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ZAAHIRA JOSEPH - If You Can Think It, You Can Be It.

I remember finishing to shoot my movie, She Waits and talking with a friend who told me about her sister who acted and that was Zaahira.

I was about to start shooting my next movie, Closure, and I decided to take the chance on Zaahira. And I didn’t regret it!

She provided a performance that was revered by everyone on set and is still talked about. I came to find out about the Pa-Tea Line podcast where I was featured to discuss topics of conversation like relationships.

In a short amount of time, I have found out that she was also an amazing writer and through this interview, you’ll find out more about her as well.

Zaahira Joseph is a star in the making and this week’s Women Crushing It Wednesday!

All right, so I am here with Zee. Zaahira Joseph. All right. And I'm going to ask you a question that I've been... I mean, I feel like it's like my trademark question. All superheroes have an origin story. What is yours?

I don't know. I guess it's the story of where I come from, instead of what ignited me tapping into my gift, I guess I'd call it. But for me, I was a gymnast. That was how I identified myself. I started when I was 3 right up until I was 15. Competitive gymnastics, that's where they do the four events. I guess the thing that ignited my performance quality was floor. As nervous as I was, every time I just felt so free. Bars and floor were the two events that I just felt untouchable. People after a while would specifically tell me how they loved watching me on bars or floor. And being a kid and growing up in that sport, and just being a kid in general, you don't see how others see you and how people compliment you. It was the first time that I felt really uncomfortable about compliments. And when that part of my life ended due to injury, I was kind of lost. I didn't know what was next for me, because I had my whole life planned out for so long. I had planned to get a scholarship, go to Michigan State, become a dancer and go on tour with Justin Timberlake or Ciara. That was my plan. And when life throws you a frickin wrench and now I had to divert down a different road not knowing what that road entailed. As an adult, now I could look at that and say, wow, that's a beautiful place to be in. A place of discovery to discover who you are. It's the scariest thing to be in transition. But I'm grateful for that because I wouldn't be here because as soon as I quit, or I was forced to quit, I was forced to discover myself to really dig and really search who's Zaahira is. So it started off with me trying to invest in other sports. So I did dance. I did cheerleading. I became an Argos cheerleader and realized I didn’t like that shit. I did auditions. I made Rihanna’s first… And I didn't even know who Rihanna was at the time. But, you know, like, there were different roads that I could have taken. But I decided to take the more difficult. I feel I didn't discover what my superpower was until my 30s. Until recently. Because of all the other things in life that factor in like, boys, friends, work, school, and trying to find your place within all of those things in life makes it hard for you to pinpoint and identify what your real gift is. Because of how you affect other people. And I would say my superpower is knowing people and touching people and trying to connect with people, whether it's through my acting or through my dancing or even through my work. I realize that I get as much back from connecting with people as I do giving. Now, it's almost like I just don't want any of the things and the stuff that I picked up along the way to be for nothing. So my gymnastics, that performance quality or that drive that identity, that thing that kind of drives me, I want to be able to have that feeling going into everything in my life. Like, that's almost like my, my building block or my identifier, my guide, my intuition, that feeling. If something doesn't make me feel like the way gymnastics made me feel, it's not for me. And it took me a while to figure out because you're so lost in trying to... I was trying to fill the void that I lost from having to quit gymnastics. And now I know what my what my baseline is. My emotional baseline towards that feeling that you need to light that fire to keep you going and pushing through things. My identifier is gymnastics because you get blood sweat and tears, but the reward at the end of a competition or getting that medal and sometimes, it was not even about that metal, because it was such a mental sport. I accomplished something for myself. So now I could add and fuse those 2 things together in every aspect of my life and realize how mentally tough I am. How emotionally retarded I am. And in that sense when it comes to overcoming emotions, and the difficult times and the challenges that we face. When being in transition too because the industry that I've decided to be in is the most competitive thing that I kind of chose.

