Alumni Spotlight: Tajianna Okechukwu, ‘19, BFA in Theatre Arts & BA in Cinematic Arts, Film & TV Studies concentration.

How has your Christian-based college education impacted your career?

It has helped me approach my work from a place of empathy and extend grace where needed. This has set me apart when working in an industry that can be cutthroat and unforgiving. APU's framework of teaching us servant leadership has given me interpersonal skills as a film director that are necessary for communicating with others from different walks of life.

Why did you choose to study your particular major?

As a little girl, I was always fascinated by characters and visuals on screen. My eyes were constantly glued to the TV. I always read a lot of books when I was young, fictional storytelling was always a part of my world. I grew up watching my mom act in plays. I remember being very young on the set of her directing her first feature, intrigued by how she worked so hard on her production that she was saying the names of characters from her film in her sleep. It really also started after a talent scout came up to me in Walmart asking if I wanted to be on I tugged on my parents’ t-shirts and said, "Mommy! Daddy! I wanna be on TV!" They said yes, and before we knew it, I was being trained in on-camera acting by the time I turned double digits. From there, I added the beginner and intermediate drama classes as my electives. I also joined the digital arts learning track in high school, where I learned film production.

Describe a time where you felt you had found your professional calling.

I believe it was right around the time I became a double major. I was on campus helping a friend with her film. We were getting ready to go for a take when cars started to pass by. I yelled out "HOLD FOR SOUND!" and immediately felt this beaming feeling in my spirit. It was like a puzzle piece had returned home. I immediately went in to add the film major the following day. From then on, I continued where I left off with film production since high school. As I journeyed through the continuation training both in front and behind the camera, God had made it clear to me that I belonged in both spaces in some capacity.

What was the most meaningful experience you had at APU?

It is very difficult to pinpoint a singular experience. I believe that everything from joining a D-group, becoming an Alpha Leader, serving as an RA, working as an intern in the SCRD, and operating as a BSA President all were meaningful experiences that contributed to my growth. A meaningful experience that does stick out is the people and friends that I met along the way. Being able to cry, laugh, and pray with them while nurturing my education was very conducive to my growth with self and relationships with others.

Describe your career and relate how APU helped you succeed.

I believe that my professors and my peers at APU really gave me a good support system. During the highs and lows that came with being a Black woman in college, God showed me my purpose. I heard a lot during my collegiate journey that God uses the things you hate to show you your purpose. That statement heavily applies to me. Since then, I have been striving to tell stories that will shift paradigms and shake culture in our society, especially from the lens of the Black experience.

Please describe any charity or volunteer work you've done.

I love donating to grassroots organizations like Black Earth Farms (@blackearthfarms) and People's Breakfast Oakland (@peoplesprograms). My heart resides with organizations like these that work towards the advancement of disenfranchised communities!

If you could give a word of advice to future and current students, what would it be?

At the end of the day, there is only one you, so take self care seriously as college is not the end-all be-all. Nothing is worth sacrificing your well being. Also, I would say that although the default is to pray for discernment all the time, sometimes God lets you make a decision and works through that. No matter what path you end up on, you will end up where you need to be - don't overthink or over analyze, simply enjoy the wholeness of the journey (Matthew 6:34).

Tajianna Okechukwu, featured in a Jordan Brand line commercial earlier this year, was also interviewed and featured in LA’s most inspiring stories for Voyage LA!

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