by Sherif Awad
-I was born in Jamaica and lived with various family members as a young child. I was always entertaining the adults by singing and dancing. As the only child in a world of adults, I had several story books, consequently, I loved reading and developed an extensive vocabulary from an early age. Words and the English language fascinated me and later on, I loved reading stories to my younger cousins and other children in school. I would act out the stories and read using different voices and accents to accentuate the story and amuse my listeners.
This provided a great means of escape from reality in my home life. After returning to live with my mother and siblings with her new husband, home life was quite turbulent with alcoholism, domestic violence and emotional abuse. Reading and storytelling was a great escape and comforting.
After leaving Jamaica and migrating to Britain, I was able to use my ‘acting’ skills to survive living in a very racist and hostile environment. Black children were a novelty and I was always aware of my ‘difference’ and having to make extra efforts to ‘fit in’. Any dreams of ‘acting’/entertaining were shelved as there was no support for these non professional hobbies.
I completed a shorthand and typing qualification which helped me in my later studies as a nurse; pharmaceutical sales representative and teacher.
I was scouted by a fashion company to come and model in London at the age of 16. I was not given parental permission to pursue this path, but the desire to entertain never left me.
-My role models from cinema were people like Sidney Potier, Sam Cooke, Harry Belafonte, Sean Connery, Nat King Cole, Cicely Tyson, Angela Bassett, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston;
Music is also a great love - I have been influenced by a number of artists - and Jazz: soul. Funk gospel continues to be a great influence in my life and career.
-My studies have been guided by a desire to learn more about certain techniques and approaches and to keep relevant and up to date. To that end, I have mostly studied in practical, workshops and seminar settings.
-As more opportunities are now opening up for me I find entertaining extremely satisfying. Achieving worldwide stardom is only relevant for me if I am able to impact and positively influence others both now and in the future. Stardom at any cost is sterile.
-There are definitely challenges related to gender, age and race in the entertainment profession.
However, these are not insurmountable and with tenacity, perseverance; acting on feedback, and relevant training/coaching, the right doors continue to open.
-As a relative newcomer to the creative industry, I am still very much learning about the industry. What I am finding is that as I extend my skills and improve in various areas - eg voiceover, comedy, improvisation, tv/radio presenting and fitness arenas - more opportunities can be explored.
-For new works, I carefully consider:-
I now refuse projects that do not reflect the time investment by the payments offered. I am then freed up to take on the projects that (a) I enjoy and (b) reward me adequately for my skills, experience and time.
-Some current projects include extending my work in TV: commercials: standup comedy and speaking engagements as well as completing my next book.