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TRACY “TWINKIE” BYRD
Over twenty one years in the industry and Twinkie is still a viable force for entertainment.Everyone knows the world of entertainment is one of the hardest industries to break into and it’s even harder to stay on top once you are there. Twinkie has managed to do it all! However, one question still remains, who is the woman behind it all? Twinkie is a mentor, a speaker, a motivator, a leader, and inspirational pillar. She manages to juggle all this under the umbrella of casting, becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought after casting directors.
Her latest project is currently “Jumping the Broom” starring Paula Patton, Angela Basset, and Laz Alonso who is also currently on “Breakout Kings” where she demonstrates yet another remarkable example of the craft casting. What makes Tracy stand our from other casting directors is she has a good ear for listening to what the director wants as well as a great eye for talent.
She truly knows the difference between and actor and artist. An artist is some who can approach a role with no judgments and find the humanity in each character and bring it to life. An artist, can draw you in through the camera in an instant, find the hidden message behind any character, and create a hypnotic methodical dance through their performancethat allows the artist and the audience to discover themselves and characters simultaneously. It takes a skilled eye of a professional casting director to recognize that potential in five minutes.
Her wealth of knowledge, wisdom and discernment sums up a golden ticket in surviving in this industry. She not only shows you how to reach your dreams but also how to keep them alive once you get them!
When she isn’t casting the latest project or mentoring, she lends her time to speaking at events around the community where she shines her light yet again. Here’s what one event attendee had to say, “Tracy, what inspired me the most about you is your just ‘GO for it’ attitude and ANYTHING is possible! That just gave me confirmation that I’m not crazy for doing what I’m doing in this industry, and it makes me excited for what’s to come for me”, Issac Lucas.
Did you know that when Twinkie first started out she booked castings from a pay phone? She didn’t even have her own place to live yet but she made sure she invested everything she had into what she wanted to become. That’s what Twinkie is all about investing in yourself through research, studying your craft, and then going for it full force!
We can learn so much from Twinkie through the quality of her work and her infectious personality. She has so much light to shine you would be crazy to put on your shades!
After working on three movies and a TV series with Tyler Perry, the greatest lesson Tasha Smith learned from the self-made entertainment mogul is to “put your money where your dreams are”. “It’s something to be extremely proud of him for,” says Smith, whose films with Perry include Why Did I Get Married? and Daddy’s Little Girls. “People really just don’t know his journey, but every dime he made he put back into his business.”
Now Smith is on the road sharing what she has gleaned from Perry and other mentors as part of her Tasha Smith Actors Workshop – or “T- Saw” as she calls it. One of her stops includes N.C. A&T today, where she will host an acting boot camp just for the college’s theatre students early in the day, followed by a public lecture at 7p.m. Smith hopes to encourage students to still chase their life’s goals even after graduation. “Right now they are pursuing their dreams by being in college,” Smith says. “But after school, you’re still going to have some obstacles and things that you’re going to have to press forward and do”. A New Jersey native, Smith never attended college. Instead, at 18 she decided to move to Los Angeles with nothing but a suitcase, $ 1,000 to her name and a dream – be an actor. “I got on that plane and I had an uncle that lived there, a friend that lived there, and I was living from sofa to sofa,” Smith remembers.
Equipped with a natural sense of comedic timing and delivery, Smith felt the best route to acting was stand- up comedy. Eventually, she had landed an appearance on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” a showcase dedicated mainly to younger black comedians. Smith’s performance quickly led to her getting signed by an agent and appearances on the sitcom “Boston Common,” where the producers tailored a role specifically for Smith to play. But as the acting opportunities started to pile up for Smith, she quickly realized that while she could make people laugh that didn’t necessarily mean she knew how to act. She began searching for a good acting teacher and found Ivana Chubbuck, whose roster of pervious students included Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Jim Carrey, Jake Gyllenhaal and Terrence Howard to name a few.
Smith was a student there for 15 years. Then came the unexpected: for becoming an instructor. It was “a huge deal… to become a teacher in a master class at one of the top acting schools in Hollywood,” she says. Empowered by the tools and techniques she had learned from Chubbuck, Smith went on to appear in more than 20 movies and 70 TV shows, from the Vince Vaughn film “Couples Retreat”, to the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries “The Corner”. With Chubbuck’s blessing, Smith started teaching acting workshops elsewhere in order to share the techniques she had learned to aspiring performers who can’t make it to Los Angeles. “A lot of people would reach out to me and say ‘I want to be an actor, but I live in North Carolina. Or I live in Atlanta,” Smith says. “I thought, you know what? There are a lot of people who can’t get here, so I’m going to start doing three-day boot camps in other cities and mainly the cities where I want to eventually open a T-Saw”.
Written by Joe Scott