If anyone knows how life changing the YoungArts Week experience can be, it’s Amanda Seales. The actress and comedian known her stand up and her hilarious web series “Get Your Life” and “Smart, Funny & Black” as well as her recurring role on Issa Rae’s HBO series “Insecure” is an alum of the 1999 theater program, where she participated in the YoungArts Foundation’s week-long series of workshops, master classes, seminars and performances led by industry heavyweights. Now she returns to the program, but this time to emcee the Backyard Ball, the swank gala that closes YoungArts Week with performances, an art exhibit and a major party.
Seales chatted with Miami.com about how YoungArts helped guide her on her own path.
How does it feel to be the mistress of ceremonies for an organization that does so much to encourage young people to get involved in the arts?
It’s a great honor! I remember how excited I was to be selected for Arts Week when I was in high school. To be able to come back and now be a part of it is surreal. The arts have played such an important role in my young life and making me into the woman I’ve wanted to be.
What made you want to get into comedy and acting?
I’ve always been funny and overdramatic! Now, more than ever, with the current and future state of our government, it is imperative that my comedy be used to educate and provide release and support.
You said in an interview that you received a lot of bad advice at the beginning of your career. What steps do you wish you had avoided and what is some good advice that you are glad you took?
At this point I don’t have any regrets because you need those things to happen in order to grow, but I would say, focus on you, and being true to you. Others may tell you that once you’re in the spotlight you have to dress a certain way, or act a certain way, but I’ve learned that you really can’t control what people will say or think about you so might as well just be genuine you.
You do both stand up comedy as well as lectures on race, gender and other topical issues. Does it ever happen that your stand up gets very lecture-y and your lectures get really stand up-y?
Ha ha! Well, I have a sweet spot between the two because essentially they both come from the same place: using comedy to teach. When I perform, “Sideye Seminar: Identifying and Defying Everyday forms of Sexism” at schools, I include references with the stories to support the points I’m making. Though I include similar stories in my sets in the clubs, I get a bit more loose with my delivery.
What projects make you the happiest?
It’s really great to be able to write my own content that makes people laugh: my web series “Get Your Life,” my black pop culture game show “Smart Funny & Black,” being on stage doing stand up and the other outlets I have are truly fulfilling.
What is your dream job?
One with all the money and the all the freedom to make my creative vision come through. I’m talkin’ “Game of Thrones” level!
If You Go:
What: National YoungArts Foundation Backyard Ball
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14
Where: National YoungArts Foundation Campus, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Cost: Tickets to The Backyard Ball performance and gala start at $1,000. Tickets to the Backyard Bash are $100-$25.
Info at www.youngarts.org.