“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”– Dr. Maya Angelou
For Rita Brent, promising comedian from Jackson, Mississippi, it was the untold story of her own pain and failures that inspired her career.
“God gave me a definite purpose in 2013 to use stand-up comedy and my supposed failures to own my identity and use my life experiences to relate to people and impact the world,” Brent explained.
That affirmation was five years ago. At an open mic comedy event, Brent heard God distinctly declare “you can do this.” “He sounded very smooth and convincing like Barry White, so I listened,” she joked.
Though God affirmed her calling, it was Angelou’s quote that helped Rita understand the responsibility she had to free herself and others through the power of storytelling. The quote not only embodies her life’s work, but it challenged her to understand “pain” beyond suffering.
“What stands out to me about that quote is the idea that agony is sometimes self-inflicted,” Brent said. “We are aware of remedies and ways to heal from things that agonize us, and we either make a choice to sit in that agony or release ourselves from it.”
Following her own advice, Brent now travels the world “converting her pain into punchlines,” using comedy as a therapeutic tool to heal others.
“Everything in my life that I thought would hinder me has ended up giving me the depth and experience I needed to succeed in the entertainment business,” she added.
Don’t get it twisted, Brent’s creative fire started long before comedy. At 8 years old Brent discovered her love for music as a drummer. By age 18, Brent joined the 41st Army National Guard in Mississippi as a drummer. None of this would have been possible, however, without the support of her mother, soon-to-be Dr. Angie Weathersby, whose support and love for music fired her interest in the arts and was the fuel she used to pursue her dreams.
“My mother helped light my fire,” Brent exclaimed. “She’s been a singer, pianist for over 4 decades and has ALWAYS pushed me to figure out where I belong creatively. Not once did she say, ‘Rita’s a girl, she shouldn’t play drums or basketball or be in the military.’ She said, ‘I support you no matter what, baby,’ and THAT has been the fuel I’ve used to manifest my dreams.”
Brent says that stand-up comedy is taking her places and allowing her to cross paths with those she only imagined in wild dreams. Brent has toured with Comedian Rickey Smiley and was one of four comedians from Mississippi featured on Kevin Hart’s Comedy Central television series, “Hart of the City” in 2017. This year, Young, Gifted and Empowered, a Mississippi organization that honors influential, native professionals, honored Brent as Artist of the Year.
Life ain’t been no crystal stair
While she has earned much success, the rising star confessed that it has not always been easy. From being broke, to struggling to garner support, Rita Brent knows a thing or two about the trials of managing a startup company as a Black artist.
“Solely depending on your own income and not always knowing where your next gig is coming from is challenging,” she admitted.
The key, Brent clarified, is to do the work, be consistent and knock down closed doors. In the midst of those trying moments Brent believes that creativity is ignited.
“As black artists/black women, we all have the obvious barriers standing in our way, but I’m of the mindset to, firstly, expose those barriers (resist), and secondly, run over them when they’re in my way,” Brent expressed. “We will find a way out of no way. That’s my mindset – survive, of course, but trail-blaze always.”
A mindset that Brent derived from watching other Black women like her mother and Oprah knock down impossible barriers.
Brent’s mother, who raised two daughters alone, was the first Shero to demonstrate that challenges were meant to be accepted. “I watched her fight through an abusive marriage while working two jobs to support her girls, and I’m SURE she got weak, but she never showed it,” Brent recounted. “All we knew was mom was getting shit done and making it look easy.”
From afar, the plight of Oprah Winfrey’s past- molestation, racism, abandonment and sexism encouraged her to persevere. “People always criticize her for catering to all races during her climb, but I admire her for it. I love me some Oprah!! “You get a car and YOU get a car, bihhhh!” she joked.
But Brent said she knows that the load of a Black woman is never light. And while many Black women make it look easy, she admits that it is difficult trying to maintain spiritual, emotional and physical balance. Yet, those stories and her thirst for more are constant reminders that never allow her to quit. To other women trailing her path, Brent offers these words of encouragement:
“First, be kind to yourself…Remind yourself that you are worthy and that you are enough, even if you don’t always believe it. Say it until you internalize and live it. Secondly, know that EVERYTHING you need is already within you. You don’t have to meet some superficial worldly standards to be ‘somebody.’
Be YOURSELF. That’s what you need and that’s what the world needs from you -your story, your authenticity, your honesty, your perspective. Lastly, be grateful for everything, from the breath in your body, to the spots on your back, for the daddy who’s been absent, to the mother who’s been your anchor…PRESS THROUGH BOO!”
This is only the beginning
Brent is just getting started! Right now, she is in Africa touring with Singer Teneia for the American Music Abroad Tour. The star is also packing her bags to take a chance in the Big Apple (New York City). The move will be her first outside of Mississippi. To celebrate, she is planning a “Going Away Comedy Special this summer. The performance will be Brent’s goodbye to Jackson, Mississippi until she returns. “I am aiming high,” Brent exclaimed. “Hopefully, you’ll see me soon on late night TV as a participant or host.”
For Rita Brent writing jokes is more than just making people laugh, it’s about the ever challenge to observe the world for new material. It’s about digging deep within to present new stories that liberate others in their fears and pain. Brent describes herself as imperfect.
“I’m still flawed which allows me room to grow, she said. Being imperfect keeps me humble and sensitive to everything and everyone around me.”
But BWNC thinks that her imperfections make her amazingly perfect!