For this blog post I decided to interview a good friend of mine, Billy Joe Michel, (30), who is an extraordinary artist living in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, although much of her work is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you follow her on Instagram, (@miss_billyjoe) you would see just how awe-inspiring her life is. To rewind just a bit, Billy Joe and I met back in December of 2012 in Dallas, Texas, when the father of her kids and Supreme were teammates on a basketball team. We had just moved to Texas, and it was around the holidays, so we had a small get-together at our home, and BJ and her family came. Billy Joe and I immediately bonded over the fact that we were both Scorpios (oh hello there Scorpio Season that begins today!), were moms of young kids (Zé had just turned 1, and I was 7 months pregnant with Vito, and she had two small kids at the time), and even had similar tattoos of “Live Laugh Love” on our ribs. We would go on to have several playdates where the kids would play, and we would bond and learn more about each other.
I would soon learn that Billy Joe loved to paint, and after showing me pictures of her work, I knew that she had such a talent. She even inspired me to paint my own picture on a canvas while I was living in Dallas! It’s hanging in my house right now still today! Billy Joe would eventually move back to Jersey, and of course I have moved all over the country since then, but Billy Joe and I have always kept in touch, as she is such a light, and full of love and support. I have also undoubtedly been following her artistic career on Instagram over the last several years. Billy Joe’s life is well documented on her Instagram page (@miss_billyjoe), where she openly shares many parts of her life, including photos of her kids, (since we met, she went on to have a 3rd child, Jax, her son), her commutes on the train to deliver her works of art to eager clients, or taking the 77-minute ride via train to Philadelphia to head to her part-time job at Fat Tuesday as a bartender, to her financial struggles as a single mom. She gets very candid in many of her captions, whether it’s expressing the meanings behind her artwork, or her honesty about being behind on bills. To say that Billy Joe is an inspiration would be an understatement:
Largely she shares what work of art she is busily perfecting, promoting art shows that she is apart of, and finished works of art that simply take your breath away. For one of her very own art shows a few years back entitled, The XXiX Experience, she decided to depict young kids as superheroes, using her friends’ children as muses, including Zé and Vito!
Between art shows and various projects that she takes on where she is giving back to the community, in the form of teaching art classes at the local elementary and middle schools, or donating artwork to various charities, we get to see firsthand all of this on social media, where she shares pictures and videos, including the grind in the male-dominated art world. She is often painting at all hours of the night, while she grooves to her favorite music. There does not seem to be a day that goes by that Billy Joe is not painting or working on a project, all while juggling being a great mom to her 3 kids, as she is aggressively pursuing her dreams. As time has gone by, her grind and constant work ethic has paid off majorly, where she has gained national attention for her work. Billy Joe has created works of art for celebrities and professional athletes alike, including rapper 50 Cent, Actress LaLa Anthony, rapper Wale, rapper Dave East, actress KeKe Palmer, Geno Smith of the NY Giants, Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and more:
Present day, Billy Joe is busily preparing to exhibit her artwork at the world-renowned Art Basel in Miami, Florida this upcoming December 2017. Art Basel is an international art fair that presents artworks from across the globe. According to its website, www.artbasel.com: “Art Basel stages the world’s premier Modern and contemporary art fairs annual in Basel, Miami Beach, and Hong Kong. A driving force in supporting the role that galleries play in nurturing the careers of their artists, Art Basel frequently expands it platforms to include the newest developments in the visual arts.” So in other words, Art Basel is a HUGE deal, and Billy Joe has even asked me and ten other girls to be a part of the experience, as we will be a part of her exhibits all weekend long. (Sidenote: I am BEYOND excited about this! Is it slick a girls work trip?!)
So between BJ working on projects for Art Basel, another upcoming Art Show in early November, working on commissioned pieces for clients, and being a single mom, Billy Joe had time to chat with me at length about art, family, and life…
1. Q: When did your love for art begin?
BJ: I have always been artistic for as long as I can remember. My entire life I have always been very into all things creative: sewing, crocheting, drawing, you name it. I have always been drawn to want to create things.
2. Q: Tell us a little bit about your art background. Did you take many art classes growing up, go to Art or Design School, or are you self-taught?
BJ: I never attended Art School or took special art classes. I have just always had a knack for creating and being creative ever since I was little. In high school was when I realized that I was really good, because my senior year my art teacher assigned us Senior Projects, and she entered my work in a Statewide Art Contest, and I won best art project for the entire state of New Jersey.
3. Q: Off the top of my head, I can name just a few art genres that I know of. When I looked up the different genres, there are over like 70 different kinds, including, Cityscape, Nude, Portrait, Street, Landscape, Figurative, Historic, etc. I thought “wow, Billy Joe paints in all of these genres!” But how would YOU describe your painting style?
BJ: I have so many styles, but I often describe my style as Abstract, “Smart Art”, 3D Art, and Mixed Media.
