Arianna Lady Basco - Creator
i am. red. and electric blue.
i am one ear listening. laughing.
i am hair up. exposed.
i am love babies with no textbook.
just examples of resilience and making it work.
i am single mom raised by women strong.
raised by men that leave but forgive anyway.
i am not just poet. not just artist. not just actress. author. holder of space.
i am mere liver of life.
documenting footprints. yours and mine.
i am aligned with the brave souls.
the vulnerable ones too.
thats what makes the souls so brave.
i am born different. like everyone else.
i am dance different. to a different drum.
i am all the same. in shame and defeat.
i am always more. in glimpses of faith and sunflowers.
i am integrity. at the costs of apologies. i was wrong. please forgive me.
i am dignity. rocking my tribe on my sleeve, lip, and chest.
i am basco. in the morning when i wake up and at night when sleep takes me.
i am arianna. lady b. auntie nana. mama. love. baby. babe. boo.
i am joy with necessary pain graduating heartstorms.
i am singing the songs that were taught to me and re-presenting them to the new bloods.
i am words and touch. in real life and dreams.
laundry and food. diapers and moons.
i am road trips and movies. in hearts and text boxes.
i am all for me.
i am all because of you.
with you, i am all.
i am loud smiles strung together by tears haloing right above your doubt.
Poem by Arianna Lady Basco
Arianna Lady Basco is a force. A mother of two, Arianna is a community builder, cultural architect, storyteller, writer, creator. The youngest of the 5 Basco children, Arianna believes in her family and her tribe. She holds space by uplifting others, nurturing their talent. She’s strong, driven, and passionate, with Palms Up Academy and Basco House as her newest projects.
A note from the editor: this interview was transcribed from a phone conversation with Arianna Lady Basco.
How would you describe what you do?
I am a mom, first and foremost. and that is a big play in who I am and why I do things. I'm a storyteller, that manifests in song, poetry, holding space, passing on my experiences to other peers, the next generation and sharing stories. I've done a lot throughout the years: writing scripts, I'm an actress, I wrote a pilot. I am ultimately just a creator: of children and stories, and documenter of stories and other people stories.
What is your earliest memory of being creative?
Back in the early 80s, my brothers and I were break dancers in the Bay Area but it ended when I was 4. I'm the youngest of 5 children. I remember that, doing the shows. In terms of writing, something clicked for me when my mom taught us how to read and write. I was kinda drawing these lines, making letters, letters making words. I thought it was beautiful.
How did you create your career path?
We were break dancers in the Bay, my mom invested in us, drove us down to LA with $100. She wanted to put her kids into acting because we were charismatic Filipinos in the 80s. It was a big, ambitious jump for all of us. She had sat down in front of the acting class book, she prayed and opened the book and picked one teacher, and that teacher we ended up with for 15-20 years. A lot of training in that space. A lot of it was abusive (mentally). And that's why I have my radar on, to guide artists without all the bullshit. During that time, I began seeing things differently, psychology. It was my formative years. I learned a lot skill wise and life wise, in moving forward I was very in tune with that. When I left class at 18, I moved to NYC. I needed space and traveled a lot. I developed a show called Heartstorms. It was a 15 year journey. I did it at Da Poetry Lounge's LA Get Down Festival. Da Poetry Lounge was Dante's Poetry Lounge. It is the largest and longest running poetry venue in the country. It started in our living room years ago. I lived in NYC for 5 years, then moved back to LA and made up with my brothers. It was 2006 when we were building, healing that relationship. Then we continued working together as a family. We've done so many projects together. From short films to pilots, travel doc for GMA in the Philippines, Balikbayan w/ the Bascos. G Tongi produced it. We went to the Philippines for a month, with the Department of Tourism. My family has lent their voice out for many organizations. We were recognized by city of LA and California as the First Filipino Family in Entertainment. In 2012 I had first child, and in 2016 had second child. I'm a single mother of two. All of this plays into and has shaped who I am and what I speak. When I'm pursuing the work that I do, I didn't go the route of "Rufio's sister" or "City Guy's sister", I gravitate towards community building, poetry, inclusive storytelling, uplifting artists and our traumas. I'm a keynote speaker, guest artist, guest host, hold space. Everything that I am is about that.
What was it like growing up in a famous Fil Am family?
