Rising Star Amina Warsuma: “Writers run Hollywood; It’s up to us writers to write diverse stories”

Writers run Hollywood. We can write what we want, and it’s up to us to write diverse stories. That can be hard because you have to come out of your comfort zone and delve into other cultures. I had the pleasure to interview Amina Warsuma. Amina is a prolific author, filmmaker and former top international […]

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Writers run Hollywood. We can write what we want, and it’s up to us to write diverse stories. That can be hard because you have to come out of your comfort zone and delve into other cultures.

I had the pleasure to interview Amina Warsuma. Amina is a prolific author, filmmaker and former top international fashion model. Warsuma has written stories for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, The Huffington Post style blog, as well as two books (both on Amazon and Kindle) and many films (streaming on Amazon and Amazon Prime). She was one of the first Black models at the Battle of the Palace Versailles in 1973. She has lived all over the world and worked with renowned names such as Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Miles Davis and Karl Lagerfeld to name a few. Warsuma was one of 11 Black models that worked in the Battle of Versailles Fashion Show. The show’s use of African-American models was unprecedented at the time and marked a new direction in fashion runways. The experience prompted Warsuma to produce, direct, star and write the interview documentary A Black Model in Paris, which is streaming on Amazon Prime. It outlines her journey to becoming a top international model and gives practical advice for models, photographers, hairdressers, makeup artists and designers who want to break into the industry. Warsuma’s fashion life story also appears in One Night at The Versailles, a book by Pulitzer Prize winner, Robin Givhan. Warsuma’s second movie, a short called For the Love of Blood, received a 2016 ‘Depth of Field International Film Festival’ award. Her current film projects in development include Amber Stone Agent Zero, For The Love of Blood, Operation Minus Man, The Shadow of Evil, and A Black Model in Paris II. Warsuma’s inspirational life story of struggle and success can be read in My Stars Are Still Shining (on Amazon, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble). In this gripping memoir, she offers a glimpse into another world: dark but star-studded, and filled with opportunity. On her journey, Warsuma encountered and worked with a host of famous faces and places including Michael Jackson, Elsa Peretti, Calvin Klein, Halston, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Palace Versailles and Studio 54. She speaks of her determination to succeed, and how her single-mindedness took her across the globe. She has also written and created the novel franchise, Amber Stone, Agent Zero which is sold at Vroman’s, Book Soup,Barnes & Noble and on “Amber Stone, Agent Zero is a masterful blend of sleuth, espionage, and terrorist thriller. This novel will appeal to readers seeking strong female characters and tightly plotted narratives with exciting locales in the setting,” says Readers’ Favorite. Born in the Bronx in 1953 to a Somali father and an American mother, Warsuma grew up in Manhattan. She graduated with an ASS degree in business at Monroe College in New York. She also graduated Los Angeles City College for Cinema Production and Producing and attended UCLA for Television Pilot Writing. Warsuma is a supporter of Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Special Olympics of Southern California. She and her family live in Los Angeles.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up poor with a negligent parent who imposed me on my step-grandmother and aunt. When I stayed with them, I didn’t know what poor was. When I stayed with my mother, I knew what hunger was. I wouldn’t see her for days, and I had to feed myself or eat at neighbors’ homes.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

One thing my mother did expose me to were films. We went to see movies every night. I think she wanted to escape and she finally did. Every year she disappeared for five years. She did return for an hour or minutes but then go again or escape.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was on stage playing Bette Davis’s part in Now Voyager the character had a nervous breakdown and so did I. My legs gave out, and I fell to the floor which that wasn’t in the rehearsal. My acting partner who played the doctor an older gentleman said, “wow when you fell to the floor, I got scared and didn’t know what to do”. I was so into the character I felt everything she felt.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I went to an audition, and when I stepped into the room, there was a step that I didn’t see to step up on and I tripped into the room in front of all the casting people. I was so anxious to get into the place that I didn’t see the step in front of me. I assumed the room was level like every other room I’ve walked in. I learned to be calm; it is not a big deal slow down and look at where I am going. I laughed it off, “Oh my God, I almost broke my neck!” They didn’t laugh; they may have laughed afterward. But I thought it was funny.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Amber Stone Agent Zero my novel series. It’s an African American female spy battling a multiracial female terrorist group and their origins. There are four books to the series. It’s action packed and really exciting. It’s sold on and Kindle in 12 countries.

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?

You can’t have diversity unless you have a writer like myself who writes and films projects with diversified characters. In my short For The Love of Blood playing on Amazon Prime, I have black characters from several nationalities and countries and sizes and ages. When you look at it, it seems like everyone is American. Next time I will have parts whereas they speak in their accent.

