Photo Courtesy of Lesley Bohm

12 Questions With Actress, Athlete and Activist Tanna Frederick


Tanna Frederick seems to do it all. As an actress, philanthropist and athlete, Frederick can't be stopped. She has won multiple awards for her acting chops including Method Fest's “Performer to Watch", the Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival's “Maverick" Award and Best Actress at World Fest Houston, Montana International Film Festival, Fargo Film Festival and the Wild Rose Film Festival.

The Iowa native doesn't limit herself to performing, she also founded the Iowa Film Festival and Project Save Our Surf, a nonprofit dedicated to ocean conservation, improving the availability of freshwater to those in need. SWAAY sat down with Frederick to find out about the hard work and dedication she puts forward to keep up with her active lifestyle and many hats she wears.

Photo Courtesy of Tanna Frederick

1. When did you know you wanted to be an actress?

7 years old.

2. What were some challenges you face being the first female producer of a VR narrative?
If I brought to light all of the challenges I would be doing a disservice to all of the new frontiers available. I prefer to focus on the chasms being bridged every day between the sexes in the arena of women in tech.
3. You've won a lot of awards for your work how does it feel to be recognized for your talent?
I think all of these awards are incredible and am infinitely thankful for them. I am very thankful for the nature of my being as an artist, though, and the 'divine dissatisfaction' that occurs with it. There is no competitor in the world as vicious as myself. I am proud of the work I've done but never satisfied with it.

That keeps my inner critic, as long as I can withhold her, in a constant battle to push further and consistently recreate myself as an artist without a bar. There is no bar to be set. Our bar as artists is to discover more and push ourselves more. It's like pushing a boulder uphill to keep up with my own criticism and be satiated with my own work.

4. We know you love fitness, how do you incorporate it into your busy schedule?
It keeps me sane. It's a non-option…A necessity. I center myself by looking to my physical core when emotions are tough in work.
5. How do you think your athletic abilities help you in your career?
I could not have sustained the last show I did without them. As an artist, my body is my tool. It goes beyond an aesthetic vision. It is the physical manifestation of what I have worked at. It's how I look at Athena as a symbol of women in modern times. She was wise, athletic, and an artisan. I admire the balance and necessity for being a modern, 'Renaissance woman' in this culture. It's hard to come by, but it is my standard I set for myself.
6. Can you tell us a little about “Project Save Our Surf"?
We all have a backyard, so to speak. Mine is now in Santa Monica because of my occupation in California. All of us need to keep our backyards clean and healthy for all of our neighbors who are in our 'community garden'. Whatever state or region I live in, I'd take care of the native terrain and will continue to do so. My roots gave me that coming from the Midwest. I'll always keep that ethically intact.
7. You also founded the Iowa Film Festival, what inspired you?
Access to art. There is a great divide in terms of artistic commodification and geographics in this country. It is getting better and has gotten better but I think it is a great struggle to bring new artists to light between New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Filming incentives in Iowa were nil when I moved to California for job opportunities. The most we could hope for as actors were extras in huge budget films shooting in larger cities brought in by studios from the West Coast.

There is the Iowa cliche in film which constitutes an idea of all budding directors and actors and producers coming from Iowa or some state that begins with a vowel. But the reality is the industry is built on those transplants and their dreams. It's just a shame that because of tax breaks or cheap labor the industry takes advantage and moves projects from state to state. I was trying to set up shop for more opportunities in the Midwest. Voices that haven't been heard and deserve to be heard. I want to help smaller voices to be loud and strong no matter what the socio-economic supposed values of the region are.

8. What were some difficulties you had starting “Project Save Our Surf" and the Iowa Film Festival?
Hearing 'no' all the time. After a while, I think I got so used to hearing the word 'no' that I became immune to it. I think that I've trained myself to hear 'no' as 'maybe'. That's probably one of the best gifts I've received being an artist operating outside of the system.
9. What is your favorite role you've played?
There is no favorite, only the role I'm intimidated by. There are preserved traditions in film and theatre that actors should want to recreate and the biggest compliment would be to have done such a thorough and brave attempt at capturing a playwright or screenwriters vision that I would inspire more recreation of the playwright's work.

Photo Courtesy of SwedenWithLove

It's my job as an actor to make the playwright look brilliant. Being a student at the University of Iowa and given that challenge to communicate an individual's vision was eye-opening. It's not about me or anybody's perception but about being a working cog in the clock to communicate to an audience.

10. What is your dream role?
Each role I play is a dream role. It's not about me but the common vision of the team I'm on. In each production, everyone has a life and family and ends up going home to their husbands or wives or kids wanting to feel they made something happen that was worth giving up their time for this crazy business. If I can help facilitate that, I'm happy at the end of the day. There's a unity to each production that when it falls into place, you feel it. You feel people going home at the end of the night who have all been working for a common vision. When the lights are turned off and everyone takes a breath before locking up, there's a feeling of stillness and peace. That's what production is about. That ten minutes after your stage manager or crew departs and that beautiful ten minutes of happiness before I realize I need to wake myself up the next day and start all over again. I think that feeling bleeds into any profession. But especially as an artist it's all about precision and being a part of a team. And completion.
11. Who is inspires you most?
I am always inspired. This business is crazy. Anyone who puts themselves into this battlefield is certifiable. But I am most inspired by those who do. My DIT who's job it is to sit with the equipment and makes sure that all of the footage is backed up until everyone has left the building is my hero. My makeup artist - who will redo a wound forty-three times to make it look legit before she wakes up to teach college classes at six in the morning the next day and goes home to read her kids a bedtime story - is awe inspiring.
12. What is some advice you have for girls who want to start a nonprofit or want to be in the entertainment industry?
The best mindset I was taught is not to believe that I 'wanted' to be an artist or philanthropist or athlete but to understand that by striving for my own sense of ideals and broadening horizons, I was enough.
3 Min Read

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.