Isha Blaaker: Simply Me
We are all born divine beings, expressing ourselves through a unique vantage point of our physical self. Who we are is beyond our physical faculties—we are a blend of both, the physical and non-physical energies—the intangible and unseen becoming tangible and seen.
Model and actor, Isha Blaaker, who can be seen portraying a leading role as Davi O’ Malley in Tyler Perry’s iconic Madea franchise, A Madea Homecoming available now on Netflix, says, “I am Isha Blaaker, and let’s just stick with my name. I think it’s very important to have a very simple definition of yourself. So you can go wherever, whenever, however, and you won’t lose yourself. I travel a lot and live in a lot of different places. And that definitely helped me. I wouldn’t further define myself other than my name is Isha from Rotterdam. My mom loves me. I love my family.”
Born in South America in Paramaribo, Suriname, Isha was raised in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and now he lives in New York, US. Isha discusses living in many places, traveling the world and being exposed to so many different cultures: “Whenever I jump to the next place, I take a little bit of that place with myself. So I was born in Suriname, which is in the West Indies and South America. And then my parents moved to Rotterdam, the Netherlands when I was a year and a half. So we took that culture to the Netherlands as immigrants while growing up in the Dutch culture as well. And then I started traveling a lot. Every country that I lived in and learned a bit from, I realized that all the stereotypes that I am used to only exist in my world. I always say that if you’re Mexican in America, and you’re going through racism, or any other immigrant nationality, if you were to travel to a completely different part of the world, they have no stereotypes of you and you would lose all that racism in seconds. If you would move to Europe, as a Mexican, most people know the country, but they have no idea what to think about it. So I think that those things really live in our own minds, and the places that we live in. Something I learned is that whatever I thought was reality doesn’t always apply everywhere. And now living in America, I deal with that a lot. I learned how to speak with an American accent. I’m black so people assume that I’d act “black”, wherever it means to them being an African-American. Yes, I’m black. But I’m not necessarily African-American. I didn’t grow up in the African-American culture. So a lot of people have opinions about that. I’m just like, ‘I do me. I’m from Rotterdam and Suriname, and actually I speak a lot of slang when I’m back home. But you wouldn’t notice that because I only learned how to speak English one way. And now that I live in Harlem, New York, I learned how to speak in a different way as well.”
There is no doubt that the environment we are exposed to influences our perception of who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act. Our cultural baggage and the stories we tell generation to generation are the ones we often identify with. When we can see ourselves beyond the part of us who identifies only with culturally-dictated roles, expectations, and stereotypes, we experience the common thread and connection between each and every human being.
“As you get to practice softening your thoughts, you are on the way to really grasp and fully experience the wider perspective. Everything you give your attention to is a reflection of you, back to you. The wider perspective embodied by you and everyone else in that perspective of Self while measuring, and comparing, and noticing, and observing, and choosing, and making decisions based on all that physical action. But in essence, One. The breath you take was someone else’s exhalation. Your exhalation becomes someone else’s inhalation, and so, everything is at all times interconnected,” says Weola, the collective energy channeled by Kosta Trifunovic.
Until Isha was 23 years old, he competitively practiced full-contact karate and later became a semi-pro kickboxer. This experience has brought him the consistency and awareness of always being a bit better and improving a bit more, the process he now applies into his acting career. Isha adds, “Through karate in particular I got a lot of energy. But the training in karate and kickboxing at the time was really severe. That’s why I stopped doing it. In karate, sometimes during the training people would even pass out and would have to be carried out. So, in that sense, I learned how to always push a bit more. I’ve had difficult jobs where I just learned how to push through. I’ve had some really—I wouldn’t say severe—acting coaches that go deep, and you see people in class start falling off and like, ‘Alright, I got to take a step out.’ But I just learned how to persevere. Because I’ve been through certain training where you either make it out or you pass out. I made it out. And that stuck with me. So I didn’t want to step out of that class, I just made sure I pulled through. And for instance, when we shot in India, the audition was overnight, I had one night to pull through. Actually, yesterday, I slept three hours as well, because I really wanted to do a good job at this new audition that I had this morning. I sent it in, and I’m very happy with the results.”
Measurement, in itself, is not negative: it has its value. As we observe our diverse world, we can’t stop comparing as that is what brings to us the clarity of making preferences between our likes and dislikes. The trouble can come when we focus on the measurement for longer than is necessary to clarify what we want. Once the desire is clear, then it’s time to refocus our attention to enjoy the process of that desire in our physical experience.
