Eighteen years old and a quadruple threat.That’s not something you usually think of when mentioning today’s young stars with budding careers. Ryan Jamáal Swain just graduated high school this past May, but the entertainment industry is already something Swain has gotten used to and found a home. The kid can sing, dance, act and model. The Birmingham, AL native will take his talents to Washington, D.C. this fall as he begins his college career at Howard University–the alma mater of Hollywood stars such as Lance Gross, Laz Alonso, Taraji P. Henson, Marlon Wayans, LaLa Vazquez Anthony, Wendy Racquel Robinson and so many more. Swain could very well be the next big thing to come out of HU as a Theatre Arts major with a concentration in Musical Theatre and a theatre arts administration minor. Watch out D.C. and, you too, Hollywood.
-Jasmine Cannon (@JMone_)
Name: Ryan Jamáal Swain
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Where to find Ryan Jamáal:
Facebook: Ryan Jamáal; Ryan J Swain Fan Page
So, you’re an actor, dancer, singer and model. How did you get involved in all of these endeavors? Did they all come at one time, or gradually?
Well, as a child, my mom said that I didn’t have rhythm and decided to put me in tap classes when I was 4. At first I was a tad bit timid to dance because I really didn’t have rhythm. But after the first couple of lessons I really came into my own. After I did my first recital, I knew that I loved performing so I continued my training and started to train in ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop. I have been singing since I could talk according to my mother, and after I started showing interest I starting taking voice lessons with Amy Murphy. I started modeling in catalogs when I was 8 years old and started doing much more editorial work over time. Acting is the newest contribution. I started acting when I was just starting high school. During the 9th grade, I was heading to a professional theatre to pick up an application for an internship and they were holding auditions for their Black History show in February. The executive director of the company stopped me and asked me to audition. I went in and audition and the rest is history.
Which one of these is your forte?
I’ve been dancing the longest, but I feel that I am an actor before anything. I connect with the story of any piece I tackle whether it’s choreography, music, a photo shoot or a character. I feel as though you connect more when there is a story involved.
How did you get started in the entertainment business?
I have family that has been in the business for a while and after they saw that I had a passion for it. My mother pursued them and my dreams.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
Being able to use the gifts God has blessed me with to touch someone’s life in some capacity.
What inspires you?
Being able to use my art as Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Lorraine Hansberry did and to ensure that our culture and our voice is never not shown to the masses.
What sets you apart from other young entertainers out there?
My personality, really that’s about it. Skill can be taught, but who you are is just that, YOU!
How was your experience at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA), and how has it prepared
you for what is to come/has come career wise?
I am so appreciative to my teachers and peers at ASFA. It showed me that it’s okay to be passionate about your dreams and the arts and sciences. I loved my time at ASFA because it taught me how to push through obstacles and to use every experience effectively and to appreciate every contribution that passionate people make to our society through the arts and academia. It gave me the courage to believe that I can do things I thought I couldn’t. I am so thankful.
Much of Hollywood has roots at Howard University, so how does it feel to be a Bison?
HU… you know!! I am truly thankful that I am starting my journey at Howard U. The legacy that Howard U possesses is awe inspiring. I can’t wait.
Why did you decide to go to HU?
I chose Howard because it provides me with two things. One, a conservatory styled program in Acting, Music, and Dance and it is notorious for nurturing the world’s most prosperous black artists. The second reason I chose HU is because outside of my craft is a community filled with culturally diverse individuals there for one common goal: a great education. D.C. has a great theatre scene with professional companies at just about every corner.
What are you looking forward to when you arrive on campus? (I’m sure you’ve started getting involved already lol)
Haha. Yes I have. I am looking forward to being as involved in the Fine Arts Department, and a few other organizations around campus as much as I possibly can and to network like nobody’s business. Howard U is notorious for their connections. I also want to be involved with the upcoming election in the fall. I’m in D.C., the president is down the street. Not everyone can say that.
What are your goals, hopes and dreams for the near and far future?
To continue to let Him direct my path is my ultimate goal. I hope to one day start my own theatre company back here in the South that welcomes new and experimental plays that help cultivate the African Diaspora. One thing I feel our community lacks is culture and I want to give them that. I, like every other performer, wish to one day play Broadway and Television and Film across the world and to earn every award that I win. But, I just want to be happy and to make sure my family is taken care of.
How did you like working with BlocSouth and AMTC (talent agencies)?
Loved it! Both have opened a lot of doors for me. I am truly grateful.
What projects have you worked on?
Recently, [I’ve done] a few ad campaigns for Student Life, a Christian company here in Birmingham. I also did a documentary-type film with Shaquille O’Neal and Matthew McConaughey called Man in the Glass: The Dale Brown story. [I’ve also done] a few pre-professional shows with local theatre companies around Birmingham and the South.
Do you have anything planned in the near future?
Yes. But that’s all I can say. (smiles)
Tell us about your blog, marvelifestyle.blogspot.com.
I started this blog to let everyone know that your dreams are obtainable if you work hard. I started it back in 2009 by documenting every opportunity I have had in the entertainment industry. I just want everyone to know that you don’t have to come from a rich family to be successful you just need the support, faith, and sheer determination to make your dreams come true.
What’s your favorite quote?
“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” – Unknown
What’s your nickname and where did it come from?
Some of my friends call me Jamáal because they say that Ryan and Jamáal are two different personalities. I guess like Beyonce and Sasha Fierce (laughs). Others call me Ryan Jamáal Swain because I introduce myself exactly like that. Ry-Ry from my family, but yeah only family, ha.
Who is your role model?
My mother because of her strength. This woman is the hardest working person I know and she does it with sheer grace and dignity. Some kind of woman.
Watch this music video which features Swain singing on the hook. The video was made after tornados went through and destroyed areas in Alabama including Pratt City where the video was shot. Swain is the one in the scarf and yellow shirt.