Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ladies of Crimson & Cream: The Legacy Lives On Through the Arts

It was my intention to have this blog posted by January 13, 2013, the 100th Anniversary date of my beloved sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., however life and involvement in the celebration got me off schedule.  Now, with the recent death of my line sister (my sorority sister who pledged on the same line as me), I now realize that it was the perfect time for me to post a time when the bond of our sisterhood is more relevant than ever.

With that, although she was not an actress, I'd like to dedicate this post to Soror Dr. F. Carlise Cathcart Billings.  May your body now rest in peace and your soul soar with the angels forever more!

In this post, it is my pleasure to acknowledge, pay respect to, and highlight the accomplishments of some of the Actresses who are members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  Thank you Sorors for paving the way for those of us who aspire to leave a legacy as you have and are continuing to leave as artists.

Soror Ruby Dee
Born in Ohio, actress Ruby Dee grew up in Harlem and joined the American Negro Theatre in 1941. She is well known for collaborations with her husband, actor Ossie Davis. Dee's film career spans a generation and includes 1950's The Jackie Robinson Story, 1961's A Raisin in the Sun and 1988's Do the Right Thing. In 2008, Dee received her first Oscar nomination for playing Mama Lucas in the hit film American Gangster.
Dee made several appearances on Broadway before receiving national recognition for her role in the 1950 film The Jackie Robinson Story. Her career in acting has crossed all major forms of media over a span of eight decades, including the films A Raisin in the Sun, in which she recreated her stage role as a suffering housewife in the projects, and Edge of the City. She played both roles opposite Sidney Poitier. During the 1960s, Dee appeared in such politically charged films as Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is recognized as helping paved the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers.

She has won Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk, and Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards. She is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors, among scores of others awards.

Soror Ellen Holly
A life member of The Actors Studio, Holly began her career on stage appearing in the Broadway productions of Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright and A Hand Is on the Gate before embarking on a television and film career. She guest starred on Sam Benedict and The Nurses before landing the role of actress-turned-Judge Clara "Carla" Hall on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, a role she played from 1968 to 1981, and again from 1983 to 1985.  Holly came to the attention of Agnes Nixon, the creator of One Life to Live, after writing a letter to the editor of The New York Times about what it was like to be a light-skinned African American. Nixon created the role of Carla and offered Holly a role on her new show.

When Holly began on One Life to Live in October 1968, her African-American heritage was not publicized as part of the storyline; her character, named Carla Benari, was a touring actress of apparently Italian American heritage. Carla and a Caucasian physician, Dr. Jim Craig, fell in love and became engaged. But she was falling for an African-American doctor. When the two kissed onscreen, it was reported that the switchboards at ABC were busy by fans who thought that the show had shown an African-American and Caucasian kissing. Holly is the author of her memoir "One Life: The Autobiography of an African American Actress."
 Soror Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson was raised in Harlem, New York by devoutly religious parents from the Caribbean island of Nevis. She was discovered by a fashion editor at Ebony magazine and, with her stunning looks, she quickly rose to the top of the modeling industry. In 1957, she began acting in Off-Broadway productions. She had small roles in feature films before she was cast as Portia in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter in 1968. Four years later, Cicely was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her sensational performance in the critically acclaimed film Sounder (1972). In 1974, she went on to portray a 110-year-old former slave in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which earned her two Emmys.

She is also recognized for her performances in the films Twelve Angry Men, The Comedians, Fried Green Tomatoes, Hoodlum, Because of Winn-Dixie, and Diary of a Mad Black Woman, to name a few. While Ms. Tyson has not appeared steadily onscreen because of her loyality to only portray strong, positive images of Black women, she is without a doubt one of the most talented, beautiful actresses to have ever graced the stage and screen.

