Today we’d like to introduce you to De’ Tray Wade.
Hi De’ Tray, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Well, it all started when I was bright-eyed & bushy-tailed 9-year-old watching the last half of the premiere episode of the very first season of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers at my grandmother’s home. I was immediately bitten by the acting bug. I wanted to be a Power Ranger! I remember being in the 4th grade and using recess as opportunity to reenact episodes – creating Power Rangers that didn’t exist so everyone who wanted could participate, and then getting lightly reprimanded for play fighting; SUCH a blast! From then on, I began to participate in any play or skit that I could. I specifically remember my first production being a classroom skit for the Thanksgiving Holiday – “Turkey Lurkey”. I was given my lines and after reading it only a couple of times (literally 2x) I had my lines memorized – I SHO NUFF could use THAT brain today!
Class skits became school productions and community plays. I realized early on that in wanting to be a Power Ranger I was an Actor. I had found my passion. Not only had I fallen in love with the stage, I wanted to be on TV and in Film, and I would be. I got my first professional start by taking acting and modeling classes in my birth State of Iowa – yes, Iowa; and, yes, there are black people in Iowa. Ha! I was 15 and I worked an after-school part-time job to pay for the classes after negotiating a partial scholarship with the owner of the studio on my own. I was ready, you hear me!? Coming from a single-parent home funds were severely limited, but I was determined so I worked and paid for my classes. I was signed and began booking immediately.
As life would have it, my and my family’s lives shifted and we moved us to Sweet Home (Huntsville) Alabama bringing my newly founded and THRIVING career to a screeching slow down. I was depressed for a while, but I took high school drama courses throughout high school, was a core actor in church productions, competed in competitions and performed in several community productions – even traveling with some productions. I kept busy! Shortly after arriving in Huntsville, I found a local agency to which I immediately dropped off a headshot. After a year of nothing from them, they finally got your boy working again as a paid actor/model – shooting local and regional commercials, hitting the runway occasionally, and then having the grand opportunity to appear as Young Tyrone Purvis in John Sayles’ “Honeydripper” starring Danny Glover as the star character, Tyrone Purvis. What an opportunity! I went on to eventually finish college and after a failed relationship and falling into another depression – the worst I’ve ever faced – I decided it was time to move and give myself my best chance. To Cali I came…by car…alone – I’ll never drive that again! Moving to California remains the best decision I’ve made for my life thus far.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many great people and meet some greats as well (Hello Oprah, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Tiffany Haddish, James Bland – wait, can I name drop in this article?) I moved here and secured a print/commercial agent within the first year, and through them I book a national Target commercial and also an Amazon print ad to name a couple. I also have gotten into voiceover acting having been interested for years. Especially from having been a radio personality for a local radio station back home in Huntsville, Alabama (90.9 WJAB) and people calling to tell me they love my voice, to people randomly suggesting I do voiceover, to now being featured as an announcer and several characters in a newly created Podcast catered mostly toward women in their Forties, but anyone can listen and relate – FORTIES AF (check it out wherever you listen to your podcasts!). Not only is this me giving myself my best chance at achieving my dream, but it is and remains an adventurous journey that I’m enjoying. I’m simultaneously learning through classes and first-hand experience. I’m now represented by The Peter Kallinteris Agency (PKA) and I’m eager for the work we will book together! I’d be remiss if I didn’t end this with the gratitude of being featured in VoyageLA. It is an unexpected yet very welcomed surprise! All things new for 2021! And as well, Shout out to the Boo (a best friend)!
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Whew! The road has most certainly NOT been smooth. I come from a single-parent household so before moving to California, one of the greatest challenges was having to work to help support my family which caused me to have to sacrifice in ways I might not have had to if the following had been: 1. We were wealthy already, or 2. If I had a two-parent, two-income household. For instance, one of those sacrifices was I didn’t go away to college and have that personal growth/campus-life experience (and I still regret that), I had to work to ensure I could graduate high school on time, I worked part-time and full-time while in and out of college to take care of myself, but primarily to help secure the household. I sacrificed my 20s to secure my family, and mind you it was a responsibility that at that time I deemed very necessary since we had no one else to rely on or get help from. All of our family was back home in Iowa – yes, Iowa! Must we cover this again? Ha! If I had to do it all over again, I would not. You read that right. I would’ve gone away to college and grown in ways that I feel I’m just now growing because of the sacrifice I made to stay home.
