It’s definitely inspirational to look back at how some of the world’s most successful actors got started on their journey to success. Achieving sustained success in the entertainment industry is extremely difficult, but these 10 inspiring individuals have definitely earned the bragging rights.
Some of these actors have taken big risks to build their brands but now they’re reaping what they sowed. And, in establishing these amazing careers, they have flourished and turned themselves into some of the most sought-after people in their field. But who are they? So without further ado let’s get to know these 10 rising actors who had to claw their way to the top.
Titus Makin aka “Butterfly Ali”
Butterfly Ali is an up and coming artist who’s destined to have a meteoric rise. If he looks familiar, you’re right. Born on June 10, 1989, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Titus always knew in his heart that he was meant to be in show business. Throughout his childhood, he was frequently relocated due to his father’s military service, but being able to travel so much had an advantage as Titus was exposed to all forms of entertainment. Titus started to dance and sing around the age of nine in his elementary school talent show, took voice lessons in middle school, but did not start acting until his senior year of high school at the age of 17. It was at that point when he secured a lead role in his first musical called “1940’s Radio Hour.”
After graduating from Buena High in Sierra Vista, Arizona, he was accepted into The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts’ professional training program. During his first year in the program, he got a job as a New York Knicks Acroback Tumbler. They performed during half times at the Knicks Madison Square Garden home games. Titus was also a NY Liberty dancer, which is a co-ed hip hop dance team for the WNBA. However, once Titus graduated, he relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his entertainment career on a professional level.
He soon found success as a recurring character on Fox’s hit show “Glee,” Titus plays David, a friend of Blaine’s (Darren Criss), a Warbler at the Dalton Acad.
He has also starred as the lead in the NBC Walmart/P&G family movie night film “Game of Your Life,” co-starring Lea Thompson and Nathan Kress, and scored another leading role across Lucy Hale in the ABC Family original movie, “A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song.” Titus has also done episodic work including “The Closer” with Kyra Sedgwick, among his various international appearances and tours related to “Glee.” Currently, he stars as gritty rookie LAPD officer on ABC’s “The Rookie.”
Joy Osmanski, the alluring, graceful and jovial actor, dancer and mother of three has established herself as one of Hollywood’s hardest-working entertainers with her new series “Stargirl” (recently renewed for a second season) now streaming with new episodes every Monday on the DC Universe streaming app, as well as Tuesdays, on The CW. Joy can also be seen in FOX’s newest Animation Domination series “Duncanville,” which has already been renewed for a second season.
Earning stellar reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, The New York Times, and Collider, the action-packed DC Universe & CW’s “Stargirl” has won the hearts of superhero fanatics, and viewers across the country. Joy portrays the infamous villainess ‘Paula Brooks,” aka Tigress. Best known for her skills in hand-to-hand combat and extensive weapons background, ‘Tigress’ is one of DC Universe’s deadliest non-superpower villains. CW’s “Stargirl” tells the story of high school sophomore ‘Courtney Whitmore,’ who discovers a powerful cosmic staff. After learning that her stepfather Pat Dugan used to be a hero sidekick, she becomes the inspiration for a new generation of superheroes. The new hard-hitting superhero drama also includes Luke Wilson, Amy Smart, and Brec Bassinger.
“Duncanville” centers around the life of ‘Duncan Harris’ (Poehler) an average 15-year-old boy, who is always one step away from making a bad decision. Along with Duncan lives his mom ‘Annie’ (Poehler), a parking enforcement officer, who dreams of being a detective someday and always has to watch Duncan, his dad ‘Jack; (Burrell), who tries to be a better father figure to Duncan than his father was to him, his sister Kimberly (Lindhome), who is a normal teenager going through normal teen-phases, and his other adopted sister Jing (Osmanski). ‘Jing’ is also known as the moral compass of the family at 5 years old.
