Ebonyelle Smith has been performing since she was little, and now she’s using her stage skills in a new business.
House of Ebony is a small business that brings a touch of freshness to the average celebrant.
Ebonyelle said her main inspiration for House of Ebony was to be LGBTQIA + inclusive, to celebrate different cultures, and to embrace diverse religions and practices – with the firm belief that they are not mutually exclusive.
âIn 2016, when it was announced that same-sex marriage was legalized, I applauded but also thought ‘how has it taken us so long?’
“I’m Catholic, which my parents say means being a good person – my parents raised me to see the character, if you want to love someone you deserve to love that person – and the ability to do part of someone’s special day is an honor and a joy.
“This is where I want to come in and be a celebrant, I can flip things over while agreeing to say a Hail Mary.
âReligion shouldn’t have any constraints or limits that you have terms and conditions for, it’s unconditional – that’s what I want to bring.
“I am a natural speaker who loves to celebrate love.”
Born to perform
Although her foray into the wedding industry is new, Ebonyelle said it was first suggested to her in high school when her drama class would play a game called Bus Stop, where students would create their own. character in a scenario waiting for the bus.
âI would naturally always play this character who was like a sassy gospel priest,â Mandurah Millennial said.
âPeople would joke and say ‘I could see you marry someone – you’d be good at that.’
âI was conditioned to think I was too young to play the part – I was like ‘why would someone hire me, I’m not married and I wasn’t engaged?’, That ‘ was a misconception I had. ”
After sitting down to talk to her father, Ebonyelle decided to ignore the voice in her head and follow her dream.
“My dad said ‘people are going to hire you because of the way they relate to you” – they are not going to worry if you are married or not, they are going to wonder if they can connect with you and how you make them feel.
Under the stage lights
Ebonyelle says she’s been singing since she was three, then I got into musicals.
âI would rehearse something Monday through Friday and have dance compositions on the weekends.
âI grew up in a family of four with my mom, dad and sister with lots of family overseas and a few immediate family members here.
“My father worked at FIFO, my parents sacrificed so much so that I had everything – I remember every time he left he said ‘listen to your mother – what she says is going” and I remember that it really solidified the importance of partnership for me. “
Ebonyelle said her mother also played a central role in her development as an artist.
“My mom would say I stormed out at Destiny’s Child’s ‘Soldier’ ââbecause I was a survivor,” she said with a laugh.
“I was in a music and theater camp, a choir, I participated in the Telethon – I had a day off when I saw Dreamgirls for the first time – this was how my parents made sure. that I had extracurricular classes.
“Then I got a music scholarship at Mandurah Catholic College and that’s where it all really started.”
In college, Ebonyelle was cast for roles like Mabel Washington in FAME! and Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz.
âI didn’t play Glinda like she used to be – it was more of a fantasy version of a child.
“I was proud of this role – I played Glinda in my personality – I wasn’t playing a white woman or how she would. I hated it.”
In 2012, Ebonyelle starred as Motormouth Maybelle in the Stray Cats Theater Company’s production of Hairspray – a role in a show that confronted racism, a role she said was life-changing.
âI knew we had to have actors who understood what this role meant and what it meant to be a part of it. Leading this role was a pivotal moment for me.
âI will never forget to sing the song ‘I know where I have been’ – in my family, racism is not something we know.
“We came from an apartheid place where black people walked in the back and whites sat in the front.”
Ebonyelle said her personal experiences made her appreciate each culture, an aspect she would bring to its celebration as well.
“I enjoy and celebrate culture – I really embrace it and want to learn about other people’s cultures.”
After being accepted into the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Ebonyelle’s performance career began on a grand scale.
Artists know how to rotate
âAfter I finished WAAPA, I started doing corporate gigs in a FIFO arrangement.
“I was also singing with two groups, I was living my dream – one of my speakers actually ended up in one of the groups with me.”
After a year and a half of working as a performer, illness threw a wrench into the works and interrupted Ebonyelle’s worklist.
“I fell seriously ill and was hospitalized on the 21stst birthday.
âIn terms of moving forward with my energy and physical well-being, I fill my cup and do what I need to do – I had to take a step back.
“I am a singer so my instrument is me and my instrument needed to be repaired.”
The movement towards celebration was well and truly underway, according to Ebonyelle, after returning from vacation in the United States.
House of Ebony – represents diversity and everyone has the opportunity to love and truly be who they are.
âI had about six or seven surgeries in the space of a few years.
âAt the time, I was doing a job using my audio skills in audio transcription in the medical field.
âI was working and I loved this job, then I went to America and while I was there I played with the Harlem Gospel Choir in New York – the song we sang resonated with me and I knew I had to get back into the performance. “
Meanwhile, Ebonyelle bought her first home and used this time to settle down and plan her return to the arts.
“I am very proud of my home, it is my little sanctuary.
“I needed something where I could play but also speak because I felt like that was also my talent – and that’s when it came to me.”
Not just a company, a brand
Ebonyelle worked in the medical field at the height of the pandemic, realizing more than ever the importance of family and connections.
“I couldn’t kiss my nephew or see my family.
âI’m the Robin Williams in my nephew’s life – I don’t read the book, I play the book,â she said with a laugh.
When Ebonyelle’s nephew’s birthday party was canceled due to COVID and only 10 people were allowed to attend, she fell into yet another business unexpectedly.
âMy sister had all the decorations and decorated the garage because it was safer – but we had to call the vendors ahead of time just in case. I thought ‘is it hard to bake a cake?’
âI’m a natural cook, so I tried baking the cake and the response I got was people asking me if I was baking party cakes as a business.
âIt became a creative outlet and somewhere I wasted time.
“I wanted to keep in mind that this was just a hobby and not a profession – especially considering the climate, I never wanted to take an order from an established company – as an artist I know how hard it is to work.
“I would reference and recommend and I didn’t say more than I said yes.”
While Ebonyelle’s cookie and cake baking projects were personal and she limited her tasks to close friends and family, she said she hoped they would eventually fit into House of Ebony.
âSugar cookies are something I would love to put under House of Ebony once I get the hang of it.
“Culture, engagement, celebration, cookies, cakes and cupcakes – it’s just me.”
Being “legally booed”
âIt’s all about you – I’m a huge cheerleader, in order to play a lead role you have to make sure that the choir and everyone involved on the wedding day gets a boost as well.
“House of Ebony – it represents diversity and everyone has the opportunity to love and truly be who they are.”
âHouse of Ebony isn’t just a service – it’s a brand and what it stands for is all I stand for, which is why I put my name on it.
âI’m so proud of the work I’ve done here and it’s just a small part of the album or body of work that I want to put there.
“I’m not the type to bet, but I would bet on myself.”
To follow Ebonyelle’s journey or to make wedding proposals, visit her Instagram page. @houseofebony_.