For our readers that may not know who you are. Give us a sense of who J. Ivy is.

I am a poet from Chicago, I have performed all over the world. I’m an author, actor, songwriter, and recording artist, and motivational speaker.

To say you are a talented individual would be a gross understatement. Of the platforms that you have performed on or been a part of which is your favorite?

Wow! You know, honestly my favorite platform has been going back to a classroom and standing in front of a group of students and performing or speaking and sharing my stories and my journey with them. I’ve been blessed to do some amazing things, from Michael Jordan to Deepak Chopra, to rocking with JAY Z and Kanye, and Def Poetry. All are great highlights, but the greatest joy is getting back to the classroom.

Which would you consider the most challenging? 

The most challenging… I guess when you get projects last minute and people want you to come up with something that they are working on. That has been the most challenging, but at the same time the most fun. I love the pressure. I love the challenge of finishing and completing something that comes at you in the 9th inning with two outs and two strikes and they say: you’re up! I love that moment, and I love the opportunity to test myself, I would say that’s the most challenging.

You’re part of my era, the Golden age of Def Poetry. In the current age of social media, do you find it more easier for individuals to “get on” or is talent still the determining factor of how far someone is going to go? 

I feel that, just coming back to basics, talent and word of mouth are still the greatest tools that we have. So, social media is an amazing tool and outlet for artists these days, but you still need talent. Talent is still going to shine, and talent is still going to rise to the top. And, word of mouth will carry that talent to those who need to discover that talent and are looking to those talented people that will inspire them. Talent is still king! And I feel it will always be king.

You were featured on The College Dropout. How cool was that and walk us through what being a part of such a landmark body of work?

The College Dropout was epic! It was a game changer when it comes to music and culture. It was an honor to be on that project, and it was an honor to be a part of something that will stand the test of time, and that has touched so many people. When I got the call I was amazed, I had history with Kanye, being from Chicago, and when I moved to New York he was in New York, and another one of my buddies Coodie [Simmons] is actually the one who called me about being on the record. So, we had history, but to be a part of a work of art that touched so many people, and inspired so many people is beyond special. I still get calls, texts, messages, and posts about that record. It’s a classic! I’ve been apart of many projects and I could have been a part of many others, but that one was special because it will stand the test of time.

Let’s switch gears for a sec. Talk to us about what you have going on with Allstate.

Right now, I am hosting the Allstate Pillars & Poetry Tour. It is the first tour like this that Allstate has put together. Where we are touring though HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Our first stop was at Tuskegee [University], today were at Morehouse [College] and Spelman [College], and then we’ll be heading to FAMU [Florida A&M University]. And it has been exciting and special to me, because the tour is all about showing love to our pillars of strength. A pillar of strength is someone who has lifted you up, whether its your mother or father, a teacher, or that person in your community that lifted you up and encouraged you and motivated you to be more than you were already doing. They shed a light on you and showed you something inside of you that you didn’t know was there. For me, one of those people was my junior year English teacher Ms. Argue, who exposed me to poetry and made me do a show. And, after that first show I have been performing ever since. Its people like Ms. Argue, people like my momma, people like the spirit of my father that have always been with me, my grandfather, my grandmother who always encouraged me and pushed me. So, this tour is about giving students a platform, so they can use their poetry and storytelling and their gifts to shed light on their pillars of strength. It’s a beautiful way to give the flowers to our folks why they are still here. And I am excited that Allstate put something so special together for these students and for myself, so we can share of voices and use our voices to shine light on those we love and cherish.

What’s next for you (films, projects, tv, albums, new poetry, etc)

All that! Currently I have my book Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain, that I am always touring with and speaking on. We have a campaign called Dear Father Letters, you can check it out at DearFatherLetters.com where we are looking to get one million people to write letters to their fathers in hopes to find healing through the power of forgiveness, journaling and writing poetry. I just wrapped up my latest album, which is called Catching Dreams which will be coming out very soon. In January I will be featured and starring in a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr documentary that will be coming on BET. I am also doing some song writing and featured on Tarrey Torae’s new album – incredible soul singer and songwriter. I am also doing work with the Ernie Barnes Foundation. Ernie Barnes was an amazing artist; most people know him for being the artist for JJ on Good Times. He was the man behind all of that amazing art, which was featured on Marvin Gaye’s albums, and Curtis Mayfield. He has done work with Diana Ross and the Olympics, and on and on and on.  And I am always doing features for other artists. And working on a new book, and new commercials and more acting, and yeah all that! And again, Dear Father Letters, we will be doing a big push for this upcoming Father’s Day were we want to reach that goal of one million letters. So please spread the word about DearFatherLetters.com One Million Letters Written, One Million Hearts Healed.

What’s your advice for someone who is reading this that aspires to be where you are?

First and foremost, I would tell any and everyone to aspire to create their own path. There is only one you in the world, you are the only one with your set of eyes, with your view point, with your experiences. So, I would encourage and implore any and everyone to lead with love, be absolutely fearless, believe in yourself, have confidence, and know and believe that the things you set out will happen. It’s not always about when you think they should happen, but just never stop. A lot of people give up, and I would encourage everyone to never give up, to write your story and blaze your trail and love who you are. Use that love to lead with love. (That was very poetic I think… J.Ivy says with a smile) Just be you, do you, and love the journey and the process.