NIKKI LYNETTE is a performer, writer and visual artist who has been fusing mental health activism into her edgy performance art since 2016. Her dedication to thriving with a serious mental illness informs for her art & her advocacy. This Chicago native’s self-produced tunes are frequently featured in popular shows on Netflix, Hulu, Showtime and more. Seeing her music used to tell stories on tv  evolved into an interest in filmmaking. After a long hiatus from releasing new music, 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 BlackDoctor, Afropunk and AllHipHop. As the opening act for Pussy Riot’s first American tour Nikki workshopped the material that would soon become her musical about depression, GET OUT ALIVE. Nikki has made history as the first black female playwright to have a musical produced by American Music Theatre Project, the first AMTP work to debut at Steppenwolf, as well as the first Steppenwolf LookOut Series work and first female AMTP alum to be featured at NAMT’s Festival of New Musicals.  Since adapting her musical about depression to film during the pandemic, GET OUT ALIVE has been invited into over a dozen film festivals, nominated for 5 film awards and won 3 of them. A proud ambassador & board member for the Chicago chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Nikki Lynette’s first TEDx Talk, hosted by Princeton University, was an opportunity for her to share how her punk culture roots aided her suicide recovery. Her popular podcast “About a Girl” has recently been renewed by iHeartRadio for a fourth season. Her mental health docuseries Happy Songs About Unhappy Things is currently in production. 

  • Recently elected to the Board of Directors for NAMI Chicago
  • Winner of three indie film awards for her musical about depression, GET OUT ALIVE
  • Currently developing a mental health doc entitled “Happy Songs About Unhappy Things”

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.