Building on a Dream

Some time has passed since I’ve done an interview, but I have been meeting a ton of talented folks here in Los Angeles. I’m thankful that you’ve been taking an interest in finding out about Hollywoodland through my personal journey. Now I’d like to let you in on another great gem in the entertainment industry. Tysha Williams and I met on the set of an MTV dating prank show titled “Disaster Date”. After discovering our birthdays were a day a part, that we moved to California around the same time, and have several interests in common, it’s no wonder we became fast friends.

Miss Tysha became a huge inspiration and motivation for me shortly after I moved here. I look up to celebs, their careers, and how they made it big, but nothing hits closer to home than a peer hustling for the same things. As you’ll read shortly, it takes a lot to bring this girl down and she won’t be held back from realizing every dream God has placed on her heart. I know you’ll come to love her just as much as I have, and–if you’re interested in acting/dance/singing/modeling/fashion–you have another celeb-in-the-making to follow!

I know you have a long list of talents, Tysha. What are you currently focusing on at the moment?

At this moment and the main reason I came to LA is for my acting. Yes, I am a MADchick with modeling and dance in my background and foreground, but acting is my main focus and passion right now! It used to be “well whatever jumps off first” because my passions ran so deep for all of them, but that caused me to spin my wheels too much and not progress as quickly as I desired. I knew I would have to choose and concentrate my efforts and the rest would hopefully come. Besides, in acting I can play a dancer or a model so it’s kind of the best of ALL the worlds, RIGHT?!

I agree! Tell us who first inspired you to jump into the entertainment industry.

I was always intrigued by television, film, and performers in general (from Michael Jackson to Natalie Portman). I watched them all and wanted from an early age to be just like them and the people who paved the way before me along with peers. In middle school, I already knew this would be my path, or I at least wanted it to be. I was never the “everybody else” girl because I’m very determined–although I was very shy and still am. On the stage or in front of camera is where I feel the most comfortable, especially in dance! That attention and energy of live performance is like none other. I still get the butterflies right before, but I love that. The moment I don’t is the moment it no longer satisfies me. Dancing was my first passion that just came natural. The late and beautiful Aaliyah, was my first inspiring artist that I wanted to emulate who was in my age range and made me feel like this is something I wanted to do. I dressed like her and learned all her choreography. There were no classes to take in my small town, so I would spend hours in front of my mirrors practicing until I got it. High school was when I first realized I really liked acting, and by the time I moved to Atlanta the second time and took up theatre, my love for it had multiplied. It was apparent that’s what I wanted to do and I was going after it, but no one (not even my family) knew what I wanted to do nor did they understand this business. It was all through trial and error, heartbreak and triumph. I’m a “show you better than I can tell you” kind of girl.

It must have been tough not having the understanding of your family, so what is it about performing that keeps you going?

Very early on as a child, music and performing were a part of my life, and I feel it just naturally matured with me. I also knew when it was the only thing that drove me and essentially made me happy doing it. I constantly saw/envisioned myself up there with the people I admired receiving awards/recognition for what I loved doing even if money wasn’t in the picture. Trust me, it isn’t for a while! There has to be a gift that drives you to keep going for it regardless. Even when I was going through some of the most trying times personally, physically and emotionally I found solace in my acting and basically letting the world know that it’s ok to feel! I’ve done a lot of things over the years to “pay the bills,” but I wanted more. Performing/acting fulfilled that and made me feel free. That’s the feeling I’ve chased all my life. Not many can say that but I want to be one of them that can. It comes with a price that’s for sure, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t change it for anything.

The freedom of doing what we love is most definitely worth it, but was the transition difficult moving away from home and coming to Los Angeles?

The adjustment wasn’t hard for me at all. Now the getting here part was very difficult. I loved LA already. The people are different. I’ve met some really sweet individuals that I believe will be my true friends for a life time! That’s a great feeling especially never having that. True friends are hard to come by, especially girlfriends. I had been here for an audition once before and that was the catalyst that made me say, “In a year I need to be here”. I was ready to leave because I had outgrown Atlanta within that 8 year period and was ready to fully pursue my career. No more sidelines, I was ready to get in the game.If it had been up to me I would’ve been here right out of high school at FIDM (that’s another side of me), but my family and Gods’ timing wasn’t for that. I always have timelines for everything that I want to accomplish and do, but I’ve learned it’s not the best thing to have for this ever-changing business.

Now that I’m finally here at my final destination that side has eased up because I’m now on the path to solely pursue my career daily. I have finally found the place that I fit into and welcomes my lifestyle dietary needs. I am finally a happy, healthy vegetarian!

So did your career here take a major shift, or was it similar to work in Atlanta?

Atlanta has always been known for music and took over the seat for musicians/artist to have to travel there for their careers. The music scene is ridiculous there, but the acting scene wasn’t well versed enough. In the year and a half I’ve been here it has blossomed tremendously. Many more projects are being produced there, but I feel LA will always have its staple for that part of the industry. The opportunities are endless here.

Besides performing, are there any other careers that entice  you?

I am a business woman naturally, and working for myself and employing others has always been a goal of mine. I started a company selling handbags over 3 years ago with the mindset and goal to soon have my own handbag line, and I’m also writing a book that is in the works right now. I love helping people so there are a lot of philanthropic community/global things I want to do and have done already. Girls, young women, and adult women are an especially sensitive heartstring subject for me and where I would like to concentrate my efforts. This business offers one of the best platforms for that.

