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California dreaming

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Like a true Angeleno, Zia Simmons has stars in her eyes. Acting, modelling and fashion are on her radar and she has made inroads towards a career in all three.

“I went to fashion school,” said Ms Simmons, whose father, Ondray, left Bermuda for California as a teenager.

“I was modelling. I fell into acting from people I met while going to fashion school. They told me what agencies to try to get jobs.”

The advice paid off when, in 2009, she made a brief appearance in rapper Lil Wayne's video, Every Girl.

“I was in awe,” she said. “It was just fun because it was just something so new. They had a bunch of girls for the song. They dressed us up as different girls of the world. I was dressed up as an Indian girl even though I am not Indian at all. In the music video they make a joke on it and wrote ‘not native' next to me.”

She continued modelling but found it was her acting that was paying the bills thanks to commercials for Bank of America and Mazda and appearances on the Disney Channel's Austin & Ally and A.N.T. Farm, and Nickelodeon's How to Rock,/i>.

“It was a spin-off of Mean Girls,” the 29-year-old said of the latter show.

“I was one of the Perfs, one of the popular girls on the show. That just lasted a season.

“Modelling is just taking pictures and fun. Acting is fun, too, but there is more to it because you have to remember lines.”

She initially found it strange to see herself on television but has grown used to it.

Commercials are her preference although she finds it “crazy” that she will sometimes spend 16 hours on a set and appear on the screen for “just a few seconds” or not at all.

“I am more of a smiley commercial sell-something type of girl,” she said.

“It is more free, like improv. It is not so structured. Working on television shows you are going to the same set every day. Commercials are more of a day by day kind of thing. You don't shoot one commercial for a whole month. Every day is different.”

However, the real challenge is the unpredictability of acting.

“I can get jobs once a week or a couple of times a week but they may not be high-paying,” said Ms Simmons, who is based in Los Angeles.

“A really good job might come every couple of months. It fluctuates. That can be stressful.

“Some weeks could be dead, and then you might have one good week that would make up for the whole month. There are a lot of highs and lows as far as where I am. I am not a big celebrity. It is for sure a hustle.”

She loves YouTube because it gives her much more control over the content.

Although it is not possible to predict how many subscribers a channel will get, anyone who puts in the work will see a positive outcome, Ms Simmons said.

She took a hit from Covid-19 both on the career and the personal front.

“Work has been dead” since the pandemic struck the United States and her July wedding had to be postponed for a year.

In the meantime, she has started a YouTube channel with her fiancé, Ayinde Vaughan, called Vibin with the Vaughans.

“It is a couple-related channel,” she said. “We do challenges.”

In one, she organised a quiz to see whether her father or her fiancé knew her better.

“We also do pranks and give relationship advice,” she said.

“We have been together for 11 years and we feel like we have a strong relationship.”

She also has a YouTube channel called ForeverX5 with her four sisters, Maliah, Amia, Ayziah and Zariah.

One of her dreams is to start a successful clothing business.

“I still love fashion,” she said. “That would be coming full circle.”

Although she still has family here, Ms Simmons doesn't “get back to Bermuda very often”.

“It has been a few years. We do want to go back for sure, as soon as we are able to. My nana, Barbara Jean Burgess, and all my family is there.

“Another thing my fiancé and I want to do is a travel vlog. If we went to Bermuda, we could do a travel vlog there.”

Fame game: Zia Simmons is forging an acting career in Los Angeles; (Photograph supplied)
Zia Simmons has started a YouTube channel with her fiance, Ayinde Vaughan, called Vibin with the Vaughans (Photograph supplied)
Zia Simmons at the MTV Movie & TV Awards (Photograph supplied)

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Published July 23, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 23, 2020 at 7:41 am)

California dreaming

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