Spirit of Oya

Energizing Through Music & Art

Get to know OYA with the FREE single “LOVE,” from her debut album Spirit of Oya. This groovy original shows OYA’s gifts as a songwriter and mixes together ingredients from R&B, Pop and Reggae into a flavorful treat. You’ll also be entered into a monthly drawing to win the

post title background The Gift of Gratitude

How often do you tell the people that have inspired, encouraged and moved you what a powerful impact they have made on your life? There are so many times someone says or does something that saves our lives or sparks us to make a major change, and we forget to tell the person that they made such a huge impact.

Of course, it’s not possible to constantly explain to people in detail how every little thing they do for us affects our lives. Still, often a simple “thank you” will do the trick. There are many times when a person who changes your life doesn’t even realize how their actions or words have touched you; by expressing your gratitude, you could change their lives!

For example, how about those who are natural motivators, always thinking positively, promoting happiness and encouraging others? I’m not just talking about professional life coaches or motivational speakers; I’m talking about mothers, fathers, sports coaches, aunts, uncles, brothers and friends. Even these naturally-upbeat folks need to hear you helped them. Your support and words of thanks will certainly make them feel fulfilled and help inspire them to continue doing what they do best for others! You really just never know what effect you could have on them by showing your appreciation.

I know when someone tells me that one of my songs or blog posts inspired them, it is wonderfully encouraging! It makes me feel like I want to keep right on doing what I’m doing.

A young woman who had lost a child once told me that every day when she wakes up she listens to my song “Hold on Be Strong,” because it reminds her that there are better days ahead. Because of that song, she is able to get out of bed and keep hope burning. And whenever I feel frustrated or overwhelmed, I think about this beautiful person who took the time to tell me what something I created meant to her — that this song I made gives her the strength to go on. It is people like this that help me stay true to my mission. As strong as I am, it feels so good to hear someone acknowledge and encourage me!

We all need this wonderful, positive reinforcement. And to that young lady: I will not say your name, but if you are reading this, I want to say, “Thank you” for taking the time to share your story with me and taking the time to tell me what my song meant! And to all those that have ever sent me an email, letter, tweet, Facebook message or a gift, I thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. You are absolutely a part of Spirit of Oya and why I do what I do!

And now, it’s my turn! I want to use this post as a special way to finally say my own “thank you” to a man who has helped make me the artist I am today, but would probably never believe I would still be thinking about him: actor and producer Gabriel Casseus. He is best known for movies like Fallen with Denzel Washington and John Goodman, Black Hawk Down with Josh Hartnett and Tom Sizemore and has written, acted in and produced many other great projects.

So, to Gabriel Casseus, I want you to know that I have spread your name around the nation to many actors and creators because you moved me so! Many years ago, when I met you, I had a way about me as an actress: I was raw and real, but you brought something out of me in the quick scene we shared that you probably don’t even realize.

It’s so true when they say, “One moment can change your life,” because this moment I shared with Gabriel changed me as an actor. I appreciate him simply for being the fine actor he is and for sharing his talent, energy and time with me on this one night.

It was an evening I could not have previously imagined. I was on set for a film called One Bad Habit, produced and directed by the brilliant producer/writer/director Preston Whitmore II (Fled, This Christmas). I had been shooting all day, and it was going wonderfully. I knew my lines and I was really in the groove of my character. In fact, I was this character. I was not Oya; I was Lovely, the young Jamaican girl who was in a place of confusion, hurt and pain with a sick mother who was dying, and the world that I thought I knew turned totally upside down. I was going through everything that Frankie was going through in that moment. This young, vibrant character became dull and dark, and life was almost unlivable.

Lost in the swirl of cigarette smoke, I sat there thinking about my life and what I just did — feeling like I wanted to connect with the character played by Mr. Casseus, but so disconnected from life that I could not bring my heart or mind to think it was possible to find love.

Then, I heard footsteps. With each step Gabriel took, it felt like death and love all wrapped up together. He took his time. His steps completely broke me, and I didn’t even want to face him. What kind of energy did Gabriel have to bring this out of me with just his walk?! Amazing! Each step he took made me cringe. My back was turned, and as his steps halted, it happened. I didn’t have to think about the emotion I was going to have when he looked at me, because the emotion was real.

He kept taking his time with me. As he stared at me, he waited on his line, speaking to me through his eyes and energy. I was totally lost in space and time. And while I had put myself in the artistic and emotional space I was in, Gabriel brought so much more out of me than I thought I had! And he was in that space with me and beyond.

He looked at me as though he felt sorry for me. He had love for me, but hated where I was at right then and, filled with frustration grabbed me and threw me up against the wall. I felt fear, passion, compassion and what we once had but could never have again due to the state of my behavior and his behavior.

Before that moment with Gabriel, I always knew I was a method actress, able to become the characters I was portraying. As a young actress, it really hit me deeply, and I thought, “This is what it’s all about. Acting is not about acting; it’s really about being and living truthfully in a world that could be.”

I still believe that art is not just expression, but something that is real to someone’s life and thus has to be respected. What we are sharing is real. The evening I shared with Gabriel was a real moment — something that a real man and woman had been through.

I have carried that one scene with Gabriel with me through my life of acting, even though I know this brilliant man is probably not thinking about it in the same way. He probably did it, then moved on not realizing that I thought anything special about him. It was a scene in a movie, a job we did together. It was a very powerful scene, and we all acknowledged that at the time! Still, I can’t imagine he realized he sparked something in me that helped me grow significantly as an actress.

So, today, I am writing to let Mr. Gabriel Casseus know, “I appreciate you!” Of course, I also thank Preston Whitmore II, who had faith in me as a new actress and believed I could do this role opposite such a fine, seasoned actor. I am incredibly grateful, Preston, for bringing this man into my professional life so I was able to have that mind-blowing experience.

In acting, they say you are only as good as the person you play opposite of. And as I continue to hit the stage with different actors, it is so true! You feed off their motivation and what they give you, as well as off what you give them. When you put two people together with this energy, magic happens.

So, once again, thank you Gabriel for bringing more magic into my life! You are a fine actor, and I appreciate you just for being you and letting it flow. You showed up in a professional, real way. And Preston, you allowed the real emotion to come out through an organic approach, which taught me about what good direction could bring out of me.

I am proud to say that I continue to take all my experiences in life and nurture them. So many people offer so many fruits of wisdom through words and action as I grow as an actress, singer and writer, but I really wanted to take a moment to share this particular experience with Gabriel and Preston. Simple as it may be, I take that “realness” with me on every stage and set.

I hope you, my dear reader, will feel inspired by the stories in this post and take the time to tell someone in your life that you appreciated them. Tell them you learned something or how they helped you … or simply say, “Thank you!”

Our lives can get busy, and it’s easy to take experiences for granted or get so caught up in the next big thing we have to do that we forget to the time to acknowledge what we have done or how someone else contributed to our success and growth.

My scene with Gabriel was filmed so many years ago, but I believe it’s never too late to show appreciation. I thank all the people that give me encouragement and receive it, because it really matters and fuels me. You are all my blessings!

So, I encourage you: Take the time today to tell someone, “Thank you!” Send flowers, a card, a thoughtful email … or just pick up the phone! Give the gift of gratitude!

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