UAC 135 | Asking The Right Qestions

 

Asking yourself the right questions can generate your greater purpose in your life and in the lives of others. Today, Thane Marcus Ringler talks to Danezion Mills, an active member in Good City Mentors, about how the organization is helping him touch the lives of young men as was done for him at the same age. Together, they get down on many different topics – from Danezion’s own story, structure and creativity and how those two mingle, and culture shock and the differences among different cultures, to the power of asking the right question. An incredible singer, Danezion also talks about music and how it speaks to the soul. Be inspired with this episode as you learn more about his upbringing and different childhood traumas, and how he worked through those.

Listen to the podcast here:

Danezion Mills: Just Keep Going: How The Right Question Sparked A Story Of Perseverance Through The Power Of Community

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life, which we believe takes living with intention in the tension. Life is filled with many tensions that we get the chance to walk in the midst of daily, which we believe intentionality is the key to doing that well. Thank you for being a part of the Up and Comers community and being a fellow Up and Comer on this journey. We’re glad you’re here. We couldn’t do this show without you. There are three easy ways to give back to help us keep producing this show. The first way is leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. That would be such a great way for us to be found by more people. Another awesome way is simply sharing this episode. You could text this link to a couple of friends that you think would benefit from it or you could take a screenshot and tag us on any social media platform, @UpAndComersShow. We love to hear from you. Finally, if you wanted to support us financially, we have a Patreon available. You can also potentially partner with us if you have a company or a business and you would like to spread the good work that you’re doing. Send us an email, TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. If you have any thoughts, comments, questions or concerns, always feel free to reach us by email. We love hearing from you guys.

On the show, we have interviews where we dive deep into someone’s story. We have fellowship episodes where we have peer-to-peer conversations. They’re a little shorter and more topical and there are also solo episodes where I will dive into a subject that I’m learning a lot about in my own life. This is an episode with Danezion Mills. He was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He is a first-generation graduate from Texas State with his BFA in acting and is moved to LA to pursue his dream. He began acting in high school while playing football. He met some amazing people on his football team as well as in some of his theater performances. Those people in their families helped him throughout high school and college after he decided to leave his mother’s house to pursue a better opportunity during his early high school years.

Having all of these outside resources helped him along the way and inspired him to pay it forward. He is an active member of Good City Mentors, which is helping him touch the lives of young men as was done for him at the same age days. He has been a part of projects like Buried the Backyard. It has several other projects in the works. He wants to be an actor to enable the work he is doing in Good City Mentors even more. He is an amazing man. He is an inspiring guy with an incredible story. In this episode, we cover many different topics from his own story, including structure and creativity and how those mingle.

We talk about music and how it speaks to the soul. He’s an incredible singer. We talk about his upbringing and different childhood traumas and working through those. We talk about culture shock and differences among different cultures. We talk about gaining advocates, the power of asking the right question, living outside your circumstances, acting and much more. I met Danezion through Good City Mentors. I’m grateful for his heart, his life and the way that he does pay it forward and speaks into the next generation. I know that this episode will be encouraging and inspiring for you. He’s overcome a lot already in his life and I’m excited to see what’s ahead.

Danezion Mills, welcome to show.

Thanks for having me.

This is going to be a fun combo. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since we met and I learned of the many skills you possess, including one of the best voices around. What was your favorite genre to sing? Do you have a favorite genre?

It’s R&B, 100%.

Who’s the inspiration there?

Donell Jones. It’s funny, when I was a kid, the first time that I ever sang in front of my grandmother was Donell Jones and she looked at me like, “Wow.” After that moment I was like, “I’m going to want to be a singer. That something I want to do in life.” I made her happy. It filled the room.

UAC 135 | Asking The Right Questions

Asking The Right Questions: Music brings redemption to the broken.

 

How old were you when that first happened? 

I was in the fourth grade.

Before that, did you know that you were a good singer?

When I was in the second grade, I remember singing in a choir and we were messing around. My choir teacher heard me sing and she was like, “You can sing? We have a choir class. Do you want to come to the choir?” I was like, “Yes, sure.” I did. I was in the choir from second grade until I graduate high school.

Would you say that the choir experience gave you a little bit of a framework for your voice as a singer or was it naturally there?

What’s interesting is in a way, and this might be me, but with me and structure throws me off a little bit. It took away from my creativity. If I say, “I’ve got more of a structure, more support and the basics,” as far as you, people, church riffs went away from me, which is interesting. For years, I’ve been trying to get that back. How do I find that creativity and color in my voice?

That is fascinating because there’s such a trade-off in structure and creativity. We have to have some semblance of structure to create anything but if you have too much structure then we start feeling like we’re restricted and can’t create anything. It’s an interesting balance. Especially in California with sports, people grow up and you can pick your sport and play all year round. Get training coaching at age five. That’s a lot of these kids that grow up with this overemphasis on training, structure, technique and it hurts them more than it helps them. There’s such a beauty in that. The same with me on golf. I wasn’t about golf lessons, swing lessons, I was going out there and feeling my swing and trying to figure it out and be creative with it. It produced better results for me. That’s probably true for most people now. Speaking of creativity, I heard there was a story whereas a kid you had toy instruments, including a toy saxophone that you treated like a real instrument.

I saw that picture when I was back home during Christmas and I was a chubby kid too. The leg rolls and everything. I’m passed out with my mouth open with this saxophone. It’s like, “I was meant to do music without even knowing it.”

How has your view of music changed over the years?

It hasn’t. Music is the universal language. There were moments in my life where music was the only thing that felt real to me. Music was the only peaceful thing and that’s never changed. I look at music as though it’s my special place. Where I get to go and sit sometimes alone or sometimes with people, but it’s the only time I feel like everything disappears and everything’s okay. I used to spend dark nights in my closet where I put towels under the door and play music in there by myself and have this experience.

Music can be the only thing that can feel real for you and the only thing that can be peaceful. Click To Tweet

What were those songs? What was the music you listened to?

It was always Boyz II Men or Donell Jones, Dru Hill and Usher. I was a huge Usher fan and then also Michael Jackson, which was a big influence of mine.

What is it about music that helped you through those hard times when nothing else felt real? Describe what it was that music brought in those moments?

I grew up in an angry household with a lot of yelling, fighting and a lot of sadness to be honest. What music was to me was all of that wrapped up in a melodic sound. It was all the pain and all of the anger, the frustration, the sadness. It was all that wrapped up in something that sounded beautiful. It took me out of that anger and put me into peace.

