…I don’t know the answer, but it would be great if we all could come up with a great way to end homelessness, and to take care of our homeless population. Los Angeles is like a tent city downtown and the problem has gotten so bad that the area is infested with rats. I think that our homeless Veterans should be first in line to be helped and that we need to bring experts together to help find a solution to the homeless situation. With the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, I also would like to start a movement for love and acceptance of all people. We need to increase our awareness and treatment of mental health issues, and to do something about the senseless killing of innocent people by extremists.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing actress Dawna Lee Heising. Dawna Lee Heising has starred in over 60 feature films. She’s acted alongside legendary actors such as Tom Sizemore, Michael Madsen, Danny Trejo, Eric Roberts, Tommy Wiseau, Rebecca Knight, Nicolas Turturro, Lorenzo Lamas, Olivia Hussey, Coolio, Aki Aleong, Mel Novak and many others. Dawna is also the vice president of her mentor Aki Aleong’s Mustard Seed Media Group. Dawna has been awarded by many film festivals internationally. She won Best Shakespearean Actress for “Dark Classics” at the 2019 LANFA Film Festival; Best Actress for her role as Barbie in Dustin Ferguson’s “Nemesis 5: The New Model” at the 2018 LANFA Film Festival; “Actress of the Year” at the 2018 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame Awards, and Best Supporting Actress for Gregory Blair’s “Garden Party Massacre” at the 2018 Lucky Strike Film Festival. Additionally, she was named Best Host for “Eye on Entertainment on Amazon Prime” at the 2017 WIND International Film Festival, where “Eye on Entertainment” was also awarded Best Television Show. She also won Best Actress for Jared Masters’ “Teacher’s Day” at the 2014 Shockfest Film Festival, and a 2013 EOTM Award for Outstanding Television Talk Show Host for “Eye on Entertainment”. She has also been honored with seven Best Ensemble Acting awards for Blair’s “Garden Party Massacre”. Dawna is trained in Tang Soo Do martial arts, kickboxing, ballet and pole dancing. She is an accomplished beauty queen, who is a former Miss Los Angeles Chinatown, Ms. World, Ms. Universe, Miss San Francisco Universe, Miss Orange County Universe, Miss California Hemisphere and Mrs. California United States, among many other titles. Dawna recently portrayed the inspiring role of Vivica Stevens (aka RoboWoman) in award-winning filmmaker Dustin Ferguson’s “RoboWoman.” Dawna also played the powerful role of Esmeralda, Lucifer’s wife, in William Lee’s “Black Mamba” and crazy, but hilarious, Melanie in Gregory Blair’s multi award-winning “Garden Party Massacre”. She recently played Connie in Richard Rossi’s faith-based film “Canaan Land”, Medusa in Albert Pyun’s “Cyborg: Rise of the Flesh Eaters”, Winney Swinney in Adam Steigert’s “The Horrific Evil Monsters”, and Deana the Psychic in Ron Becks’ and Tina Le’s “Las Vegas Vietnam”, starring Eric Roberts, Branscombe Richmond, Lorenzo Lamas and Nicholas Turturro. She is signed with Kevin C. Kellum’s Ascendent Talent Management, and will be playing a villain in his nationally broadcast “Vice Squad Los Angeles” television series. Academy award-winner Chris Tashima is a part of the “Vice Squad” franchise on the production end so the series is sure to be outstanding. Dawna has been cast in the pivotal role of the mysterious Lavender in a’Ali De Sousa’s movie and miniseries “The Bench”, alongside noted character actor Jeff Doucette. She is cast in action star JJ Stomp’s “The Bodyguard” and “In3Dragon”, and will be working with Eddie Griffin in Param Gill’s “Bad President”.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Dawna! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Vallejo, California and grew up in Southern California. I have an A.A. Degree in Theatre Arts from Fullerton College, a B.S. in Business Management from Pepperdine University and an MBA from Pepperdine University. I have worked as a Marketing and Publicity Vice President for technology companies and am currently the Vice President of my mentor Aki Aleong’s Mustard Seed Media Group. I was a member of Sal Romeo’s Friends & Artists Theatre Company for many years.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I won the Miss San Francisco Universe pageant while I was attending U.C. Berkeley, majoring in Chemistry. I was discovered during the pageant and played Miss Hawaii on “Fantasy Island”, but I had already studied Acting with Sal Romeo and Mark Majarian.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Many interesting and exciting things have happened since I began my career. I am very excited about being affiliated with John Reign and Polestar Studios because of the quality of their productions and the opportunity to be playing leading roles with such a great company. I am gratified to be playing bigger and better roles with great filmmakers and to be performing Shakespeare.
