“The Amazing Adventures of a Woman in Need” is a new play starring “America’s Next Top Model” winner Naima Mora. The play was written by Naima Mora and Marishka S. Phillips who also served as its director. Audiences can watch it in person at the Triad Theater on October 16, livestreamed from home on October 16 (with a post-show meet-and-greet option), and on demand streaming October 21 – November 11.
“The Amazing Adventures of a Woman in Need” celebrates a quartet of quintessential female New Yorkers: Penelope is a supermodel who never dies, Joanne is a self-proclaimed stay-at-home dog mom, and Marisol Yanette Arnelis Rodriguez Lopes is the serial dater in search of modern day reparations. Both moving and comic, this play explores the human heart and what it means to be a woman today.
Naima Mora became famous after winning Cycle 4 of “America’s Next Top Model.” Since becoming a face for CoverGirl Cosmetics with her win, her career now includes being an award winning model, actor, published author and inspirational speaker. Naima has been the recipient of awards including The California Legislature Assembly Certificate of Recognition and The Key of the City of Cincinnati for her work towards the betterment of life and world peace. Her public speaking engagements include a TEDx Talk and a spot in SGI Peace Buddhist Organization’s “Buddhist In America”. As a model, Naima has worked with some of the industry’s leading clients. As an influencer, she has garnished partnerships with clients including Nike Women, Vita Coco, The WBNA, Verishop and L’Oreal.
Broadway actress, director, and thespian guru, Marishka S. Phillips is a native of Brooklyn, New York. At thirteen she was cast in the European tour of “Raisin,” a musical version of “A Raisin In The Sun.” She honed her skills at Alvin Ailey School of Dance, Broadway Dance Center, and Fordham University, where she studied theater arts.
Both women recently discussed this play and their collaboration via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): Naima, when did you know that you wanted to be a model and what
were your experiences on “America’s Next Top Model” like?
NAIMA: My mom is such a sweetheart and a visionary. She would dress me and my twin sister up in pretty little outfits when we were babies and take photos of us. I really knew that I wanted to be a model when my twin sister, Nia Mora, started studying photography and I naturally became her muse. She had a photo studio set up in our basement and everything with a dark room. When I moved to NYC to be a classical ballet dancer, my interest in modeling peaked. I was working at the Coffee Shop in Union Square when I was discovered by the casting directors from ANTM. That was an amazing experience. The most incredible part was being able to visit South Africa and feel a sense of home away from home. Being a woman of many different ethnicities, I find home where I feel welcomed. And I felt welcomed in South Africa. After visiting Roben Island, I knew I had to win the competition. There was no other choice for me. I had to do whatever it took. I have been that way ever since. ANTM was an incredible learning experience for me and a means to an end as a platform for me to be able to inspire other young people like myself.
MM: How did winning the show change your life and which subsequent modeling opportunities have been your favorites?
NAIMA: I began touring the world as a public figure and as a model …. but more specifically as a role model. I took the opportunity to do things like write my book “Model Behavior” (available on Amazon worldwide). Winning ANTM introduced me to a whole new part of my career that I didn’t even know was possible. Interestingly enough, the fashion industry didn’t really embrace me at first. It was still taboo to be on reality TV, so I had to rely on my wit and ingenuity in creating a career that the public and my fans demanded of me. I started hosting events, which led to me doing a TEDx Talk, I published my book and became a world speaker on Buddhist theology and inspiring people. It’s been a journey. And now I am pursuing my dreams of theater and acting!
MM: Marishka, how did you break into the performing arts industry, especially into directing?
MARISHKA: I was born into show business. I was in a womb full of influence being that my mom, Sandra Reaves-Phillips, was in the recording studios singing the whole time she was carrying me. I grew up as a backstage baby. Watching the process from audition to opening night, I knew I wanted to be in this world. Once I started teaching in 2006, students began to ask me to direct their plays and films. Mind you I attended L.A.C.C. for directing while living in L.A. I was inspired to do so by Debbie Allen while filming the last two seasons of A Different World and watching her every move.
MM: How did you discover your talent for writing and what was it about playwriting that most interested you?
NAIMA: I actually went to school for English. I attended a pre-university growing up for high school where my major was English and Performing Arts. I later attended City College of New York as a creative writing major. Writing has always been a passion of mine. When Marishka offered me the opportunity to be able to write a play with her, I jumped on it. It has been a cathartic and life changing process. Bringing these characters, whose lives stem from my experiences and imagination, to life as a writer and then as an actor has been so transformative. I feel deeply appreciative for this experience.
MM: What is some of the best feedback you’ve gotten about this piece thus far?
NAIMA: People LOVE the characters. We’ve been releasing little snippets of them over the last couple of months and people just think they are hilarious. Well, we’re going to go deep with these characters. The play is laugh out loud funny, but also a tear jerker and something that provokes a lot of thought and self-realization.
MARISHKA: Yes, people really are loving the characters that Naima created. They are also excited that she and I are collaborating.
MM: What’s your favorite part of this play and why?
NAIMA: Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but I love being each one of these characters and myself at the same time. There are five monologues that are each beautiful and thought provoking. I give my all in this piece and I expect the audience to meet me there. There is an unspoken language in performing/visual art. You as the artist performs and the audience contemplates what you do and has a guttural and visceral reaction. That is my favorite part of performing and will be with this play.
MARISHKA: I receive special healing from each character but there is something about Marisol (the serial dater in search of modern-day reparations) that really moves me. I wish that I had someone to teach me these lessons when I was 16 years old.
MM: Was it a challenge to plan for live theater during a lingering pandemic?
MARISHKA: It’s quite a challenge all around. The new rules and restrictions. People in fear of getting sick. We are happy that theater has opened back up.
MM: What other projects are you working on right now and what themes might you like to explore in future works?
NAIMA: Well, I really like exploring female archetypes. Right now, my major focus is on this play. I do however have a certified modeling course now available at colleges and universities around the country called “Model Know How”. I love that I get to pass the baton with all I’ve learned in this fashion industry while propelling myself forward with my new passion for acting.
MARISHKA: I am currently working on my TV series, “I Am CHARLIE.” We are preparing to pitch to Networks. Charlie is a Jamaican-American bisexual private eye. Character driven and very sexy! We will begin to reopen “Down To Eartha,” another one-woman show about Eartha Kitt starring Dierdra McDowell.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
NAIMA: That’s always a loaded question. I am a creative person. I want to pursue writing for myself and my own projects as well as perform in theater, film and television. That’s my dream and I always end up living my dreams… I want my life to be an example of that and continue inspiring people through my successes!
MARISHKA: I am planning a full Off-Broadway run for “The Amazing Adventures of a Woman in Need” and “Down To Eartha.” And to continue teaching and coaching actors. I will direct more TV in the future as well.
“The Amazing Adventures of a Woman in Need” will be performed live and livestreamed on Saturday, October 16 at 4pm EST. The Triad Theater is located at 158 West 72nd Street between. Attendees must show proof of vaccination. Running time is 70 minutes. Tickets are $30. The filmed production will be available to watch on demand October 21 – November 11. For tickets and info visit www.theamazingadventuresofawomaninneed.com