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"You need discipline and professionalism for anyone to take you seriously"

Arrested Development's Fareedah “Free” Aleem’s take on the Industry

WORDS + PHOTO: Cynthia Degahson

“Own your craft, study, find the people who are where they want to be,” asserted Fareedah Aleem, a professional aerialist and singer with Grammy-award-winning Arrested Development, who recently visited Clark Atlanta University, to share her insights with students studying Mass Media.

She emphasized the value of demanding work, seeking out mentors to learn from, and surrounding oneself with people who are committed to personal growth. 

Born in Los Angeles, but raised in College Park, GA, Aleem's journey to success in the entertainment industry was full of challenges, but she never let them hold her back. As a dark-skinned Muslim woman with a unique style, and navigating in a male-dominated industry, she confidently made her own path in singing, aerial dancing, and fashion, ultimately making a name for herself. Aleem passionately believes that individuals should "amplify their presence" to achieve their goals, and she practices what she preaches. Her sources of inspiration come from real-life situations and individuals worldwide who have overcome hardships, which motivates her to push herself even harder. Aleem's abilities have established her as a significant female figure during Hip-Hop's 50th anniversary.

Even with Aleem’s profound success, one of the many misconceptions she mentioned about the industry is, “that it is always fun.” To have even one foot in the door, you need discipline and professionalism for anyone to take you seriously. She also believes in authenticity being important to one’s craft and soul. “I always tell any new artist; people have to believe you. You can be very skilled, but not engaging. You can have the steps down to a t-, but I'm bored watching you because I don’t feel anything.” Artistically, Aleem thanks her family for exposing her to different genres of music in Atlanta, which influenced her. Southern hip-hop, especially artists like OutKast and Arrested Development, have shaped her identity and made her proud to be Black woman from the South.

Aleem’s perfectionism has played an important role in her success as well. She has prided herself on making sure she elevates her work and takes criticism from her ‘tribe’ to be successful. Aleem stands as an inspiring example of what it means to follow through with your goals—no matter the age.


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