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Travina Springer Of Ms. Marvel: I Wish Someone Told Me That I Didn’t Need To Be Skinny Or Starve Myself To Fit In

Yitzi Weiner @ Authority Magazine

Authority Magazine
...That I didn’t need to be skinny or starve myself to fit in or be marketable. I was told early on by a well known manager’s assistant that I needed to be a size 2, or no larger than a size 4. That stuck with me for a while. Weight and size was talked about a lot when I was getting started and I was really self-conscious about gaining weight. I understand now that it doesn’t matter. Thankfully, the industry has shifted, even if it’s only a teeny bit, to be more inclusive to all body types.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Travina Springer.

Actress on the rise, Travina Springer, is quickly positioning herself as one-to-watch in the entertainment industry today. This year, Travina will join the Marvel Universe appearing in Disney+ and Marvel Studios’ highly anticipated, brand-new series, “Ms. Marvel.” The series follows Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a Pakistani-American teenager living in Jersey City obsessed with superhero culture and the various heroes of the world. As she navigates high school, she comes in possession of magical bangles that give her the ability to harness cosmic energy that puts her on the path to becoming her own hero. Travina shines as Tyesha Hillman on the show, who has a strong sense of confidence, style and is not afraid of following her own path. Travina’s character is also a Muslim convert who cares deeply about her faith, family and loves all things ‘nerd.’ “Ms. Marvel” marks a new chapter for Disney as the studio explores these characters’ Muslim and Pakistani heritage, putting diverse storytelling at the forefront of this title. “Ms. Marvel’’ will premiere on June 8, 2022. Additional credits for Travina include CBS’ “Life in Pieces,” Paramount+’s “Strange Angel,” and the Clint Eastwood helmed feature film, “The Mule.” In comedy, Travina was a performer in the 2017 CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, and her stand-up was featured on the reboot of BET’s “Comic View.” Over the years she has been an active member at UCB Comedy, performing on the Maude team, Mama at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Travina’s father was an Army Military Intelligence Officer who was stationed in various parts of the country before landing the family in Oviedo, Florida where Travina spent most of her childhood. Travina went on to attend Florida State University where she majored in Communication Studies. During her time at Florida State, she explored the idea of bringing characters to life on stage and in film/television through theater and acting classes, while also participating in student films. She fell in love with the craft, and upon graduation moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting full time. She has been working ever since. Fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), Travina has volunteered and worked as an ASL interpreter over the years which supported her as a performer in the Los Angeles-based non-profit arts organization Deaf West Theatre, performing in their Equity regional tour for children titled “Shel Stories.” Travina is also an active supporter of the organization Vigilant Love. Based in the Los Angeles Area, #VigilantLOVE creates spaces for connection and grassroots movement to protect the safety and justice of communities impacted by Islamophobia and violence. When Travina’s not on set you can find her baking for her friends, at the beach or on the hunt for the best vegan donuts in LA. She is a convert to Islam, like her character in “Ms. Marvel,” and found that through their shared experiences, she connected with the role on a very organic level.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Travina! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I had a really happy childhood! I’m still very close to my parents and my sister. The only constant in my life was change, because my dad was in the army and we moved around a lot when I was little. But because of this, I learned how to adapt to new environments and connect with new people quickly. I mostly grew up on military bases or in the suburbs of various cities. Some of my favorite childhood memories include having a swing set with a slide and monkey bars in my backyard where my sister and I would play for hours. I’d love to make up stories or re-enact Saturday cartoons or commercials I saw.

