Today we’d like to introduce you to Shayla Love.
Shayla, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The beginning? Let’s! *big inhale* So I was born and kinda sorta-esque-lowkey raised in Cleveland, Ohio but all the wonder years—the last year of elementary school through my college career—I spent in the fabulous Las Vegas. ‘Twas a major culture shock for me. Climate wise, people wise, glitz and glamor wise, ALL the wise. But I absolutely loved it and am super grateful for the great migration to the West. I definitely move about the world in chucks and vans. See? A West Coaster at heart.
Growing up, I always expressed myself through art. Even though I certainly didn’t articulate it that way back then. I just knew I loved creating and making things and doing crazy stuff which may—or may not—but mostly got me into trouble. I loved ripping up my mom’s boxes and creating “inventions”. I drew and painted everything; receive an art set every year until I was 10. When I was happy, sad, upset, or whatever I’d write a poem about it. I begged my mom for a keyboard so I could play music, underneath my raps. I’ve always been in love with storytelling, storytellers and the endless ways one could tell a story. I grew up watching In Living Color and Comic View—before those good ol’ acting classes watching sketch shows and comedians is how I initially learned to tell stories. Then add that to living “La vida Las Vegas” meant every holiday, birthday, or anytime anyone visited our house, folks were liable to get a song, dance, impression, invention, or painting from me.
My first mentor, Mrs. Jacobson, was my middle school drama—excuse me, THEE middle drama teacher. A vibrant, retired chorus girl with so many stories—and I told you how I feel about stories(!) She was the first one who presented the reality of being an artist as a career and truly excited me about the craft of acting. In high school, she encouraged me to attend LVA—The Las Vegas Academy an esteemed magnet school for the arts. So I auditioned as a theatre major and got in.
Going to LVA is still on my Top 37 BEST decisions ever made because of what it cultivated in me. I still call upon that particular training in my creative process. It’s also where I met my current mentor of over 17 years—stop doing the math, I’m 32!
After high school, I was accepted to several collegiate theatre programs including Howard University BUT let people get in my head about acting not really being a viable career. Can I curse in this interview? This is where I would if I could. Don’t let people [expletive] get into your head about what your hearts knows(!) I regret letting people influence my decision but ultimately I do not regret my decision to stay in Vegas for college. I attended UNLV—University of Nevada, Las Vegas—with a degree in Journalism. I had a friggin’ blast in college and much like my childhood, folks still got a song, dance, impression or “invention”from me! I worked the local poetry scene as a spoken word poet, coordinated diversity-centered networking events for the campus, wrote copy for the University’s television station and was the official narrator of the school’s freshman orientation video. My sophomore year, I landed a job as the youngest on-air personality at Power 88.1—Vegas’ number #1 urban public radio station. Which felt like the Pandora’s box of my opportunities because this led to more opportunities to host, write and produce then AND later on.
*cue sad music* 2 years after college I felt so lost. I graduated with the degree and the job but where was the happy? Not with me LOL I was not happy and seemingly lacked a vision for what was next. To make my already long story not as long, things got better. On a whim, I quit my broadcast day job and joined an acting troupe performing dinner shows in the Vegas’ downtown arts district. On another whim in 2011, alongside my acting troupe tribe, we migrated to Atlanta—the rising hot spot for film and television production.
Upon my arrival to ATL, I immediately gravitated to The Greenroom Actor’s Lounge—a learning and stomping ground for actors—under the tutelage of award-winning actor, director, producer and Terri J. Vaughn. The Greenroom will forever and always be a room I carry with me because of Terri and her incredibly loving, nurturing spirit—she rekindled so much love of the craft that got lost in translation over the years. Some of my dearest friends, greatest inspirations, most valued gems of training, and divinely orchestrated opportunities happened at the Greenroom. A month after I moved to ATL—and after submitting to a casting director at the Greenroom!—I booked my first movie “Echo at 11 Oak Drive”, written/directed by Crystle Clear Roberson and produced by Dianne Ashford. The rest is history, math, science, and everything in between.
Since then, I’ve been diligently committed to being open and fearless in the many hats one can wear in the industry. Between 2014-2017, I served as a producer for two television pilots and did a significant amount of production work for network TV. In 2017, I played “Helena” in the regional premiere of Eclipsed, the Tony-nominated play by Danai Gurura—who graced us with her presence our closing night(!) That same year was also sorta-kind-ish-esque-lowkey a breakout year for me in television, I landed roles in Star, Ozark, Queen Sugar and….! *awkwardly points to IMDB link*….Truly grateful to have had really amazing and diverse experiences in front of and behind the scenes in television, film and theatre.
Has it been a smooth road?
Absolutely not! LOL Balance and boundaries were–and are–big ones for me as I continue to learn and grow. I thought boundaries were for people who were rigid and didn’t know how to go with the flow of things. Certainly not suited for “thee artiste”. Turns out boundaries are for everyone and everyone needs them. And for me, having no boundaries meant having no balance. Going from one extreme to the next. I spent a long time being imbalanced and inconsistent in just about everything—financially, emotionally, professionally—all thee “allys”. Felt like I owed every person, place or thing my “yes” simply because it showed up. I burned myself out many times. I did not value my “yes”s or my “no’s” by honoring them with boundaries. Have I mastered the balance/boundary schtick? Absolutely not BUT also NOT YET if there is such a thing as mastering the two. I can say I value my yes, no and maybe NOW more than I ever did and I’m determined to keep it up.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of?
I describe myself as a “creator unlimited” because of the multiple hats I put on, are willing to put on at any time and at the same time. The long is answer: I’m an actor and writer who specializes in words and spaces. I mentioned having diverse experiences in television, film and theatre as an actor. I also LOVE working with kids in any creative space; I’ve worked with a youth theatre every year summer since 2015. As a content creator/curator, I write and perform sketch (my favorite!), I edit books, I have published poetry and write songs—proud member of ASCAP write here…see what I did there?
I’m most proud of my recent work in my writing hat—an original musical, #VIRAL, which premiered this summer at the only Equity theatre in Las Vegas. THEE most collaborative, grueling and gratifying work I’ve ever developed. I’m currently penning a woman show premiering in Spring 2020 with the support of the producers from #VIRAL.
And lastly, I am a space maker. I specialize in making spaces functional and awesome. Years ago, I turned my lowkey-highkey-OCD-esque-ish tendencies into an organizing business, “Your Best Space EVER!” Organizing is such a fulfilling art to me…it’s also the cleanest hat I wear.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The evolution of every industry is either cutting out the middle man or creating one. More and more creatives are galvanizing work on their own that have historically needed the middle man in order for it to be successful. Social media has shown us a TON of that already; the idea that people can create content that yields an “audience” without a studio. I think we are going to see that more of that on a grander scale. And flying cars…definitely flying cars.