I never thought about it like that, but music connects deeply because it hits us at the soul level. The most powerful music is the music that’s filled in the soul. The most soul is always filled with the most life. The most life is usually the hardest and most trying experiences in our life. In a sense, it brings redemption to the broken.

Even for me, I’ve had some moments where is something heavy happened. When I was in college, my brother got shot. After all the aftermath and we found out that he was okay, the first thing that I did was I locked myself in my room and I played music. I sat there and I listened to it. It brought me this peace and I was crying. I was angry. I was throwing things. I flipped my desk. My roommates are flipping out like, “What’s going on?” After everything was settled, I closed my door and I was listening to music. I went to the dance room in college and I played Anxiety, then I started dancing. Anytime something happens that’s like, “How am I going to get past this?” The first thing I go to is music, something artistic dance. The acting was the last thing that came into mind, into my life and my creative process.

Was dance always a part of your life? Was dancing your soul blood?

When I was a kid, I had two left feet. When I was young up until high school, I couldn’t dance to save my life. I was like, “I don’t know how to move.” I had bow legs. I was super awkward. I and my brothers and my mom would have us do praise dance at church and then we joined this dance team. It was like, “I’m dancing.” The next thing you know, I got YouTube videos of me pop-locking. I was like, “When did this happen?” I loved it much because it was a new way to express myself. Everything was locked up. I love dancing but I don’t think I would ever dance as a profession. It’s more of a release.

It’s therapy. It’s funny because nowadays it’s starting to be recognized as that. It’s been there since day one. It’s novel that it’s a therapy, but speaking of release, it’s interesting hearing that because there’s a lot of unhealthy ways to release things. There are some beautiful ways to release things and dancing and singing are some of those. Did you experience unhealthy ways of releasing them before you learn healthy ways?

A lot is going on in our household. At the time you’re like, “This is normal,” but then you’re like, “I don’t know, I might have to go back and recheck that.” One of the unhealthy ways that I would cope with that was, I would punch walls. That was my first thing, fighting. I can’t tell you how many fights I got into as a kid. I have broken every knuckle in both my hands. Scars, I would tag a wall that was the closest thing to me. That was the first thing I hit but not only that, even drinking. There were points in time. In high school, not much. It wasn’t a big thing for me, but in college, I drowned some sorrows and I found myself in some dark places. Even from college up until about a couple of years ago, I was using, drinking and I’m like, “This seems like the right thing to do that I don’t have to deal with pain. This is how I’m going to numb it. Let’s do it.” I’ll be like, “That didn’t do anything.” I’m still having to deal with the problem. I still have to deal with this anxiety, this stress, this anger or whatever it was that came. It was like, “It’s still going to be there.” I’ve had some unhealthy things for sure.

UAC 135 | Asking The Right Questions

 

What are your earliest memories as a kid like?

My grandmother in my life was a lot of earliest memories. She passed away from cancer in 2002, which we were not prepared for that. I wasn’t, as a kid. You see this woman who holds the glue to your family. She held family reunions and birthdays. One of the first birthdays I remember was at my grandma’s house. She had a Daffy Duck cake that she got me. There was a gumball machine. You put the quarters in and it was gone by the end of the day. I don’t remember this verbatim, but I remember the first memory of my mom was at my grandma’s house. She had come in with my little sister and my stepdad. I don’t know if you remember those little toys where you pull them in and spins in the air.

I remember my mom coming in and me recognizing her instantly. You’re a kid, so things get a little fuzzy. The first memory honestly of my life is, at my grandma. I would sit in and she watches The Price Is Right and Wheel of Fortune. She bought me and my brothers these Wacko Yacko and stuffed animals. They were about the size of us, if not bigger, which I try carrying these around. She passed away and everything seemed like it fell apart. My brother went downhill. My family separated. It was like the parting of the red sea. Everybody went their separate ways and we were close cousins we saw each other every weekend. It got to a point where we saw each other maybe three or four times a year.

Would you say that it is common for people in your type of background with grandmothers being a lot of glue?

There’s a respect thing in my culture. You respect your elders. That was something that was hammered into us since day one. The respect that my grandmother and my great aunts and my great uncles had, it was like, if you disobey them that’s it. Your butt is grass essentially and there’s a lot more. That’s the type of life that was. When you lose that person that glue, that person that everybody respects, it’s like, “Where do we go from here? Who do you look up to? Who’s going to run things?” That was in our family specifically. We still have my great aunt, my great uncle, who 2 have passed away but we still have my great aunt and my great uncle. She’s the glue. They pass it along. It’s like, “There’s Dorita and then it was my Uncle Jess and then it’s my aunt. It passes along.

How old were you at that time when she passed?

Funny enough, the R&B story, it was that same year, which is why that set that play emotion for me. I was like, “I’m going to be an R&B singer. It was right before my grandmother passed.” We live in that same house, which we didn’t stay in houses for long. It was within a year. It rocked me. I was in fourth grade, a young kid. The woman that he respects the most in life, she’s gone. It’s like, “I kept praying. It can’t be true. It was not real. I know she was sick.” For me especially that moment it was almost traumatic for me because I remember when my grandmother was getting sick and we would go over every day and go say hi. We’ll spend time with her. Every day I was scared I would walk right past her. She looks different, it takes a toll on you. I remember one day, I walked past her and she stopped me and she was like, “You walked past me every day.” I was like, “I’m sorry.” She said, “It’s okay, go in the house.” When she passed, not too long after that, I walked past her every day. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to hug her like, “What if she probably hates me?” I remember one day I told this to my aunt and she’s like, “Your grandmother loved you. This is what you do. You sit by yourself one day, light some candles. You pray, you talk to her and you say how you feel. You let it go because she loved you. It doesn’t matter.” It hit. I did that and I felt much peace. She’s still my idol. Everything I do, I’m still pushing through with that angel on your back and it’s been tough.

There’s something to closure and to letting things come to the end in the right way. What was that time in your life when you lose this anchor that your grandmother is and you’re in fourth grade and you’re trying to figure out how to operate in the world? Not necessarily in a place that can support you as well at home. What was your process like? How did you find a way through that?

Honestly, when I look back on it, life kept going and it kept going fast. Life got quick. I remember grieving much that it was almost as though I was a zombie. I was emotionally through life. All of a sudden I woke up and I was like, “I got to keep going. Life is happening. My family’s happening and everybody’s here. We’ve got to keep going, we can’t stop.” That mentality stuck with me over time. Things kept happening. Stuff happened with my mom. My dad came into my life, which was such a blessing. At the time, I pushed him to the side when I should have embraced him. My brother was going through his thing. He’s gone off the deep end after a while. The same for him, my grandmother was his idol and he stuck in for a while, but then he dropped.

