October 27, 2021

PRETTY WOMEN HUSTLE

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Women’s History Month Feature – Sharma MacDonald

For Women’s History Month I will be sharing the stories that define and provide examples of women empowerment, uplifting stories of personal triumph and businesses that are inspiring and are making a difference for women. Women’s History Month is a declared month each year that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

I want to introduce you to Sharma MacDonald – Actor and Filmmaker.

Sharma MacDonald is an Award-Winning Actor and Filmmaker from Toronto, Canada of Jamaican Parentage. She also has a passion for serving in her community. Her television credits include Breakout series on National Geographic/Discovery Channel and CTV/NBC’s Saving Hope; moreover, Sharma has stepped onto the stage in theatre performances of Nora and Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore. In honour of “Canada 150” Sharma was recognized by The Black Canadians Network as one of the top 150 Black Canadians. In 2018, Sharma signed on as Host of Urban Report on YES TV’s Let’s Talk with Woodroe Thompson. Sharma has also found success behind the camera as the first short film she wrote and directed titled No Way Out, about black youth in a low-income neighbourhood in Toronto, was an official selection at the Women’s Director International Film Festival. The short film also aired on Rogers Television Toronto as part of its special programming for the Toronto International Film Festival. Sharma serves in her community through her Church and via non-profit organizations like Women of Impact Organization, where in 2020 she created, produced, and directed an online show called I Rise Series. The goal of the series was to empower and provide tools and solutions for societal change. Furthermore, Sharma is a mental health advocate and aspiring philanthropist as she continues to speak at events and inspire youth through the Arts. With a certificate in multiplatform journalism from Seneca College, Sharma has also covered numerous events throughout the city such as, TD Toronto Jazz Festival, African Fashion Week Toronto, AFROFEST, and Toronto Raptors Championship journey! Sharma continues to volunteer her time to the community-at-large and has even walked in various fashion shows in the city as a model. Sharma was impacted mentally and emotionally by the events of 2020 in which she believes two pandemics were occurring…Covid-19 and Racism. As a result, Sharma co-wrote her second short film titled “2020” about a black psychologist (her namesake) who is now forced to confront her own suppressed emotions amid rising tension. “2020” has been an Official Selection thus far at Kwanzaa Film Festival (New York City), Ritu Rangam Festival (India), Toronto Black Film Festival, and Halifax Black Film Festival. Sharma is also Lead Actress in the film.

Here is HERstory:

I am an Actor and Storyteller at heart. I believe it is mainly because of the way that storytelling can captivate an audience and connect people together. My “Why” for wanting to build a career in connecting film and community comes from not wanting anyone to feel alone in life’s journey. There are stories to be shared and people to be heard. When people see someone on screen who physically looks like them or is going through a similar experience, they see themselves. As a result, the members of an audience feel they can relate, helping move their journey forward as one can learn from a character. I always root for the underdog in a situation. I also love mentoring youth in the film industry. For example, in the first short film that I wrote and directed, I made sure to hire black youth in particular because I knew they may never have an opportunity to learn and be involved in the industry due to their skin colour. Not only have I used my passion for acting and filmmaking to empower youth but I’ve used my writing and production skills to empower women by developing an online series called “I Rise Series” with Women of Impact Organization (WIO). I had the pleasure of serving on WIO’s committee as VP Marketing and Communication as we pushed to promote women’s rights, Empowerment, leadership, and young girls’ education. I come from a loving family with strong female influence from my grandmother, mother, sister, aunts, cousins. These women instilled in me the importance of working hard at anything that I do and valuing myself as a black woman. My father passed away from a neuromuscular disorder when I was younger, so I learned what it was like to be a caregiver and step up in my household. I also learned that life is too short and it’s important to try to bring your dreams and goals to fruition, so there are no regrets. Thus, here I am today…

What does women empowerment mean to you?

