LOS ANGELES-Actress Tiffany Daniels needed to find her black. But first she had to find out what that meant. For most of her life, Daniels, the product of a white mother and black father, shied away from embracing the African American side of her. It was sort of pushed away from her as she grew up.
“I was really actually scared of that side of me growing up,” Daniels said in an interview with News4usonline.com. “I pretended that side didn’t exist. I pushed it away because there really was no room for it in my house. [But] I had to find my black. That was a really tough filter to go through. I am biracial, so I grew up with my Caucasian mother.”
Daniels, with recent character roles in American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, The Goldbergs, and CSI: Cyber, did grow up and find her black side. It would take a while, though. For years, Daniels danced and performed her way past her undiscovered identity crisis. Entertainment and Hollywood success came calling for the San Diego native. The 5-foot-2 energy ball was ready to grab the bull by the horns.
For Daniels, a graduate of Ivy League’s Cornell University with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration, her entertainment party officially got started when she became a member of the Los Angeles Laker Girls during the 2005-2006 season.
“I knew I was only going to do that for one season,” Daniels said. “Because I made that decision early on, I was able to fully embrace what it is to be a Laker Girl to the max. I knew I needed to soak up every minute. I wanted to do anything and everything that I could as a Laker Girl. I was going into it to have the experience and to have the fun.”
After marking check on her bucket of things to do professionally, Daniels moved on from her one year-stint as a Laker Girl.
She was ready to do what she really wanted to do: perfect the acting chops she learned from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and the EDGE Performing Arts Center. She got that first big opportunity when she auditioned for a role in the 1st National Tour of Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple (now starring Jennifer Hudson).” She received a callback. She was excited.
But Daniels also had some trepidation. She had a lot of it. Here she was, about to take part in this massive stage production that featured an all-black cast, and she didn’t have a clue on how to fit in. It was more than an awkward situation for her. Uncomfortable might be a more fitting description how Daniels felt at that moment. As older folks say, this is where the pot gets called the kettle black.
“When I went to my Color Purple callback, I think I was 24 or 25 years old, that was my first time ever being in a room with all African Americans ever in my life, and I did not know to know how to handle it,” Daniels said. “I didn’t know what to do; I was nervous. I was scared that I was not going to be accepted. I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
The real challenge for Daniels came when she got the “Color Purple” gig. Grasping the essence of being black was simply like a foreign language that she couldn’t understand at the time.
“How am I going to do this show?” Daniels asked herself. “I don’t know anything about the Color Purple or what it is being an African American in this world right now, let alone doing this story or play. I was terrified.”
That fear became more real when cast members suggested having a potluck during a meeting to help the group get to know one another better. Daniels might as well been a deer in headlights when that topic was brought up.
“By the end of that meeting, they decided that to bring some camaraderie to the group, to solidify everyone in the room , we were going to have this full-blown potluck,” Daniels said. “I looked around the room and said, ‘What is soul food? What does that even mean?’ I asked somebody, and they looked at me sideways. [But] they just embraced me with open arms.
“I have never felt more loved by a group of people in my life, and I stayed with that company for years. To this day, some of those people from that show, are my closest friends. It’s so beautiful, so amazing.”
What’s has also been amazing has been the trajectory of Daniels’ career. Her IMDb credits seem to get longer by the hour. Besides American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, The Goldbergs and CSI: Cyber, Daniels has multiple projects in the fire that will hit the airwaves this year. In 2015, her multi-facted skills earned her gigs in Scorpion, Baby Daddy, and Forgiving Chris Brown, among other roles. There’s a lot more to come from this walking force of popup exuberance and unharnessed energy.
Being a Laker Girl must has its perks. You can debate that Daniels is living proof of it. Like the blazing paths set before her by Paula Abdul and others before her, Daniels has taken her entertainment fire from the hardwood to Hollywood. She is all over the place. Comedy. Drama. Stage. Singing. You name it, Daniels has it covered.
That’s just the Hollywood way. You have to do everything just to get a little bit of something. So far that’s working in Daniels’ favor. When you have performing for a living flowing through your veins the way Daniels does, sooner or later that passion is going to resonate.
“It was always a natural progression for me,” Daniels shared. “I started in dance classes when I was three years old. My mom is a music woman. She always kept me in the arts…It was such a natural thing for me growing up that I knew I had to find my way to Hollywood at some point.”
That point came 11 years ago when Daniels tried out and made the Laker Girls squad.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Daniels said. “I had no idea what to expect. I never danced for a professional team before. I didn’t know how the audition process worked. I knew that it was something that was in my wheelhouse, and we just went for it. We went in blind, but I felt good about my confidence and about my abilities. We just went for it.”
Going for it is in Daniel’s makeup, performing or otherwise. She is not a believer in sitting and being content. Living life to the fullest, working and making people happy is what she is about. When you come across Daniels, her inner fire to make this world a better place through the arts is never more evident than in her bubbly, Champagne eyes and megawatt smile that can outshine a 10,000-watt light bulb.
“I’ve been told by so many people that I have a light about me,” Daniels said. “I just want to be happy. Happiness is for me. I know what I want; I know what makes me happy. What makes me happy is that I love to work. I love to work so much. It really make me happy.”
She also has an affinity of who she is nowadays.
“I love my black now,” Daniels said.
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!