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Remember when you were a little kid and people would ask you: What do you want to be when you grow up? I do. I remember saying things like a clown, a teacher, an actress. Yes, naivety ruled my world then however my passion and belief in achieving these things was genuine. So much so that, when I grew older and began to hear things such as, “starving artist” or “what’s your backup plan?” or “that sounds like a hobby…what’s your real job?” I was unfettered and even more determined to succeed.

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And guess what? I am not alone! Recent studies show that “Millennials” (those born in the ’80s and early ’90s) consider personally fulfilling work to be just as important as a high salary. Simply put, ladies now days are choosing passion over paper. Does that mean we are happy and broke? No! The best part is, new research also shows that when passion and purpose are your biggest drivers, your bank account often ends up thriving too. So everybody stand up for the Millennial chicks and check out this real life “working” and not “starving” artist!

Millennial Girl: Nikiya Mathis

Hometown: Newark, NJ

Current Playground: Elizabeth, NJ

Millennial Girl Prep School: Temple University (BA in Theater and Communications)

New York University (MFA in Acting)

Passion Chasing Career: Actress

How Her “Passion” Chose Her: In the 6th grade Nikiya wrote a poem on “heaven” for a class assignment. It was her first piece of creative writing and it was so phenomenal that her teacher assumed someone else had written it. Nikiya was shocked in her writing ability yet hurt by her teacher’s false accusation. But thank God for haters…because when Nikiya was in the 8th grade, another poem of her’s was selected to be published in a book of poetry! Annnnd, soon after that, based on a (more encouraging) teacher’s recommendation she joined the speech and debate team…by the second year she was winning awards at every competition!

I now see that my path was what God meant for it to be…and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Not Back-Up Plan Gig: Hairstylist

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How Her Not Back-Up Plan Gig Came About: In high school, Nikiya wanted to wear the cute styles that she saw in “Hype Hair” magazine. After experimenting on her own hair, friends would comment on her new styles and ask if she could do theirs. Not charging much (if anything at all) Nikiya gained some incredible experience. Unbeknownst to her this would come handy later on in life. What started as a side job to supplement her acting career eventually evolved into another bonafide career. Many theaters didn’t know what to do with African American hair, so Nikiya would fill that as a consultant to the theater; styling hair for her female co-stars. This coupled with leading Black Hair workshops to costume design students at NYU, photo shoots, weddings and everything in between, Nikiya is definitely your hair’s qualified go to girl!

I love the feeling I get when I make someone else look and feel better from the outside in. So if you happen to run into me on the streets of NYC, don’t hesitate to stop and just talk HAIR!

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Why She Loves Her Dual Passion Infused Career: The arts of acting and styling merge seamlessly. When I’m doing hair for the theater, I’m still immersed in my craft. To have a skill that I can lean on, whenever I need it, is a blessing. I love to act and I love to do hair! As an actress, the questions from myself and my friends are usually “how should I wear my hair for this audition or for headshots? If I wear my hair natural, will I be type-cast? If I get a weave am I selling out? What are my options???” I love to work with people on finding solutions.

Where have you seen this Millennia Girl? Nikiya is rocking both the silver screen and stage! Film credits include: Teenie in “Knucklehead”, with Alfre Woodard; Connie in “Compliance”, with Dreama Walker and Bill Camp; and Jimmy Bug in “The Exodus”. As far as theater productions, you may have seen her as, Margie in “Milk Like Sugar” (Playwrights Horizons and La Jolla Playhouse), Latonya in “Seed” (Classical Theater of Harlem), Shun/Shaunta Iyun in “The Brother/Sister Plays” (Public Theater and McCarter Theater), Maime in “Intimate Apparel”, or Claudia in “The Bluest Eye.” Just to name a few! Currently, Nikiya is co-starring in Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” at Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Follow Our Millennia Girl: www.NikiyaMathis.com

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