                                                                              Soror Sheryl Lee Ralph
Raised between Mandeville, Jamaica, and Long Island, New York, Sheryl Lee Ralph was born in Jamaica to an African American father and a Jamaican mother. In 1973, she was crowned Miss Black Teen-age New York. At 19, Ralph was the youngest woman to ever graduate from Rutgers University. Also that year she was named as one of the top 10 college women in America by Glamour magazine. Initially she hoped to study medicine, but after dealing with cadavers in a premed class and winning a scholarship in a competition at the American College Theater Festival, she quit medicine for the performing arts.

Ralph began her career on the stage and was nominated in 1982 for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Deena Jones in Dreamgirls. In 1984, Ralph released her only album In the Evening, in which the title track hit peaked at #6 on the Billboard chart that same year. In 1988, she starred in the Disney movie Oliver & Company providing the speaking voice of Rita. Her first film leading role came as Denzel Washington's wife in The Mighty Quinn. In 1992, she starred as Robert De Niro's mistress in Mistress. During the 1990s she also had roles in The Flintstones, Deterrence and Unconditional Love. She was voted one of TV's Favorite Moms for her portrayal of step mom Dee on the number-one rated television series Moesha. In 2013, Ralph will be appearing on the NBC television show Smash as Cynthia, the mother of Jennifer Hudson's character.

Soror Leslie Uggams
 Leslie Uggams (born in New York City) is an American actress and singer, perhaps best known for her work in Hallelujah, Baby! and the miniseries Roots. Uggams started in show business as a child in 1950, playing the niece of Ethel Waters on Beulah. Uggams made her singing debut on the Lawrence Welk Show and was a regular on Sing Along with Mitch.  Uggams came to be recognized by TV audiences as an upcoming teen talent in 1954 on the NBC/CBS hit musical quiz show series "Name That Tune" (1953-9) along with child hitmaker Eddie Hodges.

Tony and Emmy Award-winning Leslie Uggams won an Audelco award for her starring turn in "First Breeze of Summer" at the acclaimed off-Broadway Signature Theater. She starred as Lena Horne in a pre-Broadway run of "Stormy Weather" at the Pasadena Playhouse. Ms. Uggams' Broadway appearances have included starring alongside James Earl Jones in "On Golden Pond" and co-starring in the Broadway hit "Thoroughly Modern Millie." In 2001, her Broadway portrayal of Ruby in August Wilson's "King Hedley II" was nominated for a Tony Award. "Headley" followed two other Audelco Award-winning, critically acclaimed, off-Broadway performances: "The Old Settler" and Keb Mo's blues musical "Thunder Knocking on the Door."  
When not performing in the theater, Leslie can be found touring the country with her acclaimed concerts. She has appeared with The Cincinnati Pops, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, The Washington Symphony Orchestra and The Rhode Island Symphony, to name a few. In addition, she performed before 300,000 people during the Memorial Day Concert on the Washington Mall and reached millions more as the event was televised live by PBS.

Soror Kym Whitley
Whitley was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Whitley's major acting roles include My Brother and Me and Sparks. She made guest appearances in several television sitcoms, including The Parent 'Hood, Married... with Children, Moesha, That's So Raven, The Parkers and Curb Your Enthusiasm. She also had a role in Next Friday as Craig's aunt Suga.

She was one of "The Adults" in the earlier seasons of All That. "The Adults", as they were called, were grown-ups featuring cast members that appeared in sketches with the regular cast. In the early spring of 2010, Whitley was a co-host with R&B musician, Brian McKnight on the short-lived talk show, The Brian McKnight Show.

Soror Keshia Knight Pulliam
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Keshia Knight Pulliam landed her first job, at not quite a year old, as a model in a print ad for Johnson & Johnson baby products. After appearing in several advertisements, at the age of three Pulliam landed a recurring role on the children's television program Sesame Street. The next year she filmed her big screen debut, The Last Dragon, which was released in 1985 and has since become a cult classic.
In 1984, when she was only four years old, Pulliam landed what remains her most iconic role: Bill Cosby's adorable and witty daughter Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show. For her performance on The Cosby Show, Pulliam won a Young Artist Award, several NAACP Image Awards, a People's Choice Award, and a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award. In 1986, at the age of six, she became the youngest performer ever nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress. After the show ended in 1992, Pulliam spent years away from acting to concentrate on school. In 2001, she graduated from Spelman College, with honors, receiving a B.A. in Sociology, with a concentration in film.

