LIHUE — As Dawna White watched her youngest daughter Arianna doing “amazing, fun things,” she had a thought.
“Why can’t I do those things?”
Then she had another thought.
“I can do those things. I can make a choice to do that,” she said. “Yes, everybody can do something fun and creative that brings them joy.”
So what is it that White, a 61-year-old registered nurse, is doing that has her laughing and grinning with teenage excitement?
That’s right. She’s a grooving, fast-talking mom from Kauai, spinning sentences, popping phrases, who goes by the stage name, “The Antithesis.” The music video premiere of her newest song, “Funk &Wagnalls,’ is set for 5 p.m. tonight Kukui Grove Center.
It’s free for folks to swing by, watch the video, chat with White, (perhaps she’ll rap live on stage) and share some of their own dreams.
“Funk and Wagnalls” will be shown every 20 minutes.
White describes her humorous but contemplative style as “more Seuss than Shakur.”
She was looking for a creative outlet, and thought about writing poetry.
“But I like alliteration and rhyme, and a lot of modern poetry has neither. Then I had an ‘ah ha’ moment: Why not rap?” she said. “I think it’s important to express ourselves creatively, no matter who we are, or what our age. And have fun doing it, of course.”
Arianna, 16, directed the no-budget video. She was also the videographer, editor, a backup singer and even the makeup artist. The Kapaa High junior won her first film award for a public service announcement she made when she was 13.
A musical son helped record the song written by his mom.
The four-minute video also stars 15-year-old actress and model Jenna Antolin of Hanapepe, 17-year-old Ben Schaal of Kalaheo and 4-year-old model Teloa Dagel.
White said without a doubt this is one of the craziest things she’s done, but also “one of the most exhilarating.”
“In one way, the Auntithesis is more me than my regular everyday person,” she said. “It is a true expression of myself. It’s sort of like, why not. You only live once, might as well go for it.”
It started coming together last summer when White was singing a song she wrote and Arianna heard her.
“That sounds like rap,” she said to her mom.
So mom pushed poetry aside and jumped in where others her age would likely go home, have dinner and watch TV.
“I like a lot of the rap lyrics, except for the swearing,” she said. “They have some interesting, good things to say.”
Her rap has a message. This particular song is directed in part at a younger generation obsessed with their cellphones and social media. But it’s more about having fun than trying to be a voice of a lecturing adult.
“You can say important things and still have fun,” she said. “I do things in a lighthearted way, but it’s still kind of serious.”
“I call it, ‘I Love Lucy’ does rap,” she said, laughing.
White had her doubters. Some questioned her sanity.
“It took a lot time to find people who were actually believing that I wanted to do this,” she said.
Arianna is proud of her mom for coming out as a rapper.
“I think it’s cool,” she said.
But is she a good rapper?
“Yeah,” Arianna said. “She has complex word play in her song. She’s just like rhyme, rhyme, rhyme. It’s very unique and I’m very glad she’s living out her dream.”
White, it’s worth noting, has zero musical background.
“I always thought I couldn’t do it,” she said.
But she did.
While some might think 61 is too late to try and launch yourself into something new, Dawna White, with a 30-year career in nursing, believes the opposite.
“This is a time where we can just explore different parts of ourselves and not take it too seriously and just find joy in doing something different,” she said.
She sees it as a chance “to shake things up. It’s a dream come true.”
White credits her children for standing with her.
“We have strong family values and we live them,” she said.
Dawna White urges others to go after their dreams, too. Don’t let age stop you from believing you can achieve seemingly silly, even impossible, goals.
“Go for it. At this point it doesn’t matter if you make a success of it or you fail. It’s just the matter of doing it,” she said. “It makes you feel alive, it puts you outside your comfort zone. I can’t tell you how many times I got really nervous, I got turned down, but said why not just keep going for it.
“Again, why not,” she continued. “When you do do it, it brings you a lot of happiness. There’s really no downside. At a certain age in life hearing no is not such a big deal.”
Arianna said her mom’s rap character has brought something out of her she hadn’t seen before – a new confidence.
“She’s always been very happy and outgoing and friendly. But I feel like you seem more comfortable in yourself,” she said.
Arianna looked at her mom and added, “She’s the best.”
White smiled and gave her daughter a hug.
“Thank you,” she said.