It was like, “No matter what, I’ve got to keep going.” My mom moved to Shreveport and stayed with my great aunt. I don’t know why I’m making this decision, but I’m doing it like, “I’m staying with my great aunt. I don’t want to leave Texas.” We had to move North because of some stuff with my brother. You grow up and the gangs. You know everybody, you grew up with them and then all of a sudden, it switches. Some of the friends that you grew up with, you can’t hang around because they’re on a different block than you were. Where they’re repping a different gang than you and your family and you can’t be around.

Some people find out about you and your skills and they empower you to embrace your power. Click To Tweet

Things started happening and we were like, “We’ve got to get out of here.” We did. First of all, this was wild moving to a different school in a completely different area. Going North, I had never seen so many white people in my life. I walked into a high school musical. I saw a person riding a scooter around the school with a mascot helmet. He has this horse on and he’s riding around the school. I’m like, “What is this?” The school I’d come from, we walked through metal detectors. We have a dress code and there are cops everywhere. I’m like, “We can’t do this.” The pep rally was lit. I was like, “This is crazy. This is a high school musical. They write movies about this. This is real.” It blew my mind. I was like, “I don’t know how to fit in here.” I was still an angry kid. As I’m going through my freshman year, trying to figure out what this place is, I’m realizing, “I like it. I love it. This is awesome. This is new. I’m not afraid to go to school. I’m not getting into fights every day. I’m not running from a person who’s chasing us down the field with a gun.” I don’t have to experience that.

After my freshman year, my mom and my family moved back to that neighborhood and this was another thing. It was like, “You’ve got to keep going.” I ended up staying. I stayed with my stepbrother in his apartment. He ended up getting evicted. I stayed with my cousin, left her place and I stayed with my mom again. I would ride the bus all the way from my mom’s house, 45-minute bus ride, 45-minute train ride to get to football practice every morning. I go to school and work. I worked at Whataburger right around the corner, which was the best, worst decision I did because I ate much. I’m not tired. I will eat Whataburger every day if I could. I’m waiting for them to bring it to California. I would hop back on the bus. I would hop back on the train, I would go back to my mom’s and I did that for two months. I was like, “Go with that.” He was like, “My dad takes me to football practice. You ride with us.” He was like, “Yes.” One night turned into two nights. I was like, “Are you sure they’re cool with this?” “Yes.” Three, four nights, five nights, his mom comes, “We are going to put a bed in the college room for you. You stay with us.” I’m like, “Keep going.” That’s all God was telling me over and over again.

That’s an amazing story and there is much more that comes with that. Was it in your freshman year when you switched high schools?

Yes.

The culture shock in that astounding. How long did it take for you to realize that what you grew up with wasn’t the norm for everyone? How long was that process of accepting the new reality for you?

Probably, in my junior year. It took a while for it to set in honestly, because I was still like, “I don’t know what I’m going.” I didn’t start hanging out with friends that are like my brothers until my junior year. They opened my eyes to a whole different lifestyle. It was indifferent amounts, a small amount. In my freshman year, I got to a top for it, but it didn’t catch on. I remember my friend Clay, who was like my brother, through and through an amazing guy. He brought me to a friend’s house. Her mom was there and they were out in the pool. We were swimming and all this stuff. I remember getting a call from my mom. I’m like, “Everybody’s having a good time.” My mom’s like, “You’ve got to come home.” I was like, “I don’t want to come home. I’m hanging out with friends.” She was like, “You need to get home now.” I was like, “Okay.” I was sad and heartbroken because I’m like, “These people were cool.”

I remember walking out and I was going to walk home and my friend, Nikki, her mom, Ms. Albertson, she says, “Are you leaving?” I was like, “Yes. My mom said I’ve got to come home.” She was like, “Let me get you a ride.” I was like, ” That’s okay. I live way far.” She was like, “How are you going to get home?” I was like, “I’m going to walk.” She was like, “Stop, you’re crazy. I’m going to give you a ride home.” That was a little tap. I didn’t get to experience that. It didn’t set in but it was interesting. Little moments like that kept happening. By my junior year, I’m like, “This is different.” I thought it was a fluke, but it’s real. There are different cultures out there that experience entirely different lives.

As you’re processing that in high school, as a kid, what was the inner dialogue in that? Where you come from and your family and the people that you know best and grew up with are in one world and now, your new life is another world and there’s tension in that. How did you walk through that tension? Could you come to peace with that? How could you decide what the best next step was in that?

A lot of it was God pushing me through. I remember when I was in the 7th or 8th grade, with her on the phone and a lot of stuff was happening with my brother. She was crying and saying, “I want to see one of my kids graduate high school.” I overheard it. It sounds like something I have in the movie. You walk by and you hear that and you’re like, “That’s crazy.” I heard her say that. That played in my head over and over again as I was going. When I went to that school, I was like, “This is the way I’m going to do it. If I go back to Duncanville, where I grew up, it’s not going to happen. I have to stay in Richardson. I have to stay at this school, I have to graduate.”

I have never lived in that context and I don’t know at all what that life is like. When you say, “If I go back to Duncanville, I won’t graduate.” What are the reasons for that?

UAC 135 | Asking The Right Questions

 

It’s a number of reasons. I see a lot of guys that I grew up with. They’re either in jail, killed or slinging dope. Some are even trying to make music to survive somewhere. The only way that they were going to get out is by playing football. There are some do well, but the majority, they never make it out. People talk about that all the time, as though it’s something that you hear about black culture. The fact of the matter is I look at some of my friends and I don’t even know them anymore. I look at them and they’re still in the same place. They repeat a cycle. I would have repeated that cycle because that’s my influence.

In mentoring and Brian says this all the time, “You show me your friends, I’ll show you your future.” When you’re surrounded by friends that don’t know what their future looks like and they’re trying to survive it and you’re going to end up the same way. I left trying to survive to people like, “This is where I want to go to college. I want to do this, I’m going to do that. I’ve applied for this school and that school.” I’m like, “I’ve got to get on this. What’s this college thing? I’ve got to do that too.” If I would’ve stayed there, I would have either been in jail. When I was in eighth grade, I was trying to join my young version of my brother’s game. We’re fighting in my backyard or we have a gang fight from a school that’s down the street. They walk over and we were like, “It’s time to fight. It’s time to go.” That was the journey I was on.

