“Become What You May, But Be Who You Are.” ~ Nicole J. Butler, Actress

HERstory Makers – Nicole Butler

Nicole and I met many moons ago on the very first day of school.   I remember being very nervous on that day…not only because I was the first student  picked up on the bus route that morning, but because I was headed to a new school where I didn’t know anyone.  I sat on the empty bus (stomach churning with anxiety) when we stopped in front of Nicole’s house.  Out she flew – pig tails, book back and all.  She plopped down on the seat across from me and flashed the biggest smile.  I don’t remember what we said to one another, but do know that I immediately felt at ease as we laughed the entire ride to school.  Even back then, Nicole’s “super sized” personality and natural penchant for comedy had positively impacted the people around her.

Today, Nicole is an accomplished actress who is living her dream in Los Angeles, CA.  As you’ll see on NicoleTV, she has appeared in countless commercials, sitcoms and other theatrical pieces, while approaching her craft with grace, truth and integrity.


What do you do for a living and what sparked your desire to pursue this career?  

I am an actress, and I also do some behind-the-scenes production work, mostly for award shows.

Growing up, I was always performing in one way or another – I’ve always been drawn to performance – I’ve sung in various choirs and groups all of my life, given speeches, recitations, and other types of performance.  I used to write plays in elementary school, and I had one teacher who let the class act them out.  I also loved attending live theatre, but didn’t know that any type of artistic pursuit could ever be more than a hobby for “regular” people like me… until I took a theatre class in college.  The class had to stage a play at the end of the semester – that’s when the acting bug bit me.  Hard.  I was close to completing the requirements for my Spanish degree (I thought I was going to be a translator/ interpreter), so I completed that, and stayed in school another year-and-a half to complete requirements for a second major in Theatre Arts.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? 

When I was in college, a woman I worked with said “Become what you may, but be who you are.”  and it has stuck with me for almost 20 years.  What you  do should be a natural outgrowth of who you are – no matter how many people try to convince us otherwise.

As women (young and not so young), we need to be mindful not to defer to so-called “authority” because we have been socialized to believe that deference is a feminine trait.  We need to take ownership of ourselves as individuals and stop giving our power away.  I am not talking about having a bad attitude, nor am I saying that we should be combative (though confrontation is sometimes necessary), but we have every right to feel what we feel, speak, dream, and DO as we see fit – and know that we don’t have to hold back for fear that being fully ourselves reduces someone else’s stature.  Listen to your gut, acknowledge whatever fear you feel, then proceed with doing whatever you feel compelled to do.  Trust that as long as you proceed from a place of service rather than a place of ego, you will be on the right track.

What personal or professional challenges have you experienced and how did you overcome them?

I tend to not pay much attention to things that don’t serve me.  For example, I often hear that there aren’t many roles for black women in Hollywood, and even fewer for black women of my physical stature.  The numbers may support this as being true, but I don’t think about it because I don’t intend to internalize it and make it my problem.  My job is not to figure out why things won’t happen, my job is to make things happen.  I once heard that the first rule of being a racecar driver is “Don’t look where you don’t want to go.”  I’ve applied that rule to my career.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Nicole’s interview.


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