Oakland native Brely Evans is no rookie to the entertainment industry. After starting her career as a singer, Evans quickly began to tap into her many talents, eventually focusing on acting which opened the door for her to fearlessly shine her light and share her many gifts with the world. Now a star on OWN’s latest show Ambitions, produced by powerhouse Will Packer, Evans is using her platform to bring awareness to social and economic issues and push other dreams to have faith in their desires and walk in them as if they are already done.
We caught up with the vibrant actress to talk about her latest and accomplishments and really define the meaning of being a true “Water Walker.”
When a lot of creators are starting off they realize they have so many talents but they don’t know which talent to tap into to begin their journey. You’re multitalented as well, so what was it like diving into your talents and choosing which one to pursue as your career?
Brely Evans: In the beginning, I really did not know which one of my gifts to [pursue]. I knew I can sing, act, dance, and host. I was trying to do them all. When I focused on acting alone and went to acting class, read acting books and really put all my energy into acting, it all began to take off. It opened up so many doors for me, like singing, dancing, hosting, endorsements and keynote speaking opportunities. When all my young Water Walkers who come to me for advice, I have them tell me all of their gifts and which one is there absolute strongest. The one talent they love so much they’d do it for free. We focus on that one and as it grows and develops, it will eventually opens the doors to allow your other gifts to be brought forth.
Let’s talk about Water Walking. Where did that originate?
When I first heard of water walking, I was in the hospital. I had to get my gallbladder removed and I was in recovery in the Maternity Ward, which was so crazy. The hospital was so full and I thought it was ironic I was in the Maternity Ward especially because I wanted to become a mother one day. While I was there I kept hearing the term “water walking.” It didn’t connect until years later when it was time for me to have my own company. When I was thinking about what I was going to name it, the phrase came back up so I decided to name it Water Walkers Worldwide. Water Walking is helping people get out of the boat on their hopes and dreams so they can live out the dreams and the gifts that God gave them. In the scripture, Paul did the impossible and walked on water because he kept his eyes on Christ. The only time that he started to slip a little was when he started to look around at his circumstances. The best part of the story is he never drowned. Which means we can step out of our boats on all of our hopes and dreams, take big risks and know that we will never drown. I’m just I’m encouraging people to get out of the boat.
What is a major water walking story that you have about your own life?
I have been a water walker since I could talk. I only know this now looking back. When I was little my parents would ask ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I would say a singer. And they would say ‘no, what is your real job going to be?’ My dad was in law enforcement so I just said that. But I knew who I wanted to be inside. I knew who I was. Growing up knowing these things, I would participate in all types of talent shows. One day, a group of my girlfriends and I were walking down the street in Oakland, California, where I’m from. Some guys stopped us and told us they were shooting a music video [in the area] and asked would we like to be in it. We laughed it off because we were in college. One of our girlfriends said we could sing and asked could we sing in the video. The guy didn’t believe us so we started to sing and harmonize. The man ended up being Dres from Black Sheep and said he could get us a record deal. [He told us] if we could get to New York, we’d have a meeting with Polygram Records. We didn’t have a headshot or demo. But he said if you can get there, he could walk us in.
When we walked into Mercury – Polygram, we stepped in front of the women’s desk and began singing. She [was impressed] and gave us 3 days in the studio to write and record a song. We did that and within three days [we were] signed to Mercury-Polygram. The crazy faith part was not only taking that trip to New York, but all those rehearsals we had done but didn’t know what we were rehearsing for. We didn’t even have shows but we just kept working. So I’ve been practicing crazy faith all along and I had no idea I was doing it.
How do you connect with your Ambitions character Rondell and her stance on gentrification?
I grew up in the suburbs so I was always the African-American family in the white suburbs. However, I did go to inner-city schools so I did have that good balance between the suburbs and the city life. When I got this role, it was important to me because I knew it was happening in my city of Oakland. I started to do my research and talked to people in West and North Oakland about what was going on with them. After my research, it really made me angry. It made me have a heart for those who are going through it. I realized Rondell has the opportunity to be a voice to the voiceless. I decided to use this character to shine a light on what’s really happening in our communities right now. It’s an amazing opportunity to play Rondell because I’m actually standing up for the people who are going through it. It’s become a real thing for me.
Rondell’s character is a very serious role. What is your creative process to ensure you’re 100% into character?
I do a back story for every character I [play]. I bring Brely to every character, then on that foundation, I focus on their circumstances. Rondell has a younger brother who is now the Mayor [of Atlanta] so that has a color. Her mother has passed away so that has a color. She runs a restaurant in her neighborhood. She hasn’t found love and has no children so that adds another color. I build my characters based on who they are and what their circumstances are. Then that informs me how I see the world. Rondell doesn’t see the world as Brely sees the world because of the circumstances. From there, I then deliver what is on the [script] page.
The Ambitions cast is jam-packed with a fantastic ensemble. Talk about working with such a phenomenal cast.
Starting from the top, being a part of OWN is [amazing]! Working with Ms. Winfrey is just a dream come true. She’s been on my dream board forever. It’s just amazing. Then there’s Will Packer, the hit-maker himself. Then to Robin Givens, I’ve been watching her all of my life on film and television. Essence Atkins, I’ve been watching her for a while as well. Then to Brian J. White who now plays my brother, which is so crazy. I know Kenny from mutual friends and growing up and now I get to work with him. Erica and I were both on Last Call together on Bounce. It was our first series regular in our careers. Now, we get to hold hands and walk into another show together. There are so many fantastic people on the show who have come help create a masterpiece. I’m just in awe that I get to be around such great lights all the time and I get to learn so much from everyone. It’s a great bunch of people. Truly a family dynamic.
I want to go back to where you said Oprah was on your dream board. Let’s talk about manifestation. How do you manifest things that you’ve always desired?
I want the world to know that it is more than putting pictures on a cardboard and then putting it on the wall. That’s probably the very first step. I’m a Christian so I always refer back to the Bible where it says you can’t even dream as big as the things that God has for you. So why not go big? You have to also believe that is already on its way. Instead of saying I’m an aspiring actress, say ‘I am a sought after, Oscar award-winning actress.’ People will think you’re crazy and they’ll laugh at you but that’s fine. But as you say these things about yourself and you do it your “I Ams” in the morning there’s a method to this. Some may say you’re telling yourself a lie at the moment but these “lies” are actually creating your future. Every time you speak there’s a vibration that comes off your lips. That vibration is literally sending out a boomerang into the universe to bring back what you talked about. Say what you desire to see and know that it’s on its way. You have to be in a posture to receive. And the posture to receive is actually the posture of giving.
Talk to me a little about your book.
I have an E-book coming out about [positive affirmations]. I do “I Am’s” in the morning as part of my ritual along with prayer and meditation. One morning I decided to do my [affirmations] on Instagram and it received such great reception. People began to ask where they read them, so of course, it eventually became a business. I ended up writing down more “I Ams” and as I wrote them down, they slowly became a book. A new beginning is starting on September 1st with my book of I Ams.
We’re coming up on the Ambitions mid-season finale. What can we expect?
All of the relationships are crumbling fast. You can only expect more of that. If you thought last week’s episode was on fire it’s about to blaze. You’ll be left with your jaw dropped. Things will be revealed in some relationships that you didn’t know about and unknown connections will be exposed. It’s just going to be a great show.
Catch Brely Evans and the mid-season finale of Ambitions on OWN, Tuesday, August 27 at 10 pm EST.