You've gone through quite the road. You mentioned being an Argos cheerleader, you've done the gymnastic aspect of things, right. Now, you're into acting. And so my question to you now is, when did you realize this is what you wanted to do?

So I took two years off out of high school, which was my most troubled time, I guess. I took two years to try and figure things out. And my brother actually told me to make a list of the things that I’m good at and the things that I want to do. And see out of those two lists, what are the things that match up and also what makes money. I kept getting steered to performing. I used to choreograph dance routines. People were asking me to choreograph dance, teach dance, teach gymnastics. And so I was a teacher. I'm a dancer. I like to act. It made me feel like gymnastics made me feel. Could I make money off of that? So I decided to find a program where I could kind of tap into all those things. So I did Introduction to theater performance at George Brown College just for a year where I could try script writing, directing, acting, singing and dancing. And then I applied to the dance program. That's all I applied to. And one of my friends asked me Are you dumb? My parents were telling me that I needed to apply to college. So I got into the dance program. But I also got into the acting program at Humber, which gave me acting, singing and dancing. On the advice of someone else, I decided to go into the Humber College program, which is a three year program. We learned how to do voiceover, radio, we did acting on screen and in theatre. We had to create our own show at one point. So the creative aspect, it really brought out my interest that I want to be a creator. I was networking with other people from other programs. And I'm friends with those people up to this day. So once I was in that program, I think that's what ignited my full interest in acting specifically. And now being out of it, years later, and life gets in the way. You gotta pay bills, you got a mortgage, you have all this stuff. I was conflicted again, because I was out of it for so long. But I realized that acting has no age. Once I tapped into that and thinking that acting has no age. So I can start at any time. There's a role for a baby, for a brother, a sister, a singer, a doctor, a lawyer, a grandma, a mom. Every role needs an age. So once I realized that, I decided to get myself in a good financial place. I don't want to have that story, where I was a struggling actor and then made it. There's not one road that looks exactly the same of how we got the same results. There's many different roads we can take to get the same result. So why can't mine not be the struggled road? So that's what I'm trying to do now and COVID gave me an opportunity to tap into a different creative aspect, which is more of the writing.

Yeah, and pretty damn good writing. Let me say that. So you said you took two years of high school. What were the circumstances that led you to that decision?

I am that type of person. I'm such a thinker. I have to analyze every option before I feel comfortable making a decision. And if I can't convince myself of it, I will sit there in the same place and wait and wait and wait. And because I was so unsure of myself, and it was hard for me to make a decision. So until someone started putting pressure on me to make that decision, I probably still wouldn't have gone to school. You always need people in your life that's going to press you and push your buttons, because it's hard to be that disciplinary person for yourself. During the times where you're so conflicted and so struggled... Your mind and your mind's eye can't see the answer that someone just needs to be like, here.

So being creative and having a personal life is not always easy. In terms of relationship, how do you maintain or engage in relationships? Romantic or even friendship.

