Tamika Blaize (B.A. '97)
Tamika Blaize Q & A:
What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My favorite professor was Nancy Kaplan. I remember her being easy-going and personable, and always very welcoming. One of my fondest memories of Hofstra is driving the 15-passenger Hofstra van full of ALSICA (African American & Latino Students Interested in Communication Arts) members to a taping of The Ricki Lake Show in NYC. We had so much fun going to a real, live taping of one of the hottest talk shows of that time period and seeing what we were learning in our classes taking place in a real studio.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduating was at PC Magazine. I met one of the magazine's representatives at a job fair at Hofstra. I think it was more like a paid internship. I worked with the editors who reviewed computer software. They allowed me to review a few products, and my name was actually printed in the masthead! The most valuable thing I learned there was to embrace new experiences and opportunities even though it might not be a part of your "plan." I majored in communication arts (I'm dating myself here), and my track was television production. I wasn't interested in learning about computers at all. But the opportunity presented itself and my name is on a masthead ... how cool is that?
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come be involved in the non-profit world?
By trade, I am a television producer. I've produced daytime talk shows, court shows, game shows, live shows, and reality shows. My first TV gig out of Hofstra was at WNYW in the traffic department. It was not for me. and I took an overnight job (10 p.m. to 8 a.m.) at CNBC as a tape associate. It was torture. I lasted four months. After that, I went to Saks Fifth Avenue to become a buyer. It was very corporate, too corporate for me, and I went to interview at The Queen Latifah Show. That was my "aha! moment." I walked in there and the energy was electric, not stuffy. The TVs were on, people were dressed in jeans, not in suits, and they were having fun! I was like – this is where I need to be! A few years later I wanted a change, so I moved to LA. In 2008 I moved back to NY, for the second time, after working at Divorce Court for one season. I didn't want to live in LA anymore, so I walked away from a very lucrative position as coordinating producer. I've been a volunteer for more than 10 years. I always knew I would wind up in the non-profit sector, but I never imagined it would be for my own organization.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
My advice to current students would be to absorb everything Hofstra has to offer. I can honestly say that my education at Hofstra prepared me for the real world. I gained hands-on experience from the classes I took at Hofstra. I remember even watching television differently because of what I was learning. I was seeing things the average viewer didn't notice. I would point them out, and no one else would know what I was talking about. I would also tell Hofstra students to intern in their field. Internships are imperative for real-world experience and for making contacts. This industry is 99% WHO YOU KNOW! Every job I've had since 1999, except the one at CNBC, has been offered to me by someone I worked with before. I've rarely had to even hand in a resume. And a cover letter, forget it! I didn't need one. Finally, I would advise current students to get involved in extra-curricular activities. Don't just go to class and party. Join a club, or serve on the governing body of a club. I was president of the now defunct ALSICA. Challenge yourself to try new things and step outside of your comfort zone. New experiences inspire creativity and build confidence. OK ...one more ... don't be afraid to take a job to get in the door and work your way up. I sent in my resume to The Queen Latifah Show for a position as an executive assistant to the executive producer. A fellow Hofstra grad, and now Emmy Award winner, Ayanna Bascombe-Creighton, was already working there and handed in my resume. By the time I interviewed, the position was filled, and they offered me a position as the receptionist. I took it, but I made it clear that I wanted to work my way up. And that's exactly what I did; I worked my way up from receptionist to associate producer.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What made you decide to start A Princess for a Day?
I had the idea for a few years, but I was always working on a show, so I wasn't able to focus on it. The idea for APFAD actually came to me in my sleep. I researched it to make sure there wasn't another organization doing the exact same thing and I purchased the domain name, but I didn't actually file the Certificate of Incorporation until 2009. I had moved back to NY from LA the year before, and I wasn't able to find a steady, paying job, so I decided to try to see if APFAD was feasible. I contacted LB, Queen Latifah's personal assistant, and told her what I was trying to do. They sent over nine dresses. In 2010 we honored one student, who wore Queen Latifah's gown, and for prom season 2011 we honored six students. We have dresses from Kimora Lee Simmons, Paula Patton, Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas, Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, Tyra Banks, Tichina Arnold (Pam from Martin), and many more!
What is the single most rewarding experience since founding A Princess for a Day?
I've had two that stand out. The first was in 2010 at the senior dinner where we honored APFAD's very first student. The principal invited us to present the student with her award at the dinner. I gave a speech and when I finally announced the valedictorian's name, the entire room burst into cheers! When Alicia came up to receive her gift, and we hugged, it was the most overwhelming and fulfilling feeling I have ever felt! She was so happy, so honored, and so humbled to receive the recognition and to wear Queen Latifah's dress. The second one was this past prom season when Katherine, a Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient, finished getting her hair and makeup done at the Ted Gibson Salon (Mr. Gibson styles Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, and stars on TLC's What Not to Wear. We got into the elevator, and she exclaimed, "Wow! I really feel like a princess!" And that really is the essence of APFAD!