We had the good fortune of connecting with MJ Dudley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi MJ, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
While I’m a North Texas native, I moved around with my family since I was young so never felt a sense of belonging to any specific area, city, block, or community. This coupled with the fact that I also grew up in a multicultural household(s), often tumultuous, with a free spirited Trinidadian mother with an open heart and rose colored glasses and a tight shipped ex-military American father who grew up in the height of 1950’s civil unrest meant that I grew up with a big sense of estrangement. Additionally, I was an extremely “awkward” and chubby child/teen with her fair share of phases (from tomboy, to gothic skater to theater/choir kid, “hood rat” wannabe and quite literally everything in between) all in the name of having an insatiable desire to “find” where I belonged. Over time, even though these things proved to be a struggle at certain points in my upbringing, they also became some of the most influential attributes of shaping who I would grow to become; a multifaceted woman able to see, and appreciate, the beauty and complexity that this world and all of it’s many moving puzzle pieces have to offer. But above all, I would say my introduction into motherhood at the age of 19 was, and continues to be, the true push and catalyst of change for me to evolve into my greatest self in all aspects of my life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Now everyone who has ever ventured into something new has quickly been made aware of the fact that they sucked more than they succeeded…initially. I fully believe that if your spirit is truly aligned and passionate of something, no amount of “suck” can stop you from self actualizing in your greatness. It won’t be easy, in fact, it will be downright hard as hell a lot of the times, but if you’re truly aligned, it will always be worth it because it will always feel like home. I’ll be the first one to say that I’ve had my fair share of professional struggles and growing pains (from lack of knowledge and incompetence to financial setbacks and struggling with creative burnout) but through it all, I’ve always felt an overriding pull and sense of belonging. This coupled with a bit of stubbornness and unhealthy grit/determination that I believe all creatives and entrepreneurs to have possession of, has successfully pulled me out of any rut or sense of self doubt that I’ve ever encountered. Furthermore, I think the beauty about my journey, and subsequently, my art as a photographer is that it was built through authenticity and love. Not only the authenticity of the energy that I pour into my art, and my clients, but the authenticity in knowing that as an artist, and a woman, I am constantly growing and evolving. This pushes me to never fear going to new levels or learning and implementing new styles and skill sets. It is because of this audacious sense of creative exploration that I can go into any room, take on any project and create and cultivate magic wherever I go. This is all a sense of enjoyment and “home” that I carry along with me and want to ensure that my clients always get to feel apart of. I always feel an additional sense of pride every time I can breathe that love, care and intentional homecoming into my black and brown kings and queens!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ooh it’s go time! Food is always paramount for me so the first stop is alway a good restaurant like Vegan Food House or the Loving Hut for guilt free and delicious vegan food; Craze Krab or Shells and Tails 2 Geaux for all my crawfish and crableg desires; La Calle Doce, because who doesnt love a good ceviche AND margarita; and of course for food, fun and scenes you can’t go wrong with Stirr ,TRUE Kitchen and Kocktails, the XOXO Dining Room or Paradiso. I also love to go out and do random outings whether that be going for an early morning hike at Cedar Ridge Preserve, having a cute creative girls night out at Painting with a Twist or wood carving/glass blowing, getting a competitive edge with game night or setting new sights by ziplining at Trinity Forest or h (my all time favorite) trying out some new moves on the skate floor at Forum or Southern Skates. I know I haven’t even touched the surface but the possibilities are endless 🙂
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am blessed enough to have many people who have loved, supported and poured into me over the years but of those, the most essential would be to my sister- my best friend and fellow entrepreneurial bad ass, Kristen Duncan who is the creator and owner/operator of the (online) boutique The Queen of Hearts which specializes in fashionably timeless garments and statement pieces. Not only has Kristen’s love, care and unmatched spirit been the backbone of our friendship, but she finds a way to extend that same authenticity into her business and customers.
Model credit: Brandon Washington, Jasmin B, Kristen Duncan, Elizabeth Jumbo, Kahri Jason