I graduated in 2015 from the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University and it has been a whirlwind to say the least. In my last semester I was accepted to BADA for their prestigious Shakespearean Summer Program run by Yale University. I was recommended to a second tier agent for representation, and I was also booked in my first feature film role as the lead for an upcoming short blaxploitation film titled “Cleoblacktra” directed by the now famous photographer, artist, and director Eli Linnetz (you may recognize his work with the FADE video or as Kanye and Kim Wests main photographer). I was on cloud nine. Eli’s film was being produced by Sawyer Spielberg so I KNEW I would get some work out of it in my young, new, and fresh actor business brain. Eli said he would pay me a little coin for the film, BADA’s team convinced me it was worth it to raise money to go, and well representation is representation. Just get me in the room!
I had come so far at this point I was all in! Little did I know the year turned out to be one of my hardest financial years and I barely worked at all. The film was shot with many setbacks along the way and went into post-production and I learned very quickly why people have contracts and representation. I wasn’t paid a dime and the film nerver happened via the producers last minute pull-out on the project. I also learned very quickly that representation is only great for you if your representation is advocating for you as a new actor so that you do get into those rooms. BADA was a wonderful and terrifying experience and I came out of it a better actor for it. I also came out of all of my schooling in debt and it hit my like a ton of bricks.
When I started graduate school, the idea was If I got in, there is value to this program and my time here. Afterall, my school was on the top 10 list of acting schools to go to in the country. Never look at schools in America as something you are investing in solely. They should want to invest in you too. There is value in not having to pay or barely pay for school. I came from a fashion business background so I had no idea. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I wasn’t raised with a strong financial foundation. I had no financial education and no one to turn to for help or advice about this. I just went for it and got in and thought , welp I will figure out from here. I acted and booked here and there after school but never consistently because I was battling a financial and psychological meltdown every few months. It was tough trying to balance all that life threw at me those first few years out of school.
PSA: I encourage anyone thinking of going to school for the arts to look into all free programming. There are fantastic programs all over the country that are funding artists education. You do not need to break the bank to get your arts education and thrive in your industry. I mean Yale University is a free MFA program for actors. So there is no excuse to pay thousands of dollars.
I have learned hard lessons to get to this point. As I eased my way back into the real world I went through numerous odd jobs trying to figure out how to sustain my basic financial needs while pursuing my dream. Pair that with hits in family structure (loss of family, mental illness, and racial disparities) and my personal battles. I hit rock bottom too many times.
I went back to a nine to five allowing my masters degree to work for me. I started working with Fostercare youth at the agency MercyFirst and became the Educational Specialist there. That job and those youth saved my life. I got back on my feet and went back to acting as of 2019. I am just now finding my way back to the world of acting. I am currently working as a teaching artist and am slowly transitioning back to acting. I still take odd jobs here and there but I have been able to sustain myself working as an advocate and educator for young people. I currently work with S.O.U.L Sisters Leadership Collective as a Teaching Artist working with homeless youth in Brownsville, NY.
I never completely left acting which helped me get my feet wet earlier this year before I completely left my job in fostercare. I am set to put up my one woman show “Mamas 19” in July with Playful Substance’s festival on mothers which has been a three year dream of mine. I am writing, acting, and starting to get my producer legs back and I am grateful. At this point I am living my life and taking each day and opportunity as it comes to me and the hiatus is finally over.
What I have learned is that you cannot allow yourself to become a victim to your circumstances. I know I have been through alot. So has everyone else. Now self care is at the forefront of my work with Javana and with others. Financial literacy is the most important thing to me because I believe it is a disease and it can be toxic to your happiness and your peace of mind. It is my calling to do the work of storytelling through the arts as well as educational advocacy. I am right where I need to be and I am excited for the next phase of my journey!
Below are some images of whats to come with my show on Black Mothers in America called “Mama’s 19” set for July 2019 at Under St. Marks here in NYC. More details to come.
As always, FORWARD!