It seems absurdly young for the Nigerian-Irish poet to have already found herself added to the Leaving Cert program alongside literary heavyweights like Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh and WB Yeats.
The multi-hyphenate, who goes by the stage name FeliSpeaks, seems to be everywhere: walking confidently in a pink blazer in the new Laya ad, regaling Tommy Tiernan on Black Irishness with his best friend, singer Tolü Makay, and mingling with world leaders in Áras an Uachtaráin.
Having his poem, For our mothersappearing in the English curriculum for some twenty years is a singular feat for the artist, who has taken the literary world by storm.
“It’s going to be in the Leaving Cert for the first time in exams next year and in 2025.
“The reaction from other people was like, ‘Oh my God, you’re so young, what happened?’ And my reaction has always been, ‘I have no idea!’
“But I think I’m just humbled and excited and can’t wait to see what the future holds with something as upsetting and culturally ingrained as being on the Leaving Cert. It was so interesting, so weird,” she smiles. “I didn’t see it coming.”
And the reaction of his own mother? “My mum thinks I’m very cool, that’s enough – I won.”
Although it wasn’t always that way when she drifted away from her initial path to medicine at school while growing up in Longford.
“I think I broke my mother’s heart very early on,” she jokes. “I think she must have seen it coming. I’ve always done something artistic since I’ve been in the country, since I was nine years old.
“I was in the choir, I did theater and I led groups of young people. I wrote plays.
“I think I was around 16 and I just said to him, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be a doctor because I really don’t like science as much as I should.
“She was upset but she understood,” says Felicia, adding that her mother was happy to know what path she wanted to follow.
Juggling a dizzying array of projects over the past few years, she finally hired a personal assistant to help manage her constantly full inbox.
” I could not any more. I am a creative and not an administrator. It’s just trying to keep my head afloat with my schedule,” she continues.
“Currently, I’m working on a personal project with an EP which I hope will be released in November. I work on poetry and music. I’m also working on a play with Fishamble which will premiere in Dublin and New York in the spring of next year.
“Day to day is basically writing, learning lines, walking my dog – that’s pretty much my life.”
She is currently in rehearsal for Wake – a new theater performance from thisispopbaby, reimagining a traditional Irish wake – billed as a “screaming, loud and moving celebration of community”.
“I think it’s specifically infused with a lot of different kinds of talent. We have a pole dancer, Irish tap dancer and we have an acrobat.
“We have such beautiful works of art that I have never seen up close before. And I think that’s what’s so special about it – that what I do and what they do can connect in the same show.
His appearance on The Tommy Tiernan Show with Tolü Makay was another moment in the air. Between laughter and quick observations about the new generation of Irish people, the couple educated the intrigued comedian on his upbringing in Nigerian-Irish homes.
“The reaction was so unexpected for me. It sounds really silly, but I didn’t realize how important the show was,” Felicia admits. “I was obviously a fan of Tommy Tiernan and went to see him live in January before the show was taped, before I even knew I was going to perform. But I was just surprised at how many people who physically stopped me and said, “Oh my god, you were on The Tommy Tiernan Show‘.
“Because it wasn’t [my] first time on TV or on RTÉ, so I didn’t really think it would have such an impact.
His career was already on an upward trajectory with his poem having been penciled in for the Leaving Cert, but the appearance on the chat show gave him a little “weeeeeeh extra”. Last year she won the Catalyst Award in recognition of her role in shaping Irish society.
“I think it was all kind of like a roll-on effect.
“Last year was a little crazy – my life was already boom, boom, boom,” she says.
Although she’s constantly in people’s living rooms right now in Laya’s new commercial, the rising star hasn’t seen her herself.
“I don’t have a regular television, I just have a smart TV connected to Netflix and YouTube.
“I’m talking to a friend or a friend of a friend, and they can’t help but be like, ‘I see you all the time’. I’m like, ‘I’m so sorry’,” he joked. she said, “That’s so funny to me.”
Even though Ireland has been hailed around the world for becoming the first country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage through a national referendum, they still believe there is a ‘long way to go’ after a recent homophobic attack on a young man on Dublin Bus. “Stories like this break my heart, especially when you’re visibly queer and it’s obvious you’re queer.”
Living her own life openly, she hopes, will help others feel seen.
“I’m comfortable being visible enough that hopefully someone like me will secretly say, ‘Oh my God, I hope they don’t find out.’ feel seen and comforted by the fact that I live my life and be openly queer.