My first “big break” was playing Cleo the Snake Dancer on “Magnum P.I.” starring Tom Selleck. Filming with snakes was not allowed on the island of Hawaii so they had to film the scene here. I got the role and danced on a stage with a walkway with a huge snake wrapped around my neck and body. The scene was filmed with the trainer right off-stage. I thought it was my big break, but the scene ended up as a HUGE billboard picture of me with the snake behind Tom Selleck!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am excited to be portraying the character of Skye in John Reign’s war film “Finding Purpose” from Polestar Studios. There are epic war scenes in this film, and John expanded my role as his ex-girlfriend as the shoot went on because we had amazing chemistry in our scenes together. “Finding Purpose” ended up being my first love story! I will be reprising my role of Skye in the upcoming big budget sequel from Polestar Studios called “Finding Purpose 2: The Road to Redemption”.
I also am very proud of having performed Lady Macbeth’s challenging Scene 5, Act I monologue in Brian Barsuglia’s documentary “A Bard for the Ages: Shakespeare’s Timeless Effect”. My monologue was made into a six minute video called “Dark Classics” by director Craig Railsback and editor Dr. Renah Wolzinger and has been an Official Selection of major film festivals. I won Best Shakespearean Actress at the 2019 LANFA Film Festival Awards for Dark Classics on August 4, 2019!
I am signed with Kevin C. Kellum’s Ascendent Talent Management, and will be playing a villain in his nationally broadcast “Vice Squad Los Angeles” television series. Academy award-winner Chris Tashima is a part of the “Vice Squad” franchise on the production end. I have also been cast in the pivotal role of the mysterious Lavender in a’Ali De Sousa’s movie and miniseries “The Bench”.
I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I am Chinese, Japanese and Native American and I have many Asian friends and colleagues in the film industry. The world around us is very diverse and that diversity should be represented in the films we make. The world is made up of different genders, different races and nationalities, different cultures, different social statuses, different levels of education, etc., and all of these differences should be represented in the films we make, showing the good, the bad and everything in between.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
I think the film industry is doing a good job of addressing diversity issues these days. The success of the “Me Too” movement and films celebrating the Asian culture such as “Crazy Rich Asians” and “The Last Farewell” are testament to the fact that times are changing. The success of “Black Panther” and the Oscar wins of “Moonlight” and “Green Book” show the advancement in equality of the Black community.
More women and film professionals of color have been added to the Academy Award voting community, and there are many more films and television shows celebrating the LGBQT community, including “Transparent”, “Empire” and “Stranger Things”.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- I would encourage every actor to get as much training as possible so you are ready for that break-out role. It’s also important to train so that you can do the best job possible in auditions.
- Always set new goals for yourself and try to broaden your acting range.
- Learn how to accept rejection as it is a huge part of a career in acting. Try to make each audition a learning experience, and analyze how you could have done better.
- The more successful you get in this business, the more online trolls target you. It gives you enormous satisfaction to just delete their comments and block them.