Women empowerment means truly listening, being open to learning, and sharing with the women around you. I feel that women already get a lot of criticism and judgement in society from men and at times from the media. Therefore, as women, it is vital to create that safe, judgement-free zone. More importantly, we need to be positive role models for the younger generation. There are so many girls around the world that cannot get an education because they are forced into domestic work; as if this is their only option in life or the only role that they are worthy of. These young girls need to feel loved and supported. As we speak, there are girls and women being trafficked, even in North America. We must continue to pay attention to these issues and shed light on them. This is part of why I love being a female storyteller and filmmaker, it’s all about telling stories that matter to us.

What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share with someone?

My advice would be to create your own path in life and stay on that path. Sure, people will want to come and walk alongside you which is fine but don’t let anyone or anything veer you off your path. Furthermore, don’t pay attention to someone else’s path because it only leads to something that is not for you. The grass is not always greener on the other side and often people only show you what they want you to see. Stay true to yourself. As for words of inspiration…my motto in life is to “Love, Live and Give”.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want my legacy to be someone always encouraging and motivating others. “Love, Live and Give”.

She has not authored books as of yet but she has written, directed, and acted in films that have been Official Selections in numerous film festivals around the world. Her first Official Selection came from the Women’s Director International Film Festival, which was extra special as the festival celebrates women filmmakers. Her recent short film titled “2020” is a Winner at Kwanzaa Film Festival in New York City.

What does self care mean to you?

Self-care to me means prayer and meditation. I am a God-fearing woman so taking that moment each morning before doing anything else to thank God for another day and read a scripture in my bible or on my favourite Bible app, is something that I have finally worked into my daily routine. Initially, throughout my daily hustle, I wasn’t taking time to recharge and as I result, I was making poor business decisions. It took a lot of patience to learn meditation, but it has worked wonders for my mental health. I consider myself more of an extroverted personality and 2020 was a rough year for me mentally; I felt like I was lacking structure, and that I was losing myself. Listening to meditation music or words before I go to bed helps to calm be down. Also writing my thoughts in my journal as often as possible. Practice and I promise it will become habit; I cannot stress enough the importance of not taking your mental for granted.

What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your business and personally?

In addition to creating a ground-breaking television series that breaks barriers in diversity and stigmas around mental health, I would like to create a studio that would be a safe space for all artists to come, learn and create their projects and be accessible to everyone regardless of economic status. It would also be a space for Industry experts to come and mentor students and/or lead a workshop. Moreover, I have goals to win awards in writing, directing, acting, filmmaking of course! Who wouldn’t want to win an NAACP Image Award, an Oscar, an Emmy, and Canadian Screen Awards? Personally, I can’t wait to master that balance between striving for my business goals and taking care of my physical and mental health. Lastly, I would love to write and publish a book about my life journey.

Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today? Tell me about them.

A life-changing experience for me was the loss of my dad. He was the one person throughout my life that always told me no matter what, he was proud of me. I needed to hear that. I hold onto that until this day and I still hear his voice in my head saying so. Through him I learned how to fight, I also learned how to put all my trust in God no matter how a situation may turn out. He taught me to realize that each day is a gift; to appreciate having the sun shining on your face and the wind blowing through your hair even though he knew he wasn’t going to be able to experience that on this earth for much longer. Most of all, he taught me that as a woman I deserve nothing less than someone who will treat me with the utmost respect, like the Queen that I am. I learned through my dad’s passing that life is too short. That’s when I started to take my career as and actor and filmmaker to the next level. I am doing what I love to do. I say all this because I believe that although as women, we need to empower each other, it is important that men do their part to respect us and they need to be involved in the women empowerment conversation.

What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?

Look out for my film “2020” continuing to circulate at festivals. I co-wrote the film and I am the lead actor. I feel honoured to be a black female actor and filmmaker. The film connects the two pandemics of 2020…Covid-19 and Racism. All through the eyes of a black psychologist who is forced to confront her own suppressed emotions amid rising tension. It has been getting great reviews thus far! Feel free to follow the film’s journey and find out where it is showing next at our Instagram page @2020motionpicture I would love to hear your thoughts!

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