Thursday, March 31, 2011

On The Rise: Joyful Drake

There are many factors that come into play when trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood. You need to have drive, thick skin, and an undeniable quality that makes you shine over the rest. Joyful Drake, star on BET’s new hit series Let’s Stay Together, knew that acting was her calling and has possessed two of these necessary qualities since the age of six. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Drake was a small town girl who always knew that she wanted to be in the spotlight.

“I was very witty as a child, and would always find a way to keep my family and friends entertained. It was something that always came natural for me.” said Drake.

By the age of nine, Drake channeled that desire to entertain, and got involved in several school plays. The first on her resume; playing an orphan in Annie.

“This was such a big deal to me at the time, because it was my chance to show everyone that I was serious about acting. I practiced my lines in front of the mirror many times the night before, and even thought about different facial expressions that I wanted to make. I was ready.” she explained.

The small part boosted Drake’s overall confidence, as she received positive feedback from her family. It was in that moment, she realized that acting was the path that she wanted to follow.
As she continued her schooling, Drake became involved in many other activities. She was a cheerleader for her high school basketball team, and was even voted homecoming princess during her senior year. At the same time, Drake became interested in modeling, and dedicated her free time to local opportunities.

“There weren’t many acting gigs when I was living in Milwaukee. Modeling was the next best thing in which I could express myself in front of the camera. I did a couple of print ads for jcpenney’s and also a few local fashion shows. It was my way of putting myself out there, and getting some type of exposure.”

After graduating from high school, Drake attended college at the University of Wisconsin, which is also around the time she started dancing for the Milwaukee Bucks. She described the experience as:

“A time when I was again, trying to put myself out there, and show the world what I had to offer. Being a dancer for the Milwaukee Bucks boosted my confidence, and gave me even more drive to follow my dreams.”

Drake danced with the team for over two years, and then decided to pack her bags and move to New York to pursue acting full time.

Drake explained, “I was ready to go for it! New York seemed like the best place to get my feet wet, and make some things happen. I got a part time job at Columbia Records, working over artist’s accounts and I was taking acting classes at the same time.”

These acting classes were taken by Drake in Manhattan, with an acting coach by the name of Marion Thompson. Thompson described her first class with Drake,

“She seemed excited to learn and I was ready to prepare her for a future in the industry.”

The two worked together for a few months, before Drake landed her first role on the Showtime drama Soul Food.

“I taught Joyful how to connect with her inner feelings and express herself through her characters. As an actor you have to be completely open and unafraid, and that was something which came easy for her.” said Thompson.

Drake gives much credit to Thompson, and explained that,

“I probably wouldn’t be in this position today without her. She helped guide me, and showed me how to break out of my shell as an actor.”

Following her recurring role as Tamara on Soul Food, Drake landed roles on other hit television shows such as One on One and Cuts. She also appeared in her first major film in 2005, co-staring Queen Latifah and Alicia Silverstone titled Beauty Shop. Drake explained that,

“Working with Queen Latifah and Alicia Silverstone was a great experience. I sat there and watched them go, and thought about how blessed I was to even have a role in such a film.”

Drake’s former roommate, Diana Ashworth, recounts living with Drake during that time, and explained Drake’s mindset through it all.

“Everything kind of happened back to back. First One on One, then Cuts and Beauty Shop. The thing about Joy that I respect is the fact that she’s persistent. When she wants something, she pushes for it and gets it. It’s how she has always been. Her success up to this point makes sense, because she’s worked hard for it.”

Ashworth goes on to state that,

“Joyful has never lost track of who she is, which is why people are drawn to her and want her in their TV shows and films. She’s talented, humble, and always excited to take on a new challenge.”

After her role in Beauty Shop, Drake acted in such films as Phat Girlz co-starring Mo’nique, and also Get Him to the Greek starring Russell Brand and Sean “Diddy” Combs. Today, Drake co-stars in BET’s new scripted television show Let’s Stay Together as Tasha Lawrence-Woodson, a sexy housewife and mother of twins. Drake explained how she feels about playing such a character,

“It’s a lot of fun. As an actor, I love playing characters that take me away from my normal self. So playing a housewife with twins is definitely new for me. I also enjoy the comedic aspect of the show, because I love a good laugh. Tasha is entertaining to watch, because she’s real and proves you can have multiple roles and still be sexy.”

The show is part of BET’s new Tuesday line-up, following the fan favorite The Game.

“I love how both shows come on during the same night. You’re able to get two different perspectives on relationships.”

Drake’s show Let’s Stay Together airs on Tuesdays at 10:30 PM on BET.

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