Today we’d like to introduce you to Donnie Frazier.
Donnie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am a freelance artist born and raised in Los Angeles. Ever since I was a child, I knew that I was an artist and I loved to perform and to create.
From drawing pictures, school projects, or getting into character to perform Johnnie Taylor songs in the living room for my family. I have also always been an extremely sensitive and empathetic person, who is full of compassion. It wasn’t until I went to college that I got to explore all of myself at once, and so it began. I was going to school to become a Registered Nurse, with goals of becoming a Nurse Practitioner specializing in HIV prevention.
While taking my pre-reqs to get into the program, I took a host of Sociology and Psychology classes, which ended up allowing me to obtain my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Psychology. While in school, I also participated in the university’s most competitive week of the year, homecoming. I ran for homecoming king and won. Looking back, at that moment, I had no idea that what was going on would be setting me up for my career and life as an artist.
Here’s how that happened: My junior year, I had decided to come out to my family so that I did not have to live in the shadows of fear that my sexuality would be upsetting. At the time, my dad was contracted to DJ for a young men’s group at an HIV prevention organization. I had no idea he was doing this, but I knew that he was a DJ, which has always been super cool to me.
As a supportive parent, yet a man who acknowledged that he wasn’t aware enough of how to navigate me through the area of my life that involved homosexuality, he connected me with someone many people recognized as a leader in the community to mentor me. Beyond my appreciation for this set-up, little did he know that this would be the beginning of an amazing life journey for me that would be the first milestone of my career.
Upon graduating, I had started to freak out, so I did some research and found top agencies to work within Los Angeles. I reached out to my mentor at the time with a resume asking him to review it, but he took too long, so I started to submit it to agencies and apply for jobs anyway. I got a message from him one day, asking when I was moving back to LA. He was trying to hire someone quickly, but he pulled the job off the site and held the position for me until my lease was up for me to move back home.
I touched down in Los Angeles, interviewed the next day, interviewed a week after that, and secured my first “Big Boy Job” as a full-time Counselor and Outreach specialist conducting interviews and holding group discussions with young men like me. I worked there for three years, and between my first day and my last, it was a rollercoaster. The second year that I worked there, we had to raise money for AIDS Walk, and I sucked at the fundraiser the first year because asking people to donate money wasn’t the easiest.
From there, I decided that I would challenge myself to create in order to raise awareness and funds. I did this by creating my bow tie line “Cafe De La Hue” where I was able to hand-craft bow ties and sell them while donating a percentage of the proceeds to the cause. As an artist, advocate, and philanthropist, the brain-child that is this coffee shop themed bow tie line is figuratively food for my soul. I have also used these bow ties in many projects.
Let’s rewind back to high school when I changed the uniform game and broke the rules and barriers by altering shirts and accessorizing. I’m sure I was in the office more than I was in class, for penalties. I have always been into style and fashion as well. High School is where I wanted to be a fashion designer and stylist, the most. According to a career layout paper, it would have “taken me just as long to become a designer” as it would become a doctor, so I opted for the security and tried to go medical.
FIRST MISTAKE: Instead of becoming a doctor though, my first styling client was one.
Shoutout to Dr. Leo Moore, who is a young Black doctor that specializes in HIV prevention, for coming up to me at the Heroes In The Struggle Gala and requesting to hire me as his event stylist when he spoke on a panel in New Orleans at Essence Fest. I styled him in one of my bow ties, and from there started my journey as a wardrobe stylist. Prior to this, I had tried networking and put myself out there to intern and assist. I needed to create a book, a portfolio, something to show that I had the skill.
So I put on my creative director cap and collaborated with my younger brother Justin who is now a published fashion model, to produce both of our first editorial shoot. I created a story called “Brunch Bouquet” through my brand Cafe De La Hue to showcase my merchandise and my ability to style and develop a story. Once I posted the edits on my social media, my wardrobe styling career took off. I began styling locals who had projects, commercial projects, film, personal styling, and editorial photo shoots.
