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12 Questions With Actress, Athlete and Activist Tanna Frederick

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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.
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2020 is Around the Corner: Here's How To Design Your Next Decade

Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!

You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!


Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.

Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.

One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:

What worked? What were my successes?

Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?

Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.

If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?

Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?

Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?

Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.

While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.

Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!