I am a performer. My first professional show was in my junior year of college, but I had been doing it since I was 12. Up until my daughter was born, that’s how I earned my living.
I’m a single mom. It’s been just the two of us since she was eight months old. So the performer’s life isn’t possible for me right now. I would have to hire somebody to put her to bed and get her from school on Wednesdays. I wouldn’t see her on the weekends. It’s challenging, because I believe performing is what I was made to do.
I have a BFA in acting from Howard University. I’m the first woman in my family to get a degree. I put myself through school; there was no savings, so I took my education very seriously. Every semester I was in the chairman’s office saying, “Doc, I don’t know how I’m going to finish,” and she would say, “Let’s work it out.”
Because there was no expectation around college in my family, no one pressured me to do anything other than what I wanted. It was truly my choice. I went on to get my master’s degree from Penn State, and then I moved to New York and hit the pavement. My first Broadway show was Little Shop of Horrors. I was in that show until it closed the following year, and then I packed up my dressing station and went across the street to Hairspray, where I stayed for five years.
Broadway is a great community. The myth is that as a working actor you just ‘play’ for a living. But you have to be disciplined and take care of yourself. You can’t go out partying every night; you have to watch what you eat and stay in shape. If you have any sort of respect for your craft, you come to the theater ready to give the audience what they paid for. Relationships fall to a secondary position. I have to wait until my daughter is a little older, to work my way back to being a performer full time.
I’ve done all the typical actor-y things to support myself—retail, restaurants, corporate office work. I recently left a job because it had to be done. It was taking a physical and emotional toll, and I wasn’t as good a mom because of it. If I’m going to do something that is not performance, it has to be meaningful to me, and I want it to be something that helps people. I need to show my daughter how to make strong, positive choices.
My daughter is my favorite thing in the world. Recently she said to me, “Mommy, our family is different.” And I said, “This is what we are and what we have. Things might look a certain way with other people, looking from the outside in. But we all love our kids, and this is all of us taking care of each other. This is how it works.”
Interviewed on February 27, 2019