Actress Speaks About Perseverance at Black Heritage BanquetFeb. 27, 2018
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WACO, Texas (Feb. 27, 2018) — As a child, Kiami Davael started modeling and people told her she always had “it.”
Modeling turned to acting, where she began with roles in Kellogg’s and AT&T commercials. In 1996, she finally landed the role for which she is best known — “Lavender” in "Matilda," alongside Mara Wilson who played the movie’s title character. Initially, her role in Matilda was not written for a girl who looked like her, and this role changed her life in a way she didn’t expect.
The actress, model, singer, songwriter and screenwriter recently spoke to Baylor University students at the 31st annual Black Heritage Banquet about the lessons she’s learned during her journey through the acting industry.
“God made us each unique with our own talents and resources,” Davael said. “We have our own purpose to fulfill. The only thing you can do is be the best version of yourself. Just because I’m not what Hollywood wants me to be doesn’t mean I’m not somebody. I knew God had something better for me and as long as I had breath, I hadn’t completed His assignment for my life.”
But it wasn’t an easy road for Davael. Through her work on “Matilda,” she learned a lot about professionalism. Even though she was only 8 years old, she was expected to carry herself as an adult. She had to work with different people and attitudes and quickly learned to take things in stride. While she learned some practical lessons that every child eventually has to learn, she also learned some humbling ones that most don’t encounter until later in life.
Davael still went to school and was usually the only black student in her class. Even though she grew up in a single-parent home with six siblings, people assumed that she didn’t know what it meant to struggle and that she thought she was better than everyone because she was an actress. As a result, teachers prevented her from getting in certain classes so they could humble her, and children often bullied her. Even though this was hard for her, this only caused Davael to dig deeper into her love for acting.
“In the midst of it all I realized that there’s nothing else that I’d rather be doing. The one thing I was dedicated to was my craft,” Davael said. “There’s a natural high that comes from me diving into my passion.”
Through time, Davael felt like she should book anything she auditioned for. She learned a tough lesson when she auditioned countless times for “Eve’s Bayou” and did not land the role. Although she had a hard time coming to terms with this, she learned to the lesson of understanding that what was meant for her eventually would come to her.
Things became more difficult after she continually became typecast. People told her she was irrelevant after Matilda, and she lost her agent as a teenager. This led to temptation to compare herself to the other actresses. Although she was discouraged, her circumstances ended up pushing her toward an avenue she hadn’t quite fully embraced. Davael grew up in church, but she didn’t take the time to nurture her relationship with God until she got baptized at 16. This provided a consolation she hadn’t considered.
“Even though I didn’t nurture that relationship, He never strayed from me,” Davael said. “Even though I wasn’t necessarily seeking Him, He was with me that whole time.”
As she grew deeper in her faith, her perspective began to shift. Davael said she learned that it’s detrimental to compare oneself to others. God reminded her that she was loved, extraordinary and fearfully and wonderfully made. This realization prompted her to stop comparing herself to other actresses and embrace herself for who she was. She became content with not landing every role and people’s opinions of her.
Davael said her career became less about fame and more about glorifying God through her talent. She said she was inspired to persevere because of Christ’s determination fulfill his mission and her desire to leave a legacy for the next generation.
In her personal growth, she also grew in her love for acting. Davael is now the creator and producer of the show #StillGotIt. The show documents the transition from child actors to adulthood. She hand-selected individuals who went through the same struggles she endured. She sees the show as her platform to share her story and her truth.
Davael encouraged Baylor students to shadow mentors, learn and embrace the lessons but don’t run from them. If she ran, she wouldn’t have the courage to share her truth, she said.
“I know it gets tough, and a lot of times, we feel pressure to be perfect. But nobody is perfect,” Davael said. “To whom much is given much is required. Individuals pressure you because they want to see you flourish. Sometimes it takes positive pressure for the diamond in you to be released.”
by Joy Moton, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805
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