In 2007, Pulliam landed the role of Miranda on Tyler Perry's TBS sitcom House of Payne. Pulliam continues to play that role after seven seasons and has won three NAACP Image Awards for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. In 2009, she also costarred with Perry in the film Madea Goes to Jail.  Additionally, She has an Atlanta based Production Company, Kizzy Productions. Keshia splits her time between her suburban Atlanta home and LA residence.
Soror Wendy Davis
This Maryland native dreamed of becoming an actress. Wendy began a campaign to put herself in the public eye, and on screen. She earned a Bachelors Degree in Theatre from Howard University, and thereafter, moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. This talented beauty was hand picked by the legendary Steven Spielberg to star in the series, High Incident, DreamWorks SKG first one-hour series. Of her performance, the Hollywood Reporter stated that, “Wendy Davis is magnificent as a cop's widow".
She is dedicated to training and developing actors to work professionally in film and TV. She is owner and instructor of the Los Angeles Actor Center in California, a resource center for actors. In fact, performing and teaching are only part of her many activities and she is currently writing a book about the Los Angeles audition process, which will be released soon.
With a few films under her belt, Wendy also has been an ever-increasing presence guest-starring on many TV series such as Grey’s Anatomy, Commander In Chief, and The District, to name a few. Wendy Davis is on the fast track with a second NAACP Image Award nod for her raw and electrifying performances on Lifetime Television’s, "Army Wives,"  starring as Lt. Col. Joan Burton, commander of 400 soldiers.  She currently guest stars as Kimberly Mitchell on the hit primetime drama, "Scandal".
                                                                            Soror Ryan Michelle Bathe
Bathe grew up in Stamford, Connecticut. She graduated from Stanford University and received a Master of Fine Arts from New York University. Her most notable role to date is playing attorney Sara Holt on the American TV series Boston Legal. In June 2007, Ryan Michelle Bathe married fellow actor Sterling K. Brown, her college sweetheart. In 2011, the two appeared onscreen together in the Lifetime TV series Army Wives, on which she stars as "Charlie".  Ryan has also appeared on the TV shows Private Practice, How I Met Your Mother, and Bones, to name a few.

I had the pleasure of working with Sorors Wendy Davis and Ryan Michelle Bathe on an episode of Army Wives, and not only were they the nicest people to meet and work with, they were proud members of Delta.  At the time we discussed how excited we were about the Centennial celebration.  Good sorors!
I really take pride in the fact that so many Sorors have found success as actors and have created a legacy that Sorors on the rise can truly continue.  It has been a blessing to find out that so many of my fellow actors in the Atlanta area are also my sorors!  I'm sure that  I have yet to discover and meet many more.
Special shout out to these beautiful sorors who are on their way to taking the acting world by storm!  Look out's the Delta takeover. :-)
Top (left to right): Maria Howell, Jwaundace Candece, Arle Michel
Bottom (left to right): Chimere Love, Noree Victoria, Dan-Neika "Danni Chick" Clay
Sources: Wikipedia, Biography, IMDB


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Child's Play

It's funny that as little girls (or even boys) one of our favorite things to do was to dress up and pretend to be someone with extraordinary abilities, personalities, or looks. I vividly remember spinning around so fast in my room just hoping I would magically turn into Wonder Woman. :) (Don't look at me know I wasn't the only one. :))

Fast forward to now and it turns out that it’s still one of my favorite things to do! So much so that I chose a career where I get to transform into different people with different experiences, emotions, qualities, and characteristics.

 What's interesting is that in the process, you discover or reveal that there is a tiny or big part of that role/character that already exists in you...the good, the bad and the ugly. :) The discovery of that or the freedom to reveal that truth can be both scary and exhilarating at the same time.


