Femi; Multi-Cultural Talent
â€œI have to say that probably the most important thing I learned from my mother is the value of family,â€ Emiola tells The Black Star News.
[Black Star Talent]
Where She’s From: Femi Emiola was born in Iowa City, Iowa.
Her parents were both international graduate students at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.
“They weren’t married, and their relationship was pretty rocky, so sometime before I was a year old, my mother took me home with her to Manila,” she says. “Then when I was five years old, my parents decided to get back together – mostly thanks to dedicated letter-writing on my father’s part. So my mother moved to Nigeria with me and they got married.”
“I have to say that probably the most important thing I learned from my mother is the value of family,” Emiola tells The Black Star News. “She would do anything for family, and that’s huge. My parents were both scientists, so they taught me to always ask questions till I fully grasped an idea or a subject. Ask, and then ask again.”
“My dad taught me to think fast – he would often conduct impromptu pop quizzes during dinner, and my sister and I would have to sit there with a plateful of delicious food waiting to be savored and a math question to answer before we could enjoy our meal! I mean – it was harder than homework! But all that answer-seeking in my young life taught me to approach everything without fear, think calmly under pressure and that everything is learnable and within reach.”
Emiola graduated from Iowa State University then moved to New York City and pursue an acting career; she’s been successfully employed in the industry for 12 years now. “I’d say I have a lot left to offer and a lot more to learn,” she says.
Where She's At: “In all seriousness, I would like to be in a position where I can live outside of Los Angeles and still work consistently,” she says, when asked her aspirations.
“If that means a movie career or a long commute for a TV show, then that’s what I’d like to do in my professional life. I would also like to keep working on my craft so that one day, I can say with confidence that I am respected among my peers.”
“It is my wish and my goal to actively do more for my community, both here and abroad. I recently got married, so I’m trying to figure out how to juggle married life with the demands of a career. It is my wish to have children one day.”
“It’s taken a long time to build a resume that qualifies me to say I have experience – that is, experience that casting directors and producers consider to valuable,” Emiola says, when asked how she deals with challenges. “As far as challenges go in my professional life, staying positive in the face of constant rejection can be difficult. There are some wonderful African American actresses working right now, but there simply not that many great roles to go around. So the competition is extremely fierce, and the constant rejection we face as actors face is daunting. I’ve learned that the best way to stay centered and grounded is to build a life outside of the ‘job.’”
“I’m proud that Toyota thought me capable enough to be Bianca Turner in IF LOOKS COULD KILL,” She says, when asked about some accomplishments she is proud of; please see www.iflookscouldkill.com.
“I found it challenging because of the sheer amount of material we covered each shoot day for Bianca, and we shot it all very quickly. I really had to stay on top of my game for it, so that no matter how fast we were going, Bianca stayed grounded and real and believable. Toyota spent $5 million on that campaign, and it was a great honor to be selected to play this dynamic, courageous, intelligent woman. We need more African American characters like that in stories that people watch.”
She also played Lani Walker on the television series WICKED WICKED GAMES, working very closely with Tatum O’Neal who famously portrayed Lani’s boss, Blythe Hunter.
“I am also quite proud of a short film I did a long time ago, called The Living Silence. I played the lead, Lemon, a very isolated young woman. It was done by a then-student director Tanya Steele, and won her the Directors Guild of America’s Best African-American Student Director award.”
“Of course, I’m sure there is some value to being physically attractive, particularly in my industry,” Emiola says. “However, I’m not so sure of the importance of it. On the other hand, spiritual beauty that is the whole person – now that is an amazing thing. Take that shining spirit and combine it with brainpower? Well, that is true wealth.”
Emiola’s Words Of Wisdom: “Always remember the people. Wherever you are in life, people matter. Pay attention to the people around you. Always, always give it 100%. Work hard. And I mean - damn hard.”
Emiola’s Favorite Three Movies: “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy are far and away my most favorite movies – the story is timeless, and great fun. But close to my heart right now are two movies that are completely different from the big Hollywood blockbusters. I recently had an opportunity to watch War Dance, which is a beautiful, beautiful documentary about children in northern Uganda caught up in rebel warfare. I also love another small film called The Wooden Camera, about two boys in South Africa. They find a dead man and relieve him of two items: one boy takes a gun and the other takes a video camera. It is fascinating to see what happens to each of them because of the choice they make.”
Emiola’s Favorite Three Books: “The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran – my husband introduced me to this book when we first met, and we loved it so much that we had his father read from it during our wedding ceremony; The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino. I’ve given that book to friends as gifts a couple of times. It’s about creating a life for yourself that is primarily about positive thinking and positive planning; and, Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker. This book moved me so much when I read it.”
Three Leaders That Have Most Inspired Emiola: “I have a huge admiration for Nelson Mandela. He took on a huge institution, apartheid, and paid dearly for his courage. Martin Luther King – I love his message, and I believe it still resonates with all of us today. I recently watched a documentary about Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, now in exile. I really admire his strength of purpose and belief, and openness to new ideas.”
The First Three Things Emiola Would Do As President: “I think the most immediate thing I would look at would be health care and insurance. I have a very personal experience with issues regarding health insurance. You see, when my mother left my dad and moved back to the States, she went back to school and took care of us four kids on very little money.. She had very minimal health insurance, and so when one of my siblings got ill many years ago, the situation very quickly spiraled into a huge financial burden for my family. As for the other two things I would do as President? Honestly, I cannot pretend to be so knowledgeable as to know what needs immediate attention. My predominant feeling is that children are our future. So with that in mind, I would go for more funding for public school education. And related to that, I would push for gun control. There are far too many people dying unnecessarily. Metal detectors in schools? I mean, really – when that became necessary in some schools, I think our government really need to examine and rethink the easy access to weaponry – especially by children.”
Emiola’s Five Favorite Entertainers: “I’m all over the place with music so it’s hard to pick my five favorite! I used to be really into 80s R&B for a long while – so I was loving New Edition, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Babyface – all that. Then I got into British pop for a bit. But right now, I’m back in love with Stanley Clarke’s stuff, and an old song of his, ‘East River Drive’ is in permanent rotation on my iPod. Sexy jazz is simply fabulous. Sade is another favorite, and every song she’s done – I’m down with. But then I go full tilt in the other direction, and I enjoy a little hard rock, so I’ve got to rank Tool up there next to mellow Sade – their song from the 10,000 days album Right in Two’ speaks volumes about the human race and war and our collective lack of true regard for the gift of life – with an awesome beat. I picked a Seal song for my first dance with my husband at our wedding – I love his voice and his lyrics. We danced to ‘Love’s Divine,’ which was terrifically difficult to choreograph, but we managed it.”
Emiola’s Five Favorite Websites:
“Dwell.com; I recently discovered Ladybrille.com blogazine that focuses on Africans in the fashion and entertainment industry; CNN.com is a great spot to catch up on news and world events; I really enjoy Facebook. I got on it when my sister-in-law would post photos of my niece on that site, and so it was an easy way for me to keep up with their lives. But then once I got on, I started getting contacted by people I went to high school with back in Nigeria. It was awesome to reconnect with them; And seriously, I love Google.”
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