Beyond natural ability and innate talent, it's not too far-fetched to attribute our great success to the divine forces that guide our pursuits. Maybe it's fate, or simply the collision of refined skills meeting opportunity and preparation. Either way, there are some instances, like that of Ebony Obsidian, actress and star of the BET series, Tyler Perry's Sistas, that proves just how far one's gifts can take them when they're walking in divine purpose.
Coming of age, Ebony found herself to be a natural storyteller, drawn to the truth and humanity within others. Although she grew up with a shy and introverted personality, she found her voice by embodying the narratives of the characters she'd play, "Acting gave me a way to hide behind other people and hide behind someone who wasn't me." In that hiding, what came to be revealed was an inherent gift for the performing arts that lived within her all along.
"I never saw [acting] as a career that it has so beautifully become. But I think that it was definitely supposed to happen, that it was destined to happen. I just had to find my way there."
Photographer Joe Hernandez, Stylist Angelina Scantlebury, MUA Veronica Gaona Courtesy of Ebony Obsidian
The journey to follow her pursuits led to university where she studied journalism, a suitable major for anyone who enjoys "being in other people's shoes." Although she was performing well in her studies, it wasn't long before Ebony reached a breaking point, where something was telling her, "This is not where I'm supposed to be." Taking heed to that nudge, she knew that if she continued on this path, she would be costing herself peace of mind, "I remember breaking down crying to my mom. She was super encouraging of me venturing out to see if the performing arts was something that I could do for the rest of my life." Ebony playfully admits, "Thank God for that breakdown. It was the ugly cry too! But it really opened the door for everything since."
Everything that has followed in her career is more than deserving of her outpour of gratitude. The actress made her television debut playing in Masters of None's iconic Thanksgiving episode, along with noteworthy roles in Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Amazon's Hunters, and Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk. Although it wasn't an easy road to success, the "yes" that Ebony gave to herself to pursue her dreams would act as a far greater force to combat the "no's" that crossed her path.
"The no's are a lot more frequent than the yes's, and I think it's just a matter of, do you want to do it enough that you find the role that does fit? Because everything that has been no was supposed to be a no."
As Ebony's career continues to launch into the stars, one thing she maintains through it all is that, "Honestly, I never thought of an alternative." Further proving that there is some cosmic reinforcement backing her gifts that can't be explained, but can only be witnessed.
xoNecole: You stumbled into your first acting gig after hearing about an audition call on the radio and you attributed it to fate! Tell us about that moment of alignment for you.
Ebony Obsidian: That was in my early teens, and what I like to call, "the signs coming back around again". This ad came on right before I was leaving the house and for me, that was such an odd thing to hear. It was the first opportunity that brought me to a stage. I had never been in front of that many people for a performance. I remember being scared, but also thinking, "I want to be good at this." I really wanted to be good and succeed, which led me to want to go study in school; that really was the beginning. But I think there was just a lot of back and forth with just being realistic. Is this a realistic thing to be pursuing? Not everyone succeeds in every field that they're in to whatever level of success that we measure it to be. For me, that bottom line was, if they're both going to be hard, I might as well go with the one that makes me feel happy.
"Not everyone succeeds in every field that they're in to whatever level of success that we measure it to be. For me, that bottom line was, if they're both going to be hard, I might as well go with the one that makes me feel happy."
Photographer Joe Hernandez, Stylist Angelina Scantlebury, MUA Veronica Gaona
Courtesy of Ebony Obsidian
As an actress, what have your moments of rejection taught you about timing? How do you find it within yourself to bounce back and continue to pursue your dreams?
I think the longer you do it, it becomes less personal to you. It is, after all, a business and about who fits well not just as the character but as an entire group of people who are going to build a world together. I think at the beginning, it was way more personal and way more painful. I took it to heart and used it to calculate how talented I was at any given moment whereas now, it really is me going into rooms and me bringing what I want to bring to the table, what I want to bring to this character and how I want to showcase their humanity.
