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Conversations with Riah Hansen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Riah Hansen.

Hi Riah, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Hi! Thanks so much for having me, so grateful for this opportunity. Well, shoot, if I had one word to describe my story it would probably be “pending”. I feel like inspiring stories are usually about people who have made it to the finish line, and I’m still running the race.

I was a stay-at-home mom for almost 10 years, now I’m a single mom of three kiddos and I’m just trying to play catch-up. Right now I’m going back to school full-time, working part-time, and juggling my passion projects on the side. It’s actually a really great place to be, there are so many things on the horizon that I’m really excited about.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Woof. It hasn’t been easy or smooth. I got a divorce in 2020 and it really turned my world upside-down and I still feel like I’m learning to navigate it. At the same time, it’s been a really healthy transition for me. There were definitely good things about my marriage and those years I spent raising kids full-time. I have always loved being a mom, and also have always had other passions and talents I’ve wanted to pursue and knew that eventually, I would.

I am a very curious and driven person, I don’t want to do one thing, I want to do all the things and have spent a lot of time developing different skills that interested me and found a lot of joy and fulfillment in that over the years. Unfortunately, our marriage was pretty dysfunctional, and looking back it’s almost comical how incompatible we were in so many ways.

It essentially wasn’t a safe environment for me emotionally, spiritually, creatively, or ambitiously. Like, I felt I had so much to offer but it kept getting squashed or diminished. And I really lost touch with who I was for a while. Getting out of that situation/relationship was really necessary for me to grow and heal personally. Even though it was the hardest, scariest, most painful decision I’ve ever made.

It’s definitely come with its challenges and adjustments for all of us, but as a whole, it’s been a blessing. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to trust myself again. I’m starting to believe that I’m capable of being a provider, but I still have a lot of insecurities surrounding that. But I know that my hopes and desires are valid and important and that there’s a reason I was gifted so many creative talents, and choosing to pursue them doesn’t make me selfish, arrogant, or a bad parent or partner.

I believed that for a long time. I really have a deep desire to use them to accomplish good in this world. I want my kids to understand they don’t have to choose between the people they love and the things they love to do. It requires some prudence, but there’s room for both. We like to replace “or” with “and” as much as possible.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m really known as a multi-faceted artist, I do a little bit of everything. I owned my own cake-decorating business for a while, worked as a seamstress for a boutique, and started designing my own clothes and dresses. I’m sometimes an artist, a painter, a sculptor, a builder, a writer, a musician, and a singer. Right now, one of my biggest focuses is going back to college to get a degree.

I’ve been a freelance graphic designer for many years, as it’s something I could easily do from home when my kiddos were little, and really thought I would get a degree in that. Back in 2007 when I originally enrolled in a university, I really thought I wanted to be an English teacher. A lot has changed since then! I’ve actually decided to pursue a Theater degree, which I wouldn’t have imagined in a million years. Despite being a performer (I’m the front-woman of a band called The Penny Candies) the stage is not a comfortable place for me to be.

Stage fright is a real problem and crippled me as a pianist growing up. In fact, I think one of the main reasons I keep doing it is simply because I’m kind of ticked that I’m not better at it. It’s a way for me to really face my fears. Also, bringing songs you’ve written to life with other musicians is nothing short of magic. And my bandmates have become my dearest friends and we have so much fun together.

So yeah. There’s that too. I definitely prefer being behind the scenes creating though, so with a little push from some of my art professors, I’ve decided to go into Stage Production and Set Design with an emphasis in Children’s Theater. I’m so excited about it! It makes sense because it combines all of the things I already love to do into one occupation. I’ve always loved Jim Henson and children’s entertainment, and will eventually want to lean into Art/Film Direction to create meaningful content for children.

There are two other projects at the forefront of my life, they are really what get me out of bed each morning. I’ve been singing and songwriting since I was 18 and last year my band and I raised over $11,000 for our debut album, which will hopefully be released this October. We’ve been in the studio for almost a year trying to make these songs come to life. It’s really a dream come true.

My other passion project is actually a children’s book I started writing about 10 years ago and am finally ready to work on getting it published traditionally. Finding someone to represent it is a process that requires a lot of humility and patience. It’s turned into far more than just a picture book, though, and is such a meaningful story and project for me. Very dear to my heart and I have big plans for it! The story is called Rupert and it tackles the subject of death in a whimsical and magical way that I believe really connects with both kids and adults.

Right now I’m actually sharing videos every day on social media explaining the origin and inspiration behind the story, which was really a miraculous experience for me, and why I think it’s so important and needed in our world. I would love for more people to come along for the ride and see what it’s all about!

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
American Fork and really Utah Valley as a whole is such a wonderful place for creatives. I came from a little town in Washington near the Idaho and Canadian borders, and there just weren’t many opportunities.

I miss the trees and mountains, and sometimes I struggle living in such a highly populated city, but I love that the mountains are so close and we can escape for adventures (and some peace) whenever we need to.

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Image Credits
Max Hardman

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