I was born with one ear. Physically and aesthetically. So I don't know any different from that. Yes, there was a time before Rufio, but also you're a kid, so i didn't really feel the anonymity because I wasn't worried about it. We grew up in predominantly Latino and Black neighborhoods. It was more of a challenge to navigate through that. Our family always had people living with us, tribe living. That's just how we grew up. We played on that. I don't know that it was any different than anyone else's upbringing. It's all the awkward things when I feel like "do I belong here" it's an interesting line to walk on, but then also in the moments when you're in the spotlight, that you show up and you assume position. Because you're representing your whole tribe. Growing up in a large Filipino family, most of it has been amazing. My main staple are my parents and grandparents. They live a state of service. i know who I am and i know who I come from.
What/who is your biggest driving force?
I would say at this time, my biggest driving force is my children. I'm very quick to identify the event of a situation. For example, I have 2 baby daddies and there could be a lot of drama, but I don't let it. The event is my children. I am quick to identify that in my personal life and community. What is the event, the outcome that needs to happen. Then the rest falls in the wayside. Yes, there's emotion and disappointment, but my purpose and what keeps me going is I see my kids as they refined my life. Before I had kids I did life as I did, now I'm just me with kids. The children make it so clear to me what I can say "yes" to and what I can say "no" to. It's a way of prioritizing my time. They made it clear to me my value and who I am. Knowing that every "no" and every "yes" is on time. Every "no" means a "yes" to something else, to spending more time with my kids and being a mom and showing up for them.
Another driving point in my life is the Basco brand. Being a Basco, I have so much pride in that. Not the movies and the fame, but the values that our grandparents taught us. The learning and forgiveness and resilience. It's everything. I tell my mom, "I'm your daughter because there's no way I can run space the way I do." No matter how many times life knocks me down, being open and honest, all I learned is from my mother, who learned from her Mother in law. No matter how successful our projects are, we are always operating from a place of what a home feels like.
Hows did Palms Up begin? And Palms Up Academy?
Palms Up came from putting my palms up. Before it ever was a book it was an exercise of letting go, and when your palms are up, you're open to new things. Palms up on life. And then the book came when I became pregnant and a friend of mine from high school started a publishing company called 1888 center (arts hub in OC). He said he wanted to publish my book, but I didn't have a book. So he said just write one. So i started writing a book. At the time I was doing these facebook updates that were like "dear kid.. love mom" messages, it was my way of getting out some of the things on my mind and in my heart. The publisher called me back and said, "that's the book. Gather the updates and write more. This is a cool coffee table book, but it can be a novela." So I ended up writing Palms Up.
I often say ‘you shine, I shine’. The culmination of my work holding spaces- running Speakeasy at The Last Bookstore, Our Mic from We Own the 8th, directing and writing, acting, Heartstorms- my brother Dante called me up and said let's get a space. And I started formulating it. The space should be in Historic Filipinotown, to preserve our culture there. We are currently in the process of obtaining a building to start Basco House. It will be an art hub in Historic Filipinotown, a live music venue, theater, workspace, nightclub lounge. The education division of that is Palms Up Academy. Because I needed a temporary space, I partnered up with SIPA(Search to Involve Pilipino Americans). We are doing it in their multipurpose room. One program includes Recess mic, an entry point where all is welcome to come and shine on the open mic. It is a gateway to the whole thing. For those who are interested in diving deeper into their work we offer Art Class for Creatives. It is a class to challenge the artist to explore their creativity, respecting other people's craft, respecting yourself, and becoming a better human through your art. It is the beginning of a 3 tier structure. Eventually we will have a scene study class and a music class. Recess open mic is every Wednesday and Art Class for Creatives is every Monday.
How has the Fil Am community uplifted you?
It’s everything. Growing up, it's just what you know. My Filipino community, we are very adaptable. The other Filipinos I've come across have a similar mark of generosity and capacity to give. And also vulnerability in that, we're so open. Our house is always filled with so many different cultures. It's about appreciating who they are and where they came from, finding a common ground. That characteristic came from my Filipino upbringing and from the humans that raised me who happened to be Filipino. All the gatherings, and the food, and how we organize and contribute. We have some strong staples in the community, and hope to help strengthen the structure in Historic Filipinotown.
What has been instrumental in your personal and creative growth?
Having children. My friends Magic MC and Saul. It is the philosophy of you shine, I shine. The driving force of "it's greater than just me." Tribe living, nurturing every individual relationship. It is service work, the idea of believing in yourself and believing in something greater than yourself. The best parts of each other, the trauma and how we come together after that trauma, it rests on all of us. Everything is instrumental. Every part of my life, every friend, every ex love.
Photos curtesy of Arianna Lady Basco