Ashley Blaine Featherson is on her way to becoming the industry’s next ‘It Girl,” and she’s reppin’ the DMV (DC, MD, and VA).
After a series of emails and crossed fingers, we finally got the “green light” on an interview with DMV native and star of “Dear White People,” Season 3, Ashley Blaine Featherson. Phone interviews are always a little up in the air, and it can be difficult to get a true feel for someone’s personality and even more difficult to find the groove in conversation while battling ambient distractions on their end. Fortunately, when I answered the phone that evening, I was greeted by a presence and not a voice.
Born into a family of performers, Ashley’s love for the stage came early. By age three, dance and voice lessons were already a regular part of her schedule. The first performance, as she recalls it, was the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” in Pre – Kindergarten at the Franklin Montessori School in Rockville, MD. Featherson loved it.
“I didn’t have an A-ha! moment or see something on tv, I was so young, and I remember really caring about my role… It’s always been this innate thing I was meant to do.” Ashley remembered.
And, do, she did. Recognizing a lack of mirrors for girls of color, Ashley co-created “Hello Cupid” for Black and Sexy TV with Lena Waithe. The series follows the online dating adventures of two roommates and addresses different experiences within the black community. From there, she appeared on Glee before snagging a role in 2014’s “Dear White People” the movie.
“Every success is the highest point until you achieve the next big thing. My most recent highest point, Dear White People being in its third season [on Netflix]… to see myself on a billboard and see what type of representation that provides for other brown girls riding around the city.” Featherson stated with pride.
Ashley started in the motion picture with what she describes as “five lines” and has watched her role grow over the last seven years to where her character, Joelle, has become the focus of the show’s third season. Now, we are all familiar with the plight of the black actress. The disparities in compensation, availability of roles, and the danger of being typecast lurking around the corner of every gig. Though instead of viewing these realities as obstacles, Featherson channels them into positive energy; eager to lend her talents to Broadway and excited about an upcoming podcast.
“I am so thankful Dear White People could be a platform to show people that I am multi-dimensional and I am an artist that has a lot of potential…I come from a city and a place [DMV] that has had so much great talent coming out of it…I am excited to have more on the horizon that they can support and rally around.” She said.
The wishlist of projects went on and on, jumping from musicals to fragrance and beauty products. Three threads of commonality remained; Featherson’s unwavering devotion to telling the stories of her fellow black women, mentoring the next generation, and being transparent about her experiences.
“Always tell the truth. I am committed to being transparent about my experience. I had to go through my change to eat. I don’t want anyone to think that it’s been roses and sunshine, because that’s unrealistic. And for the times when it was roses and sunshine, those weren’t the times that built my character up to sustain myself in this business.” Ashley explained. “ You also have to reach back and make sure someone feels they can follow in your footsteps or at least see your footsteps and make their own mistakes.”
An overall tone of positivity is something that can be felt with every response she gives and is something she attributes to being in divine alignment with her purpose, changing the world through her artistry and serving as a resource for women of color. A feat that comes with plenty of rejection, as she notes, positivity does not come easily. It’s been through this alignment, the love of supportive parents, friends, and the belief in a higher power that continues to keep Ashley centered.
“Being surrounded by the right energy is very important, and the power of the tongue is life-changing.” She explained. “I have been blessed to have energy that is calming and loving, I call them my destiny advocates, we are in agreement about who we want to be in this world and about helping one another be our best selves.”