Today we’d like to introduce you to Nia Miranda.
Nia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Raised in Detroit, MI I always had big aspirations. As a little girl, I had dreams of being an entertainment star and a business mogul. I started acting and singing at the age of three and had my first business at the age of seven “Shortcakes by Nia”. I don’t know a life without the influence of God, art, purpose and hustle. My mom named me Nia. It means “purpose” I think as soon as I knew my name I understood the responsibility I had to live up to. I once thought I would be a childhood star. And I got pretty close, my best friends and I had a gospel group called “Harmonee”. We signed a deal with a known label in Detroit that did not go as expected. I recall being called in a room with my group and one of the producer telling us we had to let go of one of my bestfriends go if we want to make it. Now that I look back on it, I am so happy I wasn’t a child star, I am much more prepared for the industry now. I’ve had a very exciting life whether it was phenomenal blessing or major loss and lessons. I went to college to be a doctor (for my father), I’ve had tragic car accidents that I thought would for sure set me back, spontaneous moves across country multiple times, two weddings (with the same man one was a Nigerian wedding), Health issues, major weight gain and major weight loss. Through it all, I am still here. I’ve had industry deals that had been signed and sealed fall through, I’ve experienced the most heartbreaking loss through death of loved ones but I never lost sight of the purpose that had always led me. And this is how my purpose led me to where I am today.
My husband and I had been living a great life in Georgia. I was running the family cell phone repair business Dee Knows Phones in Decatur while acting and winning awards for my first short film Vigilante. Then life happened and we found ourselves back on Detroit’s East in a fixer upper that we had to fight squatters to obtain. Now back in Detroit, it was time to get a job. I needed to work somewhere that would give me flexibility to film, rehearse for plays and go on auditions. Although I was not happy about being back home at the time, I promised myself no matter where I was I would never stop acting. Detroit’s acting market was much different from Atlanta. Detroit has some of the best actors, independent filmmakers, and writers in the world. The thing about Detroit film market is the opportunity isn’t comparable to other major cities. And professionalism can sometimes be overlooked. I sacrificed by working midnight shifts to make it to rehearsals for plays, and save vacation days to film. I was technically a working actress but something was missing for me. I did a lot of meditation with Deepak and Oprah, visualizing the life I wanted. I would be in the snow dreaming of palm trees.
In June of 2017, I won the opportunity to get on a google group chat with famous casting director/director Tracey “Twinkie” Byrd. I had been following her for about a year and I saw her as my unofficial virtual mentor. Twinkie had a contest for out of state actors where she gave us well needed, unfiltered advice. She told us we needed to study and take the craft seriously. She said you have to make the commitment you have to make the move. It hit me that was it, I had been on tv, won awards, saw myself on the big screen but I didn’t take time to study the craft without any distraction. That was what was missing, I had only been to school for what my parents wanted, never for me. This time I wanted to go to school for myself. I took what classes I could while in Detroit and I did a few plays. The summer of 2018, I got promoted at work to a leasing consultant and landed a lead role in an independent feature film. I would lease from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm and rehearse for the film from 6:30 pm- midnight. Things seemed great, but the longing for more still haunted me.
I had experience with working on film sets in Atlanta, but this was my first film since being back in Detroit. Although I know my city and the unique ego that has been associated with Detroiters, I figured the experience would be different because this is art and I know art has the power to change anything. I was happy to be using my gifts and skills in my hometown. I had high expectations of having a nostalgic experience, however that was not the case. I grew an amazing bond and relationship with my castmates which I still cherish. The rehearsal process was different from what I was used to. From having multiple people directing us to having actors come in and read our roles after we were cast as a form of intimidation, things were uncomfortable. One day during rehearsal we came into a room of 15 people some who had auditioned for the roles we booked, then we were instructed to rehearse in front of them. After we would do scenes we would leave out and the room would judge our performances. It was the most unprofessional and negative situation I had ever seen. Each day was a new unsuccessful tactic. I had never felt so unsafe to produce art, acting is vulnerable it uses all your truths and experiences to fuel the scene. On the second day of filming the producers called me and the other lead actresses into a closed meeting and told us they were letting two of us go. I was one of the two. I had never been fired from anything in my life. This was my first. Instead of me being upset, I felt gratitude, I felt free. They offered me a role in another film but I knew my journey was over with this group. It was clear that this was not where I was meant to be. I knew if I would have completed this film I had a potential to get stuck in Detroit and not be completely fulfilled. Now it’s September of 2018 and I am ready for the next adventure. I DM’d Twinkie Byrd letting her know I was thankful for her being my virtual mentor for over a year. I let her know I was ready to study my craft and I asked for a recommendation. She messaged back Richard Lawson PDP. I had no idea what she was talking about but I was up for the challenge of figuring it out.
