Name: Nia Lancelin-Brantly
IG Handle: niatheartist_
Facebook page: Nia Brantly
Profession: Professional Artist (Dancer, Singer, Actor, Choreographer, Teacher, Writer, Stage Manger, Producer, Arts Administrator) Founder of T.H.R.I.V.E. Artists’ Group
Big break: Being hired as the choreographer and dance coordinator for This Is Us on NBC
Jen: When did you start dreaming?
Nia: Very early! Growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas was fantastic, but I always knew that it was not the place for me. When I was ten, I was certain I wanted to go to Spelman College and live in Atlanta. So much so that my sister and I took a trip to Atlanta when I was eleven and we visited Spelman. I met Dr. Veta Goler who years later became my first advisor at Spelman!
Jen: Do you consider yourself a dreamer?
Nia: It’s funny you ask that. No, I consider myself a worker. To me, when people say “you’re living your dream”, I understand where they are coming from, but I think dreaming takes away the element of work and I don’t want anyone to think that my opportunities just came to me by just waking up.
Jen: When I met you, you were a dancing at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, as a Golden Girl, how long have you been dancing?
Nia: Literally my entire life. I started when I was two years old. The studio didn’t take two year olds, but because my sister was already in classes there (and I was potty trained) they let me start early!! I never stopped.
Jen: Have you always known you wanted to dance professionally?
Nia: Not always. I actually still have a list of ten professions I would like experience! But I decided when I was fourteen that I wanted to be a professional dancer…and it came in a very odd way. I was extremely shy as a child, still am, so going on stage was terrifying for me therefore, I never gave it my all. Also, I was normally the only black girl at competitions so I didn’t really have anyone to “compete” with in my mind. We were at Nationals one year and I ended up competing against another black girl for the solo division and SHE WAS FIERCE!! Right then I decided that I could do exactly what she could if only I tried. I also knew that this art form meant so much to me that I had to do it forever!
Jen: Do you act and sing as well?
Nia: Yes!! Another funny story (I obviously like story telling). But years ago, when I was first starting my career, I had the privilege of working under the direction of Jasmine Guy. A few years later she was speaking at Spelman so I came. She literally called me out and said, “Nia is like me. I was never a prodigy in what I did, but I was really good at everything I did. I’m not just a good dancer, but a good singer and actor.”
Jen: An artist is an artist because they are, meaning a person can be an artist whether or not they do it professionally and make a living out of it. What was your transition like, going from artist to working artist? How long have you been a working artist?
Nia: I started teaching when I was fourteen, and even before that I used to work in my uncle’s music store, doing the work that an eleven year old can do. So I think I always had a strong idea of work being attached to my art. Therefore, before I even got out of college I started my own summer camp because, as an artist, I knew I had to create my own opportunities to make money.
Jen: How did your big break come about?
Nia: While we were still living in New York, a friend of mine asked me to choreograph something for a friend’s memorial that had just been brutally murdered. Her friend always wanted to choreograph a piece to 4 Women by Nina Simone yet she never got the chance. Therefore, I created the work with four actor friends of hers. Susan Watson was one of those friends. A few months later Susan was cast in This Is Us. About three months after I moved to LA, I got an email from the production office saying that Susan gave them my name. The rest is history!
Jen: Is there any singular event that prepared you for that gig or was it a culmination of experiences?
Nia: Definitely a culmination. I had to use my dance, teaching, admin, organizational, communication and management skills.
Jen: What is your advice for other artist who wish to pursue their art professionally?
Nia: It’s actually the acronym for my new company, T.H.R.I.V.E. The H stands for hard work which is something you have to apply 100% to your life everyday, you can not let up. The R is for resilience, meaning to stay the course and stay authentic to yourself. The I is for innovation because as an artist you are a creator and you must always be willing to invent and reinvent. The V is for viability which, to me, means living a successfully balanced life mind, body, & spirit. Last, but certainly not least, the E stands for entrepreneur which means you basically understand all things business from networking, to marketing, to sales, etc. To me, this is what you need to work and live successfully as an artist.
Jen: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
Nia: That’s hard to say, but probably my mom. She taught me how to sing, she put me in dance, she made me apply to Spelman. She’s always supported my growth along this journey, and she really taught me how to work! She’s a multitasker, a leader, a creative, and just a boss in everything she does!!
Jen: What is the most influential piece of advice you have ever received?
Nia: Hmmm that’s a tough one. I think the most influential message I’ve heard is “You grow where you are planted.” Wow! Instead of wishing you were somewhere else or had something else, just start there, right where you are, with everything you do or don’t have….that’s where you are so, start there! Also, my quote for the year is “done is better than perfect.” So, that one is obvious….GET IT DONE!!! Nothing is perfect so don’t let the fact that it doesn’t feel perfect hold you back.
Jen: Do you offer any services?
Nia: Yes, I teach private dance, acting, and vocal lessons. I also coach artists through THRIVE taking them through a five week journey of self evaluation, financial organization, maintaining a health and fitness routine, and self/professional development.
Jen: Do you have any special projects or events coming up?
Nia: I currently have space for five new coaching clients as I’m starting a new wave of sessions. I meet my coaching clients individually for an hour once a week for five weeks. My goal in these sessions are to prepare artists to THRIVE therefore they receive skills on finances, health and wellness, as well as self/professional development. My goal is to reach artists outside of major cities so that they feel prepared to take on the industry and not limit their destiny just because of their location.
I am also very open to traveling for any workshops, intensives or shows!
Jen: Any other comments?
Nia: I think I made you read enough!! Lol Thanks so much for including me!!
Jen: Thank you so much Nia!!