I think it's so interesting with acting that you're playing other people, you go into rooms and [you are] told "no, you're not good at being someone else," when you're using that as a tool to deflect from the things that you don't quite feel comfortable with yourself about yet. Now it's funny because when I get no's, I'm like that's not a reflection of me at all, because it's such a different person than I'm portraying.
We love a full circle moment, tell us about how you went from sleeping on benches in Times Square to being on billboards in Times Square!
Whew, the early, early days! Wow, that was such a moment. I think I didn't realize how much of a moment that was for me until I went and saw the billboard. At the time, I was working in Times Square and I just so happened to miss the last bus going to Upstate New York where I'm from. So I said to myself, "Well, I don't have anywhere to go and there are going to be times where I won't have any place go," -- and there were other times like that. It's so weird because even though it wasn't the ideal situation.
I remember having a conversation with my mom about full circle moments and she asked me, "Why did you choose to keep going after that? What was it about what you're pursuing that made you believe that you needed to do that?" And, honestly, I never thought of an alternative. It never crossed my mind to quit. I never expected to have a billboard in Times Square, that was never the goal. The goal was always to just make a living being an actor and that's what I was doing. The way that it has gone could not have been planned, it's just incredible to me, even today. When I have conversations like this, I'm just reminded that just how you walk into a room for an audition, you never know if it's going to be a yes or a no, you just go in and put your best foot forward and the things that follow truly are the things meant for you.
"It never crossed my mind to quit. The way that it has gone could not have been planned, it's just incredible to me, even today. You never know if it's going to be a yes or a no, you just go in and put your best foot forward and the things that follow truly are the things meant for you."
Photographer Joe Hernandez, Stylist Angelina Scantlebury, MUA Veronica Gaona
Courtesy of Ebony Obsidian
Your character, Karen has experienced a lot of ups and downs in her relationships on the show, especially with her ex. It can be hard for women to let go of the love they know for something new. When do you think it’s time to fight for love and when is it time to give it up?
For me, my rule of thumb is when it starts to hurt more than it feels good, that's my breaking point. That's the point where I know this is not an even flow of energy. There is such a thing as obstacles and love is not easy, but my God, it should not be that damn hard! (laughs) It shouldn't be that you're now turning to look at yourself and you're questioning your own value, that's when it's too much for me. There's also the role of potential that comes into play and potential is deadly. Everybody has potential, there is no human on this earth that doesn't have the potential to be who they are destined to be, not only for their partner but for themselves -- that's a beautiful thing, but not everyone is compatible.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of giants in the film world: Regina King, Angela Bassett, Lena Waithe, Aunjanue Ellis. Is there any wisdom that they shared with you during your time working together?
Absolutely, I have so many that stick with me. To sum it all up, the one thing that everyone of those women have done was encourage me to bring what it is that I have to offer. When you work with someone like Angela Bassett who's been around, she's like The Mother! To work with actresses like that, it can be absolutely intimidating. But I think one of the reasons why it wasn't as intimidating as it could have been is because of how open they were to helping me push my own envelope. I would be remiss to not mention Aunjanue Ellis who did play my mother on If Beale Street Could Talk. To be in the room with her and Regina King, just talking, it was electrifying to see your icons do work in front of you. To have worked with all of these trailblazers who continue to open doors for young actresses like myself, is incredible. There's nothing better than doing that and I didn't anticipate doing this so early on in my career.
Is there any advice you would give to someone looking to pursue a career in the performing arts who may not think it can happen for them too?
I would say that you're on the right track. I think there are moments where everyone thinks that they're not on the right track or making the right move. My thing was never whether I was chasing the right dream, but there were moments where I wondered if I was approaching things the correct way. And I think at this point looking back, I wouldn't change anything because it's why I'm exactly where I'm at now. So I would say keep going and stick to your integrity. The things you want will gravitate to you because they're the things you put out. It will pay off, we don't know when, but it will pay off, sis.
For more on Ebony Obsidian, follow her on Instagram and catch new episodes of Tyler Perry's Sistas, Wednesday nights on BET.
All images courtesy of Ebony Obsidian