This week I'm delighted to bring you a new Snapshot on Resilience. She's a wife, mother, student & actress/singer; and her name is Marlayna Syms. Yes, she wears many hats and she's learned lots that I'm sure will inspire you! I had a chance to interview her recently and here's what she had to say:
In what way(s) do you see yourself representing resilience? In May I will FINALLY receive my Bachelors Degree in Performing Arts. I have been trying to finish school for fifteen years. My journey began at Howard University in Washington, DC where I was accepted into the Music Department as a Classical Voice major. Unhappy with that major, I transferred into the Theater Department to major in Musical Theater. This, was not the best choice for me because the Theater department had a limited amount of scholarship money and I lost my music scholarship when I made the switch.
I always wanted to finish my degree as education is extremely important to me but there was never the right time or right situation. Secretly, I feared failure. I did not want to make another attempt at finishing school only to find out that I wasn’t ready or there wasn’t enough money, or time. So I kept putting it off.
Despite the disappointment of having to leave Howard University, I kept pursuing my dream of becoming an actress/singer by moving to New York in 1996. In less than two years, I booked my first Broadway show Smokey Joe’s Café. I worked continually after that until returning to school in 2005.
What is your life’s passion? Professionally- Singing is my life’s passion.
Personally- My daughter Sinclair
What inspired you to pursue this passion? When I was seven years old my mother took me to see the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid starring Alfonso Ribiero (Savion Glover was his understudy). The moment the curtain went up, I fell in love. I wanted to jump up on that stage. I wanted to be that kid up there singing and dancing. I looked at the kids in that show and said “hey, I can do that too!” The next day I asked my mom for dance lessons. I’ve been working on my craft ever since.
How do you use this passion to make an impact in the world? I am very fortunate to have a husband whose life passion is helping children. He is the Executive Director of Mentoring USA (www.mentoringusa.org) Whenever he asks me to speak to children about my career path at an event he is producing I joyously accept. As a matter of fact, before we met and got married, I had the pleasure of working with an organization called Inside Broadway, an educational theater company that hires Broadway artists to perform and speak to various groups of middle school aged children from around the country.
What causes are dear to your heart and why? Music and art programs disappearing from the school curriculum bothers me to no end. It was music that kept me interested in school, kept me out of trouble and gave me a great sense of who I was. I have been working on a proposal for the Board of Ed. to get funding to add these programs back into the curriculum. I’ve also signed many petitions to President Obama and his administration in hopes of getting a federal mandate to protect arts in the school system.
Helping children of color get to college. I believe that information is power. Too many times, black and latino children don’t have adequate information about the college application/financial aid process.
How do you stay motivated from day to day? I will admit, I am a self-starter. I have always been good at going after the things that I want. However, staying motivated while taking care of a toddler (and a husband who sometimes behaves like a one;-) can be challenging. About six months ago, when my daughter was eighteen-months old, I decided to rededicate myself to my career. I promised to do at least one thing, everyday, that will push my career forward. On Monday, I might take a dance class, Tuesday, I make phone calls to my agent(s), Wednesday, another dance class and maybe a voice coaching to go over my technique, work on songs etc. Thursday, I audition for something (even if I know I’m not right for the part) just to keep my auditioning skills fresh, and Friday, I organize my office space and try to make plans for the following week.
If any, what was your lowest point as you matured in your craft and career? After a bad break-up with someone I had no business being with in the first place, I realized that I wasted valuable time-time I could not get back. I was devastated when he left. In the years I spent chasing him, I could have traveled the world with girlfriends, dated, and finished school. When the relationship was finally over the emptiness I felt was rooted in the fact that I got nothing in return for all my time and energy. When I looked at the great things that I had accomplished in my career I saw that I could have done twice as much had I not been preoccupied. When that season of my life was over, I was grateful and I began working on my self esteem (which was seriously in the toilet).
What have you done that’s helped you stay positive as you’ve taken this journey? I am a Christian woman, and I believe that God’s love sustains me. He told me a long time ago that he would give me the desires of my heart (concerning my personal life and my career) as long as it fits into His will. He blessed me with a jewel of a man for a husband and I know it is only a matter of time for me professionally. One thing I know for sure is that he wants me to keep singing. I know that he will work it out in His time. Trusting in His promises keeps me sane in this sometimes crazy business we work in.
How do you see your work healing, inspiring and motivating others? I think my story inspires people, particularly women. I think women will see me and see themselves. I think I represent many women who have made mistakes and have regrets they wish they didn’t have. I have learned to embrace my experiences because they are uniquely mine. I believe that other women, who think that they can’t go back to school, re-start their careers or find a husband and have kids, will be inspired by the miracles that have happened in my life.
What’s your vision for the future? In my personal life I see my husband and I happy, whole and healthy raising our daughter Sinclair and possibly a sibling, to be good productive human beings. Our goal is to show her/them the world outside of the one we see on a daily basis. I see my family and I living in the New York City area. I see myself teaching master classes on the university level. I see myself on Broadway, on television, on film. I definitely see myself making music. My goal is to finish my self-titled debut album/CD by the end of this year. It’s been years in the making.
For you, what does it mean to live the life you truly desire? Living the life I truly desire means going after my dreams unapologetically. It means not comparing my circumstance to anyone else’s. It means not giving in to superficiality and materialism. It means jumping in with both feet and trusting that God would not bring me to it, if He wasn’t going to get me through it.
What words of wisdom and advice can you offer to other women who desire to live the lives they truly desire? I will quote my husband Steve here. He says “run your own race.” In other words, if you are always looking to your left and your right to see what someone else is doing you will not be looking forward to your goal.
Thanks Marlayna for sharing your inspiring story and congratulations on achieving your long sought after goal of receiving your BFA degree in Performing Arts!