1) Sheilah, tell me about your amazing journey to becoming a well-rounded person and entertainer.
Brian, have you ever seen the movie Wrong Turn? An awful horror film. Okay, what about The Godfather? or I know—being the amazing, funny, tough guy that you are, Brian, you must have read Judy Blume’s famous book: Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret. Well, my journey can be described as any one of these entertainment mediums, but mostly Judy Blume’s book. Haha
The longer version of my journey is, at 5-years-old in Cleveland Ohio, I witnessed my mother’s brother murder my father in cold blood…shot gun in the mouth (this is the horror film part). My Mom was forced to testify in favor of her brother to save his life, and forget about her husband, my dad’s life. Family pain and dark secrets caused my mom to become bipolar. My mom did the best she could to raise five weird kids with the help of my grandmother, who was more like The Godfather.
As a child, to escape my Addams Family experience—haha, I performed in every way possible for any and everyone, and I was good! I would dance, sing, and perform movie scenes. I knew very early that I wanted to be an entertainer.
I also became the fastest girl in my neighborhood, which definitely helped great escapes—growing up in the hood. I became a track star: high school, college and even trained for the 1992 Olympics, but it didn’t work out and my passion for acting never left.
I did a lot of theatre in Cleveland, lots of plays, and some musicals. Then one evening during a rehearsal (I was cast in a 6-week dramatic play as the lead), my director had a private conversation with me and told me I should become a stand-up comedian because, although the play was very dark and dramatic, I kept the entire cast and audience laughing every night when they probably should’ve been crying. Reluctantly, I took her advice and I’ve never looked back; that was 18 years ago and Stand-up Comedy has become one of my great passions. My well-roundedness simply comes from my spiritual foundation, my faith, and my experience as a working-class professional. I’ve had thousands of jobs and I’m well-educated.
2) We connected through social media and you have used it as a tool to advance your career and to inspire others. Are there any secrets or advice you would like to share to the folks out there on using social media to help their careers, especially entertainment?
Be afraid…be very afraid! Haha 🙂 No, just kidding. Actually, be brave…be very brave. Embrace social media as the here-to-stay platform of information, products, and services exchange. It’s our NOW way of doing business both personally and professionally. The key is to be authentic and share your truth with people in a way that uplifts them and provides value. Do not get sucked into the FOMO syndrome—Fear Of Missing Out.
People, especially entertainers, are addicted to social media. They never give themselves a break from it because they fear they will miss out on something or something will miss out on them. You must do regular social media detoxes, it’s good for your brain, mind, and spirit.
The other component is to take the time to support other artists, and people in general, on social media. Don’t always be like: “Look at me, look what I’m doing, buy my products/services, come see my show, massage my ego please…” Dude, this sends a smoke signal that says I STANK (socio-path, tiny mindset and not kind).
Don’t be mean, don’t be a bully or an evil troll on social media, that sh%t ain’t cool at all Mofo!
Lastly, take the time to explore people’s pages, feeds or accounts before accepting their follow/friend request, this is big for me. I never just randomly accept people’s friend/follow request if I don’t know them or share a specific connection with them. Everyone in my social media network, I’ve explored their content and what they stand for. Take time to get to know your followers and support them.
3) What are the current projects you’re working on and where can folks find out about them?
I’m a NYC host of an incredible new entertainment app that will be launching this spring, just booked a powerful voice-over with a popular online/mobile food ordering app and, Brian, I’m choosing to be insanely proactive with my career. I decided I would, because Holly-won’t (Hollywood).
Like you, I don’t sit around waiting for Industry Reps to call me, I’m creating my own opportunities. And in 45 days, the world or at least NYC (which I deem the world, haha) will get to know the untamed, fully self-expressed Sheilah Denise Smiley in my first ever Live Broadway Stand-up Comedy Special that I’m producing to raise money for smiletrain.org, an organization that helps babies born with oral-deformities thrive in life. I have invested every dime I have in the world, my blood, sweat, tears, prayers, and have done things too scary to mention in this magazine, to make this event magical for my audience.
I welcome every human being to support this endeavor by purchasing a ticket to save our babies. People can get tickets at https://www.symphonyspace.org/event/9662/Comedy/diary-of-a-mad-black-comedienne- and here’s the blessing, Brian, even if folks can’t travel to NYC for the show, they can still buy a ticket and donate it, because it will make a difference for the babies. This show will feature some of NYC’s funniest children. Yes, I’m giving our kids an opportunity to share their comedy chops and we’ll be honoring a few powerful funny/talented women.
4) How do you balance your career and your personal life?
Work-life balance is very important to me. I balance by making my health and well-being my priority. Acting, doing stand-up comedy, grinding, people pleasing…are no longer priorities–being healthy spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, and financially are my priorities—this is real abundance—having a peace of mind and an intimate relationship with my Source – GOD is Abundance.
My overall practice includes: meditation, expressing gratitude, prayer, listening to positive/upbeat messages, working out daily, surrounding myself with positive, awakened people, dancing, eating healthily, and intentionally having fun. I’m a member of the Landmark Transformation Community and this work has changed my life.
5) Plays, Stand-up, TV or film, do you have a favorite creative outlet?
Yaaaaasss, glad you asked! Because my energy is electrifying and my personality is powerful, I love live events! I love live audiences! I love the Theatre! Performing on stage in front of a live audience each night is an awakening journey because the audience, including myself as the performer, will experience something new in every performance, even though the content is the same. So doing stand-up, performing in plays, and speaking at large events are my most joyful moments of self-expression. Engaging with people in real-time and experiencing their joy/transformation is magical!
6) Any last thoughts, advice, or some of that great inspiration you have for others?
I’ll let my good friend Winston C. answer that cause he said it best, and I say it every day.
Brian, before closing out this interview, I want to take a moment to acknowledge you. You are truly an incredible human being who supports the thriving of all artists. And might I add, you’re super funny and cute. Thank you for your work and for always supporting me. Our time of sharing a performance is coming soon. I love you Bro!