ARTICLE WRITTEN BY ZENERATIONS’ WRITING TEAM
At just sixteen, Naima Idrissi is a young actress, poet and singer, striving to get her name up on a marquee in shimmering lights. She attends High Tech High School as a drama major, and when she steps into the Black Box Theatre at her school, the feeling of future stardom is perfectly captured in her own words: “And I just knew that was something that I would like to spend the rest of my life doing — being on stage, or even in film, it was just amazing.”
It was in middle school that Naima’s natural inclination towards drama really kicked off. She took part in several school productions and musicals, and joined forensics, an acting group that contained different categories students could participate in. She found herself drawn to the oral interpretation category, which involved reciting poetry, and in that moment, she discovered her love for the art.
Naima’s acceptance into High Tech’s drama program opened up a world of opportunities to further her acting career. It was a place where she could be surrounded by people who felt just as strongly as she did about her interests and talents. She later took part in the school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an experience she describes as something that will forever shape her. Here, she took the first steps towards learning new techniques that were imperative to the process of becoming a better performer.
Her introduction to the school’s slam poetry group enabled her to truly blossom as a young poet. Until then, her experience with the art form included reciting poems and neglecting to find the creative outlet to write her own. When she joined Slam and began crafting her own poetry, Naima grew as a person and realized her main motivation for writing was to send powerful messages to her audience. Her passion for this is evident when she expresses, “We all struggle, you’re not in it alone. Pain is beauty, it’s just a matter of how you interpret it.”
Terrorist was the first poem she ever composed. She had proven herself to be a natural when she ascended upon the stage of Word Up, Slam Poetry’s open mic event. She instantly captivated the crowd with the first stanza, the crowd erupting in cheers of encouragement. Naima was a star, a poetry prodigy, an artist extraordinaire – and every person sitting in that audience knew it.
Naima’s second favorite poem, Train Station, emphasises how one cannot truly know a person just by sparing them a moment’s glance, how assumptions can’t be made of a person if you don’t really know them. It describes a painting of a train station and all the people in it; they all may appear to be happy, but there are so many things you may not expect about them. There is a certain degree of the duality of man that is presented: that couple is about to get engaged, while the man playing guitar is looking for spare change to feed his kids.
Her final poem, Trees, is one of her most personal, reflecting the financial struggle her family faced once upon a time. In the poem, money cuts down the trees that were planted as the foundation of her family. Her first recitation of the poem was so powerful that her father was nearly moved to tears.
Naima’s love of poetry and spoken word refused to be limited to High Tech’s slam club meetings. She attended a local open mic at a cafe in Jersey City, along with two other girls from the Slam group. It was her first open mic performance outside of school. There were so many talented people there, as the cafe began to fill up. They could play multiple instruments, wrote and read their own poetry, and were entirely unafraid to spread awareness and connect to others in the room.
Her encounter with competitive poetry came with her discovery of Sixth Borough Slam, her school’s competitive slam poetry group. The club attends competitions all over the state and sends its original six members to the world’s largest slam competition known as Brave New Voices. Admission into the group requires an audition featuring an original poem. Naima was the only freshman admitted, going on to watch her teammates perform at a competition known as LOUD and later performing at an open mic theater herself.
Poetry is not Naima’s only strong suit, however. Growing up, she attended opera voice lessons despite her environment’s constant comparison of her voice to the indie music genre. This notion has brought Naima to feel very connected to the up and coming singer Billie Eilish, seeing parts such as similar vocals and control in both herself and Eilish. Singing works as an anxiety reliever for her, finding solace and inspiration in the soothing voices of artists such as Jorja Smith.
Naima’s most recent project was a short film titled “Blue Iris”, directed by Zenerations’ official videographer, Samiksha Thakur. It was her first lead role on camera, and she truly embodied her character, Mila, merging actress and persona into one. Her self-doubts about her talents helped her resonate with Mila, an insecure teenager struggling to advance her art career. Nevertheless, Naima’s experience on “Blue Iris” helped her to attain a newfound sense of confidence and expertise. You can check out the short film on Naima’s professional acting page or on Samiksha’s page!
Naima also draws inspiration from her mixed heritage. She is a mix of French and Moroccan, identifying as a white Arab. She connects with both of these cultures well, describing French culture as “incredibly raw.” She loves the feeling of being there and the language itself, which led her to participating in a show during her time spent in France. It allowed her to meet and connect with people of all ages who shared her passion and culture. She regards her Morrocan culture and religion with the utmost respect and describes it as nothing less that beautiful. She spent a lot of time with her Moroccan cousins growing up, and loves every aspect of the culture, from the traditions to the holidays they celebrate.
Naima finds creativity in every corner of her life and expresses it in her acting, singing and poetry. In an age where many Gen Z kids are pushed away from the arts, but choose to pursue them anyway, she thinks it’s beautiful. She brings up the fact that the arts are often put on the backburner. It’s a topic that hits her close to home, after one of her major teachers was terminated from his position this school year. She finds it disappointing that so many schools choose to focus solely on STEM fields, when the arts are equally as important.
Acting. Singing. Poetry. Her idols and inspirations, the Slam and drama communities, forensics, French and Moroccan culture — each aspect of Naima’s life plays a principal role in the show of her life. The world is her stage, and soon, crowds will flock to watch Naima grace it with her powerful presence.