By Atibia “Broadway” Williams
When you think of Terri J. Vaughn, don’t just think of the successful actress, producer, director, and entrepreneur, think of light in human form – sparking hope in hearts and helping to manifest ideas and goals.
Actress Tequilla Whitfield certainly views Terri as that light that sparks hope, previously telling me, “Terri poured so much light and love into me and other individuals, I am forever grateful.” Terri has been a vessel of empowerment transferring knowledge through a prism of virtue. There are a number of words I could use to describe Terri, but what comes to mind is a stencil, not in the traditional sense of the word but in a metaphysical way, sketching out her own journey to help others transcend in their journeys.
So then it comes as no surprise that she gave birth to The Green Room Cafe Lounge, a one-stop soul spot, to flex your talents, gain knowledge and build with other “creatives.” Remaining a student of the craft herself, Terri understood the pulse of the Atlanta creative community and recognized the need in Atlanta for the Lounge.
Although it is no longer open, it was with that prism of virtue that Terri materialized her vision for the Green Room Café, which served its purpose by creating a space for individuals to find each other. A visionary, Terri recognized the incredible depth of talent in Atlanta and it isn’t surprising that we are starting to see those talents in our favorite TV. series or on the movie screens.
Passionately, Terri tells me “I love to see people doing what they do, do what they love! We generally see people do what they have to do, whether they like to do it or not. Most people don’t believe in themselves, they just don’t understand that they can become what they aspire to be. So many times those dreams fade away when the pressures of life bears down on you and says stop dreaming, focus on getting a real job, or ask that proverbial question, do you have a plan? Those are questions every dreamer has to address.”
Almost as if by a divine cosmic aura predetermined on a latent path, these dreamers who may have been discouraged magnetically find Terri. Understanding the innate desires of a dreamer, Terri does her best to provide these artists with the reassurance that their talent is theirs to share with the cosmos.
Believing in each and every one of her mentees, she works to prepare them and assures them that though the path may seem daunting, if they work with the mantra that faith without works is dead, then results are bound to be just around the bend whether you can see it yet or not.
At the same time, while she casts her imprint on the countless people that she has touched throughout the years, Terri is still an actress who remains a student of the craft. She continues on her own quest to liberate the minds of tenacious actors and actresses, teaching them the fundamentals of honing their craft and imparting on them what she knows about how to navigate through the sea of frustration that comes with being in the business. It takes more than talent; it takes courage and faith and trust, a trust that she puts in God’s hands to lead her on the path, which was written for her.
The people she shares her knowledge with are those who are vested in their dreams, seekers of opportunities and knowledge, possessing an ambitious energy like light bouncing off a mirror and reflecting right back to Terri. She admits the hardest thing she deals with, as a mentor is when an opportunity doesn’t go the mentees way.
Though it hurts her to see people she cares about so disappointed, she also understands that she must allow them to find the strength to get through their struggles so that they will be able to survive in their endeavors.
Terri’s desire and willingness to help comes naturally to her, but she also credits influences in her life, from her loving family to the friends she chooses. As Jay-Z said in one of my favorite verses, “If everyone in your click is rich, that means your click is rugged, no one would fall cause everyone would be each other’s crutches.” This mindset focuses on deconstructing the theory of competition by promoting a symbiotic cohesiveness among a group of like-minded individuals with similar goals.
Terri herself didn’t have a mentor but rather a group of friends who understood the craft with her and identified the struggles of the business that only an actor could possibly know. And while Terri is appreciative of the blessings that have allowed her to have such a long and consistent career, the business as she puts it, “can be a very disheartening path. “I am an actress, but I am also a brand, and I believe in my brand, now I have to present this brand and everything it encompasses, now I have to convince someone to believe in this brand as much as I do, it’s part of the business, but at the same time it takes a special kind of resilience for someone to evaluate your art to determine if you’re qualified or not.”
Which is why those supportive, positive foundations are vital to maintaining serenity in a fickle business. Although there are some obvious uphill battles in her profession of choice, she is grateful to God and feels blessed to have had such a long career.
In order to provide value to others, an individual must have value from within – when I asked Terri how she manages life as an entrepreneur, mentor, mother, wife, producer, and actress? She said, “I love life, and the longer a person lives, you soon begin to realize life is full of life, I love my kids, my family provides substance and without that substance, I wouldn’t enjoy my life as much. Having a life makes you a better love. The love is unconditional, if you’re not awake in real life, then you can’t be productive in your actions.”
When I asked how she feels about the current shift in Hollywood around diversity, she responded like a true veteran would, stating that Hollywood is a cycle, and it seems to be a cycle that is repeating itself, which is why it’s important to always be ready by creating your own narrative by producing, writing, directing content, and again keep studying the craft, and last but not least, just being positive.
So what’s next for Terri? She just finished directing a soon-to-be-released comedy called #DigitalLivesMatter, written and produced by Nina Holiday. #DigitalLivesMatter is a hilarious film featuring two bright young actors/social media celebrities, DC Young Fly and Emmanuel Hudson. The movie takes place in our modern day where social media can make you a star. DC Young Fly actually plays himself in the movie, going through a falling out with one of his fans/followers from his Instagram.
He underestimates the level of petty behavior that this particular follower would take who exacts revenge on the Instagram superstar by hacking and deleting all of his Instagram followers. DC then embarks on a humbling comedic journey to regain his following by performing good deeds throughout Atlanta. This film is definitely a must see and I’m excited to see Emmanuel Hudson and DC Young Fly once again presenting their talent for the world to see.
Terri knows that momentum is key and she hasn’t stayed in the business this long by slowing down. She will also be speaking on a panel discussion with the Black House Foundation among other film trailblazers at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, doing what she does best – providing light through spiritual photosynthesis sparking the cell of thought, inspiration, and execution within the dreamers of the universe.