The opportunities here for entertainers are definitely endless, but–as a women of color–do you ever feel there is less work for the ethnic actors/models/dancers?

For women in general I would say the roles for actresses are fewer than our counterparts, and–with the “reality” craze–the art of acting is starting to fall in the shadows. The new media cycle has changed the way things are done and companies are cashing in on that. Sucks for us actors because the material has become limited. Creating your own indie production is increasingly popular for the true artistry. I actually feel the infatuation with people of color–especially women–is necessarily becoming more popularly accepted; however,there is still only a handful of  “us” that are publicly successful. I think that can change.

You’re also a Christian in a career where sex, partying and money sell. Do you experience any struggles balancing your morals within the industry?

I have had my experience with that struggle not even just as a Christian but just as a woman in the industry. I have been tried several times and it used to really upset me. Now that I’m older and know more about the business, I am better able to deal with those advances without getting all emotional, discouraged and upset. In fact, the first time I came here for an audition all the way from Atlanta turned out to be that scenario. I guess because I was young–and looked even younger and naive–I seemed to be an easy target, but they quickly found out otherwise! There are a lot of pitfalls in this business. You really have to know yourself and not be so desperate to take part in all the things offered to you.

Besides being taken advantage of, did you have any other rock bottom experiences in entertainment?

I have had countless setbacks on this journey, but I still at times feel as if I’m just getting started. Being in LA where it all happens on the top of the scale, not many can do it and I’m still here so that says something. However, I have had a couple of rock bottoms that happened all at once or a catalyst for more. I was really low and hit another low right after I got here, but that didn’t last as long. The good thing about being that low is there is nowhere else to go but UP. A lot of close people even friends and family don’t know about my darkest hour because I was either too ashamed or just didn’t want to speak it out into the universe. I always played the “I’m fine, I’m good” game but I was so broken inside. Now that I’m older, wiser, more understanding and accepted I can share my journey still with some tears here and there because I know where I’ve come from. That is why writing my book is such a big part for me right now, especially for women because we endure so much and still put on a smile and act like we’re ok when we’re really not. The advancement, empowerment and emotional/mental emancipation of women is a big subject for me. I can relate.

With your book, handbag line, and community interest, how do you keep moving forward when you’re basically rejected on a daily basis by not getting a certain auditions, callbacks, gigs, etc.? 

I think it’s just something only the people made for this business have. I remember being young and watching ANTM (America’s Next Top Model) and True Hollywood Stories with celebrities and artist saying this is a business you must have a thick skin for. You will be told “NO” more times than “YES”, but you have to know yourself and how to receive it. Everyone’s limits and passions are different. For instance, when arriving here I had to deal with several “casting scams.” They prey on newbies and definitely on unsigned talent. These incidents made me more focused on the business end of the industry and making sure my foundation was solid i.e. those around me, representing me, etc. My focus became getting true representation. Not saying it didn’t hurt, but I used it to push me harder instead of breaking me.

We talked about the heart aches, so what have been some of the highlights in your career?

Definitely my dancing experiences are on the list. Going to Hong Kong for the first time to dance with Bobby Mileage of NYC, a good friend and amazingly accomplished dancer/choreographer and teaching dance to the dancers there was one opportunity and experience I will never forget. Dancing and auditioning for DCC (Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders) and Atlanta Falcons. Working with Mike Peele and the incredibly talented Sean Bankhead who has grown tremendously as a dancer/choreographer since our encounter. Also working with Tyler Perry on his first feature film (which was mine too). It was small but it was my first taste of my dream and how a set worked. That was also a pivotal point that further ensured me that I wanted to be in this business; however, the long hours are grueling. I had to push myself to be a part of such greatness, but I like and always try to surround myself with people who are more advanced than me in areas I want to be greater in.

You’ve already come so far, but tell us where you see your career taking you several years down the line?

To infinity and beyond! I am a person with many different sides and interest. I want to empower women with whatever my hands find or are given to do. I want to be successful in everything I do from my art of performing to all the different business ventures and philanthropy endeavors. I want to be happy, healthy and living life on my terms!

I know you will get there! Who would you like to thank for helping you along your journey so far?

I would like to first thank my mother. We have come a long way, but I can say now that I finally “get” it. Thank you for exposing me to differences in life and ultimately helping me not to “settle” and go for what I want and encouraging me even when you were terrified of the outcome. You knew I would do it anyways so you said “you can.” And for loving me regardless of my mistake. To my grandma, the bestest granny in the world, for raising me and always stressing the importance of acting like a lady and keeping your own personal relationship with God. To my late, great papa Charles Stephenson Sr. I know you’re watching over me and one of the angels that helped turn several bad situations into blessings for me. Thank you for showing me what a “real” man is. Lastly, thank you to everyone I have had the pleasure of working with up to this point and to the ones I’ll be blessed to work with in the future. I have been blessed to meet some really creative/talented individuals here (especially you, Ms. Tia) that keep me going and inspire me daily to strive for greatness in me. Love you dolls, smooches! Watch and follow me on my journey.

For places to follow her journey, you can find her on Facebook, Model Mayhem, and her Website

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