people, because I have the utmost love and respect for AMTC. You have to go through the program to really understand how SHINE can change your life, and what it genuinely is.
Do any particular moments stand out to you from SHINE?
We all went into the prayer room, a few of us, and started freestyle singing. Some people walked by, and came in the room. Next thing you know, a drummer walks in and starts drumming. Next thing you know, a guitarist comes in and starts playing his guitar. Vocalists start coming in, and 20-30 people end up in the room, all just singing. We were singing a beautiful song that was like “This is our story, this is our song,” something like that. The staff then notices and comes in the prayer room, and they started singing with us. Then the pastors come in and start preaching, and giving Word while we are singing. It was just in the middle of everything, a whole bunch of people got together to worship and praise. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen — that moment at SHINE.
What was it like being on American Eagle’s “Live Your Life?” How did you land that opportunity?
The Live Your Life campaign is actually an online contest. You put your pictures up, and get people to vote for you. With the support system I have from my hometown of North Bergen, New Jersey, it’s crazy. They absolutely support my dreams one-hundred percent. My mom submitted me for the online contest. Once I made it to a grand prize winner I had a series of things we had to submit. One thing that was important to them really was how I love my life. So between my team and the love from those that support me I became a grand prize winner. This included a trip to San Francisco to be a cast member in the Live your life episodes. The final part was signing a contract with them.
American Eagle, hands down, has some of the best photographers and videographers that I have ever met in my life. They are so humble, so cool, so open, and are all there to have a good time, but do their work at the same time—a lot like AMTC. It feels like the same exact environment. It was so comfortable, and such an amazing experience. I had never been to the West Coast, so I was out there for the first time. It was such a blessing.
How has Christ revealed to you through being in entertainment?
When I speak to people about the type of music I make, I tell them I am not a Christian rapper. I’m a rapper who is a Christian. I tell my story, tell how I feel and I speak what is on my mind and heart, every time I make a song. What you are hearing is me and my life. I keep my lyrics clean, but trendy to culture.
Music nowadays, secular music, is not something that every Christian should be listening to. The reason that I listen to secular is music because I avidly break it down and study it. That is how I’m able to assimilate the formula of a specific genre, or hit song, and bring my style to it. God has always kept me grounded and let me know that, “Listen, I gave you these talents and gifts. But remember, you need to honor Me with them.” This is one reason why, when I go to write a song, even if I metaphorically reference something, there is an internal conflict. Sometimes you feel that in order to make it, you have to fall into the cracks of the industry. But I feel as if I have provided an excellent example as to how you can mold yourself as a popular and trendy artist, but still keep your music to God’s preference.
Tell us about ‘Fit to Flow.’ How did you come up with this idea for this organization? What exactly is it?
Okay, so one day I was dancing — I dance in the middle of the street, it’s how I practice — and several younger kids looked out at me from their windows. They said, “Hey, Would you mind showing us some of your moves?” I said, “Yeah, Sure!” They told me that they were dancers also, but had no one to teach or show them. Their parents would not let them come downstairs, and that hit my heart hard—the fact that these kids has no one to show them how to dance.
Seeing them, and from my own personal experience, I ran right back to my house and told my mom that I had an idea. The general idea was that I would create a program where kids could come and pursue their dream, or pursue their art. Eventually, that progressed into it being Fit to Flow, which is me and founding members who want to raise awareness for the need of performing arts in various communities. We are going to do this through open mic events, benefit concerts, through as many fundraisers as we can possibly have-all of this relating to the performing arts. Because honestly, performing arts are a part of everyday life. People do not play football or basketball every day. The performing arts are important, and we thrive off of them. I think it’s a big part of who we are and how we represent ourselves as people, so I thought that Fit to Flow could provide a platform for those youth, regardless of if its low income youth or a household that is well off. We want to create this platform for kids and youth to be able to express themselves
Has there ever been a point in your life where you have wanted to give up on your dreams? How did Christ change bring you through this?
I think it was like two weeks ago, to be completely honest. I was sitting in my room, and just had so much on my plate. I realize that I was trying to take care of it…me, by myself. As a Christian, when you are blessed with that big of a task and a mission by God, you cannot carry it yourself. I was trying to carry it by myself for a really long time.
Twenty years old is pretty young to be running an entire non-profit by myself. When it came to Fit to Flow, my upcoming mix tape, The Boys of Summer tour, upcoming shows, getting ready for AMTC and trying to stay humble and grounded, it was really hard. For a minute, I stopped and thought to myself, “Do I really want to follow through with this?” Success is scary. It is really, really scary. You have to be ready for it when God wants you to be ready for it.
What advice can you give to performers and models wanting to make into mainstream jobs?
Follow your heart and follow God’s plan; Where He wants to put you in this industry. A lot of times, we say that we want to be a singer, rapper or dancer. But that may not be where God wants us to be, or where He wants us to make an impact. You may miss that blessing because you are so focused on where you want to be in the entertainment industry. Never let anyone tell you that it is impossible to reach your dreams. If that were the case, I would not be sitting here right now, and neither would any of the other guest stars. So it happened to me, and it can happen to anyone else.
I always want to say this in every interview, for anyone going through a hard time. Keep your head up, because the world’s most beautiful rainbows have come from the worst storms.