Joann Roberts, also known as “Jo” or by her stage name, Paradigm, is a poet, musician, and producer. Her focus is the promotion of reflection, growth, healing, and awareness through art. She is known for her laid back, mellow stage presence that is complimented by powerful words. She currently resides in Southern California where she offers art therapy programs that are dedicated to the advancement of at-promise youth.

I got a chance to interview her recently, and this is what she said.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? What inspired it?

A: I wrote my first poem when I was 13 and in the 8th grade. It was in response to having my heart broken by my girl-crush at the time. We had some dealings in your typical “junior high drama” and had a big fallout as a result of rumors. It hurt most to lose her friendship, so the poem was more about that (she had no idea about my true feelings for her). I had been printing out lyrics of particular songs I liked and changing the words around to say what I wanted to, and in my own style. I did this in the poem that I dedicated to her. This is how my first few poems were written, until I found my own niche. She appreciated it and we eventually became cool again, once my feelings subsided and a few years had passed.

Q: Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

A: I believe many artists will agree when I say stage fright never goes away. From large crowds to small rooms, and audiences full of people I know versus a crowd of strangers, I still struggle with, and have therefore learned to embrace, stage fright. It humbles me, motivates me to give my all, and keeps me on my toes. With that said, I tend to starve myself before I perform. I imagine one should eat before they go on stage in order to have energy, but with me, it’s the opposite. Sometimes, my nerves are so tense from stage jitters that my stomach will be in knots up until my performance. So, instead of eating before a show, I just try to stay hydrated. I will not have an appetite until after, when I am more relaxed. At this point, I tend to stuff my face in celebration of a good show.

(Poem starts at 1:42)

Q: Do you prefer poetry to other forms of artistic expression? If so, why?

A:  I do. I am an MC as well as a Poet in terms of writing. I see many forms of art as a painter having a blank canvas and the freedom to paint whatever they want– in a way only they can– because it is their own unique style. This applies to my poetry and rapping, because to me, the blank piece of paper or the beat is the canvas. I simply apply layers to a foundation that is already there, with my own unique style of “painting”. Different styles and techniques can come forth from how different beats, moods, and topics inspire me. I love the freedom in that and all it brings out of me in regard to my comfort zone and creative reach.

Q: How do you meet women? Are you the type of person who makes the first move?

A: I tend to meet women at poetry and music events that I attend or perform at. I am not big on going out otherwise, but when I do (once every 100 years) I may meet someone at a gay bar or club. I have met women online via social media or on airplanes. It really just depends. I don’t have a particular way I prefer to meet women. I just pay attention amidst my daily endeavors. They’re everywhere.

If being flirtatious is making the first move, then I suppose that applies. I have become very shy when it comes to that, though. Sometimes, I will glance and make eye contact with a woman from across the room, multiple times until she smiles and gives me a welcoming gesture to approach her, or until she just approaches me. Aside from that, I flirt and ask general questions to be sure she isn’t seeing someone and to be sure I have a chance to get her number. I mostly just compliment women and leave them alone out of fear of rejection lol…or just because I’d rather observe them be beautiful from a distance than get to know them as a potential lover. I’m sappy like that.

Q: At what age did you have your first kiss. What led up to it?

A: My first kiss was also my first love and my first girlfriend. I was 15 and a sophomore in high school– she,16 and a junior. Long story short, after many flirtatious moves and blushful “walk-by’s” in the hallway, we began writing each other love letters. Before I knew it, we ended up at my parent’s house after school while they were still at work. That is when I leaned in for it. The rest is history.

 Q: What do you do for fun?

A: I love the outdoors. Nature inspires my writing and creativity. I like going hiking alone or with friends. I enjoy camping and stargazing in the desert or in the mountains. I love road trips and buying plane tickets to places I’ve never been as well as places I already like. I love to perform and entertain the masses any and everywhere I can. I enjoy bowling and playing pool at times, but I am not an expert at either. Small “get-togethers” with friends to have a meal and hang out are among things I find fun to do, as well. However, just going to see a movie or watching Netflix at home is good enough for me sometimes.

Q: What do you want the most right now?

A: Well, if no one has a few million dollars to send my way, another thing I want most right now is to love myself better, so that I may give and receive love better, from others. I am working on it.

Paradigm  wrote an original poem for a film I directed last year (available to watch here).

Be sure to check out her music and poetry on Bandcamp, and go to her website for a list of upcoming performances. She is also on Soundcloud and Instagram.