The next day I researched and found Richard Lawson Studio’s an acting Studio in North Hollywood, CA created by the legendary actor and teacher Richard Lawson. I called the studio and asked for information and the date of the next PDP (Professional Development Program). I found out that it was a 16-week program and no date had been confirmed yet but it should be starting in the next couple of months. Something in me told me this was the time. I had to go. Having this epiphany as a single woman would have been easy. But as a wife who just recently purchased a home with her husband this brought up a challenge. Although my husband has always been a huge support, this was a unique request. A week had passed and I still hadn’t heard anything about a starting date so I called back. I was told that I would be put on a list and that I would be the first to get a call when the date was finalized. The following week there was no call but I did get an email about an open class they were having the upcoming week. Once again, I got the feeling I needed to be there. I spoke to my husband and sold him on a one night turn around trip to LA. We needed to feel LA again, the energy I needed to be certain that this was the next move for our family. The day of our trip my flight “hook up” fell through and the tickets for my husband and I had doubled in price. I was frustrated the chances of us finding a flight to get us there in time for the open class was slim. My husband looked at me and said Nia, get whatever ticket will get us there no matter the cost. Times like this are exactly what we work hard for. Him saying that was exactly what I needed to hear. I found the first ticket that would get us to LA in time for the class and bought it. The whole flight there, I was intentional about all my moves. I listened to Goapele closer to my dreams, K’jon out there on the ocean, Jazmine Sullivan Dream Big while I ready Steve Harvey’s book “Jump”. You can absolutely say I was manipulating myself. I was making my intentions clear to the universe.
We made it to LAX and I had no clue how far LAX was from the Valley. My first time in LA’s rush hour traffic and it was crazy. We finally made it to the theater WACO Theater Center (Where Art Can Occur). We walked in and were greeted with the warmest energy I had ever felt from a room of strangers. As I listened to Richard speak, I heard a familiar language, he spoke the language of purpose. Everything that came from him was honest, uplifting, and empowering. I saw the range of skill in the scene work and I was convinced this was the school for me. He spoke about Hollywood being Plan B and I am Plan A what I create. For me to be in California the biggest market for the stars, I didn’t feel intimidated, I felt safe, I felt at home. After class, I signed up to interview for the class the following day, which means our trip got extended. The interview went great and confirmed everything I had been feeling. I left the interview, my husband looked at me and said, “Here we go”. It’s funny he could feel it too, he knew this was the next step.
When I got back to work I was surprised to find out that I had been chosen out of all the leasing consultants in the company to be a leasing agent at a leas-up high rise. This was a major advancement because I had an opportunity to make close to 100k in 9 months leasing out a state of the are brand new luxury apartments. That was money I could really use but I had my mind made up, this time I wasn’t allowing money to move me, my purpose was steering my bus. I turned to position down and put in my two weeks notice. My last day of work was October 31, 2018. I called my cousin in Long Beach and asked if I would be able to stay with her for the four months of my program. She was recently engaged, her fiance and her were living together and they had children. I told her there was a class starting in about three weeks and another in March. After talking it over with her fiance she called me back and told me I could come, and it would be better to come sooner than later. I quickly put together a going away party and I was in California by myself November 7th, 2018. My husband wasn’t able to come. He had his business that was growing and we had a home to fix. He was only a facetime call, this was a journey I would have to take physically alone. Class started on Monday the 12th, so I had a weekend to myself.