I was playing football, but to be honest, it was competitive because everyone knew that was the way they were going to get out. If you didn’t have it, then that’s it. You don’t even play. When I started at that school, when I was in Duncanville my freshman year before we moved, I wasn’t great. I was decent. I played my whole life but I knew that I would have to complete a lot more than I was. When I think back on it, I’m like, “That school in its entirety saved my life.”

You mention mentoring. It’s at the Good City Mentors where we get to meet. Brian was on the show on episode 86. We’ve had the chance to mentor together at a high school and then in East LA, with a youth program there. In those experiences and as you speak to others who have been in similar spaces or are still in similar cycles, what do you find to be helpful for them? That’s the thing that’s been humbling for me to be around and to listen to is to hear stories of people who were born with the deck stacked against them. I was born with the deck stacked in my favor. I didn’t choose that as much as someone else didn’t choose the deck being stacked against them. When you’re in that cycle, it is brutally hard to break. I’m curious if you could speak to how you encourage or mentor others from having a shared experience in that?

The easy thing to do is what everybody else is doing. The hardest thing to do is to do the opposite. What people don’t realize especially in that culture, because being hard, we have to join a gang. We have to sell drugs. That’s the only way. That’s the hard thing to do, but it’s not. The hard thing to do is to say, “I’m going to be different. I’m going to go against the grain. I’m going to do something that nobody around me is doing and I’m going to lead a movement. I’m going to lead a charge.” It is easy to get discouraged because it’s not. You get knocked down every day, but the way you get up prepares you for that next hit every single time until those hits no longer faze you. It’s like wind or leaves hitting you and they bounce right off. No matter what, “It’s going to be difficult. It has some difficult moments.” Even moments where I was like, “I can’t do this.” God says, “You can because look at what you’ve already done. You can because there’s somebody else who was in your situation that did it.” Finding community and finding people that will help you along, surrounding yourself by people who want that for themselves also makes a world of difference.

If you’re constantly saying like, “I want to get out of this neighborhood. I want to get out of this life. I also want to go hang out with Marcus and smoke some weed.” It’s like, “You’re not going to get out. It’s not going to happen.” If you say, “I want to get out. I want to do something different. Who else is doing that? I need to find them so we can do it together because that’s going to make a world of difference and we’re going to kill the game. It’s going to be done. We’re going to live a life that no one thought we could. We’re going to go against the grain.”

You have to have a community in life. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you are. You can’t do this life alone. What was one of those lowest moments for you?

When my mom went to prison, it was Christmas eve. It was my junior year. I had already moved out, but I’d go back and visit her on holidays and stuff. We got the phone call and my stepdad, they were transporting marijuana to Phoenix. We got a call, they’re in prison and we’re like, “What do we do?” My older brother and sister are there arguing, “We’ve got to figure this out.” Luckily for me, I had somewhere to go but if it wasn’t for that, then I don’t know where I would have ended up. If it wasn’t for those people taking care of me and giving me a home or a place to stay, I don’t know if I would’ve ended up. Having a community when that happened was important.

It’s like, “Those are my parents.” Talk about realizing that your family is not invincible. Everyone can get caught no matter what they’re doing. Everyone could get hurt, no matter what. The reality of life is real and we take it for granted. The Kobe thing, a legend and no one is above the law or God. Realizing that at that moment, it hit me hard. I was like, “What? What do we do?” It kicked in from me, “We have to take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves.” My younger brother and my younger sister ended up going to my aunts. I ended up going back. My brother and my sister, they ended up finding a place to stay. That was such a hard moment for me. What it did was it added to my story. It allowed me to be open with people because that’s something where you can’t deal with on your own. When I opened up about that, I had many people in that in my community pouring into me. When they found out what I was doing, they were like, “How are you doing this?” I’m like, “I don’t know, God and then also this person and that person.” They’d be like, “We want to be it. We want to pour in too.”

It’s crazy until our hand is forced, we don’t want to open up. We don’t want to be vulnerable. We don’t want to share our hurt, our pain or our burdens because of that, we ended up creating more hardship and toil for ourselves. When we’re finally forced, then we realize that everyone has a burden to bear and they’re meant to be shared. They’re not meant to be carried alone. Was that a turning point for you in being able to talk about what you’ve been through and what you’re experiencing? How to process it? Was that when you started sharing some of that or what was that journey like for you?

Living outside of your own circumstances is a hard thing to do. Click To Tweet

The people that I was staying with, they knew because I was living with them at the time. I remember opening up for the first time to someone that I had no idea who she was or it was my friend, Clay’s mom, Ms. Rollins, who was my guardian angel. We were on our way to their farmhouse after a dance and we ended up stand up and talking during the drive. Everybody else was passed out in the back. We started talking and for some reason, I was like, “I feel like I can open up.” We talked and I told her my story. It changed my life because she poured into me much. Not only that, she invited people to pour into me much and it was like, “This woman doesn’t even know me.” If it weren’t for me telling my story or feeling like, “It’s time for me to speak, I need to.” If it wasn’t for me sharing that with her, I wouldn’t be where I’m at.

Going through learning that I can’t hold that stuff in and then it released much anger where it’s like, “I don’t have to carry this by myself.” She did everything she could. We talk all the time and she’s always, “What do you need?” When I go home, I visit them, they fly me in Texas. Her son, Clay, who’s like a brother, had a kid which is amazing. Not only them, but my friends, Taylor and Mac, all of these families, my friend, Shack, they all poured in. Joey, them and their families. They said, “This kid, we’re going to do everything that we can.” I remember the first time that I opened up to them was during the Wilderness, which is a young life camp in Colorado. That was another moment for me where I was doing this young life Todd Pinkston, which was like our Young Life leader. He kept inviting me to Young Life. I was like, “I don’t know what’s that.” I remember showing up one day, people were playing basketball and then it was a crazy party. There were all these skits. They brought out the Bible and he did a talk. I was like, “This is a different way to do church.”

They made sure that I went to Cricket Creek, which was the first Young Life camp that I went to. After that, it was Wilderness where a lot of your close friends or even if we weren’t even close at the time. I was still getting to know these guys, but I played football with him. We do a five-day hike in the Wilderness. I never did anything like this before my life. I’m like, “You want me to do what? How many miles to carry them? This is crazy.” No one from my old neighborhood would do this. This isn’t a welcome thing. This doesn’t happen. I’m like, “I’ll try it out.” That was one of the first times that I’d opened up to a group of people about my life that I was this angry kid, but it gave him much insight into why I was angry. After that, they were like, “We didn’t know that’s what was going on.” I wasn’t staying at my friend, Kyle’s. I was staying all over the neighborhood.