4. Q: As a single mom raising three kids, how do you find the time to paint?
BJ: Well now that Ava (7) and Mikki (5) are both in school, I have a lot more free time during the day. Jax (2) hangs out with me while I paint, but his dad helps with him a lot also, so I get to paint during the day, and then I pick back up again after the kids go to sleep until late at night.
5. Q: Over the last few years, your artwork has gained national attention, and your art hangs in the homes of many celebrities and professional athletes. How does that make you feel?
BJ: It’s kinda weird honestly. I still have a hard time getting used to that aspect of it.
6. Q: Who are some of your biggest inspirations when it comes to your creations?
BJ: Definitely my kids. They are a big inspiration to my art. Also social and political issues around the world definitely inspire me to paint. And lastly, my personal happiness inspires me. 🙂
7. Q: Aside from your artwork being visually captivating, they often convey deep, meaningful messages. It seems as though you never paint anything “just to paint”…
BJ: I get inspired by so much, and I end up having so many bomb ass ideas that I want to get on a canvas ASAP. Painting truly allows me to express my personal thoughts, which is cool, because I express myself easiest through my art. So things like social issues, my personal struggles and triumphs, and anything else that I am truly affected by end up on a canvas. Oftentimes I am working on multiple projects at once, and many projects are me painting my thoughts. I just want to paint my feelings!
On her Instagram page (@miss_billyjoe) speaking of this painting she writes:
“This is a painting I made inspired by a picture I took of my daughter Mikki at the playground. I hope to raise her and my other children and instill in them such character that she lights up every room she walks in and makes others’ lives better and brighter. In her hair I painted the words LOVE, SHARE, IMAGINE, BE OPEN-MINDED, BE PATIENT, PERSEVERE, DREAM, LAUGH, FORGIVE, THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE, PRAY, BE BRAVE, STAY TRUE, BELIEVE, SMILE, and BE KIND. This is just a fraction of what I hope she is. We as parents are the creators of the future. We are raising our children, and as much as we want to condemn the world, and Internet, and everyone and everything else, we the parents are responsible. As a parent, to help the world be a better place, the biggest difference we can make is to raise kind, loving, empathetic hardworking people to populate the world when we are gone.”
8. Q: This year you’re showing your work at the renowned Art Basel Show in Miaimi, Florida at the end of the year. Are you beyond excited?
BJ: I cannot wait! I have been working really hard trying to put everything together for the exhibit. I have had ideas for what I want to exhibit for over a year. I really want to tell my life story through my art. The struggles and pain that I have gone through throughout my life make me who I am today, and I want to share that with the world.
9. Q: For many artists, whether they are painters, singers, rappers, writers, photographers, & everybody in the artistic world alike, they use their own personal triumphs and setbacks as inspiration for their work. And in this way, their art becomes a form of therapy. Would you say that you have used your art as a form of therapy?
BJ: Absolutely. Like I mentioned, whatever I am going through, whether it’s sadness or happiness, the best way for me to express those feelings are through my art. I love telling my personal story of my life through my art. It is definitely therapeutic for me.
10. Q: I know you love to listen to music while you paint. What are some of your favorite songs to listen to while you paint?
BJ: I listen to some of everything. I love Jhene Aiko, Anthony Somebody, Chance The Rapper, Childish Gambino, Solange (I’ve listened to her newest album a lot this year), Snoh Aalegra, Jay-Z...I also like to turn on documentaries and watch/listen to those while I paint as well. I love learning. I also will listen to podcasts sometimes too, including my favorite, The Church of What’s Happening with Joey Diaz.
11. Q: What are your future goals? In 5 years, what will Billy Joe be doing?
BJ: In 5 years I will have my own studio. I will have a yearly art/music festival where I will live paint/design concert backdrops as different singers and rappers perform on stage. Whatever the subject of the song is; for example: about being in love, I will live paint in the background a stage filled with “Love”. This yearly festival will be EPIC! I will be one of the most requested artists at Art Basel. And I will definitely be able to pay all my bills on time. (laughs)
What a Fabbie Billy Joe is! She is living her life live and in color, and unapologetically so. Here is a quote taken from her Instagram page that I absolutely love:
“I got so lost in art I found myself. I’m not judging me, so I don’t care who is…I’ve looked up to people who’ve talked down on me. I’ve been through a lot and I’m humbled enough to know there are many who’ve been through way more. I’ve never felt more free than I do embracing me.”–Billy Joe
Cheers to Billy Joe living her best life yet! We’ll see her at the top!
All photos were taken from Billy Joe’s Instagram pages:
Personal Page: @miss_billyjoe
Art Page: @artbybillyjoe
UPDATE: To check out her Art Basel EPIC Art Presentation in Miami and to see the entire (girls) weekend, check out the episode on my YouTube page HERE.