Millennials That Slay Their Careers--Tsebiyah Mishael Derry

To continue my #WerqueLikeABoss series, I’m highlighting millennials that slay their careers, while also inspiring and giving back to their communities. These millennial women are nothing short of amazing, simply because they aren’t afraid to use their passions to help them live their best lives. Throughout this series, you’ll learn about a diverse group of women who took the initiative to jumpstart their careers.  


Acting has just about always been what I've pictured myself doing, and I have growing up in a family of creatives to thank for that. My father is a vocal coach who has toured both as a coach and as a performer with tons of artists. He also holds classes here in NYC, where countless aspiring artists from all disciplines and all over the world come nightly for training. He has sustained our family with this artist life, so I always knew a career in performing arts could be just as realistic as any other career.

My parents have always been super supportive of my love of singing and acting, as well as my talent for writing. So they were like, dude, follow your dreams, but go to college. I ended up at Sarah Lawrence College, where I was able to indulge in all my passions without restraints. Honestly, the best decision I have ever made was probably my insistence on applying there 3 TIMES. Having only done drama club, though, I had no idea how to be an actor as a career, and not just a hobby. After a (pretty rocky) audition, my junior year at SLC I went to London to study theatre for a year at the British American Drama Academy. That was my first time traveling outside of the U.S. aside from the Caribbean, and my first time traveling alone. I learned a lot about myself that year- especially how much I love traveling, alone or with friends.

I auditioned for this theatre company called Dramatic Adventure Theatre, which does "ACTion: Expeditions," as they call them, every summer in one of three countries: Ecuador, Scandinavia, or Tanzania. The TZ program was the latest addition, and I was selected to be a part of the first big group of teaching artists (theatre actors & directors with devising experience + a group of travel writers) to spend a month with DAT in Tanzania. We spent time taking workshops & sharing with local artists as we trained to teach kids how to write and perform their own plays. Then, we went into a rural village for a week and did just that! Not only that, but throughout the course of the month we devised short plays about some aspect of our experiences there, and performed them at the Zanzibar International Film Festival once before doing them for a short run back here in New York City.

That month in TZ altered my life in so many other ways, some of which I'm sure I haven't even identified yet. I was reminded how crucial arts are for kids. How much it teaches them- how much it taught me -about the world. This is especially valuable when they don't have as much access to it as other kids might. Now, all of those experiences are still manifesting themselves in new ways every day as I write poetry, prose, and music. I can't wait to see what it all becomes. 

Give your best career advice for the millennial girl who aspires to be within the performing arts realm?

Okay, two things:

Girl, GO GET YOURS. Seriously. I spent my first year out of school scrolling through auditions and submitting my headshot & resume EVERY day. I then went on tons of auditions (some good, some bad) and said yes to everything I was offered (barring anything sketchy-looking). That word, "yes," has set me up to be in the ever-expanding circle of artists I am so grateful to find myself in today, three years later.

The second is you have to constantly be training yourself not to let anything- not even the bill or your bank account statement -stop you. Hesitancy is so easy for us. We are often brought up to believe that there are rules we have to follow that don't really exist. I am thankful that the people around me often encourage me to break those rules. It is then that I realize they are arbitrary, and come from weird social codes and desires to be liked. But life is literally too short. Every day, week, month, and year is over faster and faster. So, well, fuck what anyone thinks. Just jump. All of the best things that have happened to me have happened because, when I really wanted something, like from the bottom of my heart, from my gut (like a trip to Africa that was also relevant to my craft, or the education of my dreams), I ignored all of the maybe-we-shouldn’t signs, and just went for it.

Where do you hope to be professionally in 3 years? 

In 3 years, I want to be completely sustaining myself financially with my own artistic skills and business acumen. Essentially, I want to be without a day job. I work full time, and while I am so grateful for such a steady, relatively stress-free gig, I really wish I had those 40+ hours a week to invest in myself. It's a slow process- a marathon, not a sprint, as my dad often says. But I fully expect myself to no longer be an employee at someone else's company by then. I may not know exactly how to do that right now, but I'll get there.