A Conversation With Actress Naté Jones
We are just a few weeks away from Our Creative Future Summit on June 25. This online event is dedicated to the Black creatives pushing boundaries and sparking change in their respective industries. As part of our continued efforts to connect Black professionals and students across the globe to opportunities, a professional network, and role model visibility, the BYP Network fosters a learning hub for Black creatives to learn, grow and thrive.
Black creatives everywhere are on a mission to change the narrative to better their communities through their ideas, designs, and contributions. As we embark on our summit, we've compiled a lineup of some of the top on-screen and off-screen Black talent making history.
Ahead of the upcoming summit, BYP spoke with the American actress and businesswoman Naté Jones about her work, navigating Hollywood, and the importance of Black representation in the entertainment industry.
Jones made her TV debut as Shon Shon on season three of John Singleton's hit FX show "Snowfall,” capturing audiences with her authentic portrayal of a young woman living during the crack epidemic in Los Angeles, California in the early 1980s.
Whether on the big screen or stage, her career success lies in her ability to evoke emotion that brings her characters to life. Her journey has come with its fair share of obstacles. She faced homelessness, but she never lost sight of her dream to mark the film industry.
"It is not easy. New York City is where you come to sell a dream, live a dream or buy a dream. I've been homeless like three times. My school had let out for the summer, and I didn't have the money to stay in the dorm, and I had to leave. I was staying with a friend for two days, and I slept on a train, and I had a little bit of money."
The oldest of three, Jones isn't unfamiliar with humble beginnings. Growing up in a single-parent home in a low-income community, she says, her mother's hard work inspires her to be a beacon of light for generations following.
"I've had so many that I've known who've passed on and been killed. I plan on giving back to my city and my mom. She had me at 15-years-old with three kids, and she was married, and she sacrificed a lot for me. I'm looking forward to the day when I can buy her a house, and she doesn't have to work."
With the help of her cult-like social media of 14.5 K Instagram followers, Jones is taking the industry by storm while seamlessly redefining the possibilities for aspiring Black artists. Her expansive catalog is exceptional yet versatile. Whether on the big screen or stage, she takes her craft seriously and brings forth an authentic voice to every role. She has performed on stages including, but not limited to, Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra: The Musical," "A Raisin in The Sun," "The Motherf*cker with The Hat," "Jitney," "DeadBeat," "Milkscrates."
While Jones has accomplished more she expected, she asserts she is just getting started and is determined to succeed.
"When I look at myself in the mirror, I see so much potential. This is just the beginning. This is just the stretch I haven't even gotten to the run yet. I don't have a plan B because my plan A isn't going to fail. All my money, time, blood, sweat, and tears go into my dream."
In today's world where Black perspectives are critical, Black actors like Jones are diversifying the landscape, but reports still indicate racial disparities with 62.3 percent of actors being White, and Blacks only representing 14.4 percent in the U.S.
With the recent deaths of Black people while in police custody, including, most recently Ma'Khia Bryant and George Floyd, there has been an international call to reform law enforcement and criminal justice systems that have left communities of color vulnerable. This has penetrated other industries, including entertainment, to address its systematic lack of Black voices.
Understanding the unique challenges Black creatives experience, the Youngstown, Ohio native launched nonprofit organization Leaders In Lipstick (L.I.L.) to encourage, inspire and develop self-love among women.
"I've always had the gift of encouragement. I noticed a shortage of someone who spoke for women of color. I created Leaders in Lipstick to show women that they are not alone. No matter your race, ethnicity, cultural background, beliefs, or age, I've got their back."
Our Future Creative Summit is an opportunity to celebrate innovators like Jones. It is also a space to address and provide solutions for Black creatives and professionals who historically experience a lack of recognition for their work. We encourage you to join in on the conversation by becoming a member of our community as we shift the paradigm to reflect a workplace and society that is inclusive and truly honors the Black community.