Thornwood grad makes life in L.A. as actress
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org February 24, 2013 7:44PM
Former Country Club Hills resident Fatimah Taliah is working to get her foot in the door in Hollywood. | Supplied photo
Updated: March 26, 2013 6:05AM
One year ago, Fatimah Taliah packed up her Jeep, left her home in Harvey and drove 36 hours to Los Angeles, with dreams of an acting career.
“So far, so good,” the 2000 graduate of Thornwood High School said of her new life on the West Coast in a recent phone interview.
Family, friends and former classmates who have not see Taliah for a while can see her in a soon-to-be-released DVD — a new indie feature film, “Church Wives,” scheduled to be released in Wal-Mart stores and on Netflix on April 16.
Patterned after “Basketball Wives,” “Church Wives” is a 90-minute dramatic comedy in which Taliah portrays a funny, snappy church wife with a secret.
She also has appeared on the Bethenny Frankel Show and continues to do modeling.
“For someone who has only been in L.A. for a year, I’m doing all right,” she said.
But it has not been easy.
“To be successful, it’s a 24/7 job,” she said. “In the beginning it was new and fun, until you find out how much work it is. But this is something I want to be successful at.”
Taliah said she always had a dramatic flair and teachers considered her a class clown. She moved around a lot, also living in Country Club Hills, Hazel Crest and Lansing, where her mother still lives.
Even while a student at Thornwood, she thought about an acting career. She participated in theater arts classes and plays in high school and even wrote her own funny play, which she and her friends staged at the school.
“In my neighborhood, I didn’t think it was possible to leave Harvey and become a star,” she said. “Life there was not always positive. I always knew I wanted more than what I was seeing.”
But while living there, she developed “a thick skin” and learned how to “hustle to make things happen.”
“It motivated me, too,” she said.
Her cousin, rhythm and blues singer Syleena Johnson, handed Taliah her ticket out. She toured the country with her as a professional dancer.
“It was a chance to see another world and how things work,” Taliah said.
She studied fashion and dance at Columbia College in Chicago, danced for other artists in music videos, knocked on doors and dealt with a lot of rejection.
“All the agencies denied me, but I was determined. I reinvented myself — changed my haircut, my hair color and went back,” she said. “You have to keep trying until someone gives you a chance.”
Taliah eventually landed a contract with Elite Modeling Management. She appeared in commercials for Wal-Mart and Ashley Furniture and modeled for designers such as Zac Posen and Jennifer Lopez.
In Chicago, she starred in several commercials and stage plays, but there were not a lot of jobs in the city, not enough to call it a career. And Taliah really wanted to get into television.
“I love TV. With TV you get a second chance to redo it. I love the editing, watching the producers. That’s exciting for me,” she said.
While it was difficult to leave home, “for what I want to do with my career, this is where I needed to be,” Taliah said of L.A. “Every day there is something going on. I always have to be doing something.”
She also planned for it.
“You have to know what you want, research it, plan it out and invest in yourself,” she said.
Taliah continues to model, wants to do another feature film and has been asked to return to the Bethenny Frankel Show in the fall. She also wants to find bigger directors and larger shows.
“I have to find my way,” Taliah said. “To come from Harvey and get this far ... I hope young girls see that it is possible. You have to work hard and believe in it. You have to have a real passion for this. It’s not easy.”