Actor Entrepreneur: Karimah Campbell

Whoever told actors that serving fries or overpriced cocktails was the only option to pay your bills on the way “up” can suck a dick.

(Sorry mom)

I would like to introduce you to my new series Actor Entrepreneurs. Working actors who went outside the box, created their own products, businesses, niches, and brands to supplement their income and survive without a “survival” job. Proving that you don’t have to be forever miserable while you’re not quite on the A-list just yet.

Did these actors struggle? Are they still struggling?

Duh.

Most adults with a bank statement are in one type of struggle or another, be it mentally, physically, or financially.

But these folks chose to do their own thing, something that also makes them happy…and makes them money.

Watch and learn.

(The underlined sections will be my questions for Karimah, as our convo flows super rapidly)

Karimah and I sat down to coffee over the weekend and I was immediately drawn to her. Apparently that’s not uncommon as several people who passed our table stopped to smile at her. 
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“I swear it’s because I do commercials. I just have an inviting face,” she says.

It took us a while to stop our industry chat and get in on the questions, please keep in mind we had never met before this moment, we have both just had the same acting coach (Sara Mornell) and that is our only currently connection.

Tell me about yourself..sorry I hate that question.
I’m originally from Brooklyn, moved to Florida, raised in Florida, but I would split my summers between New York and Jamaica (my parents are Jamaican). I love the city life but I also like the country life…but I am definitely a city girl. I started dancing with I was 3 1/2 and then when I was older I started studying at Alvin Ailey. It was kind of the top of where I pictured myself and I kinda got burnt out. So I moved to LA and started doing dance auditions for music videos and I booked a ton.

Then I booked a dance commercial for Nike (and oddly enough did barely any dancing on set)…and made a ton of money. And I thought oh….this is where it’s at haha!

While doing that, for money I was working overnights at a boys and girls residential treatment facility. (She went to school for social work so this was an easy in) I would audition during the day, work from 10pm-7am and crash, wake up and and do it all over again.

And these teens were not regular teens…these were like at risk teens…so the nighttime was ACTIVE. The facility was the place they shot Short Term 12 (the Bri Larson film), so that’s the place I worked at.

After 4 years I was a zombie, and a I finally transferred over to the day shift. That facility got shut down and I moved to an all boys home. Boys are MUCH easier. (Karimah worked on the sex offender floor because the boys were less aggressive.) Mind you during all of this I was still auditioning a lot.

So how did that work then? Because when I have had bar jobs and I get an audition I just get someone else to cover my shifts or come in late or whatever, like it wasn’t an important job…
So that is why I worked the nights and then I would be on call a lot and wouldn’t work if I had auditions. Also, no one wants these jobs. So they were just grateful when I would come into work.

During this time I went to a new commercial class, and I was like this was that I want to do. So here’s how I got my agent. I called this agency I wanted to be with, I said I was referred to you by so-and-so casting director, and they brought me in, I auditioned (I brought my own commercial copy), and took me on.

Wait, so that was a total lie and they bought it without checking in with that casting director?!

Oh yea. Like a year later the agent was like “Oh we should send that CD an email thanking them for you!” thank god she never sent it haha!

I started walking around with my resignation letter at work, I just felt it coming. And I booked this big Pepsi commercial and the day after I shot it, I hadn’t event been PAID, and I gave them my letter.

After that I booked 4 commercials in a row. And I didn’t have to work [side jobs] for 2 years.

So what next:
I decided to put most of my money into my training. I was steady for a while!

And then at one point I hit a wall, the money ran out, and I needed to find another job.

So I thought I want to do something where I’m not monitoring big groups of children at risk. That’s when I decided to get into behavioral therapy.

Why this instead of bartending or something else?

I just know how to do it. I know how to turn kids behaviors around, especially toddlers to school age children. Still draining, but not as much as working with teenagers. So I hooked up with a mental health agency, got jobs working as a behavioral specialist..WHILE this was happening, I decided to take two years off acting…I had a really hard time with my manager at that point, I had gone in for the same show so many times, in the double digits, and she dropped me after my last audition for this show saying, “Honestly, they have called you in like 13 times, I think it’s just you,” like as a person. She made me cry, and I just ran from the business at that point. And just started writing nonstop. I put all these experiences, human behavior observations, on paper.

Oddly enough, I ended up meeting with a big top notch creator with my first pilot script. From there I found out there are several agents at top level agencies that rep actors who write 1/2 the time and act 1/2 the time. So I feel like I can now just be a creator. I don’t want to ever be in that position again where I am at the mercy of a manger. I wanna be a boss. And I will be.

So now for “work” I run my own schedule. I don’t work for an agency any more, I am my own business. I work with kids mostly with ADHD but really kids who need boundaries and guidance. I go one-on-one with families and we go over behaviors/rules/guidelines. I set boundaries, I tell them what I will and won’t do. It has made me such a business woman, I will take calls only at certain times of the day, I will not to this or that, etc.
When I start a new behavioral job I say listen, I am a creative. If I get a meeting or an audition, that is first. I am happy to come after or before, leave and come back, or go to a later shift. If that is not going to work for you, I understand. And there’s another family that will take me. And after an interview I decided if I want to take them on or not, NOT just if they want me.

It has translated into my creative career because I say yes I will do that and no I won’t do that other thing. I have structure and guidelines for myself as a business.

How has the route of your jobs influenced your work/writing/life now? I feel like everyone wants to fast forward through this part where we all work so much for so little, but I think it’s so important and has such an impact on what we become.

When I was in the rut of things, like at the boys home one night we had a blackout. I locked myself in my office, there was a riot, I thought I was gonna die and I was like why why why is this happening to me. Fast forward to now and I have material for a dope-ass script. When you’re in the depths of the hell you can’t see it but now I know that that shit made me. Like it made my skin so fucking thick. There is nothing you can say now to break me or things I haven’t heard before.

So now I’m taking a new commercial class, I’m in a UCLA writers class next week, I just finished a 7 min short film with my writing partner. I’m just moving moving moving.

So last question, if you could have given yourself advice before you started this acting craziness, what would it be?

*There is no time frame.
*There is no competition: get off IMDb. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing, because no one is doing what you’re doing with your experiences.
*Trust your instincts: when you meet with a rep and they don’t get you, if they don’t get you then they aren’t going to get you ever. If someone isn’t excited about you thats ok, someone else will be.
*Trust the struggle. And respect it: If you never struggle and you make it big you will Lindsey Lohan yourself.

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This girl is legit ladies and gents.

Find her at:

– karimahcampbelltaylor@gmail.com
– @KarimahCampbell on the socials
– her IMDb

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