Camille Young fell in love with singing and performing when she was just eight years old — and even then, she was really good. Young and I grew up attending the same public schools — I was a grade below her — and I have never forgotten the first time I heard her sing in elementary school. (Neither has my mom, who brings the performance up to this day.)
With the support and encouragement of her peers, teachers, and family, Young went on to earn a BA in theater, and later decided to pay it forward by becoming an arts educator. And she does not take her job as an educator lightly. “The kids I work with always make fun of me for making huge deals of everything that they do, but it’s important to celebrate themselves and I would tell them that,” she explains. In fact, celebration is core to Young’s work — and not only as an educator.
In addition to teaching art in Philadelphia, Delaware, and New Jersey, Young is a co-host of the podcast Does it Hold Up? from Textured Heir, a website and collective of Black women making content by and for other Black women. Their website reads: “Celebrating Black Girl Culture Past, Present, and Future,” and “This is Textured Heir, for the metamorphosis of Black women.”
Two months ago, Young launched a whimsical pop culture newsletter called Currently Camille, an evolution of what began as a YouTube series. The newsletter is wide-ranging; it includes album reviews, TV watchlists, jokes, extremely honest anecdotes and screenshots of snapchat selfies or text conversations with friends. Currently Camille is as earnest and charismatic as Young herself.
Morgan Nitz: What are your earliest memories of performing?
Camille Young: There’s a story about me having several solos in the third grade show and my mother being genuinely nervous for me, and then realizing during the concert that I was actually quite good. She cried, and it was a whole thing. It was then that I realized it was fun to be good at things and a fire lit inside me! That feeling of accomplishment mixed with supportive family and teachers kept it burning all the way through college.
What does it feel like to perform for a crowd? What do you get out of that experience? Why do you think performance is important?
Performing for a crowd feels kind of like being at a boat party (a party on a boat). It’s exciting and exhilarating, but you feel a little sick the whole time. The audience is the unpredictable, sometimes calm, sometimes incredibly choppy seas, and you are a guest at the party, the captain, and the sails of the boat. The whole time you’re going back and forth between, This feels dangerous and, Wow I’m on a boat having the time of my life! I say all that to say that it feels wild and wonderful.
It’s such a human thing for us all to want to perform for each other. It’s one of our most ancient forms of connection. Whether it be on a stage in front of a huge audience or telling roommates a story about how your day went or uploading a TikTok. It’s all about connection — and I think humans really need that.
Is there a role that you’ve played that you think embodies your personality or experience in some way?
Honestly no, and it’s definitely because I’ve performed a lot of work written and directed by White people. I’ve read plenty of work created by Black artists, and I’ve definitely felt represented in that work. I can say the same about roles written by amateur or student playwrights!
You co-host a podcast called Does It Hold Up?, the focus of which is Black cult films, albums, TV shows, and more. Can you tell me more about the show, how you got involved, and why?
DIHU is one of two podcasts produced by Textured Heir, a collective born out of the desire to create a digital space for and by Black women. For each episode we review and dissect a piece of Black media in our attempt to decide whether or not we think it “holds up.”
Me and my co-host Mariah grew up with a lot of these movies, TV shows, albums, etc., but our third cohost and coder extraordinaire Lyndan is a first-generation Kenyan-American who didn’t have much exposure to a lot of the things we cover. That dynamic is kind of what shaped the concept of the show. Recording with Mariah and Lyndan is some of the most fun I’ve ever had! New episodes drop on Fridays this summer and are available wherever you get your pods!
What is your favorite episode of Does It Hold Up? What was it like to record it? Why is it special to you?
For a while I would say that our Dreamgirls episode entitled “Love and Hip-Hop Mowtown” was my favorite, because it sparked such great discussion, and the title is just a work of art in my opinion! I also think it’s a treat when we watch something I haven’t seen before, like our episode on Candyman (1992), “The Audacity of White Women.” I can’t stress enough how genuinely fun it is to record these episodes! Getting to do so with my co-hosts feels like a dream every time.
Does It Hold Up? is a part of the media platform Textured Heir, which is founded by, and makes content for, Black women. What does Textured Heir mean to you, your team, and your audience?