I was in my friend, Taylor’s room on his futon every now and then. I was with my friend, Max. I was everywhere. Everyone invited me into their homes to stay the night because they knew my story, they knew what was going on with me. This whole community is like, “They don’t know me.” All they know is my story. I could have been like, “I made it up.” They trusted in what God was telling him first of all, and then they saw where I was in the work that I was putting in. They were like, “We’re going to give you an extra boost.” Another person is like, “I’m going to you an extra boost.” You have all these people pouring into you and you’re like, “Wow.”

I’m curious what was it about that first car ride? What did she do? What was the scenario like that enabled you to open up for the first time?

She asked questions. It’s like what Brian says. When you’re speaking to people, you ask questions or mentoring. We’re question askers. She’s asked questions. No one ever asked me like, “Tell me about you. Where do you come from? Who are you? How do you know my son?” She started asking questions and then it went from asking questions to asking the right question. Then it was like, “You want to know about me.” I’ve never had anyone who wanted to know about me. I was like, “I’ll tell you everything. I’ve been waiting for this. I didn’t know this is what I needed, but I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me about me. Here it is.”

God started moving in incredible ways. Even with Young Life, I started doing theater out of nowhere, almost because in my Young Life teacher forced me to go audition for Fiddler on the Roof. He’s like, “I’m going to go audition.” I saw Footloose. I was like, “Yes, Footloose was dope.” He’s like, “You should come, you have a great voice.” I’m like, “What are you talking about? Audition for a musical? I’m not going to do that.” He’s like, “You should come.” I was like, “I don’t want to miss club. I’ve gotten invested in this Young Life thing. I’ve been here every Monday.” My Young Life leader, Jenny, is like, “You can go.” I was like, “I don’t want.” She’s like, “You should go.” I was like, “Fine, I’ll go.” He’s teaching me the song in the car.

He’s like, “If I were a rich man.” I’m like, “I don’t know what’s happening. What am I doing?” We get there and we’re waiting in this hallway. I’m like, “This is weird. There’s a bunch of people out here.” It was my turn to go and I was like, “I can’t do this.” He was like, “Let me go in. Let me see if I can sing with you. Maybe you can sing Happy Birthday or something.” I was like, “Cool.” Heather Biddle is an amazing woman. She is another woman that saved my life. I went in and I sang Happy Birthday and she looked at me and she’s like, “Where have you been?” I’m like, “What are you talking about? I’ve been here.” She invites me to the dance call and invites me to do the reading. The next thing you know, I’m Yussel the hat maker in Fiddler on the Roof. One of two black guys in the whole cast. I’m like, “I don’t know what I’m doing but this is fun. This is cool.” It’s crazy when they find out about and then they empower you to embrace your power. That was a moment where they empowered me to embrace my power to do something that they saw in me that I didn’t see in myself.

What you said about the power of asking questions is where it all starts. It’s amazing how simple the answers are. It’s just asking someone a question. Care about someone enough to ask them a genuine question and then keep asking them questions until you get to the right question. I’ll keep saying it, but this is a lot, the three core needs every human being has is to be seen, to be heard and to be understood or connected to something greater. That’s something that we can give to anybody every single day and we desperately need that as humans. We’re losing that more than ever before. That’s such a powerful story. Through that, we can learn about someone’s power and then empower them to embrace that power because that’s how we create healthy, whole humans through the community.

It’s some crazy moments, where I was like, “God is moving.”

UAC 135 | Asking The Right Questions

 

I want to hear more about them. Fiddler on the Roof was a first-ever experience?

It’s my first-ever theater experience. It was wild but much fun. I was doing jump kicks. I’m doing the bottle dance. We have Velcro. I met some amazing people who are families poured into me because they were like, “Who are you?” I told them and then their parents found out and then they poured into me. The more you ask, the more you find out, the more people see what you’re doing and they’re like, “Let’s pour in.” One of the most amazing moments of my life happened through theater. I was helping do a theater camp because I was all in. Heather got me a college audition coach. I was like, “You can go to school for theater? I was going to be a football player or a therapist.” I’m going on this huge theater journey within my junior year. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m like, “This is fun.”

People were taking me at auditions, flying me to Michigan to auditions. I’m like, “This is crazy but it’s awesome. It’s cold in Michigan. I don’t want to go to school here. I like it.” My top school was Texas State. I was like, “I want to go to Texas State.” As soon as I found out about the program, I was like, “That’s the school I want to go to.” Bars none, hands down. That’s it. I found out there was a river that went through it. I was like, “Summer floats, it’s happening.” I audition for the musical theater program, I didn’t get in, but the professor, she pushed me to audition for the acting program.

I was like, “I want to go to LA. If I’m going to do theater, I love to do a film.” I did. It was a journey but I ended up getting in and I was like, “I got to school I wanted. It was dope and amazing.” The theater was like, “This is what I was going to do with my life.” I had a lot of people vouch for me because I didn’t have the grades. I come from the school where we were trying to graduate or survive. Academics weren’t the main priority, which is a huge thing. In urban areas where I grew up, they don’t focus on education. It’s we want these kids to survive. It’s wild. I went to the school and I was like, “I hadn’t even taken Algebra.” I was catching up for four years. I got into school, but I didn’t get into school. I got into the program, not the school. I had people writing letters of recommendation.

My principal, what an amazing woman and my counselor. Everybody was like, “You got into the program, now we’ve got to get you into the school.” Even Michael Costello, my professor, vouched for me to the department and I ended up getting in. Step one, got into the program. Step two, I got into the school. I have no money, I have nothing. I don’t know what to do. People are helping me with grants in FAFSA and fill out all this paperwork. It’s something I’ve never done. I keep going. People were like, “We’re going to help you. Keep going.” There was a moment where I was like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t even have a car.”

At this point, I was trying to get my license too. I don’t have a car. My dad said, “You get your license. You can have my old ’99 Honda Civic stick shift.” I’m like, “I don’t even know how to drive a stick but whatever. I don’t care but I didn’t have a license.” I was bugging Ms. Rollins and I was like, “Can you take me?” Let me tell you how amazing this woman. She sat outside the DMV with me for hours and we still weren’t able to take the test for three tries. I was like, “I don’t know what to do.” One day when I’m doing a theater camp and Mr. Reese he’s like, “We’ve got to go pick up something for Biddle.” I was like, “Could you take me to get my driver’s license?” He’s like, “Yes, we’ll figure that out. We’ve got to go pick up this reindeer.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” We go and it was for the kids’ camp. She runs the kids camp. We get to this house and I’m excited to get my license that I beeline inside this stranger’s house. I don’t know who they are, but whatever. I’m looking around like, “Where is it?” I look to my right and then I started noticing people. Mr. Reese was like, “These people are here for you.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?”

