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Meet Céline Tshika

Today we’d like to introduce you to Céline Tshika.

Céline, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was opened to the idea of acting in High School after being in a musical. I only auditioned because I thought it would be singing and dancing- didn’t really care about the acting part. But the director heavily, relentlessly encouraged me to take Drama. And of course, it ended up being my favorite part of the day.

In my final year (called ‘Matric’ in South Africa) I pretty much knew I wanted to end up there, but I had to get a “real degree” for my parents. So off I went into Engineering, and four crazy years later I came here. I took a 1-year acting course at the New York Film Academy, and now I’m freelancing. I’ve been a dancer in music videos, an actor in short films and, most recently, a comedian in a satirical news show called “The Mix and Serve.”

I also sing. I started producing and releasing music in my 3rd year of Engineering (honestly it was the main thing that kept me sane), and I did a music video for one of those singles here in May. But I usually have trouble focusing on one thing, so I decided to let music take a back seat for now and focus on acting. During my acting course, we were introduced to filmmaking.

I grew particularly interested in screenwriting and editing and kept doing that in my spare time. A few weeks ago, I took the plunge and started my own web series. I’d written three episodes and was too scared to do anything with them, but once I told someone, it forced me to make it happen. The first shoot was so much fun and went so well I knew I had to keep doing it. I’m supremely excited for it.

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?
No. A lot of the struggles have been rooted in my indecisiveness. It took me long to settle on Civil Engineering, it took me longer to decide on a genre of music, it took me longer to get started with my web series. I’m basically Chidi from “The Good Place.” But not just that, it takes constant effort to keep my spirits high after I feel I have failed.

I’m generally pretty hard on myself so after giving a performance I don’t think is great, I have to work hard mentally not to let it get me down. Of course, there are the typical rejections, but that’s normal for acting. It’s mostly been that there haven’t been too many roles that I’ve been excited to audition for.

I’ve learned to accept the rejections and not make them about my talent, but just that someone else was better suited for that particular role.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I act, make music, sing, dance and write. I’m also a blogger at ‘Feminine Boutique.’ I basically just love to create.

For dancing, I started out with Hip Hop as a kid; recently I’ve branched out and have had a great time learning new styles, like Modern/Jazz and Bollywood. On the blog, I write the humorous, self-care posts to constantly encourage women to put themselves first. It’s something I took too long to learn, and I hope I can make a difference to a reader or two out there. I really like the process of acting. I’m sure any actor will tell you how fun it is to dive into another person’s experience.

I’ve always been really empathetic, so at least all of those feelings come in handy. The two actor-things I’m happiest about this year were being awarded “Best Actress” for my performance in the short film ‘Diary of Bolanle’ at the fall Los Angeles Cinema Festival, as well as being the powerful character ‘Salima’ in Lynn Nottage’s notable play “Ruined.” Probably the most fun I’ve had though has been on “The Mix and Serve.”

I met a whole lot of hilarious people who just know comedy, and I got to discuss important issues in the way I love to do so- by making people laugh. It is great that I can do lots of things, but I’m most proud of my writing. It took me forever to get the courage to make something of it, and despite all my self-doubt, the actors took the script and made something awesome of it. ‘Jess Goes West,’ the web series I created, has some great content that I’m excited to put out. I like that with writing, I get to put out a different story in the world, one that is uniquely mine.

All the things I like doing can basically be incorporated in this project, which means I have more options, more ideas, more freedom. I really like forming work relationships. I aim to create a comfortable, friendly environment and cast people who mesh well together. Also, one thing I’ve always been passionate about is showcasing talent- people who really deserve it but who haven’t made it ‘out there’ yet. I like to think that with this show, I get to contribute to their journey in a very, very small way.

And I hope that one day, some years from now, I can do that in a big, big way. I also live for women empowerment, and I’m lucky to have an amazing team led by some badass women.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I want to focus more on the show. I’ve learned that focus is very powerful, and since this is a project I care a lot about, the decision to pour all my energy into it was super exciting, and effective! I must admit, I got a little freaked out when I felt more excited about writing than going out for auditions.

I am constantly reading scripts, obsessing over how jokes in my favorite shows were crafted, and looking out for assistant jobs in close proximity to writers rooms. But I’m young, I’m going with the flow, and I’ve accepted that it’s okay for me to discover a new passion now. I still love acting (I cast myself in the show), but I am now only willing to put effort into roles I really, really want.

I hope this show has a great release, grows a fanbase and gets great exposure. I’d love to have a bigger budget to work with, so I’m able to compensate all my actors and crew in the way I want to, as well as make the episode ideas that are ‘too expensive’ a reality. I’m aiming to improve my writing and land up in a writer’s room in a few years. That’d be awesome.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Lex Gallegos, Angelica Rodriguez (DP), Ololade Ebong (DP)

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