All reality shows are not about eating worms, getting hooked up or behaving badly. Some provide a shortcut for people interested in realizing their career dreams. American Idol does it for singers, and VH1’s Scream Queens does it for budding actresses trying to make a name for themselves in the acting world.
VIBE recently caught up with Scream Queens season one winner Tanedra Howard. The Inglewood, California native discussed what it was like to compete on the show, win a role in Saw VI (the prize for the first season) and be the only black girl in her cast. Be sure to look out for Howard on the big screen again this fall when she reprises her role as Simone in Saw 3D. It hits theaters in October.
And to see what the latest fright-filled contestants are shrieking about in season two tune into Scream Queens. It airs Monday nights at 10pm ET/ 7pm PT on VH1.—Ronke Idowu Reeves
VIBE: So tell us what it was like to compete on Scream Queens.
We weren’t competing for a man or money so there wasn’t that type of drama going on but it was an acting competition. We were fighting for a movie role, which was all of our dreams. So we were doing scenes everyday, trying to get our lines down, rehearse and we were always nervous about being sent home. And sometimes you get cranky because you’re in a house with all these girls there’s no TV, no cell phones, no magazines and you can’t talk to your family. But for the most part, I wasn’t the angry black chick.
But I heard you got flack for not being one.
Yes! I would go to random blogs and people would say, ‘Yeah, we like Tanedra but she’s so boring. You would think for an African American she would have some sass!’ So it was like, ‘Wow, people expected that from me?’ And because I didn’t do it, they went off. Isn’t that terrible? But some people came to my defense [on the blogs] and explained how I couldn’t win for losing. If I was sassy and loud they’d call me the 'black ghetto girl' and since I’m not, now I’m boring and not fun to watch. So where’s the medium?
And I'm sure the fact that you were the only black girl on the show, added to the pressure as well.
When all the other girls came into the room [at the beginning of the competition] I said please tell me there’s another person of color here because right now I’m the only one [laughs.] And when I saw there wasn't, I was like ‘Oh Lord there’s gonna be some drama right here.’ But there wasn't. I was chilled and laid back and it was cool. I was just myself because I'm not changing for anybody. Also, I was the second to oldest member in my cast, I’m 27—most of the other girls were in their early twenties, so we all saw life in a different way.
Scream Queens must have been a dream come true for you because you always wanted to be an actress, but you didn't pursue it right away. Why was that?
I had some self esteem issues stemming from childhood, which kind of held me back. I didn’t have a good self-image of myself and I put [my acting career] on hold. I didn’t have the confidence to pursue it. I didn’t even like taking pictures. When I was two, I accidentally burned myself with a pot of water which left me with burns on my face, neck and chest. And children are so cruel. Going thru elementary school the kids teased me and called me 'black skillet, burnt this, they said my Momma was a crack head and tried to fry me in a skillet' and a bunch of other stuff. It continued from third grade thru high school and there I heard it all. I was called 'skinny poor, black this, baldylocks this, black crispy.' I got that for 14 years of my life and I was like how do I get out of this funk? But eventually I did.
And you got the last laugh because you won Scream Queens and starred in Saw VI and Saw 3D. What did it feel like to win the competition? And what was it like to be on a Hollywood movie set for the first time?
I was nervous when I won the show, I haven’t been the same ever since. I was happy and joyous that I won and I thanked God. But I was also terrified, because I knew I had to show and prove that they picked the right person. When I got onto the set of Saw VI I was nervous. My palms were sweaty. I couldn’t sleep the night before I filmed my scenes, and would just spend the night pacing the room. I just couldn’t believe it. So many emotions went thru me when I actually saw the set. I was like ‘Oh my God, I’m here’ this was thing that I was praying for every night and I’m here. It is an amazing life changing experience for me to say I am a working actress now. There are people who don’t get this opportunity for years and after appearing on a reality show I got it only after two years of being in the business. Watching Saws one thru five I never thought I’d be in the sixth installment. I will never ever forget that experience.