My name is Peyton Johnson! I am a BFA musical theatre major at Drake University and I am currently on top of the world. The jewel in my crown at the moment is my podcast and live radio show, both entitled The Tea with P, all about pop culture news, fashion and music. Something to take the edge off the real world when it gets scary. My guests are all new and interesting people to me and provide me with new prospective and encourage me every day to continue to connect with people. I am in a very new jazz band that I am writing new music for every day. I am also an RA on Drake’s campus which is my main way to service the community around me. Above all, and my favorite title I own, is an actor, more so performer. The stage is my home. When I feel lonely, I can go to the stage. When I am happy, I can show it on stage. When I need company, I can take it to the stage.
Tell Us About Your Work! What is your passion?
My passion lies in people. Engaging with people, smiling with people, helping people. Creating safe spaces for people to feel joy in. That’s where my passions lie. I live for a good smile. I live for a good story. I live for an even better song.
I am a new thriving and growing student of theatre so I feel shiny and new, but also not fully developed which can be fun as much as it is confusing. I am exploring constantly. I like to let my mood determine what my art may look like for the time being when I am writing or trying something original. I embody the text and work and do my best to give words life and meaning. I would describe my work as smart, upbeat and honest. I would describe myself as a hoot, a holler and a scream, in that order. I do my best to bring my best to the rehearsal room or any performance room I enter. My singing and speaking voice is confident and full. Singing has to be my favorite thing I do. It is the ultimate form of homage to performers I respect, when I do a cover and put a spin on it. You know I’m feeling something in my soul if I close my eyes when I sing. It’s extremely personal. If I had to describe my work at all it would be, “personal”.
What makes you magical and fabulous? Because you are!
What make me magical and fabulous? I think my smile is the most powerful weapon on my person. I have only recently realized it’s power. A special speaker in a class once said “when you enter a room, give people your joy.” There is a difference between happiness and joy and I give them JOY. It comes from the gift of life and realized purpose. I put God first in everything I do, which is my biggest “secret” I suppose. There is a gratitude that I try to give back to people for giving me their time and attention. As much as watching me perform may be considered a gift, performing for people is a humbling opportunity, and life is one big performance. Most importantly I am a big believer that “the most beautiful girls in the world live in Des Moines,” and I do my best to embody that everyday. My shaved head helps.
Why do you think the artistic community in Des Moines is so important?
I think Des Moines’s current art community is very important to support because I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of artists and I know first hand that the voices are out there! They are just as loud and as valid as anyone from anywhere else. People discredit Iowa because… middle of the Midwest and yes, the jokes are funny but there is a music scene begging to be noticed. There is an art scene begging to be noticed. A theatre scene on the rise. We cannot discredit art because of where it comes from. Des Moines is beautiful. Iowa has truly supported me and brought me in. I feel welcomed here.
What pushed you/motivated you to do what you are doing today?
My family and friends are my biggest motivators. They see me when I don’t see myself. They tell me to slow down, they tell me go faster. I am a developing, young performer and I have found that college is an incredibly vulnerable time. My two beautiful little sisters make me want to be accountable and be the best version of me. It’s easy to forget who you are and where you came from. You lose a lot of things along the way. Family and people who know me well keep me grounded and smack the doubt out of me when I need it most. I hail from Aurora, Illinois, classic suburbia, Wayne’s world. It was a confusing place for a black girl to grow up. A diverse place but not too diverse. I wasn’t white enough for the white kids and never black enough for the black kids. Getting out of that environment has been freeing but I have a new sense of self being in college on my own. Iowa has taught me to stand up for myself and claim my blackness. My family pushes me to keep going everyday when things get tough. I am a black woman and I am going to graduate from college. That is HUGE in and of itself. I’m not allowed to forget it.
Strong women inspire me. Lady Gaga has been a constant reminder in the news of where I could be and the product of hard work. She represents the beauty of self worth and perseverance. Her most recent documentary was extremely helpful and introspective. Also her music was the soundtrack for my middle school years. Funny women keep me sharp, reminding me that it’s okay to be loud or quiet. Both are possible. Very big shout out to Amy Poehler for making me believe being goofy was cool. I never play it cool. Nicole Byer, the most beautiful lady on earth, made me believe in the power of podcasting and my words. Lastly, women like Viola Davis and Renee Elise Goldsberry remind me that God’s grace is real and that my skin color means nothing as an actor. I am who I am, Peyton being Peyton. A very special thank you to my Mother for telling me the world is mine, because it is mine.
What do you think our community can work on/focus on/do better to support artists and create a safe space for artists?
The community can support me and my peers by reaching out to the art community for anything. It will surprise you how happy it makes artist and how willing we are to help if you need it. Charity work, birthday parties, planning events, you name it. Also make it a point to support Drake Theatre Arts. Even when you don’t know the play or musical that is being put on, if it has a theme you’re interested in, go. Say hello. Shake an actor’s hand. Encourage the next generations of actors because we are here and the future stops for no one. FIRST AND FOREMOST WHEREVER YOU ARE, SUPPORT LOCAL ART. Pay people for their service. Pay black artists.
Any events coming up?
My biggest goal for this year is to get my variety show up and running because I have too many friends that need to be showcased and I want to give them my platform. I want to do it because I can incorporate a lot of my mediums into one show, hence variety. I have a very specific idea for what I want to do and how it should look. This idea incorporates my business, technical and performance side. I want to do shows like what I’m planning for the rest of my life. You can expect to see the Peyton Johnson Variety Show in May. You can certainly expect a concert with me and my band sometime in a month of two. I also look forward to starting my fashion consulting services in Early March. 2019 is holding so many possibilities for me. I see nothing but potential and hope.
Where can we access or see your work right now?
You can listen to my podcast using a link on my Instagram! My Instagram is the best way to keep up with my events, as I could start a brand new project tomorrow. I like to keep people on their toes. You can also see all my modeling shots and outfits I get to put together for myself. I absolutely adore my photographer friends. I could not do the things I do as an artist without the help of other artists. I am very grateful.
Who else should be highlighted? Who should we lift up immediately? Give someone a shoutout!
Shout out to every woman of color supporting their families, making art, going to school or going to work. You are valued. Support the Girl Scouts of America because I am a proud product of that program and I am better for it. THANK YOU Molly Brandt for taking me under your wing, you are necessary in this world. Young girls are the entire future. Also thank you to Station 1 records, based in Des Moines. I owe my current artistic high to that one time one year ago.
Check out more at:
Peyton’s Instagram: @notoriouspey
Peyton’s Twitter: @notoriouspey