I feel like artists are naturally more in tune with their emotions, because we get inspired by real life. And I didn't even realize that I was that type of person until I started going to acting class. And my acting coach said that we aren't pretending. Acting is not pretending something. It is reenacting a real life situation. And in order for you to tap into those emotions, of these characters, you are telling someone else's story. The emotional, the physical, the everything, you have to embrace that essence. But how can you embrace an essence like this if you haven't gone through it yourself in your life? So when it comes to relationships, it's weird because… Some people when they find out I’m an actor, they assume that I must be a good liar. No, I'm not. I'm not a good liar. Actually, I'm really bad. Acting is not lying. I'm not pretending to be someone else. I am being someone else. I'm tapping into a different version of my personality and emulating it and bringing it forth in front of the camera. I feel like we're a little bit more open in relationships, but also guarded at the same time. Because for me, I guess I can only speak for myself, I am such a sensitive person. And I'm a bit of an empath. So I kind of take on other people's emotions. I'm easily affected by other people. So even if you are mad, and you don't tell me you're mad, I can pick up on the fact that you're mad about something. Relationships have been a little hard because I am a bit more of a transparent person out there. I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I hide a bit at the same time. And again, like I said before, I analyze things. So I analyze a person and if they're not willing to open themselves up to me the way that I just naturally am, I can't fuck with you. It's hard for me. There's a barrier and it just stops right here. And I'm more attracted to people who are unapologetically themselves. Who are loud in their being. Because I find inspiration from that. It opens a door for me to lean in and match them. If that makes sense. Do I have a problem in my friendships? No. I'm very loving, very open. I think us as actors are very open to the pain, the tears, the fun. We're YOLO people (laughter). You only live once. You have to live in the moment. And let's ride this wave. Because that's where the best stories come out of. If you remember back in your day, or you can recall a time in your life where you had a spontaneous evening, it was probably the best time you've ever had. All of those moments that you remember in life are the spontaneous ones.

There's a caribana story about that. (laughter)


But yeah, that's for another time. So, you mentioned being an empath. So, I'm going to ask, and let me know if it's too much for you. But you heard Simone Biles' story with her being a gymnast, and having experienced trauma from her gym physician. And then you’re also on the acting side, you hear of Weinstein and Cosby. How does that affect you, looking at it from the outside?

Yeah. Funny thing is, you know, when you look back at your life, and you tell yourself that everything happens for a reason. So that same physiotherapist or doctor that was dealing with all these women... Had my life worked out the way that I wanted it to, I would have met this man. How messed up is that? Is that not a crazy thought to think about? And I sit there asking myself why me? Why didn't I get to have my happy ending; my story of becoming a Michigan State gymnast on a full ride scholarship. This man worked for Eastern Michigan. He worked with a lot of competitive gymnasts. And I could have been one of those girls. So when I hear about that, I can see that the universe, the Lord is on my side. We don't always understand why our lives end up the way they do. But it also breaks my heart. And it makes me angry that people could take advantage of other people's vulnerabilities. These are all premeditated things. You got someone in a vulnerable state, in a position to abuse your power. And you take and you take, you take. And it's hard because I can only imagine the place that these girls were in where they question the ordeal. And then to open it up to others. And then you don't want to tell your parents because they’d completely freak out. I could only imagine. This is me only imagining because I've never been in a position where someone took advantage of me in that kind of a way. But I'm just tired of hearing that us women can't just be left alone to be great. To just do our thing. And it's hard enough as it is growing up in anyone's body and going through puberty and the discovery and those transitions and challenges and transformations that we all go through at different points in our life, but then to have other people to force doubt in your mind, to make you uncomfortable. To have people to just completely scar you in a way that no one can physically see, where it's deep rooted. The emotional stuff stays with you the longest. And that's the hardest to continue going and navigating. And to not taint her gymnastics too. A place that is her power, her safe place and her soul fulfillment. That breaks my heart. It needs to stop like.

You have not been in those particular situations as these women or anything like that, right?

Not when it comes to my superiors, or people who are supposed to be there to protect me. I've never been blindsided by someone I trust. Because I think in both of those situations, when you look at acting, you look at physiotherapy, there has to be a form of trust and give and take. I've never been in a position like that. Have I been in a position where I've almost been? Yes. I feel like it's almost hard for any girl.

All right. Let's change the vibes and get into some fun. Fun question here… What is an iconic role you would want to play?

You know what I always go back to thinking about when the Matrix first came out. I would love to play a Trinity character. She was so badass. You didn't know who she was. Obviously, I got to get a good trainer. But damn, like it was just such a good powerful role. It's another one. All of Angela Bassett's characters. A role like Tina Turner. Even on Black Panther as the queen. It was just a moment. Waiting To Exhale. Even as a damsel in distress. She fucking killed it. Yeah, she has this ability to really own the character, but make it strong, even in its weakness. Even though she's on camera for 30 seconds, she still steals the show. I want to be able to have that ability to exude that strength or that much color within a character. And its stillness and even without speaking too.

