Phoenix James, also known as Phenzwaan, is a multiple award winning internationally published Writer, Performance Poet, Actor, Spoken Word Recording Artist and Filmmaker.
A lover of writing, art, expression and creativity in its many forms, Phoenix discovered at an early age what he wanted to do in life. Create.
Born in London in the late seventies, he attended school until age sixteen. During this time growing up, he developed a love for singing, writing, music, art, dancing and drama.
On leaving school he began a career in hairstyling, another self-taught creative talent he had developed, and by age twenty was managing a local unisex hair salon seven days a week.
During these years, his writing and singing continued and developed until he eventually decided to leave the hairstyling world to pursue his creative passions more extensively.
Modelling was also another one of the activities he had fallen into by this time and entered his first men’s modeling competition at an event in 1998 winning first place in his heat and later coming third in the overall finals where he also sang and where reportedly over 800 women were said to be in attendance. This opened up other opportunities for him modeling for fashion shows and photo shoots.
His song and lyric writing also continued and he was further inspired after performing one of his songs on the steps of the Hackney Town Hall during a showcase there and then being presented with an award for the performance during a ceremony held at the Hackney Empire.
By 1999 he had also joined an up and coming hip-hop group called Dark Foundation traveling from studio to studio, recording tracks and performing at shows under the alias, Progressive Elements. It’s noted that one of his rap poetry verses, on one of the group’s most popular tracks, he wrote on route to the studio before their recording session that day.
After a short term with the group he had returned to his solo roots now under his new alias, Phenzwaan and was performing poetry and spoken word at live events which he had become known for, and by 2000, after winning a few more awards for writing and performance and gaining more experience of the industry and having written even more material, was on the way to completing his first recorded poetry & spoken word CD album titled, THE A.R.T.I.S.T.
This first CD release went on to further raise his profile in the arena of performance poetry, spoken word & music and live performance. This led to national tours and live performance bookings across the UK, shows across Europe performing his poetry on stages in places as far as the island of Bermuda where he was later nominated for an award after being requested to perform there at the Ruth Seaton James auditorium and other local events there in 2005.
He self published his first book, ‘To Whom It May Concern’ in 2003, followed by a digital publication a few years later ‘The Undressed & Wild Observations, Sexual Exploits & Philosophical Meanderings of Phoenix James’ and then followed another self published book ’Fire & Divinity’ containing all of his written work since 1998 which spans over ten years. His books have been used in schools & libraries, drama workshops, education and literacy forums both the UK and abroad.
During this time he was also very actively involved in the creating, organizing and hosting of his own live events, booking venues, acts and showcasing the talents of other artists and musicians. Between 2001 to 2005, events he founded and organised include: Verbalized Mindz, Men of Wordz Urban Poetry Convention, Women of Wordz Urban Poetry Convention, PeppaMint Sundayz, Lyrical Lucidity, Indelible Ink, Sumthin’ 2 Die 4, Get Lyrical and Spoken Word Live & Unplugged which all earned him a reputation for good organization and promotion.
Phoenix’s first TV appearance was in 2004 on BBC Three television’s ‘Slam Poet 2004’ by Baby Cow Productions. A poetry competition in which he came third place. After this he was head hunted and commissioned by another television production company, Academy Films, who also saw the program, to write for two of their film projects.
Following this he was also commissioned to have his poem ‘I Write’ integrated into in the stage play ‘Globaleyes’ which ran for a period at the Chicken Shed Theatre. He went on to write, record and release another nine studio recorded CDs between 2001 – 2010. These other album titles include: Meditations of a Cosmic Wordsmith, We Will Survive, Phenzwaan LIVE @ The Spitz, Inevitable Mystique, Like a Phoenix, Alchemy Fluid Vol: 1, Alchemy Fluid Vol: 2, Solidified and Phenzwaan – Now & Forever.
Phoenix has appeared on over 30 local and national radio shows to date regarding his written work and performances, some with repeat invitations and appearances, including BBC Radio One, Choice FM Radio, BBC 1xtra Radio and BBC Radio Suffolk and national newspapers such as the The Guardian, Evening Telegraph, The Voice and New Nation and various magazine titles. To date, he has distributed and sold more albums and material than any other UK Performance Poet or Spoken Word Artist of his generation, genre and era.
