Diana Etienne is a versatile creator cultivating self-love and community through her art. Based in Orlando, FL, Diana’s creativity knows no bounds, as she practices a variety of artistic forms, from digital collages to spoken word poetry and photography. “I used to think that being a creator meant you had to focus on one form of art but once I realized I could have my hands in a wide variety of things, I began dabbling into whatever I took interest in.” As an advocate for her local community, Diana’s main goal is to express herself in a manner that also benefits the people around her. Whether it’s resonating emotionally via her creativity or being a beacon of wisdom by sharing her life experiences, her work speaks to the importance of being true to oneself and aligning with one’s core values.
Diana has a rich artistic background and has been creating since high school, where she was poetry club president. In 2019, Dianne created a short film called “Brilho do sol” surrounding the theme of self-love which had a big impact on her surrounding community of young women, serving as a catalyst to keep creating. Additionally, she has created about three collage series and has done photo shoots for over 10 years, even while dealing with complications from her Lupus diagnosis in 2013.
A talented and dedicated artist who is constantly pushing herself to create and grow, Diana describes her work as “graceful, divine, and cultural” and she is always looking for new ways to inspire and be inspired. In this interview, we talk to Diana about the artistic process for her various projects, a new creative lane she plans to explore, and how sobriety has had an effect on her art.
In 2013, you were diagnosed with Lupus. If you don’t mind sharing, how has living with this condition affected your personal life and life as an artist?
DE: It honestly gets hard balancing the two because when I’m having a lupus flare, it can get so bad to the point that I don’t feel like doing anything at all. So the only energy I have is to just look at creative content online or watch movies/videos that are inspiring and just jot down any ideas that come from that. Then, once I feel better, I create as much as I can each day. I have more good days than bad but revisiting my past work also helps keep me uplifted enough to know lupus doesn’t stop me from being an artist. I always pick up where I left off.
If you had to generalize, where do you find most of your inspiration for the projects you work on?
DE: It honestly just depends on the art form itself. For photography, I can be inspired by a beautiful person I see and how I imagine their essence could be captured. I can watch a movie and be inspired to do a shoot based on a scene. My poetry is inspired from my emotions and what I go through. It’s my story.
Diana’s artistic process is a combination of inspiration and hard work. For her poetry, she frequents open mics and slams to gain inspiration from other poets. She finds inspiration in the words of others and the way they express their emotions and thoughts. This helps her to understand the different perspectives of the world and how it can be conveyed through poetry. It also helps her to understand how to connect with her audience and convey her message in a way that resonates with them.
For her collages and photography, she turns to social media for inspiration, where she follows a lot of black artists. She also finds inspiration in traveling and visiting art museums. By visiting museums, she is able to see the works of some of the most renowned artists in history and gain a deeper understanding of the different art forms and techniques. This helps her to develop her own style and technique and to create something that is truly unique. “I notice the more I expose myself to new places and travel, the more I’m inspired to create something new.”
Currently, Diana is working on a new digital collage series, cultivating her own podcast, and journaling almost daily, with the hope of creating a new poetry piece within the year. The digital collage series is an exciting new project for her as it allows her to combine her love of photography and collages and to create something that is truly unique. Her podcast is also a new venture for her and she is excited about the opportunity to reach a wider audience and to share her art and message with more people.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the digital collage series you’re working on? Are there any themes to the series? What’s your process for a collage?
DE: For this new series, I want to continue saturating in black culture, stories and history and making it a huge part of my work. Everything is still in its beginning stages since I’ve been focusing on just collecting mixed media like vintage magazines and saving classic portraits online or landscape photos from across the globe. I just love being able to use my hands and the process of tearing construction paper, fabrics, flowers, images and putting different types of material together feels therapeutic and reminds me of kintsugi, a type of Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — which essentially is a metaphor for embracing your flaws and imperfections.
I’m excited to hear from your podcast when you debut it! Could you explain what direction you are taking with the podcast? What kind of content can people expect to hear?
DE: Well, I take inspiration from podcasts like “Oprah Super Soul Sunday ” and “The Friend Zone” and “Black Girl Boss”. These podcasts are centered around wellness and inspiration, which is what I want to offer to the community around me. The episodes would be about 30 minutes long, featuring other creators who are in the community and their life experiences.