Born in South Korea, and brought to the United States when she was adopted at a young age by her American parents, Joy had a drive and appreciation for the arts from the age of 3 when she began ballet lessons in her hometown of Olympia, Washington. From the very beginning of school, Joy was moved up from kindergarten to first grade after a few weeks and would be hyper-competitive academically throughout her entire school career. After taking multiple college courses in her senior year of high school, Joy would continue on to university at Principia College and graduate within 3 years with a degree in creative writing and studio art. She would then begin her career as a graphic designer and moved to Boston. After a year on the east coast, Joy moved to San Francisco where she created her own graphic design company. Having continued to dance through both high school and college, Joy continued to work on her ballet and dance skills and would book professional gigs on the side. After seeing a notice for auditions for a local production of “Our Town,” and missing her performing arts side, she auditioned for the play and was cast in the lead role. Following her performance, Joy auditioned and received her MFA from UC San Diego, one of the top three professional actor training programs in the country. After relocating to Los Angeles, with her husband Corey Brill, Joy has continued worked steadily in theater, television, and film, booking roles in hit projects including FOX’s “The Loop,” Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet,” Freeform’s “The Fosters, FIRED UP, and ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL, to name a few.
Atlanta-based actor and model Mahdi Cocci currently stars in the new BET+ series “Bruh,” a 30-min comedy series from powerhouse producer Tyler Perry which celebrates black male brotherhood. Cocci is also co-starring in the Netflix romantic comedy feature The Lovebirds opposite Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani.
His BET+ series “Bruh” examines the contemporary world of dating, career, and friendship through the lens of four African American men with a brother-like bond. ‘Tom’ (Cocci), ‘John’, ‘Mike’ and ‘Bill’ are four college friends now in their thirties. Tom is a doctor with lady problems, but he is also the glue that holds the group together. As they navigate life, they are learning to stand on their own two feet, while relying on each other for support. Sometimes the love is tough, and the honesty brutal, but no matter the situation they see each other through with levity and laughter. In a society where companionship between men of color is often misjudged and misrepresented, the show depicts a healthy image of black brotherhood, embracing vulnerability without playing on stereotypical hyper-masculinity.
The Lovebirds is a new rom-com from Paramount/Netflix that tells the story of couple ‘Jibran’ (Kumail) and ‘Leilani’ (Issa), who on the brink of breaking up, get unintentionally embroiled in a bizarre murder mystery. As they get closer to clearing their names and solving the case, they need to figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night. Cocci portrays ‘Keith,’ a potential love interest to Leilani who gets in the way of her relationship with Jibran.
Cocci was born in Minneapolis, MN, and was raised by his mother, Stephanie. Education was always emphasized growing up, and Mahdi earned a full Navy ROTC scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. He put his burgeoning modeling career on hold to serve as an officer in the Navy upon graduation. After serving honorably, Mahdi shifted gears and pursued a career in acting. His first professional credit was earned on the TV series, Dynasty, in 2018, and soon followed by roles on other network shows, including The Gifted, The Resident, MacGyver, and more! He currently resides in Atlanta, GA, where he works tirelessly to build his career.
Multi-faceted actor Bahara Golestani is definitely the new fresh face to watch on the new season of NBC’s smash hit series “This Is Us.” A graduate of the world-renowned Stella Adler Academy of Acting & Theatre, Golestani is best known for her roles in TNT’s “Animal Kingdom,” Jason Koch-directed indie film Beneath The Black Veil and Michael Bay’s blockbuster film 6 Underground.
Charismatic and multi-talented television and film actor, Sloane Siegel (Amazon’s Emmy-nominated “Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street”) returns to television yet again, leading as “Dwight,” opposite Caitlin Carmichael (Life Itself) and Joel McCrary (American Beauty) in the third season of “Dwight in Shining Armor,” (Season 4 coming soon) the hilarious, campy family adventure-comedy.