Continuing professionally with his modelling career in 2006 he won a Fashion TV Award for Best Male Model in 2007. Since then he has been involved in both print and televised campaigns for brands such as Virgin, NatWest, Kodak, Addison Lee, Coca Cola, Ford, The London Marathon, FIFA, Iceland, Sainsbury’s, Budweiser, Bodyform, Sky Sports, Tailor Made for Business, Strongbow, Volkswagen, Samsung, NHS and the Food Standards Agency. He has also choreographed catwalk shows during fashion week for new and established designers, dabbled in photography, organized fashion networking events and arranged & conducted photo shoots for editorials and continues to work within the modelling and fashion industry periodically.
His modeling led him into the world of music videos and he has since played cameo and lead acting roles in a number of them which in turn led to cameo and lead acting roles in a number of independent feature length films some of which are yet to be released including a starring role as Marc ‘Webby’ Webster in a six-part TV series called ‘Road to F.A Cup’ and as the lead character, Tunde, caught in a vicious love triangle in a romantic feature length drama titled ‘The Engagement’.
Then between early 2010 – late 2012 he landed lead acting roles starring in short films, Baby Anne, Love Dog, A Man Walks Into A Bar, On The Inside, I Luv U, Sober, In The Mourning, 3rd Time Lucky, A Contribution.
In 2012, Phoenix made a small but notable cameo appearance in the crime thriller movie, Cleanskin starring Sean Bean and again that same year in the UK’s most successful and highest grossing blockbuster film of all time to date, James Bond 007 movie Skyfall.
He also during and around this period, appeared in television productions for BBC One, BBC2, BBC Three, ITV, CH4, CH5, Living & Sky TV including Eastenders, Holby City, Luther II & Luther III, Dating in the Dark, Stephen Fry: Gadget Man and Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show.
In 2013, Phoenix released a unique feature length mockumentary film he wrote, produced and directed himself titled ‘Love Freely but Pay for Sex’. The film, shot entirely in London contains over 70 on screen cast members and was completed early Summer 2013. He is also the film’s cinematographer, sound recordist & mixer, film editor and also appears in the film. The film received special screenings at the British Film Institute in London and was met with very positive press reviews and also received interest from an independent Hollywood based distribution company for international distribution to a wider audience.
He has also worked behind the scenes on set as a professional stand-in for various leading actors on movies including Skyfall, Thor: The Dark World, The Gunman and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
In 2015, he wrote and produced a retrospective style mini short film he also appears in titled Visited, inspired by true tales of demonic possession, death and religious rituals in London.
Phoenix also appears in the newly released Behind-the-Scenes video for the eagerly anticipated upcoming new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The footage which can now be viewed online was first unleashed at San Diego Comic Con 2015 in California by Disney & Lucasfilm Ltd.
He is currently writing and creating more material, expanding his creative skills and developing further artistic and collaborative projects in the areas of writing, poetry, acting, film, photography, television, music, events and live stage performance.
His awards history to date, include: Hackney Empire Award – Best Performance 1999, Farrago Zoo Award – Best London Poet 2000, Dr. Martens Poetry Prize Award – Best Poetry Performance 2000, Dr. Martens Poetry Prize Award – Best Writer 2001, Farrago Zoo Award – Best Slam Poetry Performance 2002, Farrago Zoo Award – Seasonal Slam Champion 2003, International Library of Poetry – Editor’s Choice Award 2004, Soul Baby Live Award – Best Spoken Word Artist 2005, Soul Baby Live Award – Most Votes Over All Categories 2005, Fashion TV Award – Best Male Model 2007, BEFFTA Award – Best Spoken Word Artist 2009, Jadine Hayles Fashion Model Award 2012.
Other Award Nominations include: Black Enterprise Award, 2003, Men and Women of Merit Award 2003, Bermuda UG Music Award – Best Spoken Word Artist 2005, BEFFTA – Best Spoken Word Artist 2010, BEFFTA Award – Best Actor 2011, Basic Business Initiative Award – Creativity and Innovation 2013.
In America, Phoenix James is being called a modern day renaissance man. The Voice newspaper in the UK has described him as a tireless, inspirational character and a force to be reckoned with.