We had the good fortune of connecting with Leslie Thurston and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leslie, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
How often are we judged by what we look like, by the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, the size of our body, the shape of our facial features, and the clothes we wear? It’s what we have seen explicitly in the news of late and what has been reality since the beginning of time. When I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it blew my mind. For some reason, I didn’t read it in school but years later in a co-ed book club. I emphasize co-ed because I loved that this club was inclusive no matter the gender, race or age. We had decided that it was a book club where we read both classic and contemporary fiction. When Frankenstein was recommended by one of the members, I was less than thrilled but I had no idea what I was in for. The only things I knew about Frankenstein was from the countless film and television adaptations that were made. Here is, the monster, created by, Victor Frankenstein, who has a God-complex yet the monster, is the one considered horrifying. Yes, he does kill, and his actions are indeed horrible. It is not how one solves their problems but prior to his destruction is what I want to concentrate on. I found the creature to be smart, curious, sympathetic, vulnerable, and more human than some that I have encountered. After all, he was made from human fragments. He is also kind, teachable, and a lover of nature. All he wanted was to be loved…. “I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanour and conciliating words, I should first win their favour, and afterwards their love.” – the monster, Chapter 12, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. In his longing for love and acceptance, he is rejected based solely on his looks. I have experienced this type of rejection, both personally and professionally. That’s why Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein made such an impact because it resonated with me as a big, plus-sized, full-figured, curvy black girl who growing up, didn’t look or sound like those around her. Rejected because I wasn’t black enough, thin enough, good enough, I just didn’t fit in. And truth be told, it still happens. As I have chosen to define my own self, I have learned to love myself, believe in myself, be myself. And that’s enough.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am very inquisitive and this characteristic led me to being an actor. As a child, the majority of the time, I spent inside watching movies, television, reading books, and writing stories. All while asking questions: How did they do that? Why did that happen? What’s next? And so on. There’s another great book that I recently shared with a group of students: “She Persisted” by Chelsea Clinton. It’s tells how women like Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Sally Ride, Oprah Winfrey and others persisted despite obstacles in their life to achieve their goals, obtain success. I persisted when others told me I couldn’t even when I told myself with those self-doubting conversations we sometimes have. What can I do or can I really do that? I persisted when I was met with roadblocks like not having an agent to represent me for a role I wanted. So, I self- submitted my picture and resume to the casting director, got an audition, and booked the job! It is also important to have a great support system which I had when I started my acting journey. I had that support beginning with my mother. When I moved to Los Angeles from New York, I struggled to find work, any kind of work, and having a place to live. I called my mother crying, saying, “I’m just going to come back home.” My mother flat out said, “No.” Shocked me. She went on to encourage me to stay because I had a purpose to fulfill. I will always be thankful to her for that phone call. Think outside the box, go around the building if you can’t get in through the front door. Simply, find alternate, unique, ways because there isn’t one sure way to achieve a goal especially in the arts. Known mostly for my no-nonsense comedic roles which I still love playing but at this stage in my career, I am looking to portray more of those reserved, quiet women that you don’t see coming and deliver a punch. Not literally, of course. Think “silk hiding steel”.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love to show my friends and family around town when they come to Los Angeles to visit! Our itinerary would include: Having breakfast/ brunch/ lunch/dinner at Aroma Cafe in Studio City. The food is fantastic. Then walk around the surrounding blocks, shopping at the unique boutiques. More shopping/site seeing at The Grove and The Farmers Market in Los Angeles or The Americana in Glendale. A drive to the Hollywood sign and take pictures as if we were holding up the sign. If it was in the summer, a concert at the Hollywood Bowl is a must. We would have afternoon tea, one of most favorite things to do, at one of my favorite tea places, in one of my favorite cities, the Tea Rose Garden in Pasadena. As art lover, a visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Catch a play at the Ahmanson, the Mark Taper Forum or any of the other theatres in the city. Just a few things, but I would ask what they wanted to do. For my cousins’ first visit, the fashionistas and shopping queens, it was Rodeo Drive!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First, and most importantly, a shoutout of praise, thanksgiving, to God, my Father, and Jesus Christ, my Lord, my Saviour. It is HE who has kept me each and every day. A heavenly shoutout to my mother, Tina, who was always my biggest supporter. A big shoutout to my sister, Monica Waters. She has inspired me with her creativity, and wisdom plus she always has my back. I may not have become an actor if it wasn’t for her. Monica’s not only a sister, but a friend, and prayer partner, too. A special shoutout to one of my best friends, Sharmel Nelson, who knows how to help a girl up when she’s down, and has always accepted me just as I am. There are other family members, and friends. So, I will say a heartfelt shoutout, “Thank you, family and friends.”
All photos are basically selfies/taken by a friend except for: Tea/booth photos: Bobby McGowan Photography and personal/opening/cover photo: First Look Photography.