Aside from creating her own podcast, another one of Diana’s goals is to “dive more into the community”. She wants to collaborate with other artists and create new and exciting projects that will inspire and engage others. Diana is also dedicated to her education, and is currently working towards her bachelor’s degree in art education. She plans to use her knowledge and experience to teach others how to express themselves through art, and to help them find their own unique artistic voice.
You’ve been community oriented since high school; creating clubs for your peers to be a part of, it’s apparent you have a love for people. Do you feel like this influenced your decision to go to school or art education?
DE: Heavily. It’s a mixture of my love for community + connection and creating. Going into this field allows an endless flow of inspiration.
After reading your poem “Linger”, I felt the need to share it with women I know so that they could hear your perspective. What message did you want to convey through this poem?
DE: This poem was created to remind women of their self-worth within romantic encounters. Oftentimes within relationships, women carry the weight of effort. We feel defective when our love interests are no longer interested, or we are hard to love. It’s a reminder that being alone isn’t a bad thing, which was my favorite portion of the poem. I want women to know that it is okay to be alone. That before we can be properly loved, we have to be able to advocate for ourselves and love ourselves enough to know what we deserve and not feel “abandoned” when we are denied compromise.
For Diana, success as an artist means “spiritual progress and the freedom to create from a place of truth”. In 2023, Diana looks forward to becoming more aligned with her core values, more self-love, more community, more art projects, travels, and more joy. She also plans to carry her sobriety journey throughout the year as she celebrates 1 year sober in March. She wants to use her sobriety as an opportunity to focus on her mental and emotional well-being, and to create art that reflects this growth and progress.
Congratulations on your year of sobriety! How has your decision to be sober impacted your mental health and creativity? What are some of the differences you’ve seen in your art since becoming sober?
DE: It has honestly given me so much focus and time to invest in not only myself but the things I love to do. My sobriety has become my own spiritual monument because it keeps my mind so clear about my purpose. I’ve been able to spend more time towards photo shoots, writing and performing my poetry. I’m also getting involved with more art therapy so doing things with my hands; whether that be candle making or creating paper collages.
Becoming more aligned with your core values and having more self-love are some of your personal goals for 2023. How do you plan on achieving those goals? What does self-love look like for you?
DE: Devoting more time to areas that need healing and spending time with myself. Also setting my own boundaries when it comes to overextending myself. I’ve lived my entire life people-pleasing and not dedicating the same time to me, so my self-love is pouring more into my needs before anyone else’s.
Traveling is also on your agenda this year – do you know where you’d like to go yet? What countries have you been to so far? Have they had an impact on the type of art you create?
DE: So far this year, I’ve booked a trip to Mexico and a cruise that goes to the Cayman Islands. Devoting more time to myself has allowed me to travel more than I have in the past. Outside of the US, I’ve only been to Aruba & Jamaica. Within the US, I’ve done solo trips to places like Seattle and Portland. There are so many places I still want to go like Bali, Maldives, Cape Town, Morocco and France. I always have my camera with me when I travel and it influences me to photograph more portraits of people, if anything.
As an overall creator, who is someone that has inspired you to keep creating?
DE: There are so many people that inspire me on the daily but discovering Donald Glover was pivotal during my creative journey. He is such a versatile artist that it is incredible in everything he is involved in whether it’s music, creating films or acting. So I want to be like that. I don’t want to be confined to one form of self expression. No one should.
"I don't want to be confined to one form of self expression. No one should."
Diana has faced several challenges in her artistic journey, including being diagnosed with lupus. Despite her health challenges, Diana has been determined to keep creating and pushing herself as an artist. She has found that her art is not only a way to express herself, but also a way to connect with others and share her experiences and emotions.
Diana’s art is a reflection of her journey, her struggles, and her triumphs. It is a celebration of the human experience and the beauty of individuality. Diana wants to continue to create various forms of art that inspires and empower others to embrace their own unique beauty. She uses her art as a tool for self-expression and self-discovery and encourages others to do the same. As time goes on, she continues to grow as an artist and make a positive impact on the world through her art.
written by jayda crawford & adriahnna curry