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Disney Dreamers Academy

Every year, Disney World, Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine host 100 high school students, their parents and the media for a weekend of career exploration, encouragement and inspiration. The weekend is called Disney Dreamers Academy. Every year celebrities and professional speakers come in to encourage the students and their parents. Being at Disney World it’s fun for the media too. But inevitably I find that I needed the inspiration from the speakers and celebrities as well.

This year, “black-ish” stars Marsai Martin and Miles Brown, who play twins Diane and Jack Johnson, sat down to impart some wisdom to high school students. While you might be wondering what a couple of newly-minted teenagers have to say, Marsai shared anecdotes about proving to doubters, inside of your family and out, that you’re serious about your path. See what she had to say on a panel hosted by Sunny Hostin below.

When asked who were their biggest role models, the biggest influence in their lives, Miles Brown and Marsai Martin immediately named their parents.

“My parents took a chance and sacrificed their jobs and a big move to California. And they were like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? We’re literally packing up this whole house.’ And I would always say, ‘Yeah.’ I’m six years old. And they were like, ‘Ok, if she wants to do this and this is her passion, then let’s do it.’
I would always thank my parents in everything I do because they sacrificed everything for me to do what I love.”

What do you say to the kids who are getting pushback from their parents who aren’t comfortable with their children’s dreams?

“A lot of people really won’t get…Don’t you wish that you could jump into somebody’s mind to see what they’re thinking? So, no one will really understand what you’re going through, even your parents. So, I feel like if you just show them or explain to them that this is what you want to do. Your parents are like your biggest fans, really. And they will listen to you if you talk to them and express your feelings.”

Then Marsai segued into overcoming pushback from people outside of your family.

“After “black-ish” season 1, [Marsai’s parents] asked her agency ‘Ok, we’re on hiatus. We’re on a break. What are we supposed to do?’ And our agent said, ‘Well, just stick with “black-ish” we don’t have anything else for you.’ And our parents were like, ‘But it’s pilot season, auditions are happening. What’s going on?’ So they gathered us with this big ole meeting with all the agents, a big ole stack of scripts, papers and stuff with everything that I’m not in. Like, there’s no little Black girls in this, there’s a dog in this, there’s an alien. But there’s nothing for you to be in, just basically showing me.’

And I’m like, ‘Well, let’s create our own stuff.’

And my parents knew ‘Ok, this is really what she wants to do.’ Now, I’m executive producing my own film that we’ll be shooting.

Marsai is referencing the upcoming film “Little,” in which she will also star. As we reported earlier, the film is about “a woman who gets the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relive her carefree days as a kid when the struggles of adulthood get way too real.”

Martin, now 13, says she has been working on the project for the past three years.

“People will really look down on you on some things but if you really push and work hard and say, ‘I’m going to show these people.’ We fired them but…it just shows you guys, if that’s something you really want to do and you tell your parents, go ahead and shine on through.”


To learn more about The Disney Dreamers Academy, click here. If you have a high school student you believe would be good for the program, follow the program’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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