November 2010
The Red Carpet Is Rolled Out During Homecoming

Inaugural event allows student the opportunity to connect with Hollywood insiders
By Nicholas Nelson, senior, School of Communications

Tracie Thoms
Actress Tracie Thoms was one of the HOWARDwood participants.

When alumna Adia May moved to Los Angeles in 2003, she gave an entirely new meaning to the phrase “stepping out on faith.” She left a high-paying corporate attorney position at a reputable law firm in pursuit of her dream of a career in entertainment. The challenge? In a city where networking is essential, she didn’t know anyone.

“I had to get out there and pound the pavement,” she said. “My strategy was just to get on the radar.”

Her sister, alumna Asha Kamali May, however, had a different experience. During her time at Howard, she was fortunate enough to develop a relationship with renowned choreographer and alumna Debbie Allen, who was teaching classes in the Fine Arts department at the time.

“People don’t realize how difficult it is to get into the [entertainment] industry, especially being of color, and not knowing anyone,” said Asha. “Where I am now is due to Ms. Allen’s giving back to me, to Howard.”

Now that Adia is an established entertainment lawyer with her own production company, Zuri Entertainment, and Asha is an accomplished actress, producer and choreographer with her own production company, Brown Paper Dolls, they decided to give back to their alma mater with the inaugural HOWARDwood forum, an entertainment panel and resource to help students get first-hand information from Howard alumni thriving in different facets of the industry.
“We know the great legacy of Howard in Hollywood—in front of and behind the camera—and we want to continue that legacy with this program...”

Held during Homecoming week, the forum featured Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival; actress Tracie Thoms of “Cold Case” and Broadway’s “Rent;” Depelsha McGruder, senior vice president of business operations for Centric; and other Howard alumni. NBC Universal and DreamWorks Studios, co-sponsors of the event, also had recruiting representatives speak to students interested in internships and career opportunities.

The sisters say they recognized a disconnect between the alumni working in entertainment, and the students interested in it and saw HOWARDwood as a chance to bridge the gap between the two.

“Howard contributed so much to the woman I am, and we want to pay it forward,” said Adia. “We know the great legacy of Howard in Hollywood—in front of and behind the camera—and we want to continue that legacy with this program, and then we want the people in this program to continue the legacy when they become actors and agents and moguls.”

Simona Noce, a senior public relations student who served as an intern for HOWARDwood, believes the event was a huge success. “I think this is only the beginning for HOWARDwood.”

Noce worked as an intern with International Creative Management in Los Angeles this past summer, and was able to bring the student perspective to the planning and execution of HOWARDwood.

“I had to go to Los Angeles with Dr. [Tia] Tyree to find these opportunities,” Noce said, “so to be able to bring everything I saw back to Howard with me was a very rewarding experience.”

Andrew Schell, a senior marketing student, saw HOWARDwood as a chance to network his way into the entertainment industry. “I was able to meet with a casting director and a talent agent within minutes, something most people spend months and months trying to do,” he said. “It was an amazing opportunity, and I’m anxious to see what will come from it.”

To see photos from HOWARDwood, visit the official Facebook fan page.

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