Aliyah had a mentor when she was in school and is now part of the Ambassador Community Steering Group, helping to develop the community so that it meets the needs of girls and young women. She is also a star in the making! In our latest Ambassador blog, Aliyah shares her journey into the arts and how she overcame shyness in order to reach for her dreams...

Just before Christmas last year, I performed at Rich Mix, an arts venue in East London.  

I have never performed a song (let alone an original song I wrote myself) in front of anyone. Growing up, I have always been shy to be in front of people. Then it all changed when I was 19; I realised that my dream did not lie in academia, but in the arts.  

I decided after reading a life-changing book (You Are A Badass), I needed to do everything I could to become the person I wanted to be - a triple threat skilled in acting, singing, and dancing.  Aliyah acting

Since 2019, I have joined prestigious organisations such as the National Youth Theatre and the National Youth Film Academy, and have made original pieces with both.  I performed on stage at NYT in December 2021 and made a short film screened at the Odeon Leicester Square in 2022.  

My show at NYT was called “Friends without Benefits”, in which I played the protagonist TASNIM. It was a piece completely devised by the Stepping Up participants and was based on debt.      

Aliyah acting in filmThe short film I made with NYFA last August is called “Human Error”; a film dealing with themes of humanity with an underlying message of what it means to be human.  

As for dancing, I constantly teach myself new K-pop and Bollywood covers that I upload onto my YouTube channel. This year, I aim to take some professional classes to reach that next level of dance performance.   

Singing was the only hurdle left.  

It took a lot for me to sign up and decide to put my vulnerability on stage in front of a crowd, including my immediate family. I don’t even allow them to hear me singing at home lest I become embarrassed!  

But I decided for the good of my career that I needed to do this.  

So over 12 weeks, I attended weekly classes at Cardboard Citizens and learned techniques for song-writing. Cardboard Citizens creates work with and for people who experience homelessness, inequity, or poverty.  The charity provides training in backstage theatre, writing, and music that explores and challenges the injustices prevalent in society.  Aliyah on stage at Rich Mix

Singing techniques were not taught, but we did learn how to warm up our voices (which was a game-changer for me!). We used Cheryl Porter’s YouTube video, which went through various exercises for vocal agility, placement, power, pitch, breathing, and pronunciation. For example, the phrase “Mi Me Ma Mo Mu” would be sung in gradual scales to open up our larynx and improve our breathing techniques.

It culminated in two original songs I wrote and performed in front of a small crowd of around 50 people. It felt amazing to share my work and passion for singing with people, even though I know there’s a lot of work to be done before I can call myself a singer.  

Nevertheless, I am very proud of my achievement and the lyrics I wrote.  

Well done to Aliyah, what incredible experiences. It just shows what's possible when you put those doubts aside and push yourself out of your comfort zone. We can't wait to see what Aliyah does next!