By Tammy Reese
Happy Black History Month! At NYWIFT we are celebrating the Black creators and artists in our membership, while honoring Black culture & cinema throughout history.
Today’s spotlight is on our member Taylor Re Lynn.
Taylor Re Lynn is a native to New York that grew up surrounded by a family of talented artists, which helped to foster her passion for the arts. She began performing at a young age in church, then subsequently in college and to the present.
A mezzo-soprano, her music studies took place in the US and abroad with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). Her acting experience encompasses both theatre and film projects in New York and internationally. She is a graduate of the New York Film Academy. As a producer, she has produced independent short films, documentaries and feature films. Most notable features include Love Gilda which had the honor of being the opening night film for Tribeca Film Festival, Little Wing which premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the 2016 Golden Globe-nominated film The Fencer. The Fencer was also winner of the prestigious Bernhard Wicki prize at the 2015 Munich International Film Festival.
As a philanthropist, Taylor has supported numerous international charities including those that foster breast cancer awareness, HIV eradication, and those providing support services for women and children in underprivileged communities. Taylor is passionate about helping others and using her global platform to inspire and make a difference in the lives of others.
Taylor, you have certainly empowered and inspired others throughout your career. What historical Black figures in history have inspired your philanthropy work for underserved communities?
I have been inspired by many important figures in the community, but Madame C. J. Walker has particular resonance with me because our paths were similar. She too started with humble beginnings, and subsequently become a self-made millionaire impacting the larger community as a whole.
She decided to begin with a product (hair care) that she was passionate about to fulfill a need specifically for African-American women. From her travels, she knew there was a market and trusted her intuition and business acumen. By 1908, she had trained hundreds of sales agents and had permanent headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.
In the city, her first opportunity for public philanthropy was a campaign to build a new Young Men’s Christian Association recreation facility in a Black neighborhood provided an opportunity for her to have real impact. From there on, she was quite devoted to improving the lives of African Americans.
She became a major funder of anti-lynching programs run by the NAACP and the National Association of Colored Women. She also led the effort to preserve the home of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D. C.
She is a true inspiration to women like me and I am inspired to strive to even greater heights in business with her as an example of what is possible.
As a theater and film actress, who are some of your favorite Black actresses of all time and why?
My favorite film actresses include Josephine Baker, Hattie McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg, and Viola Davis. Josephine Baker is a favorite because of her mesmerizing performances, which combined comedy and eroticism and made her the siren darling of cinema and widely successful internationally in musicals throughout European cinema.
Hattie McDaniel being the first Black actress to win an Academy award is a legend and pioneer, her work speaks for itself. Of present day, Whoopi Goldberg, a comedic genius, and the legendary Viola Davis are some of my favorites. Watching Goldberg and Davis on screen is a master class for every actor.
What was the last Black film you watched that made an impact on you? What was it about the film that moved you?
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom based on the play of the same name by August Wilson. The film focuses on Ma Rainey, an influential blues singer, and dramatizes a turbulent recording session in 1920s Chicago. Between Chadwick Boseman’s final performance, and the Oscar-worthy performance from Viola Davis, it truly captures the Black experience through the story of a blues legend, and is one of the most moving films of the year.
Any upcoming projects you are currently working on?
Beside the crime mystery Haunting Trophies that is currently in pre-production, I am working on several entrepreneurial projects to provide female filmmakers/artists the tools the amplify their voices.
As a member of the board of directors for Cultured Focus Magazine, a global arts and entertainment magazine, I am working on the strategic initiatives board committee.
The committee’s goal is to initiate and fully execute partnerships between the magazine and minority/women owned business enterprises (M/WBE’S) to further broaden M/WBE international exposure and augment their revenue streams.
I am excited about the initiative and looking forward to an exciting year. Women must chart their own path. Women must boldly embrace their powerful birthright to control their own destinies, their own businesses, their own creative voice, and rise up in greatness.
What do you enjoy most about being a producer, philanthropist, and actress?
I enjoy the impact that I can have when bringing projects to a global audience. You are able to move and inspire people to make change within their community, open their eyes to another culture around the world, or uplift the human spirits in ways you may not otherwise by staying in your own corner and never branching out to unknown heights.
In your perspective, what is the current stance on Black women in film?
Notwithstanding an industry that continues to be controlled by white men, Black women must find a way to get their movies made.
There has been progress in recent years, but there is much more progress to be made both in front and behind the camera. I think Black female filmmakers are taking more control over their own narratives and telling stories from their own unique perspectives.
It’s important to bring these films to the big and small screen. The popularity streaming services has opened up a plethora of new possibilities for consumers to get unique content from independent filmmakers from around the world.
I think this opens up more possibilities for people to discover strong character driven performances from black women and other minorities in the industry that may have not otherwise been discovered. Given the pandemic and closure of some theaters nationwide and globally, people are looking for unique and original content, which opens the doors for filmmakers.
What advice you would provide to Black Women who aspire to be an actress or producer?
My advice is to try anything once, as that is how you learn. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. If you never try, you will always be left wondering ‘what if?’
I think the best actors, producers, and filmmakers have the confidence to shoot for the stars. You must have confidence and believe in your work, otherwise no one will.
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