Featured Artist In Action: Zakiya Young

Our latest Featured Artist In Action is actress, singer, and model, Zakiya Young, whose talents have graced the Broadway stage (Disney's The Little Mermaid), numerous Off Broadway theaters, national commercials, and, as a mezzo-soprano, the concert stage. As you'll read, Zakiya's career is taking off these days, and we couldn't be happier for her! Let's hand it over to her.

1) When you first started working with Capes Coaching, what were your goals?

Wow. That feels like a lifetime ago! When I first started working with Capes Coaching my only goal was to make it through the day. I was experiencing some drastic changes in my personal and professional life. I was in a whirlwind — my first Broadway show just closed and my marriage was ending. I had always wanted to take the PATH class — and I felt like I had nothing to lose and that the timing couldn’t be better. I wasn’t sure if I was going to give up and move home to PA or pick myself up and continue to pursue my artistic dreams in NYC.

2) What have you accomplished since then?

Since taking the PATH class, I’ve had some amazing things happen in my career. I played Lois Lane in the revival of "It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman"opposite Matt Cavenaugh as Clark Kent/Superman and Patrick Cassidy as Max Menken. Not only was I thrilled to be playing the lead female role opposite such talented actors, but I was the first black actress to ever play Lois Lane in a Superman project — in theater, tv or film! The role was such a challenge not only because Lois Lane is such an icon, but the show had some pretty significant changes as well. Charles Strouse and Lee Adams – the composer and lyricist – were on hand to write new material and give their feedback on the show. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has written for tv shows Big Love and Glee, has written comic books, and recently worked on the book for Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, updated the book for our show as well. It was awesome to collaborate with him about who Lois really was and why certain changes were made. And I’m forever grateful to Kevin Moriarty and his vision for this project. Oh, and we also got covered by the NY Times! My mom called me screaming – “WE MADE THE TIMES!” And sure enough — there was a fantastic article about the show, along with a nice big picture of me and Matt in the Sunday Times. Amazing. And so unexpected.

Zakiya Young and Matt Cavenaugh in "It's A Bird...It's A Plane...It's Superman." Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux.

Zakiya Young and Matt Cavenaugh in "It's A Bird...It's A Plane...It's Superman." Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux.

Later that year, I sang a medley of songs from Hallelujah, Baby in Nothing Like a Dame: A Party for Comden & Green, at the Laura Pels Theater. The proceeds from this Actors Fund benefit went to the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative. Ms. Newman hosted the event and I was part of an amazing cast that included Marc Kudisch, Victoria Clark, Mario Cantone, Nancy Opel, Victoria Clark, Polly Bergen and Donna McKechnie.

I played “Miss California” in the world premiere of Little Miss Sunshine at the La Jolla Playhouse. It was great to work with James Lapine and William Finn on a new piece, and the cast was incredibly talented.

When I returned from La Jolla, I participated in the 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics and Lyricists Concert Series celebrating Comden & Green. I got to sing with Leslie Uggams, who originated the role of Georgina in Hallelujah, Baby! and won a Tony award for it! It was such an honor to share the stage with her – and to once again work with Phyllis Newman. I loved exploring the witty, heartfelt and stirring music of the songwriting duo. What an awesome experience. As a result of my performance in the concert series, I am now freelancing with a voice-over agent!

I recently completed my first Fringe Festival show, Winner Take All (A Rock Opera), written by Skip and Claudia Brevis, and directed and choreographed by John Carrafa. This experience stretched me in so many ways — I will forever be grateful to the creative team for challenging me, trusting me with the role of Scarlett and really teaching me how to rock out!

I started booking both commercial work and print work and now have enough for a reel (which is on my website). I am now represented by Avalon/BMG Models for commercials and print. This professional relationship began after I took the PATH Class. Having my goals solidified before I went in for my preliminary meeting helped me make the right decision about who to work with in the commercial realm.

My legit agents at The Mine have continued to work their tails off by getting me seen for tv, film as well as fantastic theater opportunities. I am incredibly fortunate to have such professional and enthusiastic representation. I was working with them while I took the PATH Class and they were so unwavering in their support of my career. It’s a blessing to be working with them.

3) What has been your biggest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

My biggest career challenge? Hmmm…I think my biggest challenge has been my height. I’m quite the amazon ☺. I mean, it’s something I can’t change. But what I could change was my physical fitness – I started making exercise a part of my routine and I made healthier food choices. I’m in the best shape of my life now and that’s made me stand even taller! Now I embrace my height, I don’t bemoan it. And I’m rocking high heels on a regular basis! (I’ve also found that when I go to the Meatpacking District most of the women there are my height or taller.) Once I started owning it and stopped doing what I call the “tall girl slouch” I started working. A lot. Celebrate what makes you unique! Don’t hide it or apologize for it!

4) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

Two things:

  1. Don’t be afraid of high belting and/or riffing! You’re really good at it!
  2. What God has for you is for you. Period. Sometimes you don’t get the job because there is something better in store for you. Don’t be so busy looking back at what you didn’t get that you miss out on a fantastic opportunity ahead of you.

5) What are you currently working on?

I’m now in rehearsals for Greenwood: The Musicalwhich is part of NYMF. We will be performing at the Signature Theater on 42nd Street and it promises to be an awesome show. The cast includes Andrea McArdle and Felicia Finley, and the creative team, helmed by our fearless director Paul Stancato, is just great. The passion behind this show makes it so special — not to mention the writing team of Tor Hyams and Adam LeBow. They’re incredibly gifted and funny! I’m having a great time playing Stacey, the best friend of one of our main characters. There is something for everyone in this show - I can’t tell you too much more about it – you’ll just have to see it for yourself! Our shows are selling out FAST so get your tickets now!

I also have been a part of the wildly successful web series, Submissions Only, by Kate Wetherhead and Andrew Keenan-Bolger. I play successful casting director Erica Houston and my shoes had a sweet cameo in the opening credits for the first 2 seasons. Keep your eyes peeled Season 3!

6) Anything else you feel like sharing?

Treat everyone you work with – from the janitors to the director – with respect. Arrive at every audition and rehearsal on time and prepared. Give 100% no matter what other people are doing around you. Have something outside of the business that gives you joy. And surround yourself with people that love and support you.