ATM: How can you express the competitive nature of acting when first beginning?
AB: This is such a great question. I am so glad you asked. I knew acting was competitive and cutthroat. This was not from experience. This was what people had told me. They would ask what I wanted to be when older. I would respond, “An actor.” They would respond why would you want to do that; it is so cutthroat.
I never looked at it as something competitive. I am a competitive person, but I am only competitive against myself. I want to be a better version of me every single day and still look at it like this. I never let competition affect me and things that have nothing to do with me affect me. Someone else’s failures and successes are theirs. Whereas, my successes and failures are mines. Competition has nothing to do with me.
ATM: In the beginning, how did you handle telling people your endeavors with acting when they were not educated about the business?
AB: These are great questions. It is funny because I never told anyone the professional things, I was getting involved in. I knew people would not understand. I knew from an early age it was okay for people not to understand. I had the thinking of, “This is my dream. This is my vision. God created this for me to understand. If it was for other people to understand, then they would become actresses and actors.” It is not for me to explain. Little by little people started to see me on television and things started to grow from there. This is how it all started. Someone would ask didn’t I see you on television. They did not even know when I would go to set and go toauditions. I let my work do the talking. It turned into people realizing I was an actor.
ATM: You allowed your actions to speak louder than your words. Most people if they do not know about a particular thing, their audience will be negative. They tend to give advice on an industry or an area of expertise that is not of their interest. It comes off bad to you, but to them, they are trying to help.
AB: I was so impressionable during this time. I was in my 20s. I was nervous about telling someone what I was doing. I thought they would talk me out of it. I just did not. It was better this way. I am still kind of this way. It was the same with Amazon. No one knew I was finalizing a deal with Amazon until posting the advertisement on my social media pages. It has become a habit. I have grown into my career. I am at a point where I can talk about it and I should. I have programmed myself to let the work show for itself. To underdeliver with words and over deliver with your actions. Never tell anyone what to think of you. Let them see it and let them decide. You move on. It is not my business whether someone likes me or not.
ATM: Compare your prior thinking of the acting business to your notions now about the industry.
AB: There are a lot of misconceptions. I will give you a few of the most popular ones. People think as soon as you are on television you are rich. They think you must be a millionaire. This is a misconception. This could not be farther from the truth. This is a business just like any other business. There is a hierarchy. You start from the bottom and work yourself up. It is not different than what is already going in the world with non-acting jobs. There are jobs where they start people off doing stock. After six months you are a cashier. After a year you are a part-time supervisor making a little bit more. This is another misconception.
People think Hollywood is so far from reach and it is a fantasy world. No one can be a part of it. Hollywood is a very small town where everyone knows everyone. Whatever you want to do in life, you just have to set your mind to it. You must have a plan and go off to attack. My plan so far is signing with an agency and going on auditions and booking them. I do not let competitions or outside influences affect me. I run my own race and my own course. As long as I was better today than last year on this day, I know I am winning.
ATM: What responsibilities do you plan to carry out while being an Amazon influencer?
AB: The basic ones are wanting to recommend some great products that my followers already love. I want to encourage them to buy from my store, so they receive a discount. Then, I receive a commission. Beyond this, I want to make a positive influence on the world. I thought Amazon would be a great vehicle to do this. Amazon is arguably the number one company in the world right now. Everything they are doing is cool. Personally, any entrepreneur would love to be connected to Amazon. It adds legitimacy and credibility. I knew I had something to offer to Amazon. I knew I wanted to explore this. Amazon does not need me, but I need them. I am grateful they reached out and to be working with them.
ATM: As a customer, how did you view Amazon?
AB: As a customer, I viewed Amazon as an adult wish list. They have every single item you can think of. They have items that you used and cannot even think of. It is cheaper. I do not think you can lose when you shop with Amazon. You are not only going to find what you want, but you find it at a cheaper price. People are hurting and struggling. People are trying to pay their rent and living paycheck to paycheck. Everybody is looking for a discount, including myself.
ATM: How did conversations about Empire in Chicago influence you more to join the cast?
AB: I do not watch television. I did not watch Empire before getting cast. They shot the pilot in Chicago. Shortly after, they got the green light for the first season. I heard the chatter through the other actresses and actors in Illinois. I had no ideas what type of juggernaut it was or what it would grow into. They were celebrating my first day going to set because it was considered the number one show in the world.
