Journey Post: The African/Not-So-African Actress Experience


Anyone who is in the entertainment industry or intimately knows someone in the industry knows that life in this industry is made up of a series of colorful jobs, colorful people and very colorful audition.  I recently attended a pretty colorful audition and I thought I’d share.

The audition is question was a well-publicized audition at KNT for an African reality show centered on actors.  When I first heard about it I thought it was an
awesome premise for a show; a lucky number of contestants competing on different acting challenges with one victorious finalist.   It sounded fun.  But what I appreciated the most was the platform it would give not just the actors competing but also the industry as a whole. So with high hopes and positive vibes, I drove down to KNT to ‘throw my hat in the ring’ as they say.  After standing in a seemingly stagnant line for about 2 hours, I finally managed to register, and two hours of napping in the car and catching up with acting buddies later, I was finally called in for my audition. 

I walked in, greeted the two judges and stood on the ever-intimidating X and introduced myself.  Now, one of the monologues I had been doing for years had been written for a black American character so I asked if accents were acceptable and lets just say, I saw dark clouds started rolling with the response.  One judge replied, ‘we want to hear your accent.  What’s you accent?’  Crap!  You see for individuals who have lived in more than one country, especially in the early years of their life, you might be familiar with this predicament.  My accent changes according to who I’m around, how comfortable I am, and what I am doing.  Furthermore, unless I make a conscious effort, I don’t control its fluctuations.  Long story short- I don’t have a set accent.  After trying to explain this to the panel, seemingly in vain, I decided to do the monologue anyway. 

So I launch into the monologue, and about 3 lines in I GO BLANK.  I COMPLETELY forget what my next line is.  If I’m honest, I completely forgot what the whole monologue was about.  I stopped, I asked if I could start again and went for it (mind you I still hadn’t remembered what my next line was).  Thankfully I got through it all and the Q&A commenced.  As I anticipated, the main questions centered on my accent.  How can your accent just change?  How are Africans supposed to relate to you when you speak like that?   Can you speak in any of the African accents at all?  It was pretty clear to me that one of the judges wasn’t buying the ‘charade’ she thought I was putting on but I’ve had that reaction before so I wasn’t very surprised by the skepticism.  Eventually I did my second accent in a ‘more African accent’ - to be honest I have no idea how African or fake it sounded but I had to try - I said my thank yous and left. 

Now it definitely wasn’t by any stretch, my worst audition.  I actually enjoyed it.  What bothered me though, was the insinuation that I wasn’t ‘African’ enough because of the way I spoke.   I mean, what determines your ‘Africaness’?  How you look?  How you carry yourself?  The values and traditions you follow?  The way you speak?   We are so ready to criticize the extremely skewed image of Africa held by the rest of the world, yet we promote those skewed expectations ourselves?

Must you have a specific background and come from a specific economic status to be ‘authentically’ African?  And what exactly are we saying to the millions upon millions of Africans who live as expats?  Are they no longer African because they have had an international experience?  We MUST stop putting ourselves in this impossibly small box of African stereotypes.  Africans are extremely wealthy AND extremely poor.  Our skin is as dark charcoal and as light as sand.  Some of us have never left our city or village and some of us have travelled and lived all around the world.  And that DIVERSITY is what makes this continent so special.  Africa is not in our skin or our wallets or our travels; Africa is in our minds and out hearts.  Our sense of community and our reverence for those who have come before us.  Our love of peace and our devotion to centuries old traditions.  Our pride in ourselves and our curiousness and drive. THAT’S what makes us African.

I may not talk African enough for you, but my greatest source of pride is my africaness.  I am honored to belong to the people I belong to and get to practice traditions that have been passed down from time immemorial.  Yes, I have had the opportunity to live elsewhere and though I greatly value those experiences, I have always been on the first plane home.  Africa is in my blood, in my mind and in my heart.  She belongs to me as MUCH as she belongs to you. 

She is mine, and I will always be hers. 

You Might Also Like


  1. Good piece:) very interesting perspectives out there especially that AAfrican are as dark as charcoal and others are as light as sand:)