Lucky for me, my parents saw that I had an interest in the arts and performing and encouraged and supported me — they never stifled either my sister’s or my self-expression and I’m grateful for that. They let me do all the weird things like talking in weird voices or donning accents, putting on concerts, writing stories, or taping commercials for them as gifts! They eventually enrolled me in acting classes once they saw I was really serious about it.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I remember in 5th grade we had an assignment of writing a school play inspired by time travel. It was a history thing and the teacher let us create our own stories and characters. I was probably the most excited person in my classroom! I decided I was going to play a nerd so I grabbed an old school uniform from home and made it so that my glasses would keep slipping off my face. I had all this energy and excitement around the project. I think it was only the second time that I had even done a school play. Although acting had always been something that I wanted to do, something in me shifted after this experience. Soon after, I convinced my parents to enroll me into acting classes.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I don’t know if this is the most interesting story, but I have been a huge fan of Jeff Goldblum for years. I talk about my love for him in my stand-up and my friends know how much I enjoy his body of work. Well, I ended up running into him at a drugstore in Los Angeles and he was so kind and gracious. We took a selfie and everything. A year later, almost to the date I shot a project with him and once again, he was just wonderful! On top of that, our director was the award winning Taika Watiti! He had so much energy and was also kind and generous to work with. I worked with two Marvel stars in one day and now I’m in the MCU too! It’s just so surreal.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m so blessed, have received a lot of help along my journey. But the most influential will probably have to be my parents. My parents have been so supportive of me and my dreams from the start. Without them rooting for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They instilled a sense of self worth and gave me the freedom to be an expressive weirdo since I was a kid and I’m so grateful for that.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

I think the one thing we can’t avoid is failure — like even if it’s making a dish and trying to perfect it, we’re not going to get it right the first time. Our career aspirations can be daunting but we can’t let the fear of failure (and desire for perfectionism) mess with our pursuit of our dreams. I say this even for myself, that in order to get to where I need to go, I need to be so focused on what it is that I truly want while also seeing each obstacle, or failure, as a learning opportunity instead of a deterrent. I believe that trusting that if I’m aligned with my values and purpose, then the universe will open up paths for me to succeed. So keep doing what your heart wants to do and keep going, everyone! The key is listening to yourself. If every talented artist allowed failure to stop them, then we wouldn’t have beautiful art in the world that heals us.

What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

I absolutely love my work. This industry has far to go, but it’s inspiring to know that there are so many creators of color trying to bring change into this industry just by writing/sharing their stories. I love when I watch a good show and know the impact that it is having on culture and in our world at large. What also makes me want to get up everyday is the hope that I can inspire and influence people through the stories I’m telling and characters I’m portraying.

With that said, I would love to see even more inclusion, more voices from the margins: women, BIPOC and QTBIPOC, disabled people, and fewer gatekeepers controlling what stories get told. I want to see things that reflect the societies we live in, and the world at large; stories that highlight the commonalities we have that go beyond our exteriors. For example, it would be awesome to see a studio rom-com celebrating QTBIPOC disabled love! I would love that!

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You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Right now I’m most excited about Ms. Marvel on Disney+! It’s about Kamala Khan a teenager growing up in Jersey City, who’s the first Muslim American superhero in the Marvel Universe leading their own series. I play Tyesha Hillman, Aamir’s fiance. I love playing this character because Tyesha is a talented, witty, stylish Black girl nerd who isn’t afraid of choosing her own path. Like me, she’s also a convert to Islam and she’s very unapologetic about who she is. This project is so special and groundbreaking because it shows Muslims in a positive light and South Asian culture in such a beautiful matter-of-fact way.

In the future, I’d love to continue to be involved in projects where authenticity and inclusion is in the forefront. I’d love to do more comedic projects, period pieces and projects that really stretch me. Additionally, I want to continue creating and producing more of my own content. I’ve been very lucky, the characters I’ve played in the last few projects I’ve been in felt like they were extensions of myself. I’ve had the benefit of bringing my life experiences to these roles, but I also know it would be really fun for me to take on a character that is a lot different than who I am.

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

Reason 1 — the more diverse stories we see, the more understanding in the world we create. When we see communities that aren’t typically represented, the more we as audiences understand how vast our societies are. Art should always reflect what the world looks like.

Reason 2 — There is power in being seen. TV and Film are the most powerful art mediums in this world because it’s most easily accessible and it is the farthest reaching. If I could’ve seen more Black or female representation in the shows and films I was watching growing up, I would’ve felt validated and my journey as a young person would’ve been impacted in profound ways. But when our communities are invisiibilized, we consequently think that we don’t matter; we internalize so much and that oftentimes halts us in our personal growth — because ultimately we are seen as “inferior” to what is typically perceived as normalized.

