My name is Zakeijia Wright, Zee for short. When I was a kid I loved to play games by myself. I was 6 years old while my brother was 12 and my sister was 17 at the time. Since they were teenagers and of course too cool to play with their little sister, I created games for myself. One day I would be a ballerina, the next day I would be a doctor nursing on my stuffed animals, then I would be a pop singer belting out Alicia Keys, Aaliyah and Michael Jackson songs. And of course I would play an actress. Basically I was taking on a new profession every day. The main thing I loved to do was entertain people, storytelling with skits and improv. As I got older, my life centered around God, family and sports. I worked so hard and tried out for a spot on the team and I usually got it.
Something that stayed with me was my love for movies and performing arts. I would watch a movie over and over until I could recite the entire movie by heart. Same with music videos, I would watch it the first time to learn the dance, second time to clean it up and watch for a third time just for viewing pleasure. I remember the first time I saw Save the Last Dance. My sister went to the movies with a friend to see it and of course little ole me wanted to go too. I remember sitting there in awe watching the movie and falling in love with each character including your character Chenille. When it came out on VCR this girl begged her parents for it. I loved your character Chenille. I didn’t fully understand at the time but I knew that she was funny and witty and even though I never cared about the hue on my skin, I saw that she looked like me. Fast forward to 2004 when the movie Ray came out I saw you again and this time next to the incredible Jaime Foxx. When I tell you I watched that movie so much that I had to beg my mom to buy another because the first DVD was skipping like a school girl outside of church! Gosh! I loved that movie and once again you caught my attention and held it.
Years ago for my freshman year, my best friend persuaded me to join theatre. I was one of those kids who was labeled as “most energetic”. She told me I would be great in it and I would have a class with her. I signed up and the first day I went into theatre I didn’t see my best friend. She failed to tell me that she was in advance theatre and because it was my first year I had to start from the bottom. Truth was I was relieved because I was scared that I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid that I would freeze up and people would laugh at me. Of course I was a goof ball with my friends but when it came to presenting even a simply story I made an A on, I would freak out. Stage freight. Gavin Mundy was the director and he was an extraordinary teacher and still is. He was a teacher that didn’t just teacher theatre he knew algebra, biology, history, chemistry, geometry etc. a very intelligent man. One day a friend I played volleyball with told Mundy about how funny I was and how I could do impersonations of people. After literally pulling my arm begging me to show him, I did and he thought it was hilarious. (I honestly don’t think I’m that funny.) He then said that he knew I was good because one day we were on the stage playing an improv game called Freeze. It’s where you make up scenarios on the spot and you can’t say “No”. I thought I was slick; I waited till I thought he was out of eye sight and earshot before I volunteered. He said he saw the whole thing and he wanted me to be moved up into advance theatre. To say I was shocked was an understatement. That day I got my schedule changed and was in advanced theatre. He convinced me to audition for the upcoming play. Kerry, I was so scared and nervous I wanted to back out. I remember going into the room ready to give up. I slated and proceeded to deliver. He asked me to do it again but this time more frantic. After I finished he looked at me puzzled and I knew that I blew it. He then asked me “Your accent is great. How did you polish it?” I told him about the videos and he was impressed.
Looking on the cardboard a day later I saw my name and was elated. February 17, 2010 was the day of my first play. I was Tituba in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Before the show I was a wreck. I studied so hard on the character I listened to videos of people with Barbadian accents and even read books about her. 10 minutes till curtain call, I stepped away from every one and prayed. Getting myself together I started to feel different. I was no longer Zee, I was Tituba. When the sole of my character shoes stepped onto the wooden set, I was Tituba. My accent was there, the way Tituba walked was present and the age gap closed. I was Tituba. The pure bliss I feel on stage is like no other. And even after that night every time I step on stage that feeling is still there. I no longer fear anything and I give it my all. The lines are not read off they flow out as natural as ever. After that show I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I worked hard in volleyball, basketball, soccer and track but I never felt good enough. Acting, performing was what I was confident in. It was what tested my boundaries and pushed me into places that excited me and terrified me all in one.
Ms. Washington, you helped me. Seeing you work hard in every single character you portray helped me. Through the years of me watching you in film, I see how much you have grown. It gives me hope and it fills my heart and soul with promise that no matter what I go through I know what passion, love and dedication feels like. I thank you for giving me the courage to go for what I feel is right. It sounds silly given the fact we don’t know each other but your movies, interviews and tweets have empowered me. I will be graduating in 2014 and the experiences I’ve had on the stage at my school has been the best. The absolute best. I watch your movies and I see a strong, beautiful, intelligent, humble woman who has been so gracious enough to spread her love for what she does with millions of people. Just the following school year I had a project and it had to be about icons of the millennium. My partner and I racked our brains trying to figure out who to talk about on the list we were given. I realize that it was missing someone, you. I talked to Mr. Meyers and told him why I believed he should allow me to speak about you. He looked at me like I had 5 heads and said “Kerry Washington from Scandal?” I gave him a smirk and said absolutely. I told him about how you are into politics, how you are on the President’s committee on the Arts and Humanities, the V day organization and all of the other great things you have done and are a part of. He stopped me and said “Deal. But you better blow me away.” And when I tell you I did, oh yes I blew him away and earned myself a 100 on a double major grade. #handledit
You are more than just an actress Ms. Washington, you are my idol and someone I dream about working with one day. The love you give to your fans, us gladiators is phenomenal. If I had a thousand tongues I wouldn’t be able to thank you enough. I truly appreciate you and give you a standing ovation for being a huge influence in my life.
You woke up the 6 year old zee who use to believe that dreams can come true and I can be whatever I want to be if I put my mind into it. You give me faith and willpower to graduate with my head held high ready to go after my dreams and goals.
God bless you Kerry Washington. May he continue to use you so many others are influenced by you. I leave you with a little chant my cast mates and our director say before every show.
“There is magic in the theatre, the theatre is magic, and truly blessed are those, who are able to share their talents with others.”
With so much love and gratitude,
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