Who would have thought that a small-town girl from Clover, South Carolina could make it in Hollywood? Brandi Nicole Feemster, a Duke alumna of the Class of 2007, never had a doubt.
She came to Duke with a great interest in the arts but felt compelled to pursue a “practical” major. She decided to stay true to her passion. Brandi recalls, “It was really scary to leave Duke with a degree in Visual Arts and a Film/Video/Digital certificate when many of my classmates were heading off to medical school, law school or business school, but choosing this path led me to everything that I am doing now.”
She advises first-year women to explore everything that Duke has to offer. “Some departments have a lot of visibility at Duke because many students go in that direction, but you shouldn't let yourself be led down someone else’s path. Think of double majoring if you need a secure option, but don't let your passions be neglected. Whatever it may be, find your own way.”
At Duke, Brandi worked at Cable 13 and participated in the Duke in LA global education program, which helped her attain realistic understanding of the film and television industry. This knowledge gave her the confidence to pursue the career she wanted.
She credits several creative legends for inspiration as a performing artist. “Throughout my journey, I have been inspired by other black women in the arts with strong and sincere voices. Oprah Winfrey’s life story of how belief in herself allowed a poor black girl from Mississippi to become such a beloved American icon has been a great inspiration to me. Writers Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker have also left deep and lasting impressions on me with their works. Angelou’s poetry has taught me the importance of my own voice and how to really hear someone else’s. Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple really touched me deeply as a teenager when I didn't really have a frame of reference for the history of black women in America. Reading those books gave that history an intimacy that allowed me to understand something that I otherwise could not comprehend. The translations of those stories from written word to screen really gave me an understanding of the power of storytelling through the medium of film that led me to want to create and perform myself.”
Brandi has performed both on stage and on the big screen. In 2011, she played a major role in the musical production Strictly From the Westside at Los Angeles’ Saban Theatre. She took on the dual role of Francine/Lena in Actors Theatre of Charlotte’s rendition of Clybourne Park in 2012 and portrayed the title character in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark in 2014. She appeared in Notorious (2009) and Stuck in Love (2012) and has two other films in progress: Field of Lost Shoes, due out in September 2014, and Box Brown, in post-production.