I found out about everything when everyone did. I was an upcoming actor looking for an opportunity. I was not someone who knew the game. I was not thinking, “This was going to be the biggest thing of my career. This was going to be the number one show on FOX.” I did not have the business mindset to walk down this path mentally. I was a struggling actor and I needed a job. I was grateful to be on it. I was on Empire for three years.
ATM: What does having a business mentality vs, not having one look like?
AB: For me, I am only wanting to do things that are worthwhile. I do not want to do anything that is worthless. This is the honest to God truth. I have learned what works and what does not. Now, when opportunities come to my door, I decide not to do it if it did not work. If it did work, then I do it again. Like you and me.
ATM: Was this a sense of thinking you had to grow into or learn from trial and error?
AB: It was definitely something I grew into. I wanted an opportunity. I took everything in the beginning they offered me. I did not know any better. Once I started to grow, I knew it was not necessary to take everything.
ATM: Often times in life, people advise individuals to take everything. It is up to the person asking for the advice about whether to weave it into their life or not. It comes a time when it might not be the best idea. You can decide not to take an offer and get something else. You would have never known what was behind it without patience.
AB: And this is exactly how I felt. Of course, this was not the beginning. Yes, this is in anything and in every type of business. You never want to go backward. It was about progression for me. Using things as a steppingstone to get to the next level. I am a humble person. I am not arrogant in any way. I do not want to make it seem like it has to be top of the line. This is not what I am saying at all. It has to make sense and fit into the brand I am trying to create. It has to be worth my time. At this stage of my career, I know my worth. I have to act accordingly.
ATM: If an individual does not know their self-worth, then they will listen to all advice. All advice is not healthy. This will crowd their inner thinking and gut feelings. Sometimes people are congested based on having no direction. Everyone has the voice telling them right, but most do not listen.
AB: You get taken down so many different paths. You get pulled in so many directions. You then do not realize who you are. You feel as though you lost your identity. It is important to not lose yourself, especially in this business. Aboard the mission and stay on your path. Run your own race. Do not try to be anyone else. This is good enough. There is no one else like you.
ATM: Unfortunately, if someone has lost their direction or becomes lost, they need to remember how and why they started. This is the number one key of how you get redirected, get back on the race, get back in the vehicle to keep driving to the finish line.
AB: Wow. I love that you said this. This is beautiful. This is something I am going through right now. I keep asking myself what is next and what is the next thing in my career. I find myself going back to my memory. I am thinking about how this all started about ten years ago. It is not thinking about duplicating the success, but it is realizing what works and what did not. One of the things that is needed for me and others is to stay humbled. Tomorrow is not promised. You have to make the most of your life while you have it. My fear is wasting my life. Every day I want to do at least one thing.
ATM: Explain how the experience working on Spike Lee’s Chiraq molded you into the actor you are continuing to be.
AB: I was booked on this film as a backup dancer. This film was starring Nick Cannon. I ended up going to the orange carpet premiere in Chicago with the choreographer. It took my acting and dancing to the next level. It was a huge production. It is funny you bring it up because Chiraq was like the earliest movies to be released on Amazon when they started releasing movies. I am now an Amazon influencer. It is crazy to see things coming full circle. I never thought about this until you brought it up. It is great to see Amazon dominate the market and to be on their team.
ATM: In the recent 10-15 years, how has the film and television productions helped Chicago’s image?
AB: People are scared of Chicago, especially now more than ever. People look at us as gangsters and this is not what we are. They watch the news and hear about the shootings. I want people to know we are more than the news headlines. We are loving and energetic people. We are hard working blue collar people. Productions coming to Hollywood to use Chicago as a backdrop not only lifted the spirits of the state, town, and city.
We’ve had a huge economic spike with these shows coming to town. This does not benefit one person, but everyone. This is what I love about art. Art is not for one person, but it is for all. You come as you are. I am grateful Hollywood stepped up and wanted to shoot in Chicago. Also, for people who decided to work or visit in Chicago. I hope it keeps going. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, a small time actor. Gabrielle, I definitely hope to meet you in the near future.