I started recognizing faces and then everyone’s like, “This is for you. We heard you got into school. We heard you got into the acting program. We know it’s you. We’ve raised over $5,000 to help you with your room and board. We have bikes. We have laptops or whatever you need.” It broke me. The beauty of these people. That was the last thing that I expected and I was like, “After everything you all have done and you’re still pouring in, God is good.” It hit me and all they wanted to know, “Tell us your story. We heard a little bit but we want to know from you.” Some of the people I didn’t know and then you heard it was word of mouth. They’re like, “We want to know. What’s your story?” I told them in some cry or hug me and I was crying and it was this beauty from a movie moment. I knew I was like, “God, this is what you meant when you said to keep going.” This is why I need to keep going. From then on, they still to this day is pouring in.

It does take a village. I know for someone like myself, it’s easy to even in knowing how much I’ve been given and blessed with, to take it for granted and not to think of all the different aspects and facets of it, like getting a license. Something that seems like a normal process of your childhood experience is not a normal process for most people. There are a lot of people where that is extraordinary and all the different things that go into each step and that mantra of yours, which is, “Keep going.” It’s helpful to understand that my job is to take one more step, not to figure out the tenth step because I don’t know. If I can take the next step, that’s all that matters. For me, it’s something I have to keep telling myself and in the midst change, you are like, “I don’t know what the outcome is but I know what the next step is.” I need to take the next step. Tell me about Texas State. Being behind the curve in the academic side, getting in was an awesome feat, but being able to get through it while being behind academically is another feat in and of itself. What was that process for you and trying to play catchup at a whole new level, the college level?

Long story short, by the end of my freshman year, I was on academic probation. I couldn’t perform, I couldn’t audition, I couldn’t do anything. It was like, “This is real. I can’t escape by my pretty looks.” My charm is not going to get me to graduate on this or my charm isn’t going to get me the right grade. I had to put in the effort. Michael put me on academic probation, even though it was like, “I want to perform. I want to audition.” He was like, “No, you’ve got to get your grades up.” I have to have a 2.5. That whole next semester, I was hustling. I was in books. I was studying. I have never had to challenge my brain so much because that’s not what I was used to. It was tough. It was a lot of long nights and study groups. It’s a lot of me saying, “I can’t do this,” and having panic attacks. I would be in so much anxiety. Even part of that is where the drinking started coming in because I was like, “I’m anxious and I can’t focus and I have all of this. Maybe I would go to have a drink and go to a party,” and I did it again.

Although I was bringing up my grades, I was also on the opposite and I was like, “Even though I’m bringing up my grades, I need to release this stress.” I was going through that phase and partying way too much. Ultimately, I was learning how to study and learning how to sit down and go over. I have to perform in class. I got to pull an all-nighter because I’ve been studying for this class and I was studying for that class. Although my major is important, my theater academics are important also. I got to get my generals eds up. It’s balancing. I could sacrifice a little bit like learning an audition for a scene or whatever for my gen eds, which was difficult. I was like, “This is what I want to do. This is what I have to. I have to do this but it’s important. I have to do it and I don’t want to do it.” How do you balance that? It was a battle but ultimately, I ended up putting my nose into the grind and making it happen because it was, “Keep going because you are here now.” You’re in it. You’re in the thick.

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What kept you going in those years specifically?

It’s the same thing. My family was going through a cycle. My brother got shot. In high school, it was a mom. In college, it was a brother. That was my biggest fear. I prayed that it would never happen and it did again. No one is invincible. I was like, “I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to keep going because the only way that I’m going to change this cycle is if I’m already ahead. I got to get even further. No matter what, I can’t turn back.” I did. I performed a lot. That was such a blessing to be able to be on stage. I went to compete. I went to London for the first time to study Shakespeare. I’m the first person in my family to go out of this country. These moments, they’re not only hard, I’m not grinding, but I’m also learning what it’s like to be a person, to live outside of his circumstance. That’s what I want my family to experience. I’m experiencing these beautiful moments. I have to keep going so they can one day. It was like, “No matter what, graduating and going to LA is the next destination.”

Being able to live outside of your circumstances is such a hard thing to do. It didn’t even matter which side of the fence you’re on. Every side is hard to do that. We fall prey to our circumstances in all areas of our lives. We let that dictate a lot of how we operate. There’s a quote from this guy, Anthony De Mello, he wrote this book called Awareness. He said, “Loneliness is not cured by human company. Loneliness is cured by contact with reality. Dropping one’s illusions and making contact with the real.” Circumstances are real, but our perception of them is the illusion. We have to drop those if we’re going to be able to see reality for what it is.

You’ve got to get out of your way.

We all get in our way in every type of situation. What are you most proud of from those college years when you look back?

Feeling like I grew as an actor, I feel the relationships that I developed are probably the most important. I’m still friends with a lot of people. I think that at the end of the day, if all goes away, the only thing that you have is the people in your life. That’s what I’ve learned with all these people pouring into me. I started developing this as this mantra that we are alive through the relation of other people. If I was the only person on this planet and I wasn’t able to see anybody else, I would have no concept or reality of me knowing that I’m alive. I would be like, “I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know what this is.” Having connections and talking to people and being able to touch other people or see other people. All of these things allow you to know that you’re alive. At the end of the day, if I have nothing, the only thing that I know I will have forever are the connections and relationships with the people that I’ve impacted or who have impacted me in my life. College was amazing and it was a great journey. Those friendships that I developed and those brotherhoods or sisterhood, those are important to me because those are people I have for life.

The next journey was LA. Were you able to transition straight from college to LA? What was that process like? How many years has it been now?

I went to London for a month. I studied abroad in the summer of 2015 after graduation. It was incredible and one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced. I came back and I worked at the W Austin for a couple of months and then I booked it out to LA. I have $400 in my pocket. They bought me a car after mine broke down. Texas State is a hilly college, so the little Civic didn’t last. They bought me this nice Toyota that got me from Texas to LA. I packed it up. My dad and my stepmom met me out here with the rest of my stuff. I hopped in my car and I booked it. I didn’t want to stop. I get a call from Ms. Rollins, “Where are you?” I’m like, “I’m in New Mexico.” She’s like, “Are you going to keep driving?” I was like, “Yes, I’m going to stop if I need to outside of the road, fall asleep, keep going.” She was like, “No, you’re getting a hotel. I’m going to get you a hotel.”

