Performer. Artist. Mental Health Activist.

 

Nikki Lynette is a performer, writer, and visual artist whose style is equal parts hip hop, alternative, and pop. A Chicago native, her profound sense of individuality has been the cornerstone of her career. Her self-produced tunes have been featured in popular shows on MTV, Fox, Hulu, Netflix, and more and have garnered digital and print features for major publications including XXL, Bust, and Billboard.

 

After a hiatus from releasing new music at the height of her career, Nikki Lynette returned to the public eye with a confession: she’d secretly been battling mental health issues. She began writing articles about depression and suicide for prominent sites like Afropunk, BlackDoctor, and AllHipHop. She soon moved her activism to the stage while opening for artists like Pussy Riot and Mykki Blanco. This activism is the subject of her mental health documentary “Happy Songs About Unhappy Things.”

 

Her autobiographical play “Get Out Alive” is being developed by Northwestern’s American Music Theater Project. Collaborating with Northwestern music theatre professor and director Roger Ellis, AMTP is working to develop this edgy one-woman musical into a multimedia theatrical event. Using storytelling, song, movement, visual media and a live DJ, Nikki’s offbeat approach to sharing her personal mental health journey shows that even when life leads us to a bad place, we can always make it out alive. Three free presentations of the play will take place on May 3rd and 4th at the Mussetter-Struble Theater. Visit Northwestern’s website to RSVP. 

I didn’t wanna do music no more. I mean, I kinda wanted to, but I thought it would be too hard to start over. You spend hella time out the game and everything changes. What I wanted was to not be here. I would wake up and be disappointed that I was awake, and just lay there for an hour before I could get outta bed. I spent a lot of time in bed. I only pushed myself to get better because of my momma. She was sick, and she needed me. So I pushed myself. I didn’t have hella support, because the stigma around mental health leaves a lot of room for lack of understanding, a lot of room for judgement, a lot of room for shame.

I realize now that my music career, by itself, is not enough of a motivator for me no more. I am motivated by people. Particularly people whose needs are underrepresented. Right now my inspiration is coming primarily from the battles I have fought, the ones I am still fighting, and the people who are fighting those battles with me. I think I have accomplished a lot of stuff that I can be proud of, but nothing makes me more proud than this. Until the mental health conversation is being had in a way that appeals to all the people who suffering, we ain’t gonna see no change. That don’t work for me. So I’m gonna do it.