Recently picked up for seasons 3 & 4, Sloane plays “Dwight,” a modem, 21st-century teen, while taking photographs in the forest, accidentally falls face-first into an ancient, underground chamber, and lands on ‘Gretta’ (Carmichael) a medieval sleeping princess, planting a kiss on her and waking up not only her and her loyal court magician, ‘Baldric’ (McCrary) but all of the medieval villains that have been asleep like her for the past 1000 years. Together, the trio must defeat her hordes of enemies.
Born in Washington, DC, and raised on a Rescue Farm in West Virginia, Sloane began his career dancing hip hop but made the transition to acting at age eight after a chance casting call. At 10, he came to Hollywood to pursue his dreams and just 2 short years later, Sloane booked his best-known role as “Gortimer” in AMAZON’s award-winning “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street”. He has been awarded the Best Actor Award as the Lead in a TV Series by the Young Artists Awards 3 years in a row, has earned the Best Leading Young Actor in TV Award from the Young Entertainer Awards, and has won 16 awards through the film festival circuit. Audiences may also recognize Sloane from dozens of appearances on other top shows including CBS’ “Pure Genius,” & “Partners,” ABC’s “Modern Family,” and NICKELODEON’s “Big Time Rush.”
Sizzling hot Havana, Cuba-born bilingual actor Carlo Arrechea is a star on the rise in Hollywood, recently making his U.S. prime time debut in the CBS hit TV series S.W.A.T. where he portrayed ‘Gio Torres’, a middleweight Cuban boxer, aka “The Caribbean King.” In the series, Torres is a prizefighter set to win a huge upcoming match when his pregnant wife is kidnapped and held for ransom. He enlists the S.W.A.T. team and works with them to retrieve his wife right in time for the delivery of their first child. The heartfelt role has garnered him much media attention and was one that was especially significant to him as it tied back to his Cuban roots.
A third-generation actor, Arrechea’s career began at the age of 6 when he played the son to his biological mother in a telenovela in his home country of Cuba. He fell in love with the craft and was selected as one of the stars of the children’s show “Los Chicos Altura” (“The High Kids”). In 2002 his family moved to Miami when he was 12 years old and he faced a culture shock that made him rethink acting. He decided to study psychology in college but dropped out after only one semester to return to his true passion. It was during this time that he got into theater and started receiving a lot of attention for his stage performances including “El Solar de la Palangana de Oro” by Raúl de Cárdenas, a work that opened many doors for him and earned him press coverage as the “new face of acting” by People en Español.
From theater, he jumped into television where he began with small roles in well-known Telemundo and Univision telenovelas such as “Más saber el diablo”, “El Cartel 2” and “Alguien te Mira”. He also starred in two short films, “Fate’s Decree” directed by Michael Ruiz and the super production “El Manantial”, with renowned Sam Bradley as director. His career thus began to roll, and his name to be known on the Miami scene. Not long after he was cast in the successful Nickelodeon Latin America series “Grachi” which he starred in for three seasons (152 episodes). It was during this time that he also starred in his first leading film role in the romantic comedy LA REBÚSQUEDA, the highest-grossing Salvadoran film in the country’s history.
After his success in Latin America, Arrechea decided to move to Los Angeles to begin his crossover into the U.S. market. Throughout his acting career, he has starred in several television commercials, including the Johnnie Walker campaign which toasts to immigrants and highlights their grueling path towards citizenship. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA and is an alumnus of the Stella Adler Academy of Acting. As a Cuban-born actor, Arrechea has always looked up to the original Latin Comedy star Desi Arnaz and a dream role for him would be to reprise the role of ‘Ricky Ricardo’ in a comedy series or film.
In his free time, Arrechea enjoys reading, meditating, and exercising, and sees every day the opportunity to grow and improve in all aspects. He also enjoys volunteering for The Ronald McDonald House, where he feeds, plays games, and speaks with children and parents who have seriously ill children or family members in the hospital.
Anis Maknojia’s road to success didn’t start with glamour and glitz. It started in Texas, built on a lifetime of hard work, and overcoming personal hardship.
