Imani Hakim: Life, Growth and Triumph
Eyes wide with hope and possibility, destiny was in the
palm of her hand.
Imani Hakim arrived in sunny California with her dad and a budding dream. She was a young girl curious about the acting world and fantasizing about being on television. Her time was coming, but of course not without a run-in with adversity, which now can be viewed as early preparation for what was to come in her career.
Traveling from their hometown of Ohio to California and going from living in hotels to eating Vienna sausages while living in a van, the Hakim’s experienced life from a tinted lens but remained determined to change their circumstance.
The lens wouldn’t be tinted for long. The ambitious 11-year-old landed her first TV role as “Tonya Rock”, the scheming antagonizing little sister on the popular sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris.
Now, at 20-years-old, Imani has grown artistically and developed a deepened appreciation for her craft and the person she’s become within her craft.
She surrounds herself with friends that embrace the concept of living. This close group of spunky teens and twentysomethings are quipped with laid-back flair and artistry that breeds their daily existence. Their energy through the camera lens and onto YouTube screens and you can’t help but think ‘damn, I wanna join in on the randomness’. They’re having fun and Imani is documenting the moments.
After a five-year hiatus from TV sets and film screens, the Ohio bred and longtime L.A. native is bringing her star power to the forefront once again – and doing so in a major way.
Her recent portrayal as Gabrielle Douglas, the Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast, in the Lifetime Original Movie, The Gabby Douglas Story, pulled in 3.8 million viewers during its premiere date on February 1, 2014.
“It was definitely a confidence booster for me,” says Imani over the phone. “That they chose me to be a part of telling such an inspirational story about the first African American gymnast to get a team and individual gold – it means the world to me. I’ll always be grateful for having the opportunity to work with Gabrielle and having the opportunity to tell her story.”
Fans of Gabrielle and Imani have raved about the inspirational tones and honesty of the story while also praising Imani’s performance with comments exclaiming: ‘I love this movie,’ and ‘You are soooooo good in the Gabby Douglas Story.’
Drawing from life sacrifices that she and Gabrielle endured on their climb to obtaining their dreams connected Imani to the storyline in a deeper way. Both girls experienced homelessness; at 14, Gabby chose to move to Iowa for her dream and at 15, already in the industry, Imani decided to stay in L.A. with her manager after her family moved back to Ohio.
On screen, Imani owned her character through every emotion, challenge and triumph. She became Gabrielle, the champion.
Rewind to the audition process and you would find a nervous Imani preparing for the momentous role. Girls that were prepping for their audition time crowded the lobby stretching and doing handstands and in walked Imani Hakim, with no gymnastics experience – a talent that was originally sought after for the role!
“… and I’m just reading my script, she laughs. “I had no gymnastic ability. I could dance a little, you know, I can move so it wasn’t very hard for them to teach me choreography for the movie.”
The magnitude of this role and the alliances Imani has sculpted throughout her career, speak to her seriousness about the art of acting and growth. During her time away from the glitz and studio cameras, she endured an introspective journey where she was able to direct full attention to self and her creative talents.
“Over the last few years, it’s been a lot of working on me as a person and as an artist, just constantly studying my craft and trying to make the right moves that will benefit me in my career.”
She admits the “slap in the face” she felt once Everybody Hates Chris reached its finale. From a weekly set with Chris Rock, Tichina Arnold, Terry Crews and jobs in both television and film that ranged in artistry from Adam Sandler (whom she admits to being a big fan of and star struck when she worked with him in Reign Over Me (2007)) and Jada Pinkett-Smith to stars of ER, it was an interesting time figuring out what was next.
She shared, “When I first came out here [L.A.], it was not very common that someone would book a TV show so easily and so quickly, so the fact that I experienced that, pushed me to always working in between filming Everybody Hates Chris. Then going to this stage where I’m not working was kind of a slap in the face.”
Her voice becomes energetic again, “But I’m so thankful that I went through it because now it made me even more motivated and dedicated to my craft and I am on fire right now!”
Off-camera, you can sense that she’s a woman of much personality, fun, thoughtful and free in her being. On-camera, there’s a chemistry created. She commits to the task at hand and dives in. Maybe it’s her attitude as she enters the audition room, that being one of positivity and being sure to “stay out of my head and not going into the room saying, ‘okay, I’ve got to book this!’”
She’s cool and at ease.
She puts it all out there and allows her talent to take lead- whether it’s delivering lines for a role and designing a mental space for a character, vlogging and inviting viewers into “Imani’s World” through her ‘Imani Hakim’ YouTube channel, or feeding her directorial aspirations creating music videos for close friends.
“I honestly want to get into directing; not just anything, music videos,” she giggles. “Whenever I listen to music, I visualize how the video should be… because I feel like people just do whatever with music videos and they don’t really tell a story anymore. I want to bring that back.”
A natural creative, daydreams and night stares at 7-years-old of acting and being on a TV set like her childhood idol Raven-Symone, have become her reality.
“I’m building myself as an artist and viewing which direction I want to go and I think it’s starting to pay off.”
I think so too.
Be a part of Imani’s World through twitter: @anakih1
Visit mylifetime.com for “The Gabby Douglas Story” re-air dates.
Check out Imani’s sitdown with AndWePresent