Women and gender non-conforming artists on campus
Azell Aneya Lawson is a first year student at Santa Monica College, a Los Angeles native, and an artist. Lawson and I sat down to discuss her inspirations, goals, and some of the hurdles she’s encountered as a creative person. Dressed in a forest green sweater, complete with matching eyeshadow and gold jewelry, Lawson is eye-catching. “I’m an actor,” she states with patent self-assuredness, a quality not all young people possess, especially those in an industry as temperamental as Hollywood.
Lawson grew up in South Central L.A. and began pursuing acting at a young age. “I was a freshman in high school, so I was around thirteen.” She’s been performing steadily ever since. “I’ve done three shows per year since I was thirteen, so about 12 projects. All stage work.” Lawson considers the stage “her base,” but ultimately hopes to transition into film. “I want to do a sci-fi movie. I would do ‘Aliens’. I would be Ripley.”
When she was younger, Lawson attended an acting school, but she “wasn’t really moved” by the roles that she was approached with. “A lot of the roles that came to me we’re for someone named Keisha or, like, a foster care kid. You know? Like, ‘the ghetto girl’.” Because of this, Lawson says she hopes that representation and opportunities for young people in the film industry will improve. “I would like to see established actors and the entertainment industry open the door to fresh talent. It would be nice to see some new faces.”
When asked who her greatest inspiration is as an actor, she replied without hesitation, “Anthony Hopkins. He’s just like, world-renowned, and I’m thinking of transferring to a college in the U.K . He’s just really in depth, and he’s a method actor, so it’s all just really captivating.” Method acting, a technique that encourages sincere and emotionally expressive performances, is something that Lawson hopes to explore more of. The question of what her experiences with method acting have been like is met with laughter. “Once we were doing a gender bend of ‘Aladdin’ and I was Aladdin,” she says, “and the actor who played Jasmine and I ended up dating for a little bit. But once the show ended, I didn’t have feelings anymore. So I guess I had used all those feelings for the character.”
Aside from acting, Lawson is a writer, and feels her most creative when she’s exhausted. “When I’m really, really tired. Right before I’m about to fall asleep, I just have the wildest thoughts. Because I write as well, and so as my brain is starting to shut down, I get the craziest ideas. And I think, I have to write that down.”