One of the most effective ways to provoke change and inspire others is through music and film. These two outlets are the top things of what people like to listen to and watch in their spare time. At a young age, Shantelle Wheeler knew her career path would lead her in the direction to inspire through music and film.
I recently interviewed the actress and singer where she chatted on her inspirations and goals. Check it out below:
Can you tell myself and the readers about yourself?
I am Shantelle Wheeler and I love to entertain and inspire others. I grew up singing in church, and the love just grew from there. And I have always been interested in how others deal with situations, and tried to imagine if I was someone else, how would I respond to this or that. I think the acting bug was in me then, and I just didn’t know it until much later.
Growing up and still to this day who are your inspirations? How did they impact your life?
Growing up, I was obviously inspired by my parents. Just watching them function, and the way that they took care of our family shaped me into the person I am today. I was inspired by Angela Bassett and Phylicia Rashaad. I looked at them and saw beauty, class, style, confidence, and I wanted to be like them. They are just so regal. I still look at them, and just am in awe. Also, Stevie Wonder. I just love him, and I love to hear him sing and speak.
When did you realize you had a passion to sing and act?
I always knew that I could sing. Especially, due to singing in church, I knew that people could be touched with my voice. I believe I was in middle school, when I decided that I actually wanted to pursue music. But, as I got older, and started to really understand the gift that I had, that started to change. Acting came along much later. I was always making up stories and coming up with script ideas, but I think I was in my first year of college, when I decided that I wanted to pursue acting. It fluctuated a little with the singing, but the goal for an acting career has been steady ever since.
You’re not a new comer to the acting scene as you have been in a few different series and plays, is performing on stage different than when in front of the camera? What’s the difference between the two?
There are big differences in acting on stage and acting on camera. I love both for different reasons. When it comes to being on stage, I love the energy that the audience brings. It can really elevate a performance. Each performance is different because each audience is different. And you can adjust things each time you get on stage. Try to play the emotions a different way. Acting in front of the camera allows you to add in those subtleties and nuances that don’t really work on stage. I love seeing the finished product. When you are doing your scenes, you just get to connect with what you are doing, so you don’t really see the entire show, or movie until it is released.
Can you name is the plays, series, and roles you been in so far?
There have been so many. The longest role that I have had is Keysha Lyons, from ‘The Lyons Den’, which will be going into its tenth season. I have been on the show since season one. I’m also on ‘EXFactor’, which will be going into its fifth season. I’ve been on that one since season one, as well. I did a guest spot on a show called ‘Peace Be Steel’ which is a really cool show. They are all good shows though, so everyone should check them out. The latest stageplay that I’m in, and it is quickly becoming my favorite out of all the plays I’ve done, is ‘CloZet Confession’. I also did ‘Dreams of Harlem’, which was a lot of fun too. There have been other roles too, but I think that these are the biggest ones so far.
The last two years you’ve received acting awards in your files what awards have you received? How did being honored make you feel receiving credit from your peers?
In the last two years, I received the 2017 Featured Highlights Supporting Actress of the Year award and 2018 Featured Highlights Actress of the Year award. I just found out recently that I am nominated for Best Supporting Cast Member, for the stageplay ‘CloZet Confession’, for the DPI Playwrights Awards. It feels amazing for others in the field to think of me as deserving of recognition. It makes me work harder because I feel like I owe that much to the people that are watching and making these final decisions. I owe the people that take the time to vote, and the ones that consider themselves fans of mine. I can’t slack off with all of these people supporting me. They need to see something come of their support. They need results.
What are some goals you still want to accomplish as an actress?
I have the desire to be in movies and on television, like most actresses. But, I think the biggest thing I want, at this time, is to do Broadway. There is something about a live audience that just gets me excited. And being able to grow with a character night after night, show after show, is something that I would like to experience. There are people that I want to perform with on Broadway. Jenifer Lewis, Cynthia Erivo, Audra McDonald, and my biggest wish, Brian Stokes Mitchell.
While being accomplished as an actor what are some goals you have set for you singing career?
Actually, I sing because I just love to do it. If someone wants to pay me to do it, then that is just an added bonus. I’m not really trying to make a living singing, as I am with the acting. I just feel that, for me, singing is a special gift that I would tarnish if I tried to live off of it. But, even with that, there are people with whom I would love to sing. Just because I want to sing with them. Stevie Wonder, obviously. Also, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Patti Labelle, and Stephanie Mills.
Do you take the confidence and recognition you’ve been receiving from your acting career to encourage your singing career?
I probably shouldn’t think this way, but I look at acting and singing as two separate entities. While they can cross paths, I pursue each one differently. When I am acting, unless my character is able to sing, I don’t think about singing. When I am singing, I just think about connecting with the audience, not necessarily trying to act out the words to the song. The only exception would be if I was doing a musical, where singing and acting live together.
What is favorite genre of music to sing?
I love that I can connect to so many different genres of music. Each one has something special about it. But, I think that my favorite genre is R&B. There are themes that live in R&B music that connect to everyone. I love singing Gospel, but I can acknowledge that it doesn’t touch everyone.
Does your creativity as an artist come from your soul, genetic makeup, or the ability to express emotion?
I think that it comes from all three. My parents both sing, and I used to sing with my brothers and sisters all of the time. And my dad also writes songs. So, at least the music is in my blood. The acting and writing may just be icing on the cake, so to speak. If I am singing a song, or playing a character, I have to be able to connect from the soul or it won’t come across as authentic. If I can tell that I’m acting, then I believe that the audience can tell too. Being able to express emotion is necessary for me to connect to characters, as well.
What are some upcoming events or projects we can expect to see you in or at?
Season 10 of ‘The Lyons Den’ is coming up, which I am really excited about, as well as Season 5 of ‘EXFactor’. I’ll be in two upcoming feature films, ‘Slumber Party, Slaughter Party 2’ and ‘The Oath’. I will be performing at the CSRA Food Truck Fest in Augusta, GA, I’ll be in Atlanta in June, performing for the National Conference for SISTUHS, Inc. and in September for another performance of the stageplay, ‘CloZet Confession’. Starting either January or February 2020, I will be touring my original one-woman show, ‘For the Culture: A Passion Play’. There are other things in between all of this, but I think that these are the biggest events and projects that I have coming up.
What great words of wisdom and great advice can you off to our readers and aspiring performers?
If you believe that you can achieve something, then go after it. Don’t give up because others don’t understand what you are trying to do. Everything is not for everybody to understand and everybody can’t go on the journey with you. Accept support, but be willing to sacrifice to accomplish your goals. It will mean that much more when you reach them.
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