YabYum Seven: Jessie Balli

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Photos courtesy of Jessie Balli

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jessie Balli and I’m a storyteller, emcee and producer. I strive to make storytelling accessible to all, especially those who may not think they have a voice. I want the audience to feel comfortable with me and themselves at whatever event we’re attending – without being scripted.

How did you get your start?

The first story I told on stage was a little over 3 years ago at Yarnball Storytelling at the old Lawn Gnome book store on 5th Street. I met Dan Hull and Rachel Egboro who produced the show and asked how I could get more involved. After my first few stories I was invited by Rachel to tell at a First Friday event curated and hosted by Perry Allen. I shared a story about my experience with domestic violence in a past relationship and closed out the show, it was the first time I cried on stage in front of strangers. That story really put things in motion and I began hosting Yarnball with Dan and Rachel which eventually transformed into the Chatterbox Storytelling Open Mic.

I’ve told at almost all of the storytelling shows in the Valley which has truly helped me grow as a person. And hosting and producing Chatterbox continuously widens my perspective and fills me with gratitude for the Phoenix community.

What inspires you?

Authentic vulnerability. The word authenticity is thrown around a lot but I’m a huge fan of people who don’t sugar coat their experiences or their lives. Everything isn’t always a success or ‘Instagram-worthy’, most of the time it’s hard work and disappointment. And I truly appreciate the transparency of people who own their failures and share that part of their story. People that create opportunities to elevate this vulnerability inspire me to push forward as a producer. I’m always motivated by people who are passionate about what they do and how they impact their communities positively.

What do you like about AZ?

I’m an Arizona native and besides the variety of nature to experience in this state I really love that there is always an opportunity to create new ideas. In my experience I haven’t had the conflict of competition and Phoenix has fostered a very collaborative community. There is so much diversity in what is available to experience as well – people, shows, music, art, etc.

Where can we see you(r) work?

Every Wednesday night at Fair Trade Cafe I host Chatterbox Storytelling Open Mic alongside my co-host Estevan Piña with assistance from Sammie Sanchez. The show is also recorded bi-weekly by Jared Duran of Hoot’n’Waddle, our podcast is called Chatterpod and its available wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also catch me at most of the storytelling shows in the Valley – I try to tell at least once a month. And I’m always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other creatives!

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I’d love storytelling to be a larger part of my daily life – by either consulting more or eventually making that my full-time job. I have a strong desire to help others share experiences that are rarely talked about. To help people realize it’s possible to move forward and gain insight from difficult situations. Storytelling brings people together and if I can make a greater impact in my community I’d be truly happy.

What is your mantra?

This quote from Brené Brown will always resonate with me:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”


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