Anis grew up in oil-centric Houston, the son of Indian immigrants. Throughout his childhood, his parents worked hard to provide for their family through their retail business. Anis soon worked with them, taking the time to become an alum at the University of Houston. Eventually, he took over the business, allowing his parents to retire.
Anis has always been interested in photography. He began to take photographs, as a way to express his emotions, as a way to let the pain out. Framing an image became an escape from the hopelessness and depression. Like a bright flash lighting the shadows, the art form became the spark, igniting the path to his future.
In late 2019 and early 2020, he completed numerous advertising projects, supporting Mercedes-Benz, Don Julio Tequila, and Armani Code.
With the mission statement ‘We are stronger together,’ Land Ahoy! Films was formed at the beginning of 2019. Land Ahoy! aims to showcase multicultural talent from around the world and to bring up-and-coming creators together to create inspiring and thought-provoking works of art. Anis calls the company an extension of his passion for photography, this time with moving pictures and the birth of his desire to become an actor and produce films.
Collaborating with Phoenix 4 Productions and Land Ahoy!, Anis starred as Tony in the short crime drama Artifice while also taking on the responsibilities of executive producer. He pursued the lead role because he saw an opportunity to bring an unexpected quality – his race – to what could have been a cookie-cutter presentation.
Anis is the executive producer for Breathe, which is currently in post-production. The short film connects several stories exploring the darker side of drugs, violence, and religion, again he takes the lead role in the film. Additionally, the two companies are currently in pre-production for With Intere$t, a short film following a mob debt collector into his rising interest in stand-up comedy. Anis will both act in and executive produce the project.
Besides being passionate about creating art, Anis is an advocate for animal rights, world poverty and climate change, LGBTQ rights, and more diversity in film. He holds mental health awareness and finding a cure for multiple sclerosis close to his heart because he has family and friends who suffer from these issues.
Melissa L. Williams
Having already made waves on BET’s currently #1 ranked new scripted series “The Oval” with dual roles, breakout star Melissa L. Williams, who has quickly become Tyler Perry’s new muse, is now set to lead Perry’s spin-off series “Ruthless,” as the title character Ruth Truesdale on BET’s new streaming platform, BET Plus, out now.
“The Oval,” tells the story of a family placed in the White House by people of power while also highlighting the personal side and everyday lives of the staff who run the inner workings of the nation’s most iconic residence. On the new hit series, Melissa portrays twin sisters ‘Denise’ and ‘Ruth,’ polar opposite roles, both with their own agenda.
Perry’s spin-off series “Ruthless” follows Ruth Truesdale as she’s forced to play nice with a scandalous religious cult of powerful sex-crazed fanatics in the hopes of freeing herself and her daughter. Williams stars opposite Stephanie Charles (“The Paynes”), Anthony Bless (“Tyler Perry’s Sistas”) and Bobbi Baker James (“House of Payne”).
Melissa actually grew up in Oklahoma City as the oldest of six and utilized her family holiday gatherings to put together and star in her own talent shows. A natural performer from an early age, she set out to do as much local theater as she could find in Oklahoma City, eventually heading to Clark University in Atlanta for college to study theater. Williams joined the CAU Players, the University’s drama club, which puts on various productions yearly ranging from classical works, musical works, children’s productions, and one-act play festivals. Melissa starred as Carmen in F.A.M.E. during her time in the CAU Players. Even after finishing her degree, she went to get additional technical training so that he could produce projects herself and applied it to several music videos she produced when she moved to LA.
Akeem Jamahl Mair
Akeem Jamahl Mair is definitely an emerging actor to watch out for in 2020! He has booked several principal and leading roles in various student films. These include some well-known and popular remake titles such as Hannah and her Sisters and Good Will Hunting. Additional appearances include Limbo, All about the Money, and Initiation. He’s currently under the management of Commercial Talent Agency.
