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  • Writer's pictureDonnese Monique

Performing Full-time (#J2FA50)

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

4/1/21 - In 36 days I will be 50! I lost just under 1lb this week. That's good, but I'm fearing that I'm starting to plateau. This brings my total weight loss to almost 33lbs since December 1, 2020. I'm now shooting for an additional 15lbs over the next 36 days, but I'll be happy with 10lbs. I've gotten in two (2) days of walking, so far this week and plan to walk again tomorrow. I haven't been sleeping too well this week and I'm pretty sure it's because I have A LOT going on right now. I can't seem to turn my brain off before bedtime. I started using the Calm app again, so hopefully that will help to Calm me and relax my mind, so I can have a restful sleep. I will be going off program momentarily on Friday evening because the company that I work for is hosting a Virtual Wine Tasting for us. I'll let you all know how that goes next week. Now let's get back to the journey.

In 1995 I decided to take a leave of absence from my full-time job as a Supervisor in the Credit & Activations department at Cellular One and step out on faith to become a full-time struggling, starving artist. Just kidding! This was actually a very positive, enjoyable and successful time in my life. I was auditioning for acting, dancing and singing opportunities as often and as much as I could. I was also in great shape during this time. I definitely had to build up my confidence and my ability to bounce back from rejection during this time, because I heard “Next” and “Thank You for Coming”, much more than I heard “Congratulations you’ve been selected” and “You’ve Got the Job!” I made several trips to NYC auditioning and trying to land an agent, but to no avail. I even went to LA a few times to try my hand at Pilot Season and to land an agent with no luck. But I didn’t let it discourage me though. I was my own agent for several years and very successful networking and finding gigs, but then I decided to sign with Linda Townsend Management (LTM), and believe it or not Taraji P. Henson actually referred me to her. After rehearsal one day, I gave Taraji a ride to her Aunt’s house, who lived in my neighborhood and during that car ride home she told me that LTM represented her little cousin and that I should check her out. So I did. LTM was instrumental in the success I had with my entertainment career.

There are several Casting Agencies here in the DMV – Central Casting, Pat Moran Casting, Betsy Royal Casting and Carlyn Davis Casing – several Ad agencies and several movies and television shows that shot locally. So even though I didn’t move to NYC or LA, I still had the opportunity to perform full-time. My first experience as a large group extra was awful though! It was on the movie Contact starring Jodi Foster. It was freezing cold on this particular day and Extra’s Holding - where we had to sit and wait, and wait all day until they decided they needed us; ‘sorta like jury duty - was outside in a large tent, with small space heaters that did not do the job of keeping us warm AT ALL. It was so cold that day that the chicken and vegetables lunch they provided us with, tasted like they pulled it directly out of the refrigerator and plated it for us. After this experience, I vowed NEVER to work as a large group Extra ever again. I was willing to do small group extra work and would specifically inquire about how many extras they were using before agreeing to work. I was an extra in the movie Species and there’s a great close up of me in the movie ;-). I worked on Independence Day in a scene down on The Mall in DC, a bar scene on The Wire, outside of an apartment complex on America’s Most Wanted. I appeared as a Camera Woman in several Maryland Lottery Scratch Squad commercials. I played a police officer in First Kid starring Sinbad.

(l) "First Kid" (below) Sinbad and Me

I was featured in an America’s Most Wanted episode, but it never aired because they caught the suspects before it was scheduled to air. This was a very emotional and difficult role for me to do, because I was violently attacked and left for dead in the episode. The crew was close to tears after every take. They told me that they believed that I had truly embodied the victim and her experience. I was featured in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries where I played Stephanie Gaffney, an 18 year old pregnant woman who was the victim of the Zip Gun Bombings in 1995 in New York. I played a nurse at Johns Hopkins in an episode of Homicide Life on the Streets.

I starred in several Industrial/Corporate Training films – several friends have called me to say, ‘I think I saw you in the training I had to complete for my job.”, lol. I hosted an episode of Outdoor World and was the host of a show called iVote during the Gore v. Bush campaigns. I was a kid’s fitness instructor on the television program called The Kid Club with Renaldo Nehemiah. You can check out some of my work via my reel. I performed in Where Eagles Fly at the Lincoln Theater in DC starring Taraji P. Henson (this was what we were rehearsing for when I gave her a ride home that day). I also tried out for and became a Bullette for the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) NBA team. I practiced with them over the summer and participated in a few Bullette appearances & events i.e. draft night & mixers, but I quit before the season started because of the pay. I was appalled by the time commitment they expected from us, but yet we would only be paid $25/game. CRAZY right? As much as NBA players are paid!! I don't know if the rate has increased or not, but at that time $25 per game was ludicrous to me. So, instead I went to Cleveland for a few months to dance. I performed at the Karamu Theater in Cleveland as an Angel in Black Nativity which was choreographed by Mike Malone – one of the founders of the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in DC.

(Me and Mike Malone)

I danced in the 25th Anniversary production of Purlie at the Fox Theater in Atlanta starring Robert Guillaume & Melba Moore. This run of Purlie was choreographed by George Faison and directed by Kenny Leon.

I was a dancer on The Essence Awards 30th Anniversary opener behind Dave Hollister & BBJ and a dancer in a special tribute to the women of Essence with Rah Digga, Tyra Banks, Vivica A. Fox, Iyanla Vanzant and the segment was introduced by Oprah Winfrey.

I was a dancer on the Pepsi Stuff Tour and the Co-Host of the Health South Go For It Roadshow with Bo Jackson. Then in 1999, even though I hadn’t been in a dance class or practiced technique for several years, I dusted off the dance shoes, pulled out the leotard and tights and auditioned for Debbie Allen’s Musical – Soul Possessed in DC at the Kennedy Center and at the Atlas theater in Atlanta (more about this experience next week). In 2003 I landed the roll of Marketta in the movie The Salon (originally titled Beauty Shop) starring Vivica Fox, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Kim Whitley, Monica Calhoun, Taral Hicks, Dondre’ T. Whitfield, Garrett Morris, Brooke Burns and Terrence Howard.

This was an awesome experience and because there were several heavy hitters in the movie, I had really hoped this movie role would jump start my acting career. But as luck would have it, Queen Latifah also had a movie called Beauty Shop in production at the same time, litigation ensued and we were forced to change the name of the movie to The Salon and our release went straight to video/DVD instead of in theaters. Talk about DEVASTED! We did have a successful premier at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD in 2005 though. And I have a weight related story that occurred at the premier that I’ll talk about later. STAY TUNED.

(Me as Marketta from The Salon) (Garrett Morris, Kim Whitley and Me)

Check back next Thursday and hear all about my experience working with the one and only DEBBIE ALLEN!

Please Like, Follow, Subscribe and Share my journey with others. Until Next Week!

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