What comes to mind when you think of the term “superstar”? Could it be someone whose immense talent has allowed them to withstand the test of time? Or is it someone who continuously evolves their craft, ensuring that their legacy will live on in folks’ hearts forever? The short answer is that both of those constitute a superstar, especially when the superstar in question is Tichina Arnold. Unsurprisingly, Arnold's creative genius has captivated audiences over the past three decades and continues to do so.
Last month, the New York native hosted the inaugural Paramount Music Showcase in New York City. A joint effort spearheaded by Paramount’s Office of Global Inclusion and Paramount Music, this showcase provided an opportunity for artists from underrepresented backgrounds to display their talents in front of various influential figures in media and music. Arnold feels that there should be more platforms like this where artists from marginalized backgrounds are able to share their gifts.
“For Paramount to do this, I think is lovely. We have a lot of underrepresented communities, unfortunately, and I was actually part of one of those communities years ago as a child, but I had a wonderful family that pushed me along the way,” Arnold said to UPTOWN exclusively. “The church was also a wonderful outlet for me [...] but outside of the church, we should have more platforms. We should have more platforms where people can present their talents and their gifts.”
It may be difficult to imagine the beloved screen veteran as a beginner in her craft, but there was a point when this was reality. While Arnold is using this opportunity with Paramount to help spotlight up-and-coming artists, there was a time early in her career when someone did the same for her.
“I've been blessed to have been around a lot of people who saw my potential and Michael Levin's one of them. I did a soap opera called Ryan's Hope years ago when I was about 17 years old and they didn't want me because I just didn’t have the soap opera look,” Arnold said. “I was a dark-skinned Black woman with crooked teeth. You didn't see that on soap operas, but it was Michael Levin's storyline and he said, ‘Tichina, I had to fight for you. I had to fight for you because you know, the network didn't want you, they wanted someone else.’ And I said, ‘Why did you fight for me?’ and he said, ‘When you came in and auditioned, you just lit up the room. I didn't want anybody else after I saw you.’ That gave me a lot of confidence.”
In September, The Neighborhood actress received the lifetime achievement award from the National Urban League in St. Louis. While the accolade was much appreciated, Arnold stated that her ability to brighten people’s day through her talents is the real honor.
“To me, to hear people laugh is an accolade to me. When people say, ‘You know what, I was feeling bad one day and I turned on the TV and your, you know, big-ass face was there.' That is an accolade to me,” Arnold told UPTOWN. “I like to just keep it moving because God has blessed me to do what I love doing and that's just what I want to continue to do until I don't feel like doing it anymore. I think it's important to receive your accolades and your flowers, while you can smell them.”
With a career spanning decades, it’s safe to say that Arnold has mastered the ability of endurance. The ability to evolve as an artist and performer while staying true to her roots is a lesson that many can learn from. For Arnold, the secret to this longevity is simply being able to work with others.
“I can work with anybody. I have a huge ego, but I keep my ego in check. You know where you play your position, and I tell young artists all the time: Everybody doesn't need to be or have to feel the need to be a star. What the hell is a star? Stars fall,” Arnold said. “You want to do good work and that's what I always pray for. I always pray for good work, good opportunities, and good roles that I could be proud of. I want to leave a legacy of good work.I don't want to ever do myself or my daughter a disservice by just doing work just to do work. I want to do things that I can believe in.”