Akeem was born on September 16, 1988, in Pasadena, California, to entrepreneur Erol James Mair and Queen Alice Mair, a public service professional. Akeem was named after Eddie Murphy’s character in the box office hit Coming to America. He is the oldest of four siblings.
Akeem first became interested in acting as a child at Linda Vista Elementary school in Pasadena, California, performing in many school productions. “I fell in love with the excitement and reactions my onstage talents had on people. To be any character I wanted to be, gave me escape from my everyday life.” He then attended John Marshall Fundamental High School in Pasadena, California, receiving his High School Diploma in June 2007. Having a solid educational background was huge for his parents.
Since graduating high school, Akeem has taken college courses at Pasadena City College in pursuit of earning a business degree to become a financial banker. Everything changed when a loyal customer at his former daytime job commented, “You have this huge charismatic personality that radiates positive energy in people, are you an actor?” Since that day, Akeem made the decision to pursue acting as his passion and career.
At Columbia College of Hollywood productions, Akeem was involved in two lead roles of “All About the Money” as Jim, a lowlife who gets killed over never paying back his debts and “A Wonderful World” as the homeless man, Frank Simmons, who gets a second chance at life. At the University of Southern California, he booked leading roles in “Spotted” as Todd, the remake of “Born Fourth of July” where Akeem plays Jerry Levine’s character, Steve Boyer. At the University of California, Los Angeles, he booked leading roles in “Initiation” as the BKE leader Brad, “The Old College Try” as a robotic inventor named Anthony, and “Adagio” as a gym instructor named Marcus.
Akeem has worked for CBS and Comedy Central on the hit show “NCIS: LA”, and “Key and Peele.” Additionally, he has landed principal roles for live performances across major Southern California Universities. He has also appeared in national television commercials for eHarmony, The Clippers, and most recently for The Dominguez Firm and has played the lead in numerous music videos. Additionally, he performs in high-traffic original content on the web in numerous roles such as Allistair, a vampire seeking to exterminate vampire hunters, in “The Blood of the Dead” and he has appeared on the Youtube channel “Girls Going Viral.” Most recently he appeared on an episode of The Ellen Show which garnered over five million views.
Whether he is bringing life to characters in film and television, on small and big screens, or in high-traffic original content on the web, Akeem’s upbeat attitude and infectious energy towards every project and role he takes on is definitely a step towards stardom.
Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard
Mexican-born actor Alberto Zeni has just made his way to the small screen in the second season of Netflix’s crime drama “Narcos: Mexico.” Heis starring alongside Diego Luna (Gallardo), Scoot McNairy (the narrator), and Teresa Ruiz (Bautista).
It has been over a year since the Season 1 release of “Narcos: Mexico”, which effectively shifted the long-running drug cartel drama into new territory. The first season of “Narcos: Mexico”, was the fourth season of “Narcos” overall and it reset the Netflix series when it traveled back to 1980s Mexico to show the birth of the Guadalajara cartel and trace the origins of the Mexican drug war, beginning at the time when Mexican traffickers were a loose and disorganized confederation of small-time independent cannabis growers and dealers.
Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Alberto first caught the acting bug when he was 14 years old while working for Parque Plaza Sesamo in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico; a family-friendly destination with a Sesame Street theme featuring rides, games and a water park. Singing, dancing, and playing characters at the park wasn’t his only direction as he had goals of becoming an inventor and even received a degree in Engineering.
After completing his studies, Alberto continued working in the entertainment industry starring in telenovelas such as “Hoy Soy Nadie,” “Trillizas de Colores,” “Bajo el Alma,” “XY. La Revista” and the web series “Vidas Cruzadas” starring Kate del Castillo.
It wasn’t until his mid-twenties, where he decided to make a drastic change, pack up his bags and move to Los Angeles, CA to continue his acting journey. While in LA, Alberto immersed himself in the craft – training in the Meisner Technique and teaching himself English.