This was the first feature article I wrote for university last year. We had to do a feature on someone with an unusual story or experience.
At first glance, Aisha Dee is everything you would expect an average eighteen year old to be. Relaxing in her bedroom on a Sunday afternoon, she discusses the latest in celebrity news and jokes about what she should change her Twitter bio-line to. But at an age when most kids are only just figuring out what to do with their lives, Aisha has had Hollywood in her sights for years.
“When I was eleven, someone told me that I couldn’t be an actress and that I had to choose a ‘proper career,’” she says with a slight grin, “I was like ‘screw you!’”
With this feisty personality and her distinctive African-American looks, a career in acting seems to be tailor-made for the teenager. From the age of fourteen onwards, Aisha traded in school bells and textbooks for roles on various different Australian TV shows, admitting that she “hated going back to the kid world” after experiencing the mature environment of a television set.
Then in 2009, just a few days short of her sixteenth birthday, she decided to enter the lottery for the notoriously elusive American green card, which, if won, would allow her to live and work in the US. An advertisement on the side of the page read ‘transmission of citizenship through biological parent’, and suddenly it clicked.
“I hadn’t thought about actually contacting my biological father, who I had never met before [and who was a US citizen]. So we got onto him and I got my citizenship and passport for the U.S,” Aisha says. “I felt quite stupid that it had never occurred to me before then.”
Despite being only sixteen years old and having just a few acting credits under her belt, she admits that the incredible opportunity she had been given was just too good to think twice.
“I felt like if there’s that many people out there who have waited ten or more years to get a green card, and I get one straight away, I may as well go over and take advantage of the situation.”
Poised and confident, Aisha travelled to Los Angeles and began auditioning for various TV shows and movies. She landed roles on shows such as Steven Spielberg’s ‘Terra Nova’, and starred in the FOX comedy ‘I Hate My Teenage Daughter’, which she claims is the “funnest thing I’ve ever done… because we filmed with a live audience and you knew if a joke was working instantly.”
However, with our culture of misbehaving starlets and celebrity scandals, you would be forgiven for thinking that tackling the entertainment capital of the world might be somewhat stressful to a mere sixteen year old, but Aisha takes it all in her stride;
“I think the main issues people deal with come from inside of them, and the pressures they put on themselves. I don’t think it’s something that the industry does so much as it’s something that people do inside themselves,” she says.
“The main way to avoid that is to just be confident in you.”
This levelheaded attitude may seem strange given the extent to which the industry is blamed for promoting negative values, but Aisha’s best friend Kayla says that her approach to it all comes as no surprise to those who know her.
“Aisha is confident but is always working hard to improve herself… She's able to take criticism and use it to better herself where others might shy away.”
On the other end of the spectrum, I pose the question of whether the industry is indeed as glamorous as it’s made out to be, and how much hard work is actually involved. Aisha points to her dressing gown and laughs, “Clearly I’m the most glamorous person ever!”
Taking on a more serious note, she continues; “there is hard work involved, but I wouldn’t say that the hard work is actually doing the work. As an actor, I think that when you’re actually working is when you’re auditioning. But when you get a job and you film something, that’s the reward you get.”
“Filming is not hard work; it’s the best job ever.”
While Aisha’s obvious passion and love for the entertainment industry is something that cannot be denied, she admits that while the lack of African-American women, such as herself, in leading roles is “getting much better”, it still “leaves a bad taste in my mouth”.
“I’m being overly critical, but sometimes they do make a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be… You don’t need to explain yourself or give the audience a reason for why you did that- just make the leading character an African-American woman and don’t say anything about it,” she explains.
“It makes me want to be the exception.”
She describes her routine in L.A as “really volatile… Some weeks I’ll have seven auditions; sometimes I’ll have none… But it’s not the audition that takes up the time, it’s before.”
“I’m kind of a perfectionist,” she adds with a shrug.
Helping with these auditions is her mum Donna, a trained opera singer. Although Donna admits that she “can’t even help Aisha read her lines correctly”, she “comes from a performance angle… so I know when she needs her space, but I also know when she’s not doing something that she needs to do.”
Even though she openly professes her love for L.A- “everyday is absolutely gorgeous and there’s always so many things going on”- Aisha is not ashamed to admit that living away from home is challenging.
“I’m really close with my family, so it is really difficult. But with FaceTime and Skype and everything it makes it a lot easier.”
It seems that embracing the life she has away from her family and friends is the only option at the moment, as her efforts to make it big in L.A show no sign of easing up. As she looks around her bedroom and sighs at the thought of packing for her trip back there next week, I ask her where she sees herself in the next few years.
“I have absolutely no idea, but that’s really exciting to me,” she pauses for a second before continuing, “I see myself in a very different place, like a universe away from where I am right now.”
With her unwavering determination and passion for acting, it only takes a few minutes with this young hopeful to know that the universe she dreams of is undoubtedly just around the corner.