I was still working full-time as a counselor at the prevention agency that I was at. Two weeks before my three year anniversary there, I posted a “Behind The Scenes” shot of a film I was styling and got an opportunity of a lifetime. My dear friend Lisa Katnić reached out to me and asked if I would assist her on the biggest project of my styling life at that point: Rihanna’s Video Vanguard Award at the VMA’s where our focus was the Dance Hall performance, and we pulled and selected for over 150 people.
After I had done that, I evaluated my life and my career. What did I want to do with my life? I was no longer happy with my 9-5 and the supervisor at that time was not pleasant. I was also in the midst of leaving a toxic personal relationship to focus on myself. I had decisions to make that month. The supervisor didn’t have faith in my creative capabilities, and I had just finished working with a team of people who trusted in my vision and creativity. That energy gave me the push I needed to take my leap of faith.
I quit my job and started to pursue everything my heart desired, and deep in my heart, I knew that I wanted to act. I know this is a whirlwind of ventures, but I trust it. On my journey as a solo wardrobe stylist, I worked with another great soul Tatiana who also worked on the VMAs project with me, and she would reach out to me for really great jobs when she would get them and need help. We worked on a web-series for a week, and on one day one of the talents called out.
The crew needed someone to test sound and lighting, and I was in the middle of preparing when one of the members asked me to sit in the seat next to the actress that was there. I then heard one of the producers ask Tatiana if I was one of the actors and she told him I was doing wardrobe with her. When I went back by them he said “Dude, I totally thought you were one of the actors” and I was like “REALLY?!” and he assumed that I was shocked, and told me that it was a compliment. I responded with “NO, I know. That’s confirmation.”
Because I had told myself that if I quit or got fired from my 9-5 that I would go on as many auditions as possible while doing my wardrobe hustle and hopefully would meet someone, somewhere on the way. That’s exactly what I did. I went on auditions again for the first time in YEARS. I booked my first job, and it was amazing. I got paid and was balancing being a Wardrobe Stylist, Fashion Designer, Advocate and Public Speaker, and now Actor. I had taken my knowledge and experience and began to consult with other agencies sitting on advisory boards for the community while following my creative dreams.
One of the agencies that I worked with flew me to DC, and while I was there after my meeting. I had got tagged in an audition post about an acting job from Director and Producer Spencer Collins, who I met while working at the prevention agency. It was urgent, he was in LA, and I was in DC. He sent me a piece of the script, and I read through the lines for the part he told me to and told him I could TOTALLY do this. I flew back to LA the day of the table read, and when I made it with my luggage, they were standing in a circle for a farewell prayer, and I was too late.
We ended up making it work, and I performed. I fell in love with this character, and we performed on a stage that following year. This was my first time performing on stage again. After feeling the rush of energy from the audience, receiving a standing ovation, and being approached after the show, I KNEW that I was walking in my purpose and my light as an artist and performer. Since then, I have done background on great projects, been featured in others, and have booked principal roles through auditions.
As of right now, I have booked everything independently. A few of my favorite projects that I have performed in are “GIANTS” a series created by James Bland on Issa Rae’s YouTube Channel, “Versus” on Tidal, AltaMed’s “Free To Be” campaign, and a visual that I just wrapped for International artists “Floridablanca.” I have been working really hard to expand myself and my experience as an actor so that I am not only well-rounded but aware of what goes on and how things happen.
I’m a storyteller at best. Being able to tell stories through character and with expression, is one of my favorite things. I look back and realize how all of the dots connected and how everything that I have experienced and gone through led me up to the moment that is now. With my primary focus now being on my acting career, a lot of energy goes towards preparing myself for the blessings that will come my way.