While scrolling on Instagram, I saw Twinkie post about a music video she was directing. The manager of the artist was looking for PA’s to help on the set. I figured this is my chance, I can finally meet Twinkie and express my gratitude. I reached out to help PA just my luck they hadn’t filled the position and it was a paid job. The next morning when I got to set I walked in the room and right there sitting eating lunch was Ms. Tracey “Twinkie Byrd” in the flesh. I screamed Twinkie. I gave her the largest hug and that particular moment she had no clue who I was. She asked if we knew each other. I went through the story and her eyes lit up, she couldn’t believe I did it, I made the move to study my craft. Not only did I make the move but I also somehow got a paid job within my first 48hrs hours. After working on set with me for two days she was impressed by my willingness to give help wherever needed. She deemed me a peacock, bright, lively and full of color. She reassured me that Richard Lawson Studios would be great for me because it is a home full of peacocks.
To fast forward to where I am now. Twinkie has become a dear friend and sister of mine. I completed the PDP program graduating with ten short films created by me. For the first five months, I would drive from Long Beach to North Hollywood about four days a week. When asked how I drove that long commute during morning and evening rush hour traffic, my response was, “it’s closer than driving from Detroit and the traffic is prettier here”. Now I have a beautiful studio loft in North Hollywood. It’s only a 5 min walk from my school and job. My husband comes to visit monthly with the intention of moving for good in April of 2020. I first was offered a job to work as the front desk admin of WACO which I loved. But recently, I was promoted from working as admin to now being the Executive Personal Assistant to Richard Lawson. I also work as a stage manager in the scene study 1.0 class at RLS. I have been to the AAFCA awards at met my childhood idols, The Wearable Art Gala and partied in a room with Beyonce. I worked on multiple sets and recently was in the off Broadway stage play Hairitage. One of my short films I created during PDP with my husband “The Player Slayer” was selected and screened at the MPACT film festival. I performed an August Wilson Monologue at the famous TCL Chinese Theatre. I have hosted events and created relationships that are sure to last a lifetime. I can recall when I was on the plane coming to LA to start this journey, I asked God the famous question, “God show me a sign that I am supposed to be in California”. When I landed, I realized the sign had been there all along…. Cali-for-NIA (get it).
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This has not been a smooth road at all but it has been the most rewarding experience. A challenge I never thought would be an issue is my good attitude. I choose to look at the positive things in life and use everything else as a learning experience. I have learned that everyone is not comfortable around someone who chooses to stay in the light even when darkness may be present. I have had to overcome being away from my husband of 6 years. It hasn’t been easy because he is literally my best friend. But we are both focused on the bigger picture for our family. I come from a very close-knit family and I recently lost my little cousin to suicide. This was a blow that struct my family hard. We are still learning how to put the pieces together while heal. Eventually, I am sure this experience will find its way in my art. Finance is usually always a challenge for an artist but it’s only as big as you allow it to be. I rented a car every month for the first five months of me being in LA, now I appreciate being in walking distance to majority of the places I need to go. But taking care of two households one in LA and one in Detroit starts to become expensive. The living situation with my cousin got pretty rocky towards the end, me finding a place when I did was a God sent blessing.
Bringing Love Back – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am the creator of Bringing Love Back an entity that allows me to be a businesswoman, actress, filmmaker, and ARTivist. I use art and my relationship-building skills to create awareness and improve the quality of unity in my community. I am a purpose pusher, fear fighter. I look to have three businesses up running for 2020. One in the entertainment field, beauty industry, and I am also interested in the ever-growing marijuana industry.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career was the filming, screening, and film festival circuit of my first short film Vigilante. Although it was my first production the professionalism on the set was unforgettable. I worked with a two time Emmy winning DP Larry Robertson and his team. I was also directed by my mentor, business partner and dear friend Dena Rivera. We were selected in the International Black Film Festival in Nashville and we won the Viewers Choice Award. We as a team slayed the red carpet we created other business opportunities and relationships. We didn’t know then but this was the last film Dena would create. I am grateful to have re-watched Vigilante with Dena while caregiving for her during her final days.
- Email: DuckettNia@gmail.com
- Instagram: @Nia_Miranda
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ActressNiaMiranda/
Robin Emtage, Patrick Bastien