An Interview with Azora Telford

Azora Telford is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult), an ASL Interpreter and an amazing artist. Her recent work,  “Somebody I Used to Know”, is currently being spotlighted on Planet DeafQueer. Azora took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us. This interview was conducted by Drago via Google Chat.


Planet DeafQueer: How do you identify?

Azora: When I think of how I identify myself the first thing that pops into my head is CODA. It is a huge part of my being. The second part of my identity is lesbian.

Planet DeafQueer: How old are you and where are you from?

Azora: I’m 31 years old, from Oakland, California. Bay Area, baby!!!

Planet DeafQueer: Your “Somebody I Used to Know” music video is smokin’ hot. Tell us a little about how the video came to be. What inspired you to create it? Why this specific song?

Azora: Growing up in a deaf family and being the only hearing one I was asked to show what music looked like beginning at the age of 4. I never stopped. I always tried to get my family to really feel the emotion that music conveys. So when I met with my creative team, Terrylene and Sherry Hicks, we took it to the next level. I was able to be in a comfortable mindset where I could let the art flow.

I wanted to see the deaf community be on target with music so I started to dig through music, going through underground hits and really feeling the music. I wanted to see the deaf community know and feel a hot song that would be playing on every radio channel and not come out with a song that would become old quick. This song by Gotye really got me. I was able to breathe this song and feel that it is one of those songs, we as a whole, could relate to. So I was sold that song was going to be the first!

Planet DeafQueer: It’s a great song. How long did it take to create the video?

Azora: It took 4-5 months of rehearsing through VP (videophone) and live and also about 3 months of creating the concept and storyline.

Planet DeafQueer: Wow. That’s a lot of time. You and Terrylene brought such depth and emotion to the song. I couldn’t stop watching it. As someone said in a post on your YouTube account, it seemed like you two had lived this song at one time or another in your own lives.

Azora: (LOL) Well… I can only speak for myself. I have been through heartache. But honestly I have to say Terrylene is an amazing actress and she has shared her wisdom. She really made it comfortable to let the story come out.

I come from a family who does theater and I hadn’t realize I had it in me. Also an amazing director, Julia Dameron, made it extremely comfortable to let the art come alive. I felt she embraced every second and was so supportive and positive. Everyone on the set that made that video is definitely a huge reason why it is a success.

Azora Telford

Planet DeafQueer: No doubt about it, there was a lot of amazing talent involved in the video’s production. Terrylene is indeed an amazing actress. She rocked in this video.  Was there any concern initially about casting a straight actress for the part?

Azora: Yes, Terrylene is awesome. She definitely did not have a problem playing the lipstick lesbian. She is straight but supports the gay community and ASL arts. She fell in love with the music video and our creation. She is a huge believer.

Planet DeafQueer: We’re so fortunate to have such amazing allies. I know many straight people were also involved in the production of the video. How has the overall response been from the community?

Azora: Oh my gosh, really I can’t express the amazing support! It has been so positive, it’s breath taking.

Of course there has been some nasty comments but that’s the world we live in, nothing is perfect. I just have to focus on being truly me. Those who don’t get it eventually will, and those who do, get to enjoy the beauty and entertainment it brings. Along with everything else, this video taps into themes like the gay community, deaf community, love, hurt, weakness, power and music for your eyes and ears.

It has been amazing to see the deaf community be inspired to become musicians! That’s what this is all about! I see no boundaries. Our community can do anything and will be seen!

Planet DeafQueer: Beautifully said. I was inspired to watch the official Gotye video (with subtitles) after watching your video. The main singer (male) in the video seemed to me to be very oppressive towards the woman in it, speaking over her and shutting her down. Your video seems like a much more balanced exchange (power-wise).

Azora:  Interesting. In the tone of Gotye, the main singer sounds very emotional and hurt. As for the female singer, she’s soft at the beginning then takes it to another level of recognition. So, what you see in the video is us turning this song into a visual perspective in ASL. As you watch the beginning of this video I am transparent to Terrylene, then we finally meet eye-to-eye and reality sets in.

The whole production was truly a amazing experience. When we filmed on the train, there was no music being played. That was all from memory; the beats, the lyrics, etc. What was mind-blowing was the rehearsing with Terrylene, getting down where the song’s high points were and having her be on same wave as the singer’s voice. Truly amazing. I’m not sure if you know but this whole production was done by the works of the deaf people and CODAs!

So having said that, the day of the shoot was like freeing the two worlds that live within one another and expressing that into the world.

Planet DeafQueer: I didn’t know that. That’s amazing. What are you working on next?

Azora:  I am working on the next video. I have a couple of songs lined up. I want to present diversity in our productions just as it is in music culture, so not sure what I should do next. But definitely keep your eyes open because it’s going to blow your mind!!!

Planet DeafQueer:  I’m sure it will! Anything you’d like to add?

Azora: I just want to thank all the fans that are supporting this work. It truly means so much to me. It really pushes me to make the unthinkable possible. It gives me confirmation that it is desired. I can’t thank you all enough. xoxo