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COVER STORY: BRELY EVANS : Wiles Magazine

COVER STORY: BRELY EVANS

By Teryl Warren

Sometimes, if you stick around Hollywood long enough, you get to witness a career trajectory that’s headed in all the right directions. Such is the case with me and Brely Evans. When we first featured Brely in a “Starlet Spotlight,” she was a relative newcomer awaiting the release of her latest film Sparkle. This time, she’s a standout on one of the steamiest shows on television…and a cover girl.

Actress, author & producer Brely Evans. Photo by Louis Cuthbert. Stylist: Marcus Jai. Hair by Brely’s Natural Bundles (BrelyEvans.com)

In 1984, the late, legendary Diahann Carroll stepped into the role of Dominique Devereaux on the prime time soap Dynasty and became “The first black bitch on television.” 35 years later, hit-making producer Will Packer and show creator Jamey Giddens are building on that legacy with their hit primetime drama Ambitions on OWN. Starring Robin Givens, Brian White and Essence Atikins, Ambitions is a multigenerational family saga set in the world of some of Atlanta’s most powerful and deceitful players.

“If you haven’t seen Ambitions you’re missing out! This is the most scandalous, sexalicious show with beautiful people on TV right now,” Brely laughed.  “We are giving a bow to the Old School soap opera dramas like Dallas and it all comes from the vision of our show creator Jamey Giddens. It’s been an amazing ride to be a part of such a scandalous, yet fun show!”

If you love great fashion, classic R&B and plot twists that will leave you in knots, Ambitions is definitely the show for you. But amid all of the power plays and backstabbing, a fight for family and community – rooted in realism – is being waged by Rondell Lancaster…charmingly portrayed by Brely Evans.

The younger sister of Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster (played by Brian White), Rondell is a hardworking woman who, by most accounts, has sacrificed her own life to protect and preserve the restaurant originally opened by her late mother.  Caught between her love for her brother, her hate for his wife (played by Robin Givens) and the interests of a ruthless developer (played by Gino Anthony Pesi), Rondell is the type of character who’s easy to root for: she’s kind, genuine and fearless. And while audiences are sure to be drawn to Rondell, the same can’t be said for Brely. At least, not a first.

“I wasn’t drawn to Rondell, Rondell was drawn to me,” she explains. “I was on a lunch break from shooting Last Call, and a gentleman walked past me in the hall. He said ‘Hello’ and I said ‘Hello.’  A minute later, our casting director George Pierre came into the lunch room and told me someone wanted to meet me. When I got to his office, the man from the hall was there and he said ‘You look like you could play this role – Rondell Lancaster. I said, ‘Oh, you didn’t get the memo? I am Rondell Lancaster!’”

As it turns out, the man from the hall was prolific director Benny Boom. And within just a few moments of talking with Brely, he realized she was right. She really was Rondell.

“I said “What’re we talking about? We got a new show? I’m on a lunch break, but I’ll read for you right now,” she recalled. “[Benny] was like ‘Whoa! Are you always this fearless? Because, that’s her – that’s the character.’  I said, ‘Yeah, I’m always this fearless.  I’m from Oakland!’“

Brely Evans as Rondell Lancaster on Ambitions. Photo courtesy of OWN/Eli Ade.

Fearless or not, Brely immediately found herself faced with the very real challenge of having to remember her lines for her current show, plus learn 3 new scenes for her audition with Benny Boom…the next day. It’s the type of scenario some folks describe as both “a blessing and a curse.”  But for Brely, it’s all about the blessings.

“What are the chances that I would happen to go to lunch that day at the very moment that Benny was in the hall? That we would be the only two people in the hall at that moment and that he would be led to speak to me,” she marveled. “My life is unfolding in such a way that I’m open to the Spirit and where it’s leading me. I’ve always believed that what God has for me will come to me, naturally. I never tried to network my way to anything. I don’t network, I let God work.”

Don’t make the mistake of reading too much dogma between the lines of Brely’s beliefs. She is equal parts faith-filled and pragmatic.

“Of course, everyone has bumps in the road and hard times. But you come to understand that even the hard times have a purpose. I wish I had this sense of purpose and self awareness when I was a teenager. Lord, my life might’ve progressed by leaps and bounds,” she says. “But, still, I’m grateful that I know it now.”

There are some people whose light shines so brightly that others can’t help but see it. Years ago, when Brely Evans was working in marketing, people saw it.  When she was working at a talent agency – not being represented as talent – people saw it. When she was singing in a trio, trying to hide her shine behind the 2 other members of the group, people still saw it.

And at some point, in her own time, Brely came to see her light, too.

“Sometimes, people come into your life to remind you of who you are and to help build your self-esteem. When I learned to bet on myself, I finally realized that I am enough. Being your most authentic self is your superpower.”

Thirty minutes after reading for Benny Boom and producer Sheila Ducksworth, Brely booked the role of Rondell Lancaster. It is a role that has forced Brely to stretch as an actor. It is a role that shines a light on the struggles of people fighting to save their communities from corporate interests. It is a role that has caused fans to literally stop Brely in the street to say “Thank you.”

Actress, author & producer Brely Evans. Photo by Louis Cuthbert. Stylist: Marcus Jai. Hair by Brely’s Natural Bundles (BrelyEvans.com)

“Gentrification is real. People have come up to me and told  me, ‘Our house was passed down to us from our grandparents and now people are coming in, offering us a few dollars and trying to push us out,’” she shared.  “I’m glad we’re conveying information to people that can be helpful because they may not know they need to go get a lawyer or to show up at the City Hall meetings.  People enjoy the scandalousness of our show, but they’re also feeling supported by it because we’re talking about real issues that are impacting them.“

While Brely is quick to give the entire cast, crew and writing staff credit for the style and substance of Ambitions, she also has high praise for the man at the top for providing an environment built for success.

”From day one, I felt like I was with family. Will Packer, himself, came up to me and made sure I felt comfortable and let me know that I could reach him directly if I needed to. I was blown away that someone so accomplished and high up would be that accessible, but he is real. He is real people.  He’s like the pastor of a mega church who still shakes everybody’s hand!”

 

In addition to her busy acting career, Brely has recently added published author to her resume.

“I was posting daily affirmations on my Instagram page, and the response was so great that it forced me to write the book,” she said. “One of my fans emailed me every ‘I am’ I’d ever posted and I realized that people were listening and that what I was doing was touching them.  I never considered myself a writer, but I felt the call and the urgency that people needed something to help them feel more powerful in their lives, so I just said ‘Okay, I’m gonna do it.’“

Having translated her positivity and perseverance to the page, her new ebook The ABC’s of I Ams is currently available for purchase on her website BrelyEvans.com.

As Ambitions gears up for its midseason premiere on November 12, the stage is set for Brely Evans’ star to shine even brighter. As Will Packer confidently told her, “Brely, this is your time.”  Brely’s preparing for the next level. And she wants fans of Ambitions to get ready, too.

“These are gonna be some riveting episodes because some relationships are gonna be revealed, some are gonna be tested, some new characters are coming on,” she shared. “You’re gonna be talking back to the TV and calling your friends during commercial breaks! I just say, to people who were on the edge of their seats for the first 11 episodes, go on and get down on the floor for these next ones!”

Ambitions airs Tuesdays on OWN. Visit Oprah.com for a complete schedule and to stream previous episodes online.

To keep up with all things Brely and to purchase her book The ABC’s of I Ams, please visit: BrelyEvans.com.

 

 

 

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