Tatyana Ali headlines the John W. Davison Lecture Series

April 26, 2013 – At the John W. Davison Lecture Series, Broadway-trained actressTatyana Ali, who played Ashley Banks in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, lit up center stage at the Pettigrew Center auditorium. On April 16, the three-time NAACP Image Award winner encouraged students to remain true to themselves, their dreams and to earn an education.

“I want to talk about something that’s personal to me,” said Ali, who currently stars in the hit TV ONE television show Love that Girl. “It’s about being yourself, and being authentic.”

Ali told students she started off playing roles in Broadway productions before the age of five. After starring on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and recording an album, Ali wanted to attend college. It was her dream to attend Princeton. Ali was accepted at Harvard University, instead. An executive at a record company and entertainment handlers told Ali that she was making a huge mistake. Her family, who understood the importance of education, stood strongly behind Ali.

The actresses toured briefly to support her album, then enrolled into Harvard a year later.

At Harvard, Ali pursued political science and African-American studies. After starring in a Harvard University production of “For Colored Girls,” she quickly found that her passion was performing. Following graduation, the talented actress could not find work.

“I had a casting agent–a black woman–lean back in her chair and said ‘Let’s see what Harvard taught you,” Ali said. Agents told Ali that she was too straight-laced and told her to model herself after other actresses who showed more skin.

“People tried to drive me crazy, trying to make me into something other than what I was,” the actress said. “They tried to put me into a box, and I had to figure out who I was. It’s about what you have to say. And when you figure out the unique thing you have to say, that’s when the miracles start to happen.”

She told students that they needed to click into their purpose. She reminded Widlcatsabout the law of attraction: What you put out or mediate upon, you receive. She also encouraged students to read Don Miguel’s “The Four Agreements,” and told students not to make assumptions.

Ali answered direct questions from FVSU Wildcats. She recounted how she and her sister, Anastasia, decided to start their own production company. The actress also encouraged the audience to create strategic partnerships to share their knowledge and talents in order to help their business ventures survive.

Ali shares a bit of advice to potential and current students and aspiring actors in the following video.

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Established in 2002, the FVSU John W. Davison Lecture Series honors the life of John Wesley Davison, leader of the founders of Fort Valley State College and the first principal of the Fort Valley High and Industrial School.

For more information about the free lecture series, contact JWDLS coordinator Alecia Livatt, (478) 825-6959.



Christina D. Milton, writer

Marketing and Communications

(478) 822-7589, miltonc@fvsu.edu