Artistic Evolution: The final Chancellor Speaker Series

Courtesy of N.C.A&T

Falesha Brodie, Contributor

The last Chancellor’s town hall of the semester incorporated a panelist of actresses, who have been commonly known for their movies, Broadway performances and television series.

Loretta Devine, an actress for the Broadway production of “Dreamgirls” and the Carmichael Show; Jasmine Guy, who is known for her role as Whitley Gilbert on “A Different World;” the sister-duo of Chloe x Halle, who are a part of the star cast of “Grown-ish,” all graced the Alumni Foundation Center stage to with spectators involving their experiences in the industry last week.

The moderator of the event was Kevin Wilson Jr., who is an Aggie jomc alum and Oscar-nominated film director. Wilson set the tone by beginning with a story of his own that highlighted his early years as a college student.

Accepting guidance from a high school counselor, Wilson decided to major in business. However, he soon realized it was not for him.  

“My passion and purpose did not match that plan, and my grades reflected it,” said Wilson.

After Wilson’s thanking of Chancellor Martin and several other campus staff, he introduced the four women.

Wilson opened the discussion with the topics of inspirations and discouragements.

Guy opened up about her love for dance as a 12-year-old girl as well as how her dreams of becoming a dancer were not exactly what her parents had planned for her.

Guy admitted that she always wanted to try new things but faced discouragement every time.    

“At every turn, every time I wanted to do something people didn’t know me as, I was told I couldn’t do it,” said Guy.

Even when she went to Broadway and was interested in acting, she always had to convince someone she was capable.

However, in the present time where opportunities seem to be more accessible, Chloe x Halle explained their gratitude to social media.

“We have every single platform available to us, and for that I am truly grateful. Because if it wasn’t for YouTube, we honestly might not have been sitting here in front of you guys,” Chloe said.

Their first cover to Beyoncé’s “Best Thing I Never Had,” along with a few others, is how Beyoncé discovered them and became their mentor.

“It just proves that in this day and age, all you have to do is just put something out there with your heart and just see. You never know,” Halle said.

Wilson moved on to the topic of mentorship, and expressed how important it was for him to find mentors when he was a student.

Devine also emphasized the essentialism of mentorship and being a mentor to others.

“I work with a theatre troupe in Los Angeles, and I try to yank them into TV and film because it’s so hard to get that ball started, unless someone is pulling you into that first opportunity,” Devine said.

She also encouraged the audience to find ways to inspire themselves and be their own best friend.

Devine touched on evolution of within production history, which included how women have more opportunities to direct and produce now more than ever.

Being all of the women have been on television shows, which have spotlighted social and political issues, each of them discussed breaking barriers in the industry and allowing the combat against certain messages to be televised.

“While doing ‘A Different World,’ each time we did an ‘issue’ show, Debbie Allen had to fight for it,” Guy said.

“Mr. Cosby had to come in and fight too. He had to use his power to keep the show on.”

Guy admitted that she didn’t really understand television politics when she started on A Different World. She thought theatre was bad, but the TV business was brutal.  

She thought with the introductions of “The Cosby Show” and “School Daze,” black people were finally being included in the American story on television instead of being marginalized.

She also called out networks for dropping black shows once they got an audience.

“I really thought we were a part of a wave, I didn’t know we were the end of the wave,” she said.

Devine added into this conversation to discuss about her experiences on “The Carmichael Show.” She reminded us the fight has not changed that much. Jerrod Carmichael, the show’s creator, ended the show.

“He said if I can’t have it the way I see it, I don’t want to do it,” said Devine.

The women offered advice to the audience.

Chloe discussed how important a strong support system around you.

“Sometimes when you feel like you can’t carry the weight on your own, you need someone there. And I’m happy to say that I have my sister [Halle] there with me.”

Guy was honest about the issue of being the only black girl in the room and cultural differences in the workplace. She mentioned how others will not always be interested in your culture.

“Understand other people’s side to things, and articulate your needs the right way,” she said.

All of the women took questions at the end, and continued to provide suggestions and advice to the audience.

Chloe x Halle also took photos with students following the discussion.