Isolation Drills: Nikki Starr

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Starr: “I don’t want my family to have to clean my room for me if I die in here.” That’s a thought I had while panic-cleaning my room at five a.m. on day three of pandemic lockdown. I’m a generally upbeat person, and before all of this, I was the happiest I’ve been in years. Losing my job on my birthday and the very real threat of illness and death sent me spiraling.

I spent the first few weeks of this time in a near-constant panic attack. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one, but they’re not great. I tried different things to calm myself, but the only thing that really worked for me was exercise. So much exercise. Feel scared. Exercise. Can’t stop crying. Exercise. Can’t sleep. Exercise. I lost close to 30 pounds. Thanks, corona!

Anyhoo, I started feeling better both emotionally and physically, and fortunately, people started asking me to perform again. I started doing comedy 10 years ago with my group, Plan B Comedy. They are located in Norfolk, Va., and since moving to Philly, I’ve only been able to perform in a couple shows. Enter 2020. We are able to get together and livestream shows on YouTube all through the magic of Zoom.

As for singing, my friend Pat Finnerty hit me up to do a couple socially distant live rooftop shows, and they have been a blast. Hopefully, there will be more.

The performing frees me for a while. For that time, I’m not thinking about sickness or money problems or rampant racism. For that time, I feel like my old self. I get to spread joy and love to as many people who want to hear it. And for a little while, maybe they feel better, too.