Executive Director Mama Foundation for the Arts
Born and raised in Harlem, Vy Higginsen is an award-winning author, publisher, playwright, media personality and philanthropist.
Shortly after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Vy became the first female advertising executive at Ebony magazine and went on to become a contributing editor for Essence. She created her own magazine, the African-American lifestyles publication Unique NY, and served as its Publisher and Editor.
Vy also spent a decade behind the microphone at major New York radio stations, including WBLS-FM, WWRL-AM, and WRKS-FM. On WBLS, Vy earned the distinction of being New York’s first black female radio personality in primetime, and at WWRL became the first woman to host a New York radio morning show. On camera, she has been a contributing reporter for WNBC-TV (including the long-running "Positively Black" segment) and The Metro Channel.
In 1983, Vy co-wrote, produced and directed the classic Gospel musical, Mama, I Want To Sing. The show ran for eight years and 2,500 performances, becoming the longest-running African-American Off-Broadway musical in history. The musical went on to play over 1,000 more performances through a three-year tour across the USA, as well as runs in London’s West End, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy; multiple appearances in the Caribbean and seven tours throughout Japan. Other productions that Vy conceived and produced include the remainder of the "Mama" trilogy: Sing, Mama 2 and Born to Sing: Mama 3, among others.
Vy earned the distinction of being the first black woman to present another playwright on the Broadway stage, as producer of August Wilson’s Joe Tuner’s Come and Gone in 1988.
In 1998, she created the Mama Foundation for the Arts to present, preserve, and promote Gospel, Jazz, and R&B as an art form for current and future generations. In 2006, she founded Gospel for Teens, a free educational program for young people between the ages of 13 and 19 that supports the area’s musically gifted children and offers a substitute to the arts programs removed from many inner city schools. Gospel for Teens was profiled in 2011 on CBS’ "60 Minutes," and a motion picture about the program in currently in development at Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment.
In 2012, Vy founded Harlem Records, an independent record label whose mission is to help restore Harlem to its prominence as an entertainment Mecca in the world’s cultural centerpiece for the musical arts. The label’s premiere recording, Cissy Houston’s "Walk On By Faith" is currently available for download on iTunes.
For her outstanding contributions to Gospel music, Vy was recognized with the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award at the 2012 Stellar Gospel Music Awards. She was also recognized as a Harlem Hero in "Harlem Is . . ." a public art and education project of Community Works, celebrating the living history of Harlem at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 2014 Vy continues her Mama Foundation mission in Harlem, and provides quality theater at great prices to all who want to visit and experience the new Harlem movement.
While Vy has had the privilege to travel the world – beginning at a very young age alongside her beloved sister, recording artist Doris Troy ("Just One Look") – home is where her heart is, and she still proudly calls Harlem home.