Unless you’ve been living under a rock — or just don’t watch Netflix — you’ve likely heard of Ashley Blaine Featherson. The Dear White People star has been gracing our screens for years and is showing no sign of slowing down. 

At this year’s Summit 21 conference, Featherson took the stage to talk about her beginnings as an actress and the importance of supporting your friends, even when you’re not where you want to be in your journey. She started by giving audience members a little bit of insight into her philosophy on friendship and relationship building. 

“Choosing your tribe is so important. Because the only way you can get through those low moments is if you have friends you’re not intimidated by, but inspired by. When you have friends that you’re not discouraged by, but encouraged by. It sounds simple, but that’s the difference between living a happy life and a depressed life.”

She acknowledged that sometimes in life, you’ll have days where you’re not feeling it or have trouble putting a smile on your face or getting out of bed. She says that the authentic relationships she built over the years helped her get through some of her darkest days. 

“It was a lot easier for me to get through. That doesn’t mean to say I didn’t have terrible days. But that I had friends that I could always call and vent to or talk to or that would remind myself of who I know that I am but who I forgot that I was.”

Before her big role in Dear White People the show, Featherson first appeared in the movie, where she essentially played the same character but had a grand total of six lines. She says she appeared in the film to support her friends Justin Simien and Lena Waithe, who were just getting their start at the time. She flew to Minnesota from L.A, stayed at a friend’s apartment, and used her talents to uplift the work of her friends, something she says everyone should do — no matter where you are in your professional journey. 

“I went, not to make money. Not to be popping. I went because I was supporting my friends. That’s really why I did Dear White People the movie” she said. “I wanted to be a part of this experience. It was Justin’s first feature, it was Lena’s first producing opportunity.”

Pictured: Brooke Obie and Ashley Blaine Featherson / Photo Credit: 21Ninety

Featherson says that besides supporting the work of her colleagues, she also just wanted to learn. Sure, she wasn’t where she wanted to be as an actress yet, but she knew that if she wanted to get there, it meant humbling herself and being around like-minded people who were trying to achieve the same thing she was.

“I had to humble myself enough to say ‘Ok, I wasn’t cast in some other roles that I might have wanted’ of course I wanted to be a movie star then. But at the time I said ‘this is where I’m at so how do I soak up all that I can.’”

Featherson says that part of achieving your goals and living out your purpose means developing good habits and breaking bad ones. She says the main thing she had to stop doing along her journey was comparing herself to others. 

“When you think about it, it’s so easy to do” she said. “You see somebody and they’re wonderful and successful and it seems like they have everything that you want that you don’t currently have. So then you start trying to figure out what you can do to get what they have. But the truth is what somebody else has isn’t yours, that’s just how it goes.”

Featherson says that thought, the mindset of remembering what’s yours, has helped her focus in on what’s actually meant for her.

“In the same way that what somebody else has isn’t mine, nobody else can steal my blessing. So I had to switch my mode of thinking into ‘I don’t want what somebody else has, I want what’s destined for me.’”

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