From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

Writers run Hollywood. We can write what we want, and it’s up to us to write diverse stories. That can be hard because you have to come out of your comfort zone and delve into other cultures.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I was told to meet everybody I can, and that was the worst advice. Everyone in Hollywood has an agenda, and if you don’t meet the people who count and are aligned with your goals, you are wasting your time. You look back and ask did I really need to go there or meet that person? I’m not talking about fans.
  2. To focus on getting a manager and not an agent. I didn’t know that the managers were the ones who got you the work, then the agent would take you and negotiate the price. When I came to Hollywood, the internet was not up and running, and everything was done the hard way by mail or telephone or who you knew. Now everyone could just google you.
  3. To stick to my goals and have a backup. In the old days you could be a waiter or waitress and the jobs supported your acting. Once you got an agent, they didn’t want you to do extra work. But now if you do extra work long enough, you will get the chance to get bumped up. I wish someone would have told me that.
  4. In Hollywood, the acting classes are a way to break into the business. In New York you just go, and you get an agent and put yourself on Broadway. In commercials I always see new faces with significant roles and from other countries. Training is the key, and cattle calls, like they were in New York are not. You train in New York. It’s easier to knock on doors. You can act more independently. Now with the internet and all the independents, I don’t need someone to film me. I can do that myself put it up on YouTube and send the link to casting agents myself.
  5. That the business was not about rejection. I had to find that out for myself. It’s about how I perceive a character I am auditioning for. Does it align with what the director is looking for? Now, I have knocked some auditions out of the park, but because I was too young looking or too glamorous I didn’t get the role, and they didn’t want to transform me physically into the character. I didn’t take it as rejection. They don’t know me.They only see the role I am playing and it doesn’t match with their vision. I love to take a direction, and I wish they would do that more in casting. It’s the same with writing. It is getting my concept across or the public readily accepting my idea. It’s about timing and coming into your space where the doors open that were closed in the past for whatever reason the Universe has for blocking you and it all will be revealed in due time. Everyone gets their turn if it is meant to be in this business or maybe another. Whether or not they take or not is up to them. Sometimes we are done with things but the Universe is not ready for us to exit there is something we have to do and we have to find out what that is.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

For me, it’s not misdirecting my energy, so I have learned how to shoot a scene in two hours or longer if stunts are involved. If I work around the clock which I do, I rest I take a weekend off to meditate and be with my thoughts. Sleep is the fountain of health and increases my vitamins like B12. Your nerves is what causes burnouts. Being organized gives me a sense of control, even if everything is scattered on my desk. I know what I am looking for is there. Your health and vitality are first; there is no career or job worth your health, and you can not put a price on your health and life. Health is wealth.

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. 🙂

For me, it’s producing my film that would give people work and show diversity along with being entertaining. People get the message quicker if it’s in a songbook or film.That is the most significant influencer, and they resonate in your mind and ear. If you find yourself humming a song or remembering lines or scenes from a film or a passage from a book long after it’s a debut that is an influence.

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?

Yes, there is a list of people I have to thank who taught me a lot inspired and encouraged me from my friends to my Cinema teachers. Business associates I have named them all in my memoir My Stars Are Still Shining on and Vroman’s. Also, help from the Universe as everything has to align up.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I never play a game I can’t win, and I am on a path I can’t change.

For many years I fought for the wrong things. Many years ago, I was on the bus and an elderly woman a stranger started talking to me and told me we go through life-fighting for the wrong things. It was an Ah-Ha moment for me. What possessed her to say that to me? I don’t know, it must have been an Angel speaking through her to me. That my life is a spiritual war, and I have to pick my battles and use my energy wisely. I am responsible for the energy that I bring into the room. I’m held accountable and to know my reality and to deal with it and not run away from it. But control it courageously. We all are going to be doing what we are supposed to be doing eventually.

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 would like to have a private breakfast with William H McRaven retired Admiral of the Navy. He reminds me of Ian Fleming, who was an Intelligence officer in The Queen’s Navy. But opposite of him he knows how to motivate or strategically inspire you to set goals and achieve them. I make my bed, but when I am traveling someone makes it for me. As I get busier, someone will be making my bed. He also reminds me of my step-aunt. Everything has to be perfect, not a drop of water or a grain of rice could be left in the kitchen sink, and everything has to be in its place. I keep accumulating stuff. I need a bigger and bigger place like a castle.

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