Inspirational Women In Hollywood: How The Wilds Star, Sophia Ali Is Helping To Shake Up The…

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Inspirational Women In Hollywood: How The Wilds Star, Sophia Ali Is Helping To Shake Up The Entertainment Industry

Photo Credit: Bianca Poletti

… Fourth, don’t worry so much about your looks. Some people feel as though you have to look a certain way to become an actor, but I believe owning who you are is more important than trying to project a certain image. I find it so much more inspiring to be an actor owning who they are and how they look on screen, if it’s different from what you’re used to seeing.

I had the distinct pleasure to interview Sophia Taylor Ali. Sophia is an American actress best known for her work in The Wilds, the MTV romantic comedy series, Faking It, and the ABC medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy.

Sophia, it is a delight to meet you. Our readers would love to get to know you better. Can you tell us a story about how you grew up?

I was born in San Diego, but my family was living in Dubai at the time, so when I was only ten days old my Mom and I traveled back there to be with my Dad. When I was around 4, we moved to the states as a family and landed in Texas. Then, when I was 19, I moved to California to seriously pursue my dream of becoming an actor.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific career as an actor?

I believe a big part of it was feeling the pressure to find a career path as a young girl. I enjoyed entertaining and being the center of attention, so it felt fitting as an occupation. I was also a dancer until the age of 16, and due to my love of performing, acting felt like the most natural fit.

You have probably had a lot of interesting encounters. Can you share with us a funny or interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

So, I can’t remember his name which is super embarrassing, but if you watched The Office, he was a character in the final season and he played the assistant to Jo, who bought the Dunder-Mifflin Company. I ended up meeting him and since I’m a part of the industry, I feel as though I don’t necessarily get “starstruck”. He and I were having a conversation in an intimate setting and one of his questions was about which shows I liked to watch on TV. My brain went blank and the first thing I blurted out was “The Office! I loved you on that show!” The silence was so awkward and uncomfortable, because now I was a fan. There is nothing wrong with that of course because I am a fan, but it was just not the time and the place to express my fandom over that show and him as an actor.

Do you have a story about a mistake you made when you first started acting and the lesson you learned from that?

The first thing that comes to mind is when I was starting out, I don’t think I truly understood what I was getting myself into. There’s a tendency to glorify it as a career, and what it means to be an actor. There seems to be a lot of hype, which I believed, and I wasn’t realistic in my expectations about how it would be, or how I would personally fit in.

Once I got to a certain point in my career in the very beginning, I felt as though I needed to backtrack a little to understand what I would need to do that was going to be best for me and how I could make it fit.

That’s great. I appreciate you sharing this with us. None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there someone that you are grateful for who helped shape you into the person you are today? If so, could you share a story about that?

There are so many people that I’m grateful for and I feel as though they fall into two separate groups. The first would be the people who believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. The second, are the ones who inspired me but who didn’t know they were doing so. They did this simply by being themselves. From the acting coaches and actors I’ve been lucky enough to work with, to my agent and manager, they have all encouraged me to continue pursuing my desire to act.

I’ve been with the same agent and manager since I was just a kid and looking back on it now, I feel as though I underestimated the amount of blind faith they had in me when I was able to get signed at only 14. I’m now 26, and it is as though all of the work I’ve been putting in is starting to pay off.

When it comes to a specific actor, I have enjoyed working with Ellen Pompeo on Grey’s Anatomy. She doesn’t take her job too seriously, and it feels almost relieving in a way to be around someone who simply enjoys their craft. In this field, it can feel as if the stakes are really high to do things a certain way, but she is a good reminder to just have fun. At the end of the day, you’re making entertainment for others, so enjoy the process. Ellen is also a really strong woman and I enjoy being around other females both on set and on the production side.

Another person I would like to mention is Geeta Malik, the director of India Sweets and Spices. She wrote and directed the show, and it’s so cool to see females such as herself doing things like that in the industry.

Sophia, you’ve been blessed with success in a career that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to follow a similar career path to you, but seem intimidated by the prospect of failing?

I believe there is no shame in questioning yourself and being afraid of failure. But at the end of the day, if you think you cannot do something, you are only limiting yourself, and you will never be successful unless you truly believe it will work out. It is such a simple concept, but hard to remember some days.

Sophia, you have such really impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you’re working on now, and where do you see yourself heading from here?

As of right now, I am currently working on The Wilds, which is on Amazon and should begin shooting for season 3 soon, so I’m excited about that. I enjoy my character on the show, Fatin, and watching the direction that she takes as she grows since the character is younger than me. It’s almost fun in a way to see where life takes her and to feel as though I have already been through those things. Outside of that, I would like to step into a role in the future that is completely out of character for me and take on a new challenge.

We’re interested in looking at diversity in entertainment and this will be obvious to you, but it’s important to articulate it for the public and our readers. Can you share a few reasons why it is so important to have diversity represented in film and television and the effect it has on our culture?

I think diversity is important so people aren’t asked to define it anymore. I struggle with the idea of representation in a lot of ways because of course I want to represent my people, I want to make them proud and also inspire them, yet at the same time, I don’t want them to feel limited. When I speak about representation, I am only able to talk about it from my perspective, which is fairly limited. There are so many viewpoints and attitudes, and they all need to be taken into consideration when it comes to how and where diversity is being represented. I believe there needs to be more discussion around it all and we all need to be advocating for not just one race, but for everyone.

What are the top 5 things you wish someone would have told you when you first started and why?

  • The first one is, there is no such thing as one singular path for success in this industry.
  • Second, you should never lie, cheat or stretch yourself past your comfort zone in any way just to land a role. There’s no cheat to getting part. There’s a lot that goes into it and if you’re just doing your best every time it’s going to happen for you eventually.
  • Third, put your best into everything you do and never doubt yourself.
  • Fourth, don’t worry so much about your looks. Some people feel as though you have to look a certain way to become an actor, but I believe owning who you are is more important than trying to project a certain image. I find it so much more inspiring to be an actor owning who they are and how they look on screen, if it’s different from what you’re used to seeing.
  • And finally, just be yourself. Those who are not ashamed of who they are currently, or who they are becoming, tend to be more successful in their journeys. Those people amount to so much more because they’re so unashamed. Achieving success in that pathway is just generally a happier experience, because you’re not questioning the way you look all the time.

Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices, or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart thrive?

I love to meditate under the sun every day. It is almost as though the practice not only cleanses my body but my face as well. There is just something about letting the sun “burn” the imperfections on my face. It may not be doing anything, but I like to believe that it is.

Sophia, as you know, you are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the largest amount of people, what would that be?

Oh wow, that’s hard to say! I have such a conflicting idea around having any sort of influence because I feel as though I don’t have the necessary credentials to exploit my celebrity status in any way. For me, I believe in leading by example. You can’t tell people what to do, and I just want to remain as unbiased as possible in regards to my own experiences and for the rest of humanity.

Is there a person you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens.

I’m split between a politician and a very famous celebrity or actor. I’m curious about different aspects of their jobs and would love to learn more about the various factors we might not consider that go into their day-to-day.

For an actor, I would have to say Meryl Streep. She has never “sold her soul” for her career and has been able to obtain an almost idol status regarding her integrity while in this industry.

As for a politician, I would choose Bernie Sanders. I don’t know if I agree with all of his opinions per se, but I do agree with the fact that he has been very vocal about what he believes in and I would love to discuss how he goes about that and feels so free to be himself.

Sophia, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you and I wish you continued success.

Inspirational Women In Hollywood: How The Wilds Star, Sophia Ali Is Helping To Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.