Yassie Hawkes: How One Young Actor Made it Big (And What You Can Learn From Her)

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 3.29.43 PMSometimes, as actors, it can feel like circumstances are everything. If you don’t live in Times Square or Hollywood you might as well give up and take a business course because you will never, ever, ever be seen by anyone who matters. If you’re untrained, unconnected, or don’t seem to fit a type, forget about it. But as we’ve explored in previous articles, we live in a changing world. The yellow brick road to stardom is being repaved, and each of us can lay a brick. Continuing in our feature artist series, I recently spoke with Yassie Hawkes, a homeschooled, 10-year-old actor currently based in Waterford, Michigan. Despite hailing from a state that only a lake or two more interesting than Kansas, this little Dorothy is already well on her way to taking the Emerald City by storm. (I’m done, I swear. Is anyone else still humming along to The Wiz??)


Yassie was bit by the acting bug early. “When I was just a little kid,” she began, remembering a time two years ago with the retrospection of a seasoned veteren, “I did plays and watched TV and I wanted to do what the kids were doing on TV.”


Tessa, her mom, was instantly supportive. She took Yassie to meet Rob Radin and Jen Griffin of The Studios of Michigan. Seeing the spark of stardom in Yassie, they represented her in show case where she was signed by Susan Sherman and Ed Cox at  Ambassador Talent in Chicago. Yassie learned the ropes by taking unpaid indie roles until she began to get commercial work. For one such project, a Girl Scout commercial, Yassie never even left her home in Michigan, instead submitting taped auditions and attending callbacks via Skype. In pursuit of these opportunities, Yassie’s agent told them to sign up for Cast It Talent. According to Tessa, It’s very user friendly. We’ve had quite a bit of luck getting auditions.”


Although luck had little to do with it. From the beginning, Tessa and Yassie took Yassie’s career very seriously. Yassie was taking dance lessons at the age of two, studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern, Irish, Hawaiian, Tahitian, and other acrobatic and gymnastic techniques. She dabbled in karate, fight choreography and violin before honing in on acting, which she continues to study 4 hours weekly at The Actor’s Work Shop in Michigan. These varied skills, combined with Yassie’s charisma and support network, have fashioned her into a formidable artistic force. “We make a pretty good team,” Tessa said simply.


Though they started strong in the Midwest, Yassie and Tessa plan to move to LA for episodic season. For them, there’s no looking back. “Why should you say the magic number is 18 [years old] before you start living your dream?” Tessa demands. “Why put an age or a limit before you can start something?” To the parents of other child actors, Tessa advises, “Be supportive. Keep them well-grounded…you need a thick turtle shell in this business. Stay an advocate for your child and make sure they’re happy doing it.”


There will always be a million reasons not to try something. The bogeymen in the closet are loud. As actors we have to be louder. Whether you are Yassie’s age when you discover your path or much older, know determination breeds opportunity. Be the engine of your career. Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you.


In Yassie’s words: “If you want to do something go for it and do it.”

And thus, we’re off to see the wizard. To Yassie, and all you fellow travelers, I wish you well as you build your yellow brick road.


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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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