Reason 3 — Media is an essential tool to connect people, inform and educate. Art and storytelling are powerful vehicles that can inspire cultural movements which can then eventually influence public policy.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. That this was gonna be a long journey. There’s no such thing…well ok, there are some exceptions to “overnight success” stories, but for the most part, this (getting work and getting paid well) will take some time, and that’s ok!
  2. That I didn’t need to be skinny or starve myself to fit in or be marketable. I was told early on by a well known manager’s assistant that I needed to be a size 2, or no larger than a size 4. That stuck with me for a while. Weight and size was talked about a lot when I was getting started and I was really self-conscious about gaining weight. I understand now that it doesn’t matter. Thankfully, the industry has shifted, even if it’s only a teeny bit, to be more inclusive to all body types.
  3. Start doing comedy sooner. I wanted to try stand-up since college and I was too afraid to. I eventually got into improv and stand up and it was a game changer for my career and my work as an artist. The point is, it was something that I wanted and I ignored it for a while. Once I decided to take the risk and do what I wanted to do, doors opened for me. (Also, it doesn’t hurt to do things that build your tool set).
  4. Save your money! You will earn money as an artist and then you need it to actually survive in LA. That commercial will eventually stop running (lol) so you gotta stay prepared!
  5. Just be yourself and trust your instincts. I spent too much time trying to fit into versions that people expected me to be. Also, self-doubt got in the way. For example, I doubted my comedic voice a lot because the comedy spaces I engaged in were not as inclusive as they could have been. When I began trusting myself and showing up more authentically, things got easier and I was happier.

Can you share with our readers any selfcare routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I think self care is so important and essential. Sadly, I probably didn’t prioritize it until very recently. For my heart and mind to thrive, I’ve definitely worked on boundary setting. I think its an often overlooked form of self care. Sometimes saying ‘No’ is helpful.

I love journaling — there’s so much I can just pour onto the page freely and it helps me process my feelings and thoughts.

I like to wake with ease. This might sound crazy but, unless I absolutely have to, I like to wake up without an alarm. I like to “ease into my morning,” It’s very grounding and healing for me to do so. I think having a morning routine is really helpful for me as well, it’s really helped me ground my day to thrive.For example, I like to begin my morning by speaking gratitude, praying, sip a warm drink and journal when I can. I just listen to my body to see what it needs or clocking my first thought or feeling of the day is. Do I need water? To go for a walk? Meditate? And I just go from there. One thing I try to avoid is going straight to my phone or social media as soon as I wake up. I think it’s unhealthy and not ok for a device to influence your mood so early in the day. Treat yourself and ease into your morning! Put the phone down. Oh and drink water!!!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t Quit.” It’s actually a poem by Edgar A. Guest. I keep a copy of it on my mirror so I can see it and be reminded everyday.

(Here’s an excerpt)

Success is failure turned inside out –

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

You can never tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

*You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I am grateful for all the movements I have been a part of, either as an ally, or as an artist or just a regular human who cares.

I care deeply about the wellness of Black folks. I think we as Black people in America have been subjected to so much and are therefore in need of better access to wellness; mind, body and spirit. And I say “better” access, because we know how historically Black communities and our bodies have been neglected, or flat-out disregarded when it comes to the healthcare system, resources in our communities and health education — from our food knowledge to our mental health. And I think aligning, connecting with and uplifting the work of practitioners who already do this work is something I would like to do with my “influence”.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Wow, this is a hard one. Perhaps Barack Obama. He knows everyone and has all the connections! He’s also incredibly intelligent so I’d be fascinated to hear his thoughts on so many topics. I’d love to have lunch with Micheala Coel– I think she’s so talented and brilliant and her work on I May Destroy You, is impactful, culturally relevant and revolutionary. I would love to get to know her as a person, as a woman and as a creator. The other person I would love to have lunch with is Maya Rudolph because I think she’s SO brilliant and funny. She’s been thriving in this industry for years and any piece of knowledge that she could pass on comedy-wise, oh man, I would sop it up!

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Yes, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @travinaspringer. Please stop by and say “hello!”

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the founder Authority Magazine. He is also the CEO of Authority Magazine's Thought Leader Incubator, which guides leaders to become prolific content creators. Yitzi is also the author of five books. In 2017, he created the popular, “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” series that highlights the empowering lessons learned from the experiences of high-profile entrepreneurs and public figures. This series has inspired a mini-movement among writers, with scores of writers worldwide profiling inspiring people to share their positive, empowering, and actionable stories. A trained Rabbi, Yitzi is also a dynamic educator, teacher and orator. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.

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