Artistically Yours, Lena Ingram

Photos by Stuart Locklear

A version of this story was published on PrideIndex on February 22, 2012. With the recent success of the Barbie Movie and after catching up with Lena Ingram after all these years, we thought it would be befitting to bring this wonderful gem back to our readers. Visit and enjoy the films all over.

Lena Ingram’s ultimate goal is to touch people through her art. Ingram is equally beautiful as she is talented; her creative spirit encompasses several mediums from hair, make-up, and styling, to singing, filmmaking and graphic design. In 2011 she co-founded A Miniseries Production, a small production company she created with her friend Stuart Locklear. The venture has created several dramas such “La Fontaine,” which uses 1/6 scale and 12-inch dolls as actors. Ingram recently talked with PrideIndex via email about the self-liberating experience of coming out, what drives her as an artist and future plans.

PRIDEINDEX: Tell us about your background.

LENA INGRAM: I was born in Eugene, OR in 1971 and raised in Oakland, CA. Since I was about 3 ½ years old, I have always known that I have been driven by my imagination, producing and creating in many mediums.  I was not always so fearless and as a matter fact, I was extremely shy as a child.  When you are raised with two older macho brothers, you learn pretty fast that you are different.  It made for a challenging childhood, but fortunately we have a great relationship as adults.  My single mother, Nancy Collins, raised my brothers and I with very little means as a single mother, so she realized that she had to be very creative.  I think I was heavily influenced by her making dolls, our clothes, inventing recipes etc.  I already knew who I was at about age 5 and it wasn’t until much later that I would be brave enough to be my true self. At 20, I felt much more freedom to express myself creatively and outwardly. 

PI: How you became interested in the arts?

LI: When I was in high school, I discovered drafting and was so obsessed with it that I ended up going to U.C. Berkeley for a short stint to study architecture but ended up in dramatic arts.  I suppose it really came into light when I was about 20 years old and started getting hired to do hair and make-up for photo shoots and films.  It was something that came naturally, and I loved it.

PI: You did some modeling while you were in your 20’s, would you ever consider returning to modeling for the right price?

LI: Then, I suppose I felt somewhat objectified because I was so young and wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, but I would be very flattered now if I were asked.


LI: It is a small film production company I created with one of my really good friends and amazing photographers, Stuart Locklear that uses 1/6 scale, 12-inch dolls as actors.  “No small parts, just small actors.”

PI: Where did you find the inspiration for it?

LI: As a child, I had a very vivid imagination and was constantly creating stories using Barbies and G.I. Joes in very soap opera type situations with little homemade sets.   Two years ago, my friend Stuart gave me a naked African American Ken and Barbie for my birthday.  Well after months of staring at me from my book shelf, I decided to give them clothes, then two friends and suddenly I was writing 6 episodes for “La Fontaine.

PI: “La Fontaine” was shown at Nashville’s Black Gay Pride last fall and recently at Bench & Bar in Oakland how did audience respond to it?

LI: People’s immediate reaction is giggling, because I think most of us played with dolls or wanted to when we were younger.  Then something changes.  I’ve been told that after a few minutes of dialogue, our little actor’s expressions begin to change, and they begin to become real.

PI: Where do you have plans to show it next?

LI: Fortunately, the Oakland screening went so well, we will continue to screen each new episode at The Bench & Bar.  Festivals have contacted me requesting to screen episodes that haven’t even been filmed yet, so I guess that’s good.

PI: Have you considered entering it in any film festivals?

LI: Yes, I definitely want the films to screen at festivals.  I have been so busy trying to finish new episodes that I don’t have a lot of time to submit, but it’s been going amazingly well without submitting.

PI: How long does it take you to make each episode?

LI: Well, all of the voices are prerecorded, and it takes about two days to shoot.  With my schedule, working on other projects, the final finished edit is probably about six weeks from front to back.

PI: Talk about your short films “Undercover” and “Almost Human.”

LI:Undercover Cross” is my first film endeavor and documentary I made with my very good friend and amazing New York artist, Cesar Winston Vera exploring the challenges people living with HIV and AIDS face from day to day.  We are very proud of it, and it just screened last year for Cinemarosa at The Queens Museum of Art in New York.  “Almost Human” is a short film I wrote, directed and produced somewhat self-inspired exploring fears of being open to love with my own witty twists and turns especially because the lead actor is an African American Mannequin.

PI: What are you working on right now?

LI: I am in the process of completing 8 paintings inspired for the play “Hamlet” at City Lights Theater Company of San Jose, “La Fontaine: Episode 3 Hello Mama” and doing some preproduction for a couple of colleague’s film projects.

PI: Name at least 3 people who have most influenced your artistic style.

LI: Carol Burnett, Benny Hill, E.E. Cummings and Toni Morrison.  I am inspired by stories and the way they are told, humor being the backbone. I have been obsessed with movies and films for as long as I can remember.  I especially love a dark comedy because it allows us to express the pain and comedic moments that can come with tragedy.

PI: What’s your ultimate goal?

LI: It might sound a little corny, but happiness is my continued goal, so I do what makes me happy and that is continuing to allow my creative spirits to evolve.  I am very fortunate to have been able to be a full-time artist for the past 15 years.  If I can continue to touch people with what I create, there is my success and my ultimate goal.

PI:  Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

LI: By the time I was 25, I knew I had to take a chance and follow my dream and really start creating on a full-time basis which was absolutely terrifying.  I discovered a note a few years ago that my first-grade teacher wrote to my mother really encouraging her to try to develop my natural creativity, possibly by putting me into a special creative program because apparently, I excelled in class in first grade art.  I cried when I read it because it confirmed that I had found the right path.

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