Name: Nikki Lynette

Pronouns: She/her

Location: Chicago

Social Media: @nikkiLynette


Artist Title: Multi-media Social Impact Artist
Nikki Lynette is a performer, writer and visual artist whose individual style is equal parts hip hop, alternative and pop. A Chicago native, she fuses mental health activism into her performances, creating a lane for her music that is uniquely her own. Her self-produced tunes have been featured in popular shows on Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, Fox and MTV, and have garnered national attention through digital and print features such as XXL, Bust and Vibe. After a hiatus from releasing new music, Lynette returned to the public eye with a confession—she had secretly been battling mental health issues. She began writing articles about depression, trauma, therapy and suicide for prominent sites like BlackDoctor, AFROPUNK and AllHipHop, as well as held her own among medical professionals in live chats and panel discussions with hundreds of thousands of viewers. Lynette’s latest musical releases have been featured in She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix and Work in Progress on Showtime.

Since 2018 she has been filming a mental health documentary entitled Happy Songs About Unhappy Things that is currently still in production. With her play about depression, GET OUT ALIVE, Nikki has made history as the first Black female playwright to be produced by American Music Theatre Project and the first AMTP work to debut at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. She has opened for Pussy Riot, Lion Babe, Leikeli47, and Mykki Blanco In April 2021, Nikki was honored with an Ambassador of the Year Award by NAMI, the largest grassroots mental health organization in America.

Monster Done
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Since I got diagnosed with mental health issues, the most shocking thing for me has been witnessing other people’s insensitivity to it. U can explain to folks, in depth, the challenges u navigate to keep your peace. U can explain why it’s hard to bond with others. U can humbly explain what u need and ask a person what they need. U can even ask someone’s consent to u opening up before u allow yourself to do it. And people will still be careless with u. And what’s wild is most of the time people get away with it, cuz the thing nobody seems to acknowledge is PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES HATE BEING A BURDEN TO OTHERS. 💯 Even I have fallen into that trap of sticking around and trying to self-soothe when a person u trusted starts being insensitive or treating u like u don’t matter. Everybody talks about the bad side of having mental health issues. But don’t forget... Your issues make u sensitive and compassionate. We all really do have the option of bringing the best OR the worst out of someone. People will stick around for the good in u and suck u dry while offering nothing of value in return, then be surprised by the intensity of your reaction to emotional harm. U don’t have to take it. At the end of the day, your happiness is YOUR responsibility. That means u can leave anything behind that isn’t good enough for u. I know that my mental illness isn't trying to kill me on purpose. My survival instincts are out of wack due to trauma. I own that, and I am always exercising self control. The version of me that you receive will always be in direct response to what I'm receiving from you.
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When I first went into therapy and learned about my core wounds, I discovered that two major ones for me were the desire to feel loved and the desire to feel safe. This is when I was introduced to the concept of trauma from childhood carrying over into adulthood. And it fascinated me that I had ended up in an abusive relationship because of the fact that, in some ways, I had been navigating life as a little girl walking in the shoes of a grown ass woman.
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I was able to work toward healing that nagging feeling of being unloved and unsafe when I realized the only person that my wounded inner child really needed to feel that from was me.
Mental Health Questions
How had the pandemic affected your mental health as a woman/femme creative? Have certain things improved for you or have gotten worse? 

I can't tell. In my career I have thrived during the pani. I did a TEDxTalk, I adapted my play to film and got it into film festivals, I became the host of a cool ass podcast on iheartradio called About A Girl. But my therapist says I've started isolating nowadays, which isn't advised for  suicide survivors. I reverted back to having passive suicidal ideation and had to do intensive outpatient therapy. And honestly... I don't know if that wouldn't have happened anyway. My issues were triggered by the behavior of 3 loved ones. I think those triggers would have unhinged me even if we weren't in a global pandemic. So I don't know. I just know getting help is harder now because of Covid restrictions.

What is your power word or phrase that helps you overcome mental struggles? 

"Suffering occurs in the mind." It reminds me that if I can fight what my body is doing and be present, I can CHOOSE how to react to things instead of my emotions being on autopilot.

How do you think mental health/mental illness has affect you as a girl/woman/femme and how you’re perceived? How do your creative outlets help you manage your mental health? 

I am seen as resilient. Strong. A fighter. Brave. Victorious. Triumphant. So when I tell people I'm not ok all they do is tell me positive traits about myself that assures the that I AM, in fact, ok. I am an internationally recognized social impact artist, who's entire body of work is oriented around mental health, and even I am placated and pacified when I am at my lowest. I don't get to be weak. Fragile. Scared. Unwilling. Strength is never rewarded with opportunities for rest. Nah. People reward strength with more shit that we have to be strong about. My art is where I can sing, draw, paint, dance, act, and create film from the most intimate and vulnerable parts of myself. It is my safe space. When ain't nobody else there to save me, my art is how I save myself.

What is something you wish people were more aware of that disproportionately affects women’s mental wellbeing? Do you use your art to raise awareness about this issue? If you have statistics/resources for this issue please share any! 

Before my mental breakdown/becoming suicidal, I was  uncomfortable with the way society regards feelings of women. I dislike that we are considered the weaker sex, despite that we have babies... Never liked how people fetishized my gay female friends... how it’s to blow off a woman’s feelings by calling her “emotional.” It never sat right, so I pushed back against it. I'm the host of a podcast on iHeartRadio , "About A Girl." We highlight  stories of women who are overshadowed by their famous partners. I don’t write the scripts, I read them and act then out. So I’m learning these stories as I go along... will make u question if u have the ability to “separate the art from the artist.” We don’t have to accept the way society disregards all things feminine until it’s time to sexualize or monetize it. We have a right to push back.