By: Sherricka Day
Have you ever crossed paths with someone whose energy immediately draws you? Someone whose very presence speaks to you before they can say a word? Someone who you feel you’ve known for years, even though you’ve only known each other for a few minutes?
Lakendra Huckaby is that someone. She’s mystical, magical, and intriguing. A human unicorn. As soon as you see her, you know that she is special somebody. Her personality is warm and inviting. Her clothes are vibrant. She exudes cocoa butter, cinnamon colored, sun-kissed vibes that would be blessed by Fugees goddess Lauryn Hill and praised by the late Maya Angelou. Her hair styles are as versatile and bold as her outfits. She can rock an afro, braids, or a low-cut haircut with ease, grace, and confidence.
Lakendra Huckaby shown with her artwork at the Celebration of Ma Rainey. Image via the artist.
Lakendra is a Columbus native and I had the privilege of collaborating with her earlier this year to host a Black History event for our community. We have chatted numerous times since then and have been at a few of the same events, but because we are both busy women, we haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and catch up.
Thankfully, our schedules finally aligned and we were able to connect again for an interview. Read on to meet Lakendra Huckaby, her career as an artist, what Columbus means to her, and the impact she hopes to make on its future.
Give me your elevator speech. Who is Lakedra Huckaby?
I’m a creator. I do a little of everything: painting, murals, graphic design. I do music, too. I get into music when I need a break from art. It inspires me and gives me the creative push I need. What I create is a direct reflection of my life.
Are you from Columbus?
Yes, born and raised. I was a preacher’s kid. My family traveled a lot. I had an interesting upbringing.
How would you describe the art scene in Columbus?
It’s growing. There are a lot of different artists and mediums around the city. I feel that artists are beginning to be seen and heard. I feel we are in a renaissance.
What was it like growing up as a preacher’s kid?
I was in church all the time. I was around different people all the time. We traveled to different places. I taught Bible school. Sometimes I felt my parents were too strict. I was sheltered.
Some of your work is sensual and probably opposite what we would expect from a preacher’s kid. How has religion played a role in what you create?
It’s always a weird vibe between art and religion. I feel that religion tries to criminalize our naked bodies and make us feel ashamed of who we are as humans. I’m intentional about my artwork. I incorporate religious motifs into my work. Take halos, for example. Jesus often has a halo over his head. He is an important figure in Christianity. We are taught that Jesus is a holy person, and the halo represents that. I paint halos behind my black women. I want them to feel sacred and important.
What artist has inspired you?
Basquiat. I was inspired by him when I was little. He taught me to be authentic in who I am.
Who do you hope to inspire?
I want to inspire little girls, especially little Black and Brown girls. I want them to see themselves in my work. I create images I did not see when I was their age. I want them to know that beauty is not just on the outside. It comes from within. When they look around at murals and different art pieces, they deserve to see themselves represented. They deserve to see someone who looks like them. People do not understand how powerful representation is. When you see someone that looks like you, you believe you can be who you are seeing. If you do not see yourself, it feels unreachable. Like a fairy tale. Not real life.
Have you ever felt like you are bigger than Columbus? That you should take your talent somewhere else?
I left Columbus in 2014, chasing after a new life in New Jersey. I felt like I needed a voice. I lived in Newark for a little while. Newark is rich in art and culture. Art is everywhere. It’s nothing to walk around the city and see art festivals. Or people on the streets breakdancing, with boomboxes! I loved the environment. But even with me trying to find my voice, I still didn’t feel like I had one. So, I moved back to Columbus. I realize that my work and other artists’ work is needed in our city. Columbus will not become what it can be if everyone leaves.
You are a wife and mother. I’ve seen your son with you and your husband at most of your art shows or the events that you attend. What are you hoping to teach your son as you evolve as an artist?
I learn from my son. When my son sees my work, he’s seeing and absorbing things from a different perspective. He sees the colors and shapes. At just three-years old, he can understand work on a different level. It may sound silly, but it’s deep. He doesn’t see gender. He exists in innocence. I want him to know that he can express what he feels. He talks to me about what he sees when I am painting. Usually when I paint, I give him a small canvas and paint so that he can create his own work. He told me he wants to have his own art show, so we have to make that happen.
You love cooking. What would Sunday dinner look like at your house?
Oh girl! It would be fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, yam, black-eyed peas, cornbread. And for dessert, either pound cake or banana pudding.
Ok…so I’ll be over this Sunday!?
Come on over sis! Cooking is an extension of my artwork. I will bake a cake just to try to make it pretty. I work carefully on the mold to get it right. Cooking is another outlet for me. It helps me balance my work. Also, cooking was always family time for me. My family doesn’t just cook big for the holidays. We have a Thanksgiving-style meal all the time. My roots and my culture are in soul food. Food was one way my mom showed us that she loved us even when we didn’t have a lot.
As I get older, I am beginning to make healthier choices. I want different food for my son. Our health is tied directly to what we eat, and I want my family to live a long, healthy life. I’m leaning towards a vegan lifestyle, and I’m taking small steps to get there.
Let's talk about The Essence Black Women in Hollywood red carpet event. You weren’t there, but you were kind of. Take me back to the moment you saw the Caroline Wanga, CEO of Essence magazine, rocking your fabric on the red carpet.
Oh my gosh! It was a typical day, nothing special. I was home relaxing, watching The Strays on Netflix. The movie was about 30 minutes from ending when my husband told me Caroline was wearing my fabric!
I’ll give you a little background on how all of this came to be. I created a painting called The Light which I entered in an art contest. Caroline was behind the contest. I won and my painting was a featured product on WangaWoman.com. Caroline interviewed me as the winner of the contest, and from there we became good friends.
She asked me if I could put my art on fabric. Though I had never done that before, I knew I could do it. I collaborated with celebrity designer, Levinity, to turn The Light into a dress. I decided to add affirmations to the piece to represent power, resilience, and inspiration. Of course, one of the words of affirmation is “light” and the lady in my design has a yellow halo around her.
Ok, back to that moment! As soon as I saw my design on Caroline on the red carpet, I ran around the house, in circles! I was crying. It didn’t feel real. We (my husband and I) called my family and told them the good news.
Left: 'The Light' by Lakendra Huckaby. Right: Caroline Wanga, CEO of Essence Magazine wearing an outfit featuring Lakendra’s artwork.
Do you see fashion design in your future?
I’m designing outfits as we speak. I want to host a fashion show that features my family.
How do you want people to think of you when they hear your name?
Passion. I want people to know that I am a result of what happens when you believe in yourself. I am the product of what happens when you put your all into something you love to do. I hope people tie me to originality. I live authentically. Passion will make room for them if they walk in what they believe in.
Earlier, I mentioned a renaissance taking place in our city. Renaissance is about growth, change, a shift in culture. I am part of the art movement in Columbus. I want people to think of me as an artist, as a musician, as a creative that helped bring positive change to our city.◾️
Connect with the artist on social media:
Instagram – @huck.jpg
Facebook – Lakendra Huckaby
Website – artofhuck.com