Updated: Apr 26, 2019
As I searched through my phone to find a good #TBT I knew the exact picture I was looking for. There's a picture of me sitting outside of the Lilly Building on the campus of Fayetteville State University. I'm looking off to the side wearing a pink shirt, black pants and micro-braids were on POINT. But in my search, I found something so much better. I found a few pictures of me as Princess Jasmine in the Magical Lamp of Aladdin in 2011. I laughed out loud but then I began to really look at this picture and I wonder why I didn't see the significance of that time or even that moment. Probably because I have a bad habit of keeping my mind in the future and not being present in the moment, but I'm working on it. Or maybe I wasn't meant to see it at that time. For some reason, I'm just seeing the beauty of being able to play the beloved and feisty Disney princess. I'm actually disappointed that I didn't notice the gift of it before. I can remember the moms coming up to me asking for me to take pictures with their little girls. I remember signing the programs of the smalls students who came to our morning shows. I remember it all but I'm only seeing the beauty of it now. Better late than never right? Truth be told I was dealing with so much brain noise that I'm not surprised I missed it, I'm just disappointed.
At this point in my life, it was my senior year and I found my passion in theatre, but still struggling with depression, insecurities, trying to find my niche, and being an all-out hot mess. Though, I was super excited about this role I wasn't celebrated by my fellow Broncos the way I would have hoped which could have also played into me not seeing the significance or even feeling significant in the role. The year before, I audition for the production of Snow White and I wanted that role so so bad. I didn't get it and I was devastated. My director explained why she made that choice I understood but still pained. When the time came to audition for Aladdin, I was met by a particular young lady who wanted the role as well, but her methods to obtain it later resulted in her being blackballed from the theatre company. While we were in auditions this young lady went around the school telling people she was going to be Princess Jasmine because she was "Latina and pretty." I don't think she understood that you need more than just good looks to land a lead role. After the casting list came out she then started going around the school telling people the only reason I got the role and not her was that I was friends with the director. Well, correction sweetie, I got the role because I worked my ass off from my very first production and now as a veteran of the FSU Theatre Co. I'm still working my ass off. Let's just say I had to give her a good ole cuss out to remind her to keep my name out of her mouth and the importance of being a good actor. Your looks alone won't cut it, kid. While on the high of landing the lead role, I was met by other shady remarks from people asking "why'd you get it?" or ever a bewildered look. I was frustrated by a lot of people's response so I just chucked it off as just another role to add to my growing resume.
Though that school year I did my best work as an actor, I welcomed an old talent that I had since forgotten about -storytelling. Not just as an actor but as I writer. I had been a storyteller my entire life. Going all the way back before I could write, I had a natural gift of creating and sharing stories. Even playing with my barbie dolls, or hot wheels, there was always a full story coming out of me. I took my first play-writing class and writing my first 5 minute play The Graduation. My professor pulled me aside and said "you really need to consider play-writing." My selfish response was "but I want to be an actor." I then learned that I could, in fact, due both. Creating the story is more powerful than just telling it. He introduced me to re-writing, but let me just say I was annoyed, "why do I need re-write what I already wrote?" I'm laughing at my ignorance as I'm thinking about it. Especially since re-writing is now my favorite part of the process. I love watching my work, my plot, my characters grow right before my eyes. The very next year, I co-founded a student based performance company "Commonly Uncommon," and wrote all our scripts. We had meetings where we'd all write monologues and I'd take them and make into scripts and yes, we performed them.
I find that my disappointment in not seeing the beauty of playing a Disney princess was misplaced. I say that because I wasn't in a place where blackness was absent I was at an HBCU. Every play we did had a prominently black cast. I didn't see the beauty of that moment because I was on a journey to seeing the beauty in something else. There was beauty in discovering my true gift and passion, which is writing. Don't get me wrong, I love acting, but the fire that burns in me are the stories in my head. The power that comes from creating the stories and not just portraying them. As I look back over my life and my art I see that I was trying to be something I could be and I didn't see what I was meant to be. I'm grateful to look back and say "wow, I played a Disney Princess". I'm learning it's never too late look back, appreciate a moment from the past and finding new meaning and perspective of it.