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Tasha Smith On Finding Purpose Through Art

Tasha Smith always had her eyes set on being a star.

After moving to Hollywood from Camden, New Jersey, her star got a little brighter as a stand-up comic, and then it grew a even more when she landed acting gigs on The Corner and Chicago Hope, to name a few.

However, for most, our real introduction to Smith came when she linked up with Tyler Perry in 2007 and assumed the role as Angela in the film Why Did I Get Married?

The character carried over into a sequel and then a television show starring Smith and her real-life former beau Michael Jai White in For Better or Worse on OWN. But it also led people to believe the Jersey girl was the “loud-mouth [actress]” like her on-screen character.

And though she’s gone on to land roles in other films and TV shows, most recently on Empire as Cookie Lyon’s sister Carol Hardaway, the idea that she really is the “loud-mouth-angry-chick” still followed Smith around. And she knows it.

“I personally feel like I’ve been judged as an actor,” Smith tells JET. “Some people may [say], ‘She’s that loud-mouth girl Angela’ and think that’s all that comes with my instrument, but that was an opportunity to tell a story and I think it was told pretty well since so many people were affected by that particular character.”

For Better or Worse, which kicks off its ninth season on September 30, also earned Smith a 2014 NAACP Image Awards nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.

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But, that’s only one character through which Smith discovered her artistic voice, one that continues to grow as she experiences life.

While she’s a damn good actor, Smith’s passion has always been people and her job is to make them laugh, feel and connect with the happenings of humanity through the arts.

After overcoming challenges from her past, Smith crossed paths with Ivana Chubbuck, an acting instructor in Los Angeles, who helped her perfect her craft and provided a variety of “creative breakthroughs.” Eventually Smith would apply the techniques she learned from her mentor to a class of her own at Chubbuck’s acting studio.

Amid the joy she experienced while teaching, there was an absence when it came to Black representation at the studio.

“Her studio didn’t really have many Black actors and students,” Smith says. “For me, coming from Jersey and feeling like I didn’t fit in [for a while], I wanted to create a space for other actors where they could go and have the ability to be creative and that would speak to them culturally and creatively.”

That want eventually birthed the Tasha Smith Acting Workshop (TSAW), a space that aims to empower the Black community to pursue their purpose in the arts.

We are having fun at #tsawla go to www.tsaw.com for our TSAW New York and Atlanta workshops

A photo posted by Tasha4realsmith (@tasha4realsmith) on

Since it’s inception in 2006, TSAW, located in Los Angeles, has strived to transform aspiring actors into professionals who blend the art of acting with the responsibility of “telling the truth” through intensive workshops and classes.

“People come to the theater and turn on their television to believe what they’re looking at and to be affected in some kind of way. So it’s our job to tell the truth no matter what kind of emotional or physical sacrifice we have to make.”

Creatives often feel like the misfits – taking in the world and human behavior quietly and then retreating to a special place to create. There are times when “awkwardness” wins in a social environment and others where quirkiness becomes the best friend and inspires the art. For that creative who, much like she did starting out, feels as if they don’t fit in anywhere, Smith shares a special message: “Trust your difference.”

“This world of entertainment needs many different voices in order to express the humanity that’s being created through film and television,” she advises. “Have confidence in your uniqueness and the fact that there is a place for you.You have to believe that.”

As for Smith, she tells JET, there’s so much more to her artistic spectrum that audiences have yet to see.

Empire season 3 premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 on Fox and you can catch Tasha on the TSAW Tour in Harlem, New York, OCT 7-9 and Atlanta from NOV 11-13. More information can be found, here.