Photo courtesy of CSULB.
Asha Kamali May, a veteran stage and screen performer currently attending California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) as a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) acting student, was recently named Best Actress by NBC Universal’s Star Project. According to the release, the competition was held in conjunction with the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), the largest and longest running film festival for African American filmmakers.
May auditioned with 2,000 performers competing for the chance to be seen by casting directors, producers and executives as a finalist in New York City during ABFF. She was one of six selected and was flown to New York in June where she was chosen as the Best Female Actress.
“I am so excited to have been given this award,” said May in a press statement. “It was an amazing experience for them to fly me to New York for the festival, and to audition at NBC's 30 Rock building was amazing.”
May said it was truly an honor to be included with NBC’s and the American Black Film Festival’s longstanding legacy of developing diverse talent.
According to the release, ABFF partnered with not only NBC this year, but many other entertainment powerhouses, to create showcases and competitions for up and coming actors comedians, filmmaker and television hosts.
“The opportunities for minorities in Hollywood are still marginalized, and it’s as necessary as ever to push to promote diversity throughout the industry, from the images projected on screen, to the creative forces behind the scenes,” said ABFF Founder and CEO Jeff Friday in a statement.
May has starred in national commercials, television, independent films and theater and has worked as an on-camera personality, hosting red carpets for Soultrain.com and BET.com. As a dancer and choreographer, she has worked with several artists to develop their careers. Her most recent choreography work was with Keke Palmer, choreographing music videos and national tours. Currently, she is the co-creator, writer, producer and actress of a digital series, Milk and Honey.
According to the release, she was referred to Hugh O’Gorman, chair of CSULB’s theatre department, by a television director who was also her teacher at the time. May wanted to further her craft through the program and garner a deeper understanding of the art, but in her first year, she said she received much more than that.
“Asha is, from a professor’s point of view, the consummate student," said O'Gorman. "And by that I mean she is someone who loves their subject matter so much they can’t get enough of it.”
The MFA theatre program at CSULB is for theatre artists who have worked as professionals for a while, instead of the more traditional approach of taking students who have just finished their baccalaureate. O’Gorman explained that the course of study is for actors and actresses who want to give back and are looking for university employment.
O’Gorman described the recent first year student as someone with a wealth of experience, who is incredibly talented and simply loves the material for itself.
“The MFA program has challenged me and expanded my understanding of acting as I have gotten to perform, teach and be a student all at the same time,” said May in a statement.
“There’s a reason why she is successful in her career,” O’Gorman said. “There’s a reason why our mutual friend suggested that she come to the program and there’s a reason why NBC picked her out. It’s because of who she is and her charisma and her openness and her energy. It’s radiant. That’s what I would say, is that she is radiant.”