Textured Heir is the brainchild of our founder Mariah Woods. Black women are not safe in a lot of online spaces, and we wanted to create spaces on our blog, Instagram, Twitter, etc. that felt safe, welcoming and celebratory of Black femmes.
Personally, Textured Heir means the beginning of me coming into my own as a creator. I’ve been able to try so many things that I’ve always wanted to do but was too scared to even start. I will always be grateful to Mariah for thinking of me when she was forming this team.
Tell me about your YouTube series-turned newsletter, Currently Camille. What I love the most about it is how strongly it’s written in your voice, the inclusion of so many pop culture references, and screenshots of Snapchats and conversations with friends. How do you decide what makes the final cut?
Ha! Currently Camille is definitely one of those things that I’ve wanted to do but was too scared to try. When I finally decided to create the Youtube series, it was fun, but it was a lot of work. The episodes were so long. Watching myself for hours during the editing process was giving me first, second, and third-hand embarrassment, and a deeper appreciation for how no one is allowed to record anything at the theater. Haha!
I’m proud of those episodes, but turning it into a newsletter has felt a lot more authentic to who I am. I’ve always loved writing, and delight in playing with words and phrases. And when it comes to pop culture and the structure of the newsletter, my brain is just always naturally doing that. A majority of what makes the cut is word-for-word what I was thinking in the moment when I was consuming something.
It’s definitely brought a lot of fun back into consuming media for me because I have to pay attention and put down my phone and rewind when I miss something. It really all lives in my notes app, until an early Sunday or Saturday morning where I’m looking to start my day in the most fun way I can think of.
You’re an educator. Tell me what that means to you. What do you wish educators and educational institutions prioritized more? If there’s one thing you hope to impart on the students you work with, what would that be?
Teaching has been a gift to me in more ways than one. I am a more patient, empathetic and creative person because I get the opportunity to work with kids. I was incredibly blessed in the teacher department, especially when it came to my arts education, so I take the responsibility super seriously.
I think that we unfortunately live in a culture that just does not prioritize children, their needs, and their growth and development. Institutions and educators need to prioritize listening to children and treating them as valid members of society. The kids I work with always make fun of me for making huge deals of everything that they do, but it’s important to celebrate themselves and I would tell them that.
What is your relationship to Philly? Favorite neighborhood?
My parents grew up in Philly and then moved to Upper Darby, where I grew up. I could see the Comcast building and the rest of the skyline from my bedroom, so Philly just has always felt like home. This is a very communal city and I am a social gal who loves running into friends — and finding out a new friend somehow knows an old friend. I love making those little connections and they seem to happen weekly here. There are so many delicious pockets of the city, but I can and have spent the entire day picnicking on Kelly Drive — it is definitely a part of my perfect Philly day.
Fashion, art, and pop culture are important to you. How does Philly and its many creative icons impact your perspective of the arts and influence your own outward creative expression?
Sometimes I take for granted how inspiring this city is and then I visit another city and I’m noticing how everyone is dressed in the unofficial city uniform. The sundress, Keds/Vans, and denim jacket culture is alive and well in Boston and it just makes you appreciate how you can see so many different versions of beauty walking around Philadelphia.
My fascination with those things are all just a part of a general fascination with people — and this city has so many people. All of these people walking around flaunting their own idea of beauty rather than trying to blend in with each other, it just inspires you and makes you feel safe to do the same.
Favorite place or way to spend a free day in Philly?
Kelly Drive obvi, but Attic Brewing Co. in Germantown is a close second.
This story is part of a partnership between The Philadelphia Citizen and Forman Arts Initiative to highlight creatives in every neighborhood in Philadelphia. It will run on both The Citizen and FAI’s websites. Morgan Nitz (she/they) is a queer interdisciplinary artist and writer in Philly, and the operations & development editor of Philly Artblog. Their work has been shown at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Vox Populi, Pilot Projects, and other venues; they completed a residency at Jasper Studios; and were the co-inaugural curator of Straw, Tyler School of Art’s AV-closet-turned-Alumni-gallery. Follow them at morgannitz.com | @son_of_m.a.n
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