Eli & Lu Bevins Story
Bonds are often said to be hard to build and easy to break. When it comes to my identical twin sister, Eli and I, who share much of the same dreams and passions, neither rings true. We’re built-in best friends and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. Even after disputes, we’re laughing and chatting moments later like nothing ever happened, because of course, I can’t wait to tell her something or vice versa. The most exhilarating thing about us being twins is the sisterly love that has helped us survive hardships and navigate life’s darkest moments to flourish in areas we used to only dream about.
We were born at the tail end of the 80’s in West Philadelphia, raised by our Grandparents in an underserved neighborhood. At age 14, we watched our grandfather pass away in our grandmother’s arms due to lung cancer. From there came the life of turmoil to which we would hide much of our pain behind smiles and introversion. To cope, we’d write short stories, poems, and songs together and no one would know. There were many times I felt like I was dealt a hand no one could ever win with. But, at the very least, another player had the same cards as me. There’s nothing better than someone who can pick up where you left off or understand you without you saying a word.
I’ll never forget the first stage play we wrote in college. I fell asleep typing at the keyboard, only to wake up the next day with the script completed by Eli, just in time for our casting call. I read the ending of the play for the first time along with everyone else in amazement over the fact that it was exactly how I imagined it. In graduate school, hours before the deadline to submit to this national film competition, which had to be made in a week’s time, nothing was working out, not even our twintuition.It was 2 am, so we threw in the towel and went to bed. Some time had passed before we were both back up, editing the film. Months later, we went on to win first place. The validation wasn’t in the award but in the realization that we could overcome obstacles through endurance and togetherness. This moment continues to remind me, you don’t know what’s on the other side of the finish line unless you cross it.
As spoken word hip-hop artists, filmmakers, playwrights, visual artists, co-founders of the Philadelphia Film Factory (Philm Factory), ceo’s of Eli Lu Entertainment, digital designers for the star-studded Wearable Art Gala and WACO Theater Center (in Los Angeles), president and vice president of Mill Creek Community Partnership, and 2023 inductees in the Overbrook Hall of Fame, I often can’t believe how far we’ve come to get here. Most people don’t know the path I’ve walked. My sister doesn’t just know, she’s lived it.
I suggest the removal of this because it’s a totally different analogy that doesn’t expand on much of what is communicated before or after it. Redundant.
“There was a hole in the ceiling and rain would just pour in and mess with our feelings. Instead of catching sleep and dreams, we were catching rain and streams of tears that haunted us for years. We were grabbing pots and pans and everything we can, just to keep the rain from falling down.” I wrote this at 18. As an introvert, I would often pour my anger and frustrations out onto a sheet of paper through lyrical bars, poetry and drawings. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Lu and I both used the arts to express ourselves and get past the traumas of our youth. Although grandma and grandpa did their best to provide for my siblings and I, being poor always found its way to make a big presence in our lives.
I remember this leak in our ceiling that overlooked our asymmetrical bedroom. The sound of raindrops hitting the bucket became a constant that you just couldn’t ignore but Lu and I heard the same thing: a musical beat. As creatives, we would make songs from the sounds of rain hitting the pans. Other days, it became a game to see whose raindrops would make it down the closet wall the fastest. These moments of darkness marked what became a sisterly bond that couldn’t be broken. It was one that only we understood. Together, we took lemons and made the sweetest lemonade. Our bedroom was no longer a room in a West Philadelphia hood. Every night it was either a stage or a scene in a movie or play. We would write stories that took us places around the world, though we never left the block. Today, that same creativity is evident in our work. It gave us the ability to be storytellers in film, theater, poetry and rap, which allowed us to create what is now Eli Lu Entertainment.
In our early careers, we often found ourselves in spaces where we were either one of the few Black women in computer science, or on film sets where the crew was mainly male-dominated or filled with individuals who didn’t look like us. This led to us being doubted. We’ve always been in uncomfortable situations or environments but having your sister as your back bone keeps you standing tall and confident. I now see challenges, obstacles, pain and uncertainty as stepping stools for the next phase of life.
My sister taught me that creativity is birthed from what you don’t have and what you don’t see. For us, success is not measured by your bank account but by your ability to create something from nothing. To say that I’m blessed to have been through the storm with Lu is an understatement. I look back over my life and realize that her sisterly love and bond kept me going.