Sacha Elie keeps a low-profile as a creative, but goodness knows she has enough accomplishments under her manicured nails to make a brag every other minute of an hour. Two years ago, Sacha Elie earned an MFA from UCLA in acting.
She made her off-Broadway debut in the Van Fisher drama Biscuits. The award-winning actress (Mariska Hargitay Award, among others) decided to launch her popular Haitian Accent Workshop.
She’s also a seasoned writer. “La Perle Noire”, a one-act play inspired by the life of Josephine Baker premiered as part of the Francis Ford Coppola One-Act Play Festival at UCLA.
Kreyolicious: A lot of times we have these memes going…oh you’re not Haitian unless you did this…All Haitians growing up had this…and so on. In reality, the Haitian-American experience is different for everyone. What was yours like?
Sacha Elie: Growing up I never felt like I was Haitian enough. As children my mother would reinforce the proud roots of our heritage. My siblings and I grew up hearing and believing that we were Haitian first, African second, and American third.
So, as a child, spending my summers in Haiti, both the adults and kids would label us, foreigners aka Jasporas. My response to both the adults and children alike was always, “NO!” I’m Haitian! Both of my parents are Haitians so doesn’t that make me Haitian?”
We spoke Haitian Creole with an American accent, so that made me feel shy about speaking creole in public.
It’s an insecurity I have to admit sadly that I still have today, that fear of being perceived as not being Haitian enough. That’s one of the reasons I started my, How to Haitian Videos, and my other vids related to Haitian topics, because I wanted to push myself pass those insecurities and fears.
I am Haitian and I’m proud of my parent’s journey and of my ancestor’s history, and I’m proud to be Haitian.
Kreyolicious: Tell us about how you came to be a part of Biscuits?
Sacha Elie: That is a very interesting story! I wrote biscuits as a part of my thesis at UCLA. I had declined to participate in my final thesis production, because I felt the roles were stereotypical and as a woman of color.
I wanted to be challenged in the way the world perceives me and in the way, I perceived myself, so I did the unthinkable and dropped out of my thesis show. It was not a popular decision and what was meant to be a punishment ended up being a blessing.
In order for me to graduate, I was sent to write a solo show that I would have to produce out of my own pocket. What initially felt like a big mountain to climb, became one the best experiences of my life, due to a few brave souls in my department that stepped up to help me win! The idea for Biscuits came about from an actual experience.
As a Haitian American the mystical world is intricate in our culture, that I wanted to explore it without the stereotypical Voodoo troupes of that is so often associated with the Haitian experience.
Biscuits is one of my two self-written and produced solo shows. It is about a medium who’s experiences with ‘ghost’ unfortunately intervenes with her love life. She learns the importance of self-love after surviving an abusive relationship.
It’s a love story about acceptance for one self. The play is named ‘Biscuits’ because she discovers her unique powers over Red Lobster biscuits!
Kreyolicious: Speaking of biscuits…before flour and all the assorted ingredients come together, there’s all sorts of mixing and there’s the transformation from dough to actual biscuit. In some ways, we are all biscuits. This said, if you were putting a recipe manual for yourself…but for the person you were in high school…what advice would you give her?
Sacha Elie: That’s a great question, I the advice I would give my younger self is too enjoy the process! Looking back, I see a girl in high school that had a lot of loss that (being that my mother passed) but that girl also had a lot determination!
My advice to that girl would be to unload the unnecessary pressures she placed on herself. I would tell her when you are the flour, just let yourself be the flour, stop anticipating the eggs, enjoy the fluff and the messy residue the flour may leave behind.
When it times to add the eggs, you will know, and enjoy that new combination too!
Kreyolicious: You worked with the playwright Jeff Augustin. What was that like?
Sacha Elie: While it would have been an honor to work with him personally, which is one of my life goals!! (I’m grinning from ear to ear).
I humbly was commissioned to work as the Haitian dialect coach to the cast members in, ‘Little Children Dream of God’ at the Rouge Theater in Los Angeles.
Kreyolicious: You have an MFA in acting from UCLA. That’s quite a feat. Growing up, were you encouraged to pursue acting?
Sacha Elie: Growing up, I had a very traditional Haitian father and a very non-traditional Haitian mother! My mother always encouraged me to pursue my dreams.
When I reached eighteen, I mustered up the courage and told both my parents that I didn’t want to go to college, that I wanted to move to Los Angeles to pursue my dream. In a nutshell, it was an over my dead body response from both of my parents.
My mother always encouraged me and was never a “stage mom”. I’ve been acting since I was a child, and when I felt I wanted a normal childhood, I simply turned to her and said I wanted to just be a kid.
So, I stopped, for about five years, but when college came around, I had this desire in me to tell stories and I knew exactly where I wanted to be. But my parents were not having it, one of their children with a high school education only? This is not why they came to America, they would constantly express.
They always enforced in the four of us the importance of education, which I’m extremely grateful for. I know it’s not popular in society these days to seek higher learning, but I think my education both undergraduate and graduate offers me a unique perspective to think critically, to see the world from all sides.
The one thing I know no one can ever take from me is my education, no matter where or how I may end up, I will always have my mind.
My mother passed away my senior year in high School and one of the last things she ever told me was to follow my dreams, so I think the death of my mother, convinced my dad that life is too short to be unhappy.
So, you might as well go after what makes you happy! It took me quite a few years after I graduated undergrad to pursue my MFA, every year leading up to applying for graduate school, my father would say, (in a Haitian Accent): “Go for your masters, you are a smart girl! GO for it!” So, he definitely encouraged me all the way and was so thrilled when I got into UCLA.
The day I graduated from UCLA. he had the biggest smile and mentioned that he was proud, because he promised my mother that he would see all four of us get our masters, and I was the last of the four, so it was a very sweet moment. What girl doesn’t like making their father proud!
Kreyolicious: You been to Haiti, tifi?
Sacha Elie: Yes! I used to go almost every summer as a kid, as I an adult I’ve been back, but I admit, it has been a few years since I’ve been back. I’m currently working on producing a short coming of age film, where we are looking for financiers to film in Haiti, Tiburon, Haiti (where my parents are from) this [past] October. It is my mission as an artist to help bring the Haitian narrative to a universal platform.
Kreyolicious: What’s next for you?
Sacha Elie: Well, I’ve been quiet, working behind the scenes, learning the ropes of film producing, as I am looking to shoot in Haiti in the coming months with my short film, currently titled, Jenn Fi. I wanted to honor my parents who are immigrants.
I believe that immigration is coming under attack in the united states and in other parts of the world, so I wanted to not only show Haiti in a different light, but I also wanted to honor the bravery of the all dreamers who journeyed into the unknown.
Not to mention that it’s a sweet and endearing coming of age story! So, look for it in festivals in 2019, as we are working hard to make it happen! If you are reading this and want to become an investor, please e-mail my production company at BiCoastalproductionsnyla at gmail.com.
Last Updated on February 16, 2023 by kreyolicious