I am still involved in the advocacy and consulting business while having goals to go even further as an actor. I know that each skill that I have developed has helped sharpen me so much for the present. When I am on set and have to visit wardrobe or need to be camera ready, I know what that entails, how things should be handled, what types of suggestions to make and when it is appropriate to do so.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been smooth on some occasions, and I have been blessed to be able to manage my emotions, energy, and outcomes responsibly when things have gone left. I remember when I was starting out, there were times where the relationship that I was in got the best of me or interfered with what I needed to do to progress. I also suffered in a professional setting, not only because of my personal relationship but because the people that I was working with were abusive and were set in their ways. It was until I decided to put me and my desires FIRST that the road became smoother.
There were things that I wish I would have known, about finances and also how to let go of some pride and ask for help as a freelance artist. During my time as a completely independent freelance artist surviving solely off of my talents and working for my self, a little after a year, I ended up losing a lot. Thankfully I have a very supportive family that I am grateful for. Starting from square one as an artist is not easy, and it comes with a lot of sacrifices. I know that everything that I lost will be replaced with even better things and that financially things will turn around as long as I keep the hustle as strong as my faith and my faith as strong as my hustle.
I asked other freelance artists when I was contemplating taking the leap and they let me know that it was not as easy as it looks. Sometimes you’ll wait on checks, and they won’t come when you expect. Sometimes your blessings and opportunities will slow down a bit, but they will pick back up. Sometimes it will be too late when they do. But you live, and you learn. I am living, and I am still learning. One set back that happened to me was I was consulting with an organization under a three-year contract, and on year three I received my total payment which was quite a bit of money.
I survived off of it for a while, but what no one told me was that the taxes would do for that whole amount the next year. Something that I didn’t prepare for during the time. A lesson that I will hold dear and share as much as possible. Finances and preparation are important. Since my leap, I have had to hit rock bottom a couple of times and get some part-time work, where the people I work with are aware of my goals as an actor and how important it is for me to attend my auditions and bookings, WHICH IS A HUGE BLESSING, but I didn’t expect needing to work for anyone else.
That happened to me. It is a humbling process, but I swear it will all be worth it.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Cafe De La Hue story. Tell us more about the business.
I specialize in using my art and talent to help create social change, that’s my mission and my goal. Also to make people laugh and to bring awareness to topics and situations that people sometimes gloss over. I am known for my sense of style, my personality, my smile, and my ability to be inspirational, optimistic, and motivational.
As far as what I do, I am most proud of the fact that I have the courage to do it and stick with it. That I’m not afraid to perform in front of others or watch myself on screen. I am proud of the fact that I have created a pretty solid brand that gives back, uplifts, and inspires. I love that everything that I do is connected and tied to who I am, and my purpose.
What sets me apart from others, is that I am ambitious, great at balancing several jobs/hats, and am an extremely hard worker. I can take my “no’s” and turn them into “not yet’s,” and I have a unique way of taking adversity and winning with it. I have no choice actually.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck is interesting. I would say serendipity, happenstance, and paying attention to the signs and my intuition has played a great role in my life and business.
I woke up three mornings in a row at 4:44 am with an epiphany to create a bow tie line before I created Cafe De La Hue. Or how I wrote down in my journal that I would be working with the GIANTS team as a PA, and if that didn’t work out that I understand that God has a bigger plan for me. I honestly just wanted to learn. I didn’t get the internship that summer, but that granted me the opportunity to explore Montreal, Quebec for the first time and book a few commercials.
I ended up reaching out again and got offered the opportunity to be a background actor in the finale episode of season two. The day of the shoot, I came ready and prepared to be an extra. Extremely grateful, and James Bland walked up to me with a binder saying “Alright, Donnie. We’ve got some dialogue.”
No, I didn’t cry. I wanted to because I felt my heart shoot through the roof. But that was such a lesson in faith, grace, and blessings. The day the episode aired, I saw my name in the credits under co-star. He may never truly understand how what he did has empowered me. I think I told him like three times, but still. Okay, now I’m crying!
- Bowtie price range $25 – $100+ depending on the material and customization fees.
- Email: CafeDeLaHue@gmail.com
- Instagram: @DonnieHue