She got me a hotel for the night. I slept for six hours. I got up and I booked it. I was gone. I made it here within less than two days. I met up with my dad. I went to Newport Beach, one of the first beaches and it was nice. I was like, “I’m home. This is it. I can feel the work. I can feel the go.” I had no doubt in my mind. I was like, “August is going to be the day.” I’ve moved, I stayed with my friend, Matthew. I’ve slept on his couch for a couple of months. I already had a job lined up, which was cool. That was the only thing that I had lined up. I ended up getting a manager, which was super dope, pretty quick. It was like, “Go, keep going.” It’s been tough, but also there have been a lot of great things.

How long has it been now?

UAC 135 | Asking The Right Questions

 

It’s for several years.

In this season, in this LA phase, when you look back, what are you most proud of from these past years?

It’s that I didn’t quit. I was talking to my friend about this and I was like, “Everything’s in force.” In high school, it’s forced and something happens. In college, it’s forced. I’m in my fourth year here and I feel I’m good, but in between those, that freshman, sophomore, the junior, the senior year it’s happened. In high school, college and life. I’m in that phase where I’m going to grad school now. I’m on my way to grad school in LA. It’s crazy because of those moments, I lost many family members and people that were close to me. My human self without God, without the Holy Spirit that lives within me is saying, “Go home, go be with your family. You don’t know how long they have left. You don’t know how long you have left. It’ll be okay. You can come back.”

With God in me it’s like, “No, you can’t do that because then you have to start all over.” It was tough. The number of times that I called crying, saying, “I wish I could come home for a little bit.” At the end of the day, I needed someone to listen. I needed someone to ask the right questions and then I kept going. I’m proud that I stuck it out because I did see some people they like, “I’ve got to go back. Do what you need to.” I feel like those people are going to come back. For me, I have something to go back to but I don’t have anything to go back to. My life is here.

The seasons that you graduated from, what did these produce in you as a man?

I was talking to Heidi about this, which is interesting because when you’re a kid and you’re growing up and you’re like, “You have to go to church every day.” You’re like, “This is a chore. I don’t want to do this.” People are forcing you to do it and you’re like, “You have to do it.” You’re like, “I don’t want to.” You get to a point in your life where you’re like, “I’ve got to go to church.” That’s the point where I’m at. I’m like, “I don’t want to miss church. I want to go to church.” The things that I feel like I was forced to do as a kid, I want to do them. I want to be better. I want to grow as a man. I want to develop relationships where it’s like, “I trust you. You trust me.” I want to pour into kids who need someone to listen to. I want to pursue a godly relationship. I want to pursue God. God’s pursuing me my whole life. It’s my turn. I want to be a man. That’s what’s changed. At first, I was forced to be a man. I was forced to grow up early and it was a chore. It wasn’t easy. It was like, “Go.” I’m like, “I don’t want to, but I have to.” Now I’m like, “I want to go. I’m sorry, I can’t wait for you. I’ve got to do this. I want to do this.” That go is what I want. I feel like I’m settled in that as a man, as someone who loves people and tries his best to be as authentic as possible.

I check myself because I’ve had an ego. I’ve been a little narcissistic. If you didn’t know, now you know. I’ve had to ask myself the hard questions, “Is this you? Do you want to be this person? Do you want what you’ve always wanted, but you thought you couldn’t have because it’s gotten hard?” You have to ask yourself, “What’s real? Who are you?” Not the person that people told you that you are but who are you? At the end of the day, when you are standing there before God and He says, “Who are you?” “God, I am this because you helped me become that.” Of course, not to say like, “No one can’t pour into you, no one is self-made.” You also have to because that was something I struggled with. I was like, “This person thinks I’m that so I must be that.” I used to have a superpower where I can read people’s minds because I wanted to know what they thought about me. I’m like, “It matters that if you’re somebody I trust, I care about what you think. At the end of the day, I have to make a decision on my own of who I feel like I am, who I know that I am.”

At the end of the day, we have to be who we’re called to be. It’s such a funny tension. The mantra of our show was an intention in the tension because life is filled with them. Intentionality is like saying, “No one’s self-made. No one pulls himself up by their own bootstraps. We have to do with others. It’s a community.” On the other side of the coin, no one tells you who you are. You have to discover and determine that for yourself from life and God. Own that and not be afraid to own that because we’re each uniquely made and gifted in our way. We aren’t called to be anyone but ourselves in that. That’s the tension. It’s like in the middle, that messy middle, that gray area. Now that you’ve graduated into being a man, what do you see as this next journey? There are interesting parallels with timing. I’ve heard a lot about the 7 to 8 years mark of that’s how long it takes to pursue mastery and a lot of ways. There have been a lot of studies and a lot of parallels around that. I feel like there’s almost seven or eight years’ timeline, but half of that is four years, it can be broken up and half. If we go back to the four-year timeline, as you graduate into this new season, what do you see as the next preparing phase? What do you see ahead of you in that?

I would say you never know. I can’t say like, “This is it,” because God will throw things at you always. I’m finally at a point where I’m like, “No more excuses.” I hadn’t taken an acting class since I moved here. I got into one and there’s no reason for that. Blame it on finances or blaming it on this or that. It was like, “This is what you want to do, you’ve got to do it. No matter what, this is what you came here to do. Stop making excuses and playing around. You can’t.” I’ve gone through a lot of issues and relationships and I’ve learned a lot. I’m at this point where I’m like, “I’ve got to devote myself as a man for my relationship deeply.”

In that front with your relationship with your girlfriend, when you look at this relationship that you’re in, what do you see as the growth that was most needed for you?

Insecurity and honestly waiting for God to tell me and when I was ready to be in a relationship. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my mom growing up, I was looking for that deeply. When I didn’t get what I needed from that relationship that I needed from my mom, I would be insecure. I would say that the person didn’t care. I would run away. I would think that they didn’t love me. I was some trophy or I’ve made every excuse possible to not allow myself to think that they cared. Also, in a lot of those relationships were decisions that I made looking for the wrong thing and they weren’t the right thing for me. In this relationship, I wasn’t looking for anything. They say it sounds cliché that it happens when you’re not looking but it’s a fact. I knew what I wanted and it wasn’t the easy thing. I remember saying, “God, this is the woman that I want.” It was the opposite of what I’ve ever asked for. It was going to be hard. It was going to be like, “You’re going to have to work at your baggage, your issues sexually, your alcohol consumption.”