Once arriving in Los Angeles the greatest challenge was my own mind. I had this idea that I would come and take Hollywood by force, and at first it looked like that, but boy did I get a reality check, and quickly. Penetrating the industry is difficult in and of itself. Throw on top of that working a full-time job to pay this cursĕd (pronounce as cur-said) rent, the stress of negotiating with your boss to make auditions (sometimes taking the L) plus roommating which isn’t always ideal, to losing transportation for a year, being fired sometimes wondering how you’ll eat to not eating for days at a time – luckily fasting is part of my faith. The balancing act for every artist in Los Angeles is a feat all in itself. The grind is what gains the respect of your peers because it’s shared. However, my mental turning point came in a Mother’s Day sermon in 2017 that completely altered perception of this journey to “making it,” and my perception was the key that opened the door to the joy of this journey. I’ve been smiling ever since; even sometimes through tears because I know this is par for the course of my journey in so many ways – career and LIFE.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Aside from being an occasionally paid actor (consistently paid soon enough), I’m presently unemployed due to the effects of the pandemic, but I’ve managed to become an entrepreneur during this time – to my surprise even! I created a t-shirt/hoodie line called “I Am NOT Your Threat” which came in response to the 2020, and overall, injustices suffered specifically by the Black American community. I wanted to add my voice to the BLM cause and this idea came straight from above then unexpectedly turned into a legit LLC. You can visit www.iamnotyourthreat.com and Instagram/Facebook at I AM NOT YOUR THREAT to support. You’ll find the inspiration & purpose there as well as photos and more. Masks will be available by the time this is published. I mean what better way to speak so LOUDLY without saying a word…also COVID safety!
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a people person. That’s what I specialize in I guess so all my jobs have had to do with people – from banking to customer service/relations to job training, etc. I love people! Everyone is intriguing. Some more than others but I find something in everyone that piques my interest…even if just for the moment. I’m most proud of graduating high school and being the first generation to earn a bachelor’s degree. However, I have to credit my mother because I saw her in school while being a single mother of three, working full-time jobs, and yet earn her Associates Degree in Business Administration, but having to stop just short of a Bachelors Degree due to health issues. I honor and share my Bachelor’s Degree with her. I don’t know what sets me apart from others, and while that may not go over well I do know that I’m uniquely De’ Tray and when people encounter me they almost always leave better in some way. I’m a light, and maybe that’s my thing.
What were you like growing up?
Many would be surprised to know that I used to have a stutter, and occasionally I still stammer, but it’s rare. I was also a short-term special education student when I was in elementary school so I rode the short yellow bus for a time. We don’t know the cause, but my mom told me I had trouble with replying to WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, WHEN questions (i.e., a WHAT question would get a WHO response or something like that). However, they discovered is I was an intelligent child and understood what was being asked, but I needed a brief length of time to respond properly. I’m sure that I “grew out of it” through the effective prayers of my mom, and thus honors rolls, presidential medallions, top honors and Magna Cum Laude later, I’ve emerged!
Growing up, I was a very energetic and talkative child. Like loquacious! Bless my mom because I stayed in trouble for talking in class as an elementary school student. I remember I used to get sent to Ms. Hoover’s office as punishment and it was THEE WORST because she drank coffee – like drank drank – and always wanted to lean FULL in to help with my work. I can still smell it today. Whew! Thanks for your help though, Ms. Hoover 🙂
However, talking is my thing now. People like my voice, I’ve worked in radio, and work as a voiceover actor. What I was scolded for a child, people pay me to do now. How you like dem apples!?
As a child, I was friendly and outspoken, but inwardly timid. My interest was always people. ESPECIALLY if you were new to me. I wanted to know everything about you and then relate. I especially liked you if you were “weird’ or “different.” It just intrigued me more. I didn’t follow the crowd. When I did, I felt odd and would change my direction. I would generally find myself to be the leader in group projects though I tried to sink into the background. I was just different and I don’t how to explain it. I stood out. I still do. Adults and parents loved me and, no, I wasn’t a kiss up. People listened when I talked. I even had a friend ask “why does everyone get quiet when you speak?” I said I didn’t know, but her mom interjected with “because he something to say and it’s not foolishness.” I was wise as a child and wisdom remains with me today; and I’m hardly tooting my own horn. I guess that’s about it. 🙂
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.iamnotyourthreat.com
- Instagram: detray.wade