By Kimani Hamilton
Just like every other girl, a young Amanda Seales had big dreams for herself. Her plans for her life may not have turned out the way that she expected, but little did she know that what she thought would break her, actually made her the woman that she is today.
“I went to school in New York at SUNY Purchase for Undergrad for Acting and I was asked to leave the conservatory at the end of my freshman year,” said Actress, Amanda Seales, as she spoke to the students at Xavier University of Louisiana on Sept. 19, 2018. Seales currently stars as Tiffany DuBois on HBO’s Insecure.
Many African-Americans remember the isolation and racism they have experienced in school, and for Seales it was no different. She attended the Acting Conservatory at SUNY, Purchase, a Liberal Arts College in New York. The school only chose 25 applicants out of 2,500 applications a year, she said. When Seales first got to the school, they actually had lowered the number and there were only 20 students in her first-year acting class.
“I was the only Black woman in my class and I was 18,” Seales said.
This was her dream school. At that time, it was the second-best acting school in the nation. Julliard was the first. She was a straight-A student for the first three semesters. To make their program more exclusive, every year the school would cut students from the program, she recalled.
Seales described a time in class where her teacher made the class line up in two rows and choose to be an animal. A young Black man in her class chose to be a lion. When he began to imitate a lion, Seales said she recalled the instructor started laughing. The teacher then made a racist comment toward the African-American student. Seales remember not feeling accepted in this place.
“It’s all well and good for us to complain and then leave, but the problem is that when we complain and leave, not only have we done ourselves a disservice, we do a disservice to the people we’ve left in our wake,” Seales said.
Before landing a role on Insecure, Seales played roles on Freedomland, Cop and a Half, and Ladies Book Club. She hosted truTV’s Greatest Ever and was a co-host on MTV’s Hip Hop POV.
Complaints mean nothing if there is no change being made. Seales reminded the students that everything is not all just about them.
“There’s actually action that you have to take in order to see reaction. There’s actually moves that you have to take to create a movement,” Seales said.
She had other tough lessons while in school. Another young man told an instructor that Seales was listening to her headphones while she was in class. The instructor took that as an opportunity to get the young actress kicked out of the school, Seales said, and she was successful at doing so. They asked her to take a year off, but Amanda did not let that stop her. She attended college somewhere else.
“So, when you’re in school you wanna curate your experience to the best of your ability because this is going to set you up when you get out of here in so many ways other than just what you’re learning in class,” Seales said. “It’s also teaching you how to decide what’s best for you and how things work for you when people in the space around you aren’t necessarily thinking about you that way.”
Her story didn’t end there. She received her master’s from Columbia University in African- American studies, which shaped the work she does today in media. The actress decided to tell her story to the students at Xavier because she was very close to allowing her life to be determined by people who do not have her best interest in mind. She said she wanted students to know that they are not the only ones who have issues with their professors. Seales reminded them that they have power and responsibility. They are among a group of individuals who are privileged to get an education because not everyone has that opportunity, she said.
“There’s a reason why they say knowledge is power. Because once you have it, you are now a step ahead of anybody else,” Seales said. “And with power comes great responsibility.”
Her conversation impacted the audience and encouraged them to be the change that they wanted to see on campus, in the community, and in the world.
“Always standup for what you believe in. Always support each other. Especially in the Black community,” said Kelsey Green, Miss Xavier 2018-2019.
“Xavier University is one of the most prominent HBCU’s in the nation and we have a reputation to keep up with, so we have to lift each other up,” Green said.
Seales visit stirred students to want to take a stand and make a change. Students said they will not only just listen to Seales’ words, but they will work to make their campus and this community a better place.
“I realize that we all have the capacity to call out injustice in our lives and we can’t afford not to,” said Cleopatra Singleton, a Political Science major at Xavier.