- Always stay positive and avoid any negativity in this business and in your personal life. I was fortunate to have been assigned “The Psychology of Winning” by Dr. Denis Waitley in an acting class at U.C. Berkeley and “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey at Pepperdine University. These books are all about setting positive goals for yourself and about being happy for the success of others. The more successful that your friends and colleagues are generates positive ions in the world around you and benefits everyone.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I don’t know the answer, but it would be great if we all could come up with a great way to end homelessness, and to take care of our homeless population. Los Angeles is like a tent city downtown and the problem has gotten so bad that the area is infested with rats. I think that our homeless Veterans should be first in line to be helped and that we need to bring experts together to help find a solution to the homeless situation.
With the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, I also would like to start a movement for love and acceptance of all people. We need to increase our awareness and treatment of mental health issues, and to do something about the senseless killing of innocent people by extremists.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful to many people in my life, but most of all to my mother Fumie Lee. I am Chinese, Japanese, and Native American. My mother, Fumie Lee, is a second-generation Japanese-American (Nisei). During World War II, she was interned with her family at the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona. After internment, my mother remembers eating tomato sandwiches because money was so scarce. But my grandfather started another carnation farm in Encinitas after the war and made a lot of money through the Japanese stock market, although he continued to live frugally in the same house, demanding that all seven of his children work in the carnation fields. My Uncle Jack remembers that my mother had many male admirers coming to the house, which upset my grandfather and caused him to make the children work even harder in the fields. My grandfather imparted a fierce work ethic to the family. My Uncle Jack was the first Asian-American to become president of a U.S. institution of higher education, Sacramento City College, and my Uncle Tak is the renowned cinematographer for many major films, including “The Silence of the Lambs”, “Philadelphia”, and “The Sixth Sense” After graduating as the valedictorian of her San Dieguito Union High School class (and being voted “Most Beautiful”), my mom attended nursing school and worked as a charge nurse at UCI Medical Center for many years. My mother raised five children and has helped to raise six grandchildren, including my daughters Marissa and Misty.
I am most grateful to my mother and to my husband Paul for the wonderful life that I have and for the success of children Marissa and Misty. I had just played Cleo the Snake Dancer on “Magnum P.I.” when I became a single mother with no money and no savings. I had to move back with my mother with my two young daughters, and go to work and return to school to finish my B.S. degree. I was a temp at the largest food company in the nation when I met my husband Paul, who was the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for New Products. My mother and my husband Paul have helped raise my girls and have served as powerful examples of integrity, achievement, empathy, humility and positive values.
Today Paul is a successful Certified Financial Planner, who has been listed as a 5 Star Wealth Manager in Los Angeles Magazine for the last six years. My daughter Marissa has had a top Sales career with an international pharmaceutical company for many years, and my daughter Misty is a recognized child psychiatrist at UCLA. With my mother and Paul’s help, I earned a B.S. and MBA from Pepperdine University and rose to become a vice president of Marketing for technology companies. Today I have returned to my first love, which is acting, and my goal is to do the best work that I can. My mother is a big part of our lives and continues to lead by example. She is the best person that I know in this world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have always been very driven and achievement-oriented, and have never been afraid to go after the goals that I set for myself. I am a great believer in education and training. We can do anything that we desire as long as it is a positive goal that benefits the world around us, and if we are willing to work hard enough. I love the following quote by Ayn Rand:
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists… it is real… it is possible… it’s yours.”
– Ayn Rand
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I am a big fan of Josh Groban, and I would like to find out how he stays so nice and humble with the huge amount of success he’s had from such a young age. In 2016, he performed on Broadway as Pierre Bezukhov in “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”, an electropop opera by composer Dave Malloy based on War and Peace, which earned him a Tony nomination. He had to wear fat padding for the role. I would like to ask him why he chose to play a character like Pierre Bezukhov on Broadway, rather than the typical leading man roles that he could so easily play. I would also like to ask him if being on Broadway changed his musical style. His latest album “Bridges” is so much more interesting than his previous albums, where his singing was almost too perfect, and I would like to ask him about the change.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!