I think for most actors, we are a tad weary of being pigeon-holed or locked into a type (typecast), but as we grow, we learn to embrace the essence of who we are and how people see us. However, personally, I still love the opportunities to tap into all facets of who I am or who I could be!


 As I look at the changes in my headshots, the roles I've had, and even the physical changes I've made personally...I just accept that I love all of those people and have enjoyed the exploration, the discovery, and revelation...whether they worked or not. :)

Maybe it’s that little girl in me...but I look forward to playing "dressup" and having extraordinary experiences on this journey for many, many years to come. Wanna play???

Friday, December 21, 2012

"You Need to Get With Tyler Perry!"

Atlanta actors have this common chuckle about hearing these statements from people on a regular basis:
"Do you know Tyler Perry?" "You know Tyler Perry has a new studio in Atlanta, right?" "You should try to get on one of Tyler Perry’s shows." and MY favorite…."Guuuurl…you need to get with Tyler Perry!"
All to which, in my head, I answer…."I wish I could just walk up to his door and say…'You need to put me in your movie'" or "Nope…hadn’t thought of that." :-)  But I know they only mean well and are trying to help me look at all my options, so instead, I can happily answer, "You know…I don’t think I’m gonna GET with Tyler Perry, lol, but I HAVE had the opportunity to work with him." -- And now, on two occasions.
I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Perry, in the role of a reporter, in the movie "Meet the Browns", and most recently had the opportunity to work under his direction again, in the feature film, "Single Mom’s Club". 
Consistent with my initial experience of having some freedom to improvise and not be married to the script, his direction on the set of "Single Mom’s Club" reflected the same trust and expectation to handle your business, do what you know, and be in the moment.  And what I find most impressive is that he operates in this manner no matter how big or small the role is.  The shoot was great!  We were in and out…quick and efficient.  I didn’t start out with a lot to say, but just as with "Meet the Browns", ended up with a lot more delivered, because I was ready. :-) 
It was also a pleasure meeting and working with the female stars of the film Amy Smart, Cocoa Brown, Nia Long, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and one of the sweetest ladies ever, Zulay Henao.  All were really down-to-earth and great to work with.  The crew…of course…on point…made things easy breezy.
This will be added to my list of truly valuable experiences in this journey….


Me with Tyler Perry and actress Carrie Walrond
at the SMC Wrap Party

Waiting in my trailer/dressing room to go on set

Me & Zulay Henao

Me and Amy Smart

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Beginning...

Seems like yesterday, I was lugging a carseat with my new daughter into the waiting room of my agency, for an audition; asking my girl, actress, & fellow mom Karen (w/carseat in tow as well :-)) or anyone else who didn't look like a stalker, to watch my child, while I go into "the room".  Oh the memories of slipping into the restroom of the Corner Bakery, on my lunch break, dressed in a suit with glasses on, and then emerging like Superman, with contacts on, make-up flawless, hair flowing, fitted jeans and a bright colored top, headed over to Stillwell for an audition!  Many a day, wondering if the folks at the restaurant thought I was a hooker on the low. :-)  Sheer chaos...but pure adrenaline...and all this to hear those three little words..."You booked it!"  My first successful call from my agent....a commercial..."You booked it!" 

Before I decided to start acting professionally, I had done my vision board, wrote out my goals, put into practice those proven tools for success, and on that list..."To do a commercial." Check!
At that time, I knew that I loved acting, but wasn't considering it as a career, so I thought...a commercial would be fun. :-)  Well, you see...God sets bigger goals for us than we can imagine!  He knows what your true passion is and in time..the right time...reveals to you what it is.  He gives you the intention, the intuition, the gumption, and the tools to start on your journey to fulfilling it.  I should have known it was gonna be good with all the excitement and adventure I had experienced starting out on this journey, but 12 commercials later, and a steady growing career as a full-time actress, I have to's been even better than I expected....