Alanna Underwood

Alanna Underwood

A Brooklyn-native, Alanna finds inspiration all around her. As a musician, activist, student, and performer, she’s dedicated her art and her life to inspiring, affirming and empowering messages of self-love and self-awareness. Unapologetic and uplifting in all her endeavors, Alanna has organized projects that bring together the beauty of art and acts of service while uplifting the underappreciated parts of black culture in her college community.

Whether she’s singing, studying, or organizing a community event with her 24kollective, she brings compassion, artistry and full-bodied passion to everything she does. Her determination and positivity truly inspire us—and we hope she’ll inspire you, too.

We don’t perform to the best of our abilities looking at what someone else is doing. Look into you, build you!

Age: 20
College: Berklee College of Music
Majors: Vocal Performance
Expected Graduation: Spring 2018

What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

One of my greatest achievements to date would have to be the creation of Gldngirl. My stage name started off as my way of learning and getting to know myself.  I started my singing career and held my first show —“Emotional Chemistry”— in February and it’s been a blessing to see something I’ve come up with stick so much that even people I don’t know, recognize something I’ve created.

In the midst of creating Gldngirl, I also birthed something called “24k”, a.k.a 24 karats. 24K is the highest form of gold, and I turned that into my slogan and the name of my community service organization. 24K is what I’ll stamp on anything I put my hands or mind to. It’s an affirmation that states that in everything I do, it should be above standard. Recognizing that my friends and family are starting using that slogan, as well as seeing it connected to the positive things other people are posting or associating themselves with, really warms my heart and makes me even more eager to continue my efforts and passions I have to better my community.

What inspired the stage name Gldngirl and what does being “Gldn” mean to you?

The name Gldngirl was created in good ole’ high school. I went to a specialized performing arts school because I already knew that I wanted to perfect my artistry and make it my career. But, in the midst of my growing as a teen, I struggled with finding myself and really figuring out the kind of artist, and even the kind of person, I was made to be. Literally, Gldngirl was created in my tenth grade chemistry class.

My assignment was to learn the periodic table and the symbol [Au] stood out to me… why? Because they were my initials! Once I learned that [Au] stood for Gold, the idea of being a “golden girl” came to mind, and then I expanded what that would entail. From there, I had a better picture in my mind of the kind of leader I wanted to be. Just like Gold, Gldngirl can’t easily be altered. She’s strong-willed, she’s unique, she knows her worth. But most of all, she glimmers and shines her light in a beautiful, positive way, to catch the attention of her community and to spread a message of self-love through her music.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve done through 24kollective?

As of now, my favorite project that continues to grow is one called the Soul Food Social. It started as a small program to bring my fellow students together to celebrate Black History Month, but this February it turned into something much, much more.

Black History Month at Berklee College of Music should be a celebration of black culture and embracing the music of the African diaspora, and I wasn’t seeing that. So, I put together an event in my school’s cafeteria called Soul Food Social, where we ate traditional African American cuisine—the food that bring families together—and had our students and local artists perform their art.

Not only were we getting together for fellowship, but it became fellowship with a cause. For the event, everyone’s ticket was a full outfit to donate to our teens in our local shelters in Boston. By the end of the night, we had tons of clothes to donate, and an amazing musical experience. Each time I’ve done the event, more people email me asking to get involved next year! Being something I started completely on my own, it’s been a blessing to make new friends from those you’ve influenced to make change. I’m excited to see what the Soul Food Social will be next February, and I’m certain it can only continue getting better!

How has growing up in Brooklyn influenced you?

I can honestly say Brooklyn runs deeply through my veins. There’s something about our community that I’ve never felt anywhere else. Being raised in an environment rich with Black culture, and full of so many different kinds of people, has been beneficial in the ways I communicate and socialize with others. It’s as if every sidewalk teaches you a new life lesson.   

If I had to pick one way Brooklyn has influenced me, I would automatically choose through my creativity. Growing up in an area where one brick wall can turn into the most amazing piece of art the next day, or listening to someone sing their heart off in the subway, even watching the older retired woman and her husband turn their little front lawn into botanic beauty, turns my creativity traffic light from yellow to green! I love Brooklyn, because the people and art I live around is a constant reminder to keep pursuing my passions. All cities have their problems, but Brooklyn is a borough that truly spreads love. We may not know you by name, and we may never see you again but, we support our own and we create our own. From a borough that at one time people were “too scared” to come to, to today being the place to be—I’ll always be repping Brooklyn because I’ve never felt so much support from my little family of strangers anywhere else.

What kind of impact do you hope to have?

I pray that many years from now, the girl who was perming their afro textured hair like I used to, will know that their natural selves are enough. The boy who sags his pants won’t feel like he has to in order to “fit in.” There are many other examples, and I could go on and on, but I pray that I can use my voice to change my generation’s idea of “cool” and “popular.” We have so much potential to do something positive in our lives. I believe with the right amount of marketing, the evolution of the images we see in magazines, and by changing the messages blasting through our earbuds, we’ll finally be cooking with gas.

The right people to support you always come at the right time so never feel lonely!

What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?

GIRLLLL <3. No dream or goal is too far to reach! Continue to push yourself, and if the people around you start to feel heavy, find some scissors! The right people to support you always come at the right time so never feel lonely! Use those one-on-one moments with yourself to learn you better, because no one can support you like you!

As women, we need to lift each other up—we need to discard this crab in a barrel stuff! Sometimes, women are the most hurtful because we’ve conformed to this idea of always competing with one another. But we don’t perform to the best of our abilities looking at what someone else is doing. Look into you, build you! I mean, build yourself up so much that people can’t help but to see you! I write these words of advice because I wish I had someone in my low moments to tell me these things. I’m human. I still fall short. But there’s no better feeling than being secure in yourself, and I pray that whoever is reading this will know what that feels like.  —24k!

Being that I am a spiritual person, I think one of my favorite scriptures would have to be: Jeremiah 29:11 - “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Sometimes life tends to take over and you get afraid of what the future holds. Being a Christian, and believing in a higher source has always reassured me with faith and hope, and gives me a push in the morning to do something that leaves a positive imprint in all I do.

How would you describe yourself in five words?

Blessed, Diligent, Free-spirited, Social and Luminous —24k


Hannah is a senior studying marketing and English at the University of Washington and is the Editor of the UW Her Campus chapter. She was also a Summer 2017 editorial intern for Her Campus Media. When not editing, writing, or pitching articles, she's probably at brunch or the library.