10 quick questions, 5 professional and 5 random, with people you should know.
Royal Young is the author of FAME SHARK, which The Village Voice dubbed a “cult classic.” His writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York Observer, New York Post and Interview Magazine among others. Young’s solo show of pop art paintings LUSH DOOM debuted at Figureworks Gallery in Williamsburg in September 2015 to critical acclaim.
Q. Best advice, personal or professional, you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to have your career?
RY. Best advice I’ve ever gotten personally was when I was in a dark place and complaining about everything going wrong in my life. A writing mentor asked simply, “Well why don’t you make a change?” And I immediately started up with excuses. “It sounds like you’re not ready for success,” she replied. I was furious at the time, but she was right. You have to be ready mentally and emotionally for success and also understand that it takes time and a lot of hard work. We increasingly live in a society where overnight fame and instant gratification are things everyone expects. I think it’s so important to step back from that, learn patience, grow a little wiser, let go a little.
Q. Why this? You could have done anything, what pulled you to this profession/industry?
RY. I never felt like I had a choice. With writing and art, it was always an unavoidable part of me. I don’t believe in backup plans. I think if you have a passion you have to chase it forever and always work hard. If you ignore it, it’s like a weight you always carry around.
Q. Describe the moment when you first felt validated for your work? The first piece of hate mail I ever got for the first personal essay I had published in a newspaper. That my words could elicit such a strong reaction.
RY. The first piece of hate mail I ever got for the first personal essay I had published in a newspaper. That my words could elicit such a strong reaction.
Q. Last thing you took a photo of?
RY. The low tide off the coast of Panama City, with craggy rocks and sunset reflecting in pools of salt water. Knowing the water was so low because of draught gave it a sort of brutal, sad beauty.
Q. Last piece of art (physical, image, architecture, music…anything) that moved you. What was it? Your reaction? Were you surprised?
RY. My younger brother Fury Young is working on a musical concept album called “Die Jim Crow” about the racist prison system in America recorded entirely with formerly and currently incarcerated African American musicians. He recently sent me a rough cut of a track on it and it moved me to tears. The talent, passion of tenacity of these people who have been treated so unjustly is an undeniable force. When Art combines with hope it is extremely powerful. And all Art to me on some level is a search for freedom.
Q. What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime/career? How do you think or want other people to feel about you/it?
RY. From writing and journalism, I went to painting and had my first solo gallery show LUSH DOOM. I want to keep exploring other mediums of art and performance. I just want to keep creating and pushing boundaries, wherever that takes me until I die. I don’t think too much about how other people feel about me. I guess I’d like to give a voice to anyone who’s ever felt lonely. To connect desperate, lost people and make them feel less alone.
Q. Most irrational fear?
RY. Large natural bodies of water and rats.
Q. Has social media helped or hurt our society?
RY. Being mostly off the grid the past few months in the Panama countryside, I definitely tend to think social media is bad. Most of the time it makes me anxious and sad. I think it’s made us all into performers in many ways. We are posting about our lives instead of living them. That said, there’s certainly a lot of good that can come from it. It all depends on how you use it–or don’t use it.
Q. When did you first consider yourself an adult?
RY. I still don’t most of the time.
Q. Favorite City/Place in the world?
RY. Right now I’ve been living in and exploring Panama for a few months. Growing up and spending most of my life in downtown Manhattan, I am now over my fascination with cities and find myself drawn more to the countryside. My friend has gorgeous land in Pedasi, which is a small coastal town in Panama. Vampire bats, singing iguanas and lush tropical foliage fill the night. There’s a sort of magic and peace to me in nature that I no longer feel in the constant hustle of cities. But New York will always have a piece of me.