We had the good fortune of connecting with Nubia Monks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nubia, what do you think makes you most happy? Why?
My craft makes me happy. I am an Actress and Playwright, and nothing makes me happier than being able to do what I love every day. This business is not an easy one to be in; it doesn’t pay well, and there is a great chance of being without work for months, and sometimes even years, so whenever we are granted the opportunity to work, we celebrate.
When it comes to this craft, another thing that makes me happy is the impact that I get to make with my work. I am happiest when I come down from a show and I get to talk to the audience and hear how they were impacted by my performance. I strive to change lives with my art, and that is where my happiness resides- in lives being touched, and hearts and minds being transformed.
Books also make me happy. I am an obsessed reader! I love being transported to different worlds and being changed by relatable characters in powerful stories. I enjoy reading just about everything: fiction, non-fiction, romance, historical fiction, novels for young adults, mystery, poetry, religion, self-help, and autobiographies. Reading is my ultimate favorite hobby and so whenever I get a chance to grab some snacks, curl up in my pajamas and just read for hours is when I am the most fulfilled.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?I was fourteen years old when I auditioned for my first high school play. I had no clue about theatre, I just knew that I needed a reason to live because life had dealt me a pretty horrible deck. I had been sexually assaulted and physically abused; therefore I deemed myself unworthy and I truly believed that I was unable to go on. The pain of my trauma was unbearable; therefore, I was hanging on by a thread, and theatre was my final attempt at life. I auditioned for my first HS play and I was cast. I went on to fall in love with theatre because it did give me purpose and a reason to keep going.I discovered so much about myself through theatre, but most importantly, I discovered my worth and that my life was worth saving, that I was worth saving. I have been head over hills for this craft ever since.
I began acting and writing professionally while in grad school. I studied acting at UC San Diego where I received my MFA. It was not easy getting to where I am in my professional career. Grad school was challenging- as it is for just about every person of color. I spent a great deal of my time in grad school trying to prove my worth as a Black woman. I fought for actual equity and inclusion in my program because there was a serious lack and it was affecting my ability to get what I know I needed out of my program. I didn’t want to get to a point where I resented the one thing that saved my life because of the racism and discrimination that exists in it. I was prepared to fight for my basic human right to receive the same care, investment, and respect as my white colleagues… and that is exactly what I ended up doing. I graduated not only with my Master’s Degree, but with a sense of power because grad school taught me how to take up space with confidence, and how to advocate for myself in a way that I never had before. I felt more prepared for the industry than ever before. I signed with my first agency- Abrams A3 Artists Agency and went on to work at The La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe Theatre and The Oregon Shakespeare festival immediately after I graduated. I have been extremely blessed to work at these amazing theaters! I wrote my first play while in grad school and it went on to receive a world premiere in Atlanta at the Synchronicity Theatre, and then it went on to receive a Suzi Bass Award for “Outstanding World Premiere.” All of these wonderful accomplishments happened because of the support from my village, hard work, sleepless nights, my own advocacy, and my refusal to quit.
I have learned many lessons along the way- I discovered the power of my voice and how I will not be silenced or made to feel small so that others can be comfortable at my expense. I learned the importance of speaking up no matter who it inconveniences. There have been experiences where I have been asked or expected to do things that were unsafe and made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I would do those things anyway so as to not make things hard for the director or for the other actors; this is a habit that a lot of us artists have and it’s one that I strive to break every single day. I learned that as actors we are always asked to be “yes” people; we say ‘yes” to everything even the things that are harmful to our bodies because we don’t want to seem like the “difficult” actor, or because we want to be asked to work with that specific theatre again… so we over extend ourselves and we say “yes” to things we shouldn’t. Well, I discovered the value and the power in my ability to say no and not feel guilty about it. As actors WE are the vessel, we are our business; therefore, we must be able to take care of ourselves and keep ourselves safe no matter what. I have learned not to ever sacrifice my integrity, self-respect or mental health for the sake of a gig; no gig should ever cost that much, and if it ever does, then it is too expensive for me. Finally, another huge lesson I learned is that auditioning is 95% of the job as an actor. We spend most of our time auditioning and waiting to hear back about that audition. I learned that while I am auditing for projects, it is important to remember that what is for me will be and already is mine; what is not for me, won’t be. I never want to be somewhere where I don’t fit because then I will never be happy or fulfilled there. It’s like trying to force a puzzle piece where it simply does not belong; no matter how bad you may think you want it, you’ll never be happy where you don’t fit, or in spaces not designed for you. So, when another actor gets that role that you wanted, that is not the time to self-deprecate or be consumed with envy, no, that is the time to celebrate because you know that that role was not meant for you and that you are just one step closer to the role that is.
I want the world to know that while I am an emerging artist, you will know my name and you will know my story, so get ready. I am a force to be reckoned with and my work only illuminates my heart. I use my voice to shine light on the truth, and whenever I perform, I do so with the intention to change lives. I AM NUBIA, and I’m just getting started!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would definitely eat at Tacos El Gordo, and Lolitas for some amazing Mexican food. We would eat at Surf and Soul to support this amazing Black owned business in El Cajon with the best seafood and soul food in San Diego. We would get cute and grab drinks downtown at just about any cute brewery (post pandemic of course). We would mask up and visit Balboa park because it is exploding with museums, different cultural foods and souvenirs, there is lots of places to sit, be socially distanced, safe, and read in the grass; plus, The Old Globe Theater is right there and we LOVE The Old Globe. We would visit the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park because it’s a requirement for anyone coming to visit San Diego. We would go see lots of theatre because San Diego has an amazing theatre community. We would go shopping at the UTC Mall in La Jolla. Lastly, we would relax at Coronado Beach because it’s the most chill and most relaxing place to zen out.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to dedicate this shoutout to my village. My village is small, but mighty. I have a group of people in my corner who are also artists and who are extremely talented. We all met while working at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and we have been inseparable ever since. This village also includes my best friend who has been by my side since grad school at UC San Diego; this beautiful man has been my rock since the first day we met and has never ceased to love me, accept me, and support me. To TaiReikca L.A., Taylor, DeLeon, and Johnique: I am the luckiest woman in the world to have you all in my life and in my corner. The way we lift each other up and root for one another is powerful. Our bond is indestructible and our talents are enough to shake the world. We are power made manifest. We are artists that the world better be preparing for because we will take it by storm. I am full of the utmost gratitude that I get to do life with you all. I couldn’t ask for better life partners. When you have people in your life who you know you can trust, who you know has your back, who pushes you to be the best version of yourself, who isn’t afraid to hold you accountable because they know your worth, who reciprocates the love you pour out, who invests in you and loves all of that you are without conditions… then that’s when you know that you have hit the jackpot. These are my people; they are my whole heart and they mean the world to me. I dedicate this shoutout to my village.
Facebook: Kimberly Monks
1. Adrian J. 2. Tyshon Lowe 3. Jenny Graham 4, 5, & 6. TaiReikca L.A. 7. Sheldon Botler