“Joy has always been a very difficult one, for me. I always struggled in comedy. I think perfectionism and being competitive is very helpful in preparation. But when it’s game time, you actually just want to have fun and enjoy your preparation. And that’s something I’ve struggled with a lot. So I had to really learn to apply my competitiveness when I’m with my classmates when I’m studying certain techniques and acting and not to be in competition with what they can do. I want to be able to do as well and that made me grow that much faster. But then the minute I step on that stage or find that camera, I want to enjoy and play. And that’s something I still struggle with. But that’s what I like about acting. It’s a continuous journey. I also had to learn there’s no right or wrong, this is art. I have to go into creativity, you can’t just do it right. I have to bring it to be incomplete. When I bring it, it has to be faulty. It has to be real,” shares Isha.
Nothing in life is static. Change is the only constant. Life flows in a continual movement of the asking and receiving dance. When the journey becomes the goal, then we might experience stuckness. When the goal becomes the journey, we can navigate from one experience to another with more ease and joy—as we know, there is always something more to add; there is always something more to create. Therefore, nothing is ever completed; everything that exists is always expanding.
Then Isha continues, “I have definitely been someone who has butted heads against getting something right and understanding the ‘Type A’ personality. But I have noticed that when I took time off, or when I pulled out and came back later, I actually performed better than right before I left. There is no judgment because I’m like, ‘Hey, I don’t have to prove anything.’ And then it’s magic.”
We all go through different challenges, and those events in life are our most important teachers. We always have the choice to be reactive or proactive. We all can recognize the value of what’s happening around us, even in the most discomforting situations. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. “I was picked on as a kid in elementary and not because I was the weaker kid just because there was a big group and they were preying on the smaller weaker ones, and I just didn’t want to be a part of that. And I was also chubbier and fatter than everybody else. So I had to learn to do my own thing very quickly, and just to be my own judge. And that lasted for a very long time until I was about 16 years old. And then I changed schools and had a growth spurt. And over the course of the summer, all of a sudden, I was the hottest guy in school, apparently. And this is really weird for me. From getting all the wrong attention to getting all the positive attention. It’s a lot. But I have learned to just do me and say, ‘Hey, I’m an amazing human being. Because I exist. That’s it. That’s where I should base it. And God loves me, and my mom loves me, the rest doesn’t matter.’ And then I can deal with the positives and the negatives. And then other things happened as well where we were completely poor at some point, and my mom went through a lot of things. So I learnt to block everything out because I know who I am. And then that gives power and confidence,” says Isha.
Isha also says that the best gift he received from playing his character Davi in A Madea Homecoming is his friendship with Brandon Black, who portrays Tim in the same movie. “On the first day that I arrived in Atlanta to film the movie, we became actual friends. It was his first feature film, my first feature film. And till this day, we are still good friends. And that’s what that character gave me. Although, I have other gay friends as well, by playing this part, and people talking about it, and me going, ‘Oh, this is my buddy, Brandon,’ I learnt that the world might be a bit more homophobic than I thought it was. Everybody has an opinion. And I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations about that with other people. And I had to step up at times and say, ‘I don’t see it that way.’”
Isha expresses his expectation for the audience to take away from watching the movie: “It’s exactly what I said in the beginning about the stereotypes we know in this country, which it doesn’t necessarily hold true in the rest of the world. So if you don’t like them, you can venture outside of your world and find other ways people can be. And that’s what I noticed, because I watched the film with my friends here at home. And then afterwards, there was this whole discussion about what it’s like coming to America as a black man, and I hadn’t thought about it as much, but I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the story that this person is telling and it’s showing people that you know that there are other possibilities too.’”
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam – Latin for “I shall either find a way of make one.” This statement is Isha’s Instagram bio, which reminds him that, “If you have a dream, and you go after full force, and you put dreams into the universe, you speak them out—the universe answers and gives you little breadcrumbs on your way, that this is the way for you, you will get there in some way or form, even if it’s not the way you thought it was. And because I’m on God’s path, I just trust, and I walk and I hope that I can add positivity to people’s lives.”
Like Isha Blaaker, are you trusting and being open to see all the synchronicities along the way to experience the life you consider is the best for you?
Photography // Emily Assiran | Fashion Stylist // Darryl Dickens