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Meet Ashley Iola of The Vocal Assassin in Chatsworth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Iola.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was raised in Delaware, where I got to experience a lot of quality time in nature, traveling, and being submerged within the rich art communities up and down the East Coast. As a young child, my church Pastor Bo Matthews told me that I would be on TV, but being from such a small city in a small state, I never imagined where life would take me.

Growing up, I was the overly involved type… Sang in choirs, managed school wrestling and football teams, ran track, played field hockey, gymnastics, skateboarded, ice skated, did theatre, was in Student Council, Girl Scouts, Art Club, and anything that could keep me out of the house and active.

My Dad’s job brought my parents to California when I was graduating high school, but I stayed back a year, went to Delaware State University and said my farewells to my home state. I transferred to California State University Northridge, studied Radio Production and Psychology and got my first taste of working within the entertainment industry.

I worked my way around Hollywood doing production on various reality shows, traveling as a videographer for ballroom dance competitions, directing for my Church’s broadcast and dabbling in On-Camera Hosting, Improv, Stand-Up & Comedy Writing, doing background/extra work on over 100 TV shows (probably the most visible on The Kominsky Method on Netflix) and then realizing all of my ventures lead me to Voice Acting.

Has it been a smooth road?
It took me a while to find my voice. Growing up, I was made fun of for not sounding like others around me or speaking too properly but both of my parents weren’t locals and I enjoyed reading anything and everything, so my vocabulary was always extensive. The irony that decades later being paid to sound like myself and having more opportunities because of the things I was picked on for is full circle.

I definitely have dealt with my share of obstacles navigating myself within Hollywood, but I have looked at them as lessons and used them to grow from. Being a Black Woman in the industry is a journey not for the faint of heart. From being on Set and not having hair or makeup available to you like it is for your peers, only being offered stereotypical and demeaning roles to audition for. I was told by an acting teacher “You’re too pretty to play a slave” during a commercial class. There are individuals who will say and try to get away with as much as they can, but I have always been focused and kept my blinders on. I didn’t always know what I was going to do but I knew whatever it was, I would be great at it.

Growing up, I always said I wanted to “Be a Cartoon” but I didn’t know how that would ever happen. I was inspired by Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire to start “Doing voices” which I would do solely for fun, pretending to be E.T., prank calling friends and family with elaborate voices or making imaginary monsters talk. In college, I would add vocals to friends Art Projects or music videos but I stumbled into Voice Acting two years ago. After traveling to England, I was looking for a gig I could do regardless if I traveled or not, then one day during my trip, I saw a tweet about the Society of Voice Arts Awards and That’s Voiceover Expo at Universal. I contacted them to volunteer and ended up working with them for the last two years. It was my first time feeling like I found my tribe. Submerging myself into learning as much as about Voiceover I took as many classes as my pockets would allow. I read all the Voiceover books, looked up videos online, got on the microphone and practiced until I was comfortable enough to invest in myself and make it more than a hobby.

I did Background/Extra work as a way to pay for building my Voice Over business. I enjoyed being on set, learning the process and meeting people but the long hours and far distances and packed sound stages helped me realize I would rather work alone in a booth. I saved my money from set to pay for my sound equipment, build my home studio, take more classes, buy more books and to produce my first commercial demo.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
The Vocal Assassin is the moniker that I go by, I felt that it represented me as a Voice Actor. I have a lot of range, can create a lot of characters regardless of gender, age, race and region and slay all the scripts I read.

Voice Acting allows me to engage in a unique performance with every session, expanding my style, cadence, tone, tempo and making it fit with each show or company I work with.

Within Voiceover, I have dabbled in Commercials, TV Promos, Movie Trailers, Animation, Narration, Podcasts, Phone Answering Systems and am open to any opportunity that will allow me to challenge myself vocally.

I stay in classes by different Voiceover teachers to pick up more tidbits, read every single day; usually aloud as more vocal practice and constantly researching what others are doing to keep up the changes and trends within the industry.

I have been fortunate enough to work for some individuals I admire, my first opportunity in LA was interning with Jamie Foxx and his Sirius “Foxxhole Radio Station”, recently I was a Technical Table Reader for Will Smith and an upcoming movie that he is producing and my latest gig was with Michelle Obama for her Spotify “The Michelle Obama” podcast.

This is the beginning of my marathon, I have some upcoming projects I can’t share details about yet but I am excited to see where the journey takes me.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The Voiceover Industry since its origin has been very White and male-dominated, but now due to the current climate shift, more authentic voices are being used and represented. A lot of change is happening now, from famous actors stepping down from roles because of underlying racism, Animations removing characters that are insensitive, and there’s been an issue with “Black face” within the Voiceover community, where there are some actors who have created pretend personas to audition with instead of real people within that category being able to submit for the roles. Since the reveal now, more agencies are representing a wider range of actors.

Over the next 5-10 years, I see a lot more opportunities for Women and People of Color within Voiceover because there are more stories, productions, toys, and companies who need representation and a voice that fits their brand.

Also, a big shift within Voiceover is a lot of studios are closing down and may not reopen. So Voice Actors have to be able to record from home with professional equipment and a treated room, closet or sound booth. Luckily now that means Voice Actors don’t have to be in a Big Markets to do Voiceover but they do have to be entrepreneurial.

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