All of these things where I was like, “God, this is what I need.” He’s like, “I’ve been waiting for you to act. I’ve been waiting for you to say you’re ready for that.” He drops it off and I was like, “God, this is what I want.” I’m not even going to think about it. That was it. This is what I want. He’s like, “Here you go.” I was like, “That was quick. There was no warm-up.” I went through a battle, but ultimately I was like, “This is the piece that I feel. The connection that God is in the center of this relationship and yet it’s a battle.” It’s a back and forth, but it’s easy. When I was in a relationship and someone would say something about me, like my girlfriend at the time, she was talking non-stop. I’d be like, “Yes, whatever.” I’ll leave, avoid conflict and run away. That’s what I was used to. Come back, try and talk it out. Let it develop as insecurity.

Now if she says something, I’m like, “Let’s deal with this. Let’s talk about it.” This is the life. This isn’t like we’re dating around. We’re developing a life together. This is different. This is real. This isn’t me trying to figure out myself through a relationship. This isn’t me trying to develop a relationship that I’m going to build in the future. She’s good at being honest with me and being loving and supporting and everything that you’re supposed to have in a relationship. Sometimes I’d catch myself because I’m like, “I could’ve bypassed all of what I went through if I waited.” Also, I needed that because I’ve got to push all of that out in those relationships, so when things come up I’m like, “I know it’s me. I’m throwing that insecurity on you. I’m sorry.”

It’s funny too because I have learned much for myself on that journey over the last few months. It’s funny because I didn’t come with any experience in that sense, zero almost. I almost feel bad on the other hand of feeling like a toddler. I’m learning everything for the first time. I almost feel like I’m making it harder on her because of that. I wish I would have more experience, so I would know better how to handle it. The point is everyone goes on their journey and you have to go on your journey but you can’t do it alone.

There’s a beauty to that too. The beautiful thing about Heidi is I’m her first relationship. It’s the same for you. You all are the same but the beauty that you bring to people who have been in relationships, we get to see love like for the first time through your eyes and experience what it was like, how to do it with you. You bring this toddler aspect. It’s like, “I get to start over and I get to be a toddler in love for the first time again.” It’s always interesting thinking about that.

We’ll end with some one-offs here and some other questions that some other people wanted to know. One of them is, what are you fighting for? What’s the purpose of what you’re doing?

What I’m fighting is to gain influence on a big scale so that I can do what we’re doing at the Good City Mentors on a bigger scale. I want to be an actor so that I can have a wider influence and do more. Everything in my life is wrapped up in that throughout.

Speak a little bit more about how you think about why we should have careers or what careers are for?

What’s interesting at church is where they hit on this. He’s like, “When you go to God and say like, ‘This is what I’ve had,’ I used what you gave me on Earth, so I’m well-equipped to use it in heaven.” Career-wise, we all have a purpose and if you feel like you don’t, then I challenge you to sit with yourself for a good two days and meditate on that. We all have a purpose and the importance of our careers are going to impact the world for the future because this is a part of heaven on earth. If you’re not using your career to influence the world, I would challenge you to sit and see why. Why are you doing what you are doing?

What does character mean to you?

Character to me is when someone’s explaining to someone else who you are, they’re explaining your character. When someone’s like, “Danezion is a cool guy. He has some weird, shifty eyes but he is a nice guy. You can trust him. He’s big, so if you need some furniture moved, he could do that for you. If you call him up, ask him to help you out, he will.” “Danezion, he’s shifty. If you ask him, he might not get back to you, but he will eventually. He’ll pull through but it might not be right now.” When people were explaining to you about someone else that they know or they trust or they don’t trust.

What can you not imagine living without?

Heidi.

What do you want to do less often, more often and none at all?

What I want to do less often is procrastinate. I want that less and I’m on that journey. One thing I want to do more of is I want to act more. That’s what I’m here for. What I don’t want to do at all is lead with frustration or anger. I want to listen first and react second.

What question do you ask yourself the most?

“Am I doing this right?”

The follow-up question, is there a right?

No.

“Do it, keep going,” that’s the mantra. What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?

Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. I love poetry. My grandmother used to have the Green Eggs and Ham book under her coffee table. I would go over and I would read it almost every day to the point that I memorized it. I don’t remember it now. My love for words, music and poetry comes from reading that book even though it’s a child’s book.

It’s a work of art. It’s easy to poo-poo it, but it is such a masterpiece. There’s a reason why it is a staple to this day. What are your cornerstone habits? What are the things that keep your life in place?

Exercising. I’m not a fun person to be around if I haven’t worked out in a few days because I played football my whole life. It’s natural. It’s what releases me, and cooking. I have to cook. It’s therapy and I zone out. I’m involved in cooking and whether it tastes amazing or not, but it usually does. I get wrapped up in it because it’s something that I started doing in college. Another thing where I was like, “I don’t know how to this, but I started.” You’re a broke college kid. You start grabbing stuff out of the fridge. You got to figure it out.

What is your cooking method? Do you go the recipe route or do you go the improvisation route?

Heidi and I have this cookbook called One Pan, Two Plates. We’ll go off the recipe ones. After that, it’s a free game. Before that, I never looked at the recipe. I would look at the ingredients and then I figure it out. I’d be like, “I need this and that. I’m going to put my twist on it and make it happen.”

A little bit of structure is creativity. Too much structure, no creativity and no life. The last question, the one we ask everyone that comes on is, if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what would you say and why? This would be a short message from you that everyone receives as a reminder on their phones every morning.

Go, go, go and don’t stop until you stop and keep going.

Danezion, this has been awesome.

Thank you so much for having me.

Where’s a good place to reach you if people want to reach out and say hi or find out about some of your work?

I am an active user on Instagram, @DanezionMills52. You can check out my work. I’m also a personal trainer. On Facebook, I’m at Danezion Mills. On Gmail is ZekeMills52@Gmail.com.

This has been awesome. Thanks for sharing your story and blessing us with that.

Thanks for having me. It’s my pleasure. It’s been a blessing.

We hope you all have an up and coming week because we are out.

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About Danezion Mills

UAC 135 | Asking The Right QuestionsDanezion Mills was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He is a first-generation graduate from Texas State with his BFA in Acting, moving to LA afterward to pursue his dream. He began acting in high school while playing football and met some amazing people on his football team as well as in some of his theatre performances. Those people and their families helped him throughout high school and college after he made the decision to leave his mother’s house to pursue a better opportunity during his early high school years.

Having all of these outside resources help him along the way has inspired him to pay it forward. Danezion is an active member of Good City Mentors which is helping him touch the lives of young men as was done for him at the same age. Danezion has been a part of projects like Buried in the Backyard and has a few other projects in the works. Danezion wants to become an actor to enable the work he is doing in GCM even more.

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