What is an ideal relationship for you? What does it look like?

It looks fun, and it needs to be. It needs to be fun and exciting. It's not that I don't like to take life too seriously. But there's just so much serious shit happening in life that I want my person to be my unwinding time. Not that relationships are gonna always be easy, but it should be my safe place where I just kick off my heels, goof around. Finding playfulness in everything. I need good communication. A great friendship. So being able to speak as friends while being lovers. And giving each other that time and space to be mad. To be happy, to be sad about things and giving each other that time and space to still be ourselves. Not trying to change but complementing each other. Where I can accept that you are the way you are. I'm not going to try and change you but I'll work with you. There needs to be a lot of love, obviously what we're all looking for, but there needs to be challenges. And just a lot of give and take. Always giving someone the space to be themselves and to express themselves. Which is why communication comes in. And celebrating each other's wins. You're in a different place in your separate lives. But we're always going to be each other's cheerleader no matter what. No matter if I'm down, and if I'm down right now, I'm still gonna build you up.

Nice! Host of the Pa-Tea Line as well.


What got you into the podcast game?

Well, it was birthed from being in COVID and wanting to still connect to people. And wanting just to talk. It was such a weird place. We didn't know what was going on, we didn't know what was going to happen. And it was right at the beginning, where us girls had been talking about it for a really long time. We realize there's a drought in the relationship game. We know a lot of amazing single women. But where are all the men at. The initiating men. The courting men. Somehow the tables have turned now where we're all complaining on both ends, but no one is interacting. So it kind of started from us wanting to vocalize and be loud about our opinions for men to hear and start a conversation amongst people. Since we say, you know, men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, we speak different languages. But we all want the same thing. But it kind of started from there. And us girls just talk about a lot of stuff.

Yeah. So the Pah-Tea Line, I guess the name is self explanatory.

Pretty much. You have a group of 5 people on a party line. Yeah. It's like a huge trio. And we're all you know, from back home, so the pah-tee (laughter).

(laughter) All right cool! What is the misconception people have about you?

(laughter) That I'm this rich spoiled, black girl, that's like a Becky. And that I could potentially be a bitch without looking at me without knowing me from a distance. Just by judging me by my cover. I look like a person who is privileged. And I get that all the time. I mean, I'm blessed to be here. I appreciate how I was raised and how my parents made me not want for anything, but it doesn't mean that they didn't struggle in raising me. And I didn't get everything I wanted. You know, we still went through a little bit of struggles and worked for everything. I started working at the age of 15. Whatever I spent my money on is none of your business. But I eventually became independent. I moved out at 23 and yeah, so that's the misconception about me. Also, that I'm a Becky, that I don't really have real substance. But then once you talk to me you see otherwise.

Now, legacy question. What legacy do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for how I inspire people to be themselves and to pay it forward that way. To really encourage people not to hide and to unapologetically show the world who you actually are, because in turn, it'll make someone else do the same. And, we'll all be able to connect. So I want to be remembered for how I encouraged and inspired other people to authentically with no fear connects to other people.

Oh, cool. So let me ask one final question. Let's say you meet you at the age of 18 years old. What advice would you give her?

Who cares? Who cares? If you can think it, you can be it. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. High School. It won't matter. So who cares? Go out and be fearless and enjoy life, trying everything. Don't hold back. I held back a lot when I was younger. And I wish I didn't. And if I have children, I will encourage whatever they're interested in.I will be that yes person. Just encourage them to follow their own impulses, not mine. Because our parents, I know they only want what's best for us, but you gotta let the person be their own person. You can guide, you can still guide and it's almost like hovering around a kid that's learning how to walk. You can still do that. But let them go exactly with their own impulses.

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