Jamilah

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Hi! My name is Jamilah and I am an Afro-Latinx Muslim American living in Miami. I am currently a musical theater major at the University of Miami in the Bachelors of Fine Arts Conservatory Program, which is one of the top 5 programs in the country for theater. Acting, directing, singing, and music are some of my greatest passions. I have always considered myself an artist and have sung since I was a kid. My first acting experience happened when I was 13 years old after being forced to audition for the school musical, and after that, I realized I wanted to be on stage for the rest of my life.

I am currently a musical theater major at the University of Miami in the Bachelors of Fine Arts Conservatory Program, which is one of the top 5 programs in the country for theater. Acting, directing, singing, and music are some of my greatest passions.

My mother is from the Dominican Republic and migrated here in her 20’s while my dad is a Black American, and they are both Islam reverts. I was born in Miami, moved away with my family, and moved back here for school, and it’s great because everyone speaks Spanish here. When my mom first moved to America, she didn’t speak in English, so a good portion of our childhood she spoke to us in Spanglish. My dad, as a Black American, always educated us about Black history, as well as his own past. He has been through a lot since he was born in 1948, and literally lived through segregation and the civil rights movement, which has always been so wild to me.

I think no one was really surprised when I declared that I was going to pursue the arts in college. Everyone was just kind of like, “Okay! Great!”

In terms of my career and hobbies, my parents have always been very supportive. Even when I was younger and would be in plays in high school, they would come to watch me.. My parents would have to alternate to watch my play since one of my siblings is on the autism spectrum, but they still always came through which meant a lot to me. They always recognized I had talent and never pressured me to become a doctor or anything like that, which I appreciated. I think no one was really surprised when I declared that I was going to pursue the arts in college. Everyone was just kind of like, “Okay! Great!”

Acting is a craft that is not for everyone. It is a difficult and a very process-driven thing. I love being in a play or musical because it is very rewarding to tell someone else’s story. The most recent show I did was the Miami premiere of a new play called B Beyond Words. This was my first professional gig which was exciting especially because the lead actress was Dascha Polanco, who is most notably recognizable for her performance in Orange is the New Black. It was my first time working in a show with an A-list celebrity so it was a very cool experience. I also loved the story of this play because I felt like it was relatable. The play was about a Dominican-American woman and the trauma she has endured and gone through. I feel like a lot of the time as a Dominican Black woman, it is very hard to feel like I fit in, but in this play, I felt like I could understand a lot about the character and her struggles.

Ms. Moore, my elementary choir teacher, was the first person to ever recognize my talent. I consider her to be the most important, because without her supporting me from a young age, I wouldn’t have realized my potential. I actually ended up winning the “Musician of the Year” Award and I have kept that little plaque all these years.

I had several female role models in terms of my schooling, career, and personality. Ms. Moore, my elementary choir teacher, was the first person to ever recognize my talent. I consider her to be the most important, because without her supporting me from a young age, I wouldn’t have realized my potential. I actually ended up winning the “Musician of the Year” Award and I have kept that little plaque all these years. It is still in my college apartment, and I keep it because it reminds me of where I started and where I have ended up today. In terms of my career, Issa Rae is a huge inspiration to me. She started off writing a web series called Awkward Black Girl on Youtube. HBO eventually picked it up and it is now a huge TV show called Insecure, which I think is so dope. I also really love Maysoon Zahid. She is a Palestinian American Muslim comedian. She has cerebral palsy but is one of those people who doesn’t let her disability affect her. She’s hilarious and very free spirited- which I feel I can relate to.

It didn’t help that there were only 5 Muslim people in our school, and I felt like we were all kind of invisible.

Being Muslim in a very conservative small town forces shyness on you, which is why I was a very reserved person when I was growing up. It didn’t help that there were only 5 Muslim people in our school, and I felt like we were all kind of invisible. Eventually, I broke out of my shell and found the confidence I needed to pursue my craft, thanks to my family and the female role models who helped me find my voice as a Afro-Latinx Muslim American. I realized in order to become more comfortable with myself, I had to be more involved in the school and community. When people saw me doing community service and being more present, I felt they saw me differently & I ended up becoming very well respected in the school and I was really happy for it. It was the first time a Muslim girl did something very noticeable in our school. I felt like it was important for us to have the visibility, even if we didn’t have the presence.

At the end of the day, I just want to help people. The best way I know how is through my art, and so that is why not only is my training so important to me, but so are experiences. Everything happens for a reason, and maybe the reason some unfortunate things have happened to me is so one day I can make art that reflects on what I’ve been through in order to open people’s minds, and hopefully that’s what I will accomplish.

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