Photo by Alex Harper
You know those people who just get it? Kanya Iwana is one of those people. I met Kanya in college and knew immediately this woman was destined for greatness. She wrote song cycles, belted out tunes from Miss Saigon, and sat on our bathroom floor in North Hollywood while I cut her hair (unevenly-whoops) quoting The Office and poking fun at my bangs & Ryan Gosling obsession. Watching her overcome literally some of the craziest things possibly thrown at a young woman has been such a treat, and I’m so proud of where this amazing young creative has taken herself.
My name is Kanya Iwana
I am a creative artist and storyteller. Fancy title, yeah. I had to work on that. The medium in which I tell stories chooses me depending on the season, but lately I’ve been inspired to do so through visuals (still photography and film), writing, and music. But above all, I am a mother.
Before you read this, I should warn you: if you’re not into transparency, a dark sense of humor, or opinionated women — read something else. Also, maybe reevaluate your life.
For those of you who know me well, you know that I have lived 6 lives. For those who don’t, I’ll break this down for you. I was born and raised all through high school in Jakarta, Indonesia. When I was 16 I wrote a strategic proposal to my mom to quit high school in 11th grade and move to the United States by myself to complete my senior year in Washington State. Then I had my whole life there before I moved to Los Angeles a year later to pursue my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theatre.
Upon graduating I married my best friend, got divorced 6 months later, met my soulmate shortly after, and now we are raising a 9 month old daughter. What a life.
I share all of that to let you know that whilst all of those occurrences happened in my personal life (which seemed like it totally took over my spirit) I was still able to follow my dreams. Slowly but surely, I am building my empire.
So hopefully now you realize where I’m getting at: There are no f—king excuses.
I’m not going to give you an entire resume, because my jobs are merely bonuses — feel free to check it out here if you’re interested! I want to utilize this platform I had the honor to use to share with you the challenges that I’ve barely overcome and how I’m still breathing.
Nothing in my life suggests consistency — between random acting audition appointments, the hustle of seeking photography and directing clients, and being a young immigrant mom in a Trump era, I don’t know what comfort even means. I wake up every morning with my baby clawing my face, eager to check my e-mail to see if any of these fashion brands have showed interest in the 5-page proposals I sent them a week ago. I have spent my afternoons chasing potential clients while literally chasing my daughter as she digs through the bathroom trash bin. By 3pm I’m exhausted. Sometimes I’ll get an e-mail from my agents saying I have a 5-page audition material to memorize for a network episodic. The words LEAD / SERIES REGULAR only give me an anxiety attack these days. Then, in small nap-time pockets, I’d memorize those lines. And honestly, that constitutes as an easy day.
It’s that classic “How Does She Do It?” type of situation. The answer to that — I have to survive. I read a book called Overcoming Underearning, and one thing stuck out to me: (butchering this) wanting to make more money or be rich isn’t being selfish. When you’re happy in your complacency, you’re actually being selfish, because you’re only looking out for yourself. I have a f—king daughter; I don’t have time to be complacent.
Before we decided to have her, I had already had this dream that I want to repay my mom for everything she’d done for me and take care of her so she doesn’t have to work anymore. I can’t achieve that with financial mediocrity. I have to make the big bucks, and I want to make it doing what I love, and I will work smartly to get that. It takes patience, perseverance, and an excellent understanding of self, and those things aren’t handed to you on a silver platter. You have to fall on your face, eat sh*t, get the f*ck up, and be ready to repeat.
Live fearlessly, folks. We don’t have time to do otherwise.
Courtesy of Sabrina Claudio / Atlantic Records
With that being said, I honestly feel like I was meant to thrive in uncertainty. My best friend told me that I was a cactus, as I could grow in dry desert. I think I’m more like a succulent plant, I was meant to grow in the desert that rains. You. Just. Have. To. Figure. It. The. F—k. Out.
I don’t have a formula to how I’m able to make things work, but if I were to write for some of you article-skimmers-who-look-for-bulletpoints, here are some tips for you:
1. Surround yourself with great, genuine people.
This is number f—king one. Don’t get caught in toxic bullsh*t. Know your worth, and if someone doesn’t feel the same, move on.
2. Every second counts.
You never know how much time you have left on this earth so make sure you’re utilizing your time well. Value time more than money. You will never get time back.
3. Work smart.
Be strategic. Ask questions. Be curious. Don’t knock on the same doors 20 times and not even reflect on what could have been done differently. Don’t be an insane person. Don’t fall too quick into murky routines.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail or be rejected.
This is going to happen one way or another, and some people will leave you out dry. That’s okay. Out of 100 things you do, 1 will stick, and it will be worth it. Keep going. Don’t be your own enemy — you’re just wasting your time.
5. Get to know who the f—k you are.
And love yourself unconditionally. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and run with it. Don’t compare yourself to others in a non-educative, vain way, because again, you’re wasting your time.
Photo by Alex Harper
6. Things take time, but don’t sit on your ass.
Just don’t be lazy. When things are slow, learn.
7. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
(Something that my old music mentor, Nick Petrillo, said back in 2013).
This is pretty simple. Be cautious and attack.
8. Take control of things you can control.
(Advice my partner have always said).
This can be in your health, wellness, fitness, work ethic, synergy, paying your taxes, getting paperwork together, etc. This does not include people’s opinions towards you.
I believe that we women are all strong like that. We just need a huge kick in the ass — in my case, it’s my little Milo.
But you can do it. I believe in you.
We’re not meant to live on this earth to be waste.
Kanya Iwana is an Indonesian multidisciplinary creative and storyteller. She is the creative director and photographer behind Sabrina Claudio’s “About Time” album cover, Ashton Sander’s (Moonlight) House of Aama AW 2017 fashion film, and the Girlgaze x Warby Parker collaboration.
Her work has been published in Vogue, i-D, W Magazine, Billboard, and many more.