After receiving a BA in Communication from the University of Pittsburgh, I was cast in a tour of “Casper, the Musical,” starring Chita Rivera. At the close of the tour, I settled in New York City to pursue a full-time acting career. Within the first three years of my move, I was cast regionally as Carrie in “Carousel,” Pitti-Sing in “The Mikado,” and Lois in “Kiss Me, Kate.”

These experiences culminated into several opportunities for concert work, with well-reviewed performances in the concert version of “Children of Eden,” starring Norm Lewis and Julia Murney, as well as being one of the first “New Voices” in Scott Alan’s “Monday Nights New Voices” series. But the highlight of my concert performances was my appearance as female soloist for the New Haven Symphony’s “Americana” concert series, conducted by Gerald Steichen.

Amid the success of “Americana,” I took a two and a half year hiatus from performing to focus on traveling and singing with my church choir.  But the stage was not to be denied and I soon began auditioning again – this time without an agent!  In fact, I booked my first Broadway show – “The Little Mermaid” – from an open call!

Without the support of my family—and genetics—none of this would have been possible. My father, Sidney, is an incredible singer. Barnia, my mother, is a gifted actress. They exposed me to arts at an early age, whisking me off to cultural touchstones in Philadelphia and New York as well as encouraging my study of dance, voice, piano, and saxophone. And together with my sister Jamila, I began singing duets at different venues in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Despite a push to attend a conservatory, I began at the University of Pittsburgh as a pre-med student.  This didn’t last long. It only took a year of chemistry labs and calculus to prompt a phone call to my parents to tell them I wanted to become an actress. They weren’t at all surprised, but had one stipulation – I couldn’t graduate with a performance degree. So I studied Communications and sang in the Heinz Chapel Choir during the school year and spent my summers singing and acting at amusement parks.

My experiences, along with the bedrock support of friends, family and a deep faith in God are a part of every performance I give. I’ve learned so much since I took my first steps on this journey and it’s thrilling to continue to grow as a singer and actress. It took struggling, studying, and faith to achieve my dream of performing on the world’s greatest stage – and it will take more struggling, studying and faith to continue performing on the world’s greatest stage!  And you know what?  I’m absolutely loving it. 🙂

Watch Zakiya!