I first met Jovani Rampersad last spring on a flight from Rome to Atlanta; I was a passenger, and she a flight attendant. We struck up a conversation as she was as interested in what I do as I was in her. This statuesque beauty has had a career in both commercial real estate as well in stand-up comedy, acting, and even as an instructor for kickboxing. She’s starred in the horror film I Thought You Were a Nice Man, a short comedy The Interview, and the web series Daddy’s Little Girl. Born in Trinidad, Jovani holds an MBA from the University of Liverpool in the UK, and is a professional actor based in New York City. Follow her on Instagram.
SCT: Tell us a bit about yourself.
JR: I’ve done a lot in my life, but essentially, I moved from Trinidad to South Carolina when I was 7. It was a very shocking moment to move from the Caribbean Islands to the South. After undergrad at the University of South Carolina, I moved back to Trinidad, working for the UN as an intern and got a contract afterwards. Mom sent my sister to come get me. She said, “I didn’t move to America just for you to end up in Trinidad.” She also wanted me to get a second degree, so I decided to move far, far away. I studied environmental business in Liverpool. Afterwards, I moved around: Back to South Carolina, then New York City, San Francisco, and back to New York City. In my field, it was either go back to school or work for a nonprofit, so I started in real estate part time. I stayed 7 years in commercial real estate, and all the while I had an undying need to express myself.
I had enough working in corporate world. I had dream job, dream apartment, dream life, but I wasn’t happy. I quit, moved to Atlanta, and took my first acting class. In a nutshell, I listened to the voice in my head.
As women, we have strong intuition. I don’t know if it is society that tells us to use logic, think out things, listen to other people’s suggestions. Deep down we all know what to do. It’s such an amazing feeling to have this intuition and to be able to listen to that inner voice.
SCT: You’ve worked both in the world of big business as well as the arts. How do those two connect?
JR: I think one drives the other. We must have a work ethic to climb up the corporate ladder. We must have structure and organization skills. We are taught goals and visions. That path helps me with my art. We have to be able to make money from this. We need a business plan, with goals and objectives. I treat my acting as a business. I structure my days, auditions, and gigs. It’s my history for past 3 or 4 years. It structures my days.
SCT: Why the job as a flight attendant?
JR: I’ve always loved traveling. Before I became a flight attendant I had been to more than 30 countries, and lived in 3. I’ve held survival jobs: teaching kickboxing, working in gyms. At my first acting gig, I met a woman who kept telling me to go for the flight attendant job. I was worried that it might be inflexible between acting gigs and being in the air. That was in 2014. I just didn’t see how it would fit into my life. I was finding satisfaction helping people with fitness journey and helping them feel better. But a year later, I was exhausted because I couldn’t miss a weekend of fitness work to pay my bills. I was craving traveling somewhere. I reached out to my friend and asked if the airlines was hiring. My friend assured me that I could work as much as I want. The longer I was with the company the better the schedule. A couple of weeks later they were hiring. I’ve been there a bit more than a year now. The entire system is based on seniority. We bid for our schedule by days, timing, location. It works.
SCT: You’re quite an accomplished athlete, participating in Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, as well as cycling, golf, and even shooting, volleyball, and yoga. Is there any sport you still want to learn?
JR: Some of those are things I can do but don’t do regularly. Those are things I can easily fit into acting roles. I love the martial arts, and I really like the action genre of films so I started training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ve trained in golf. I find the sport very relaxing. I love golf courses. They are so green. You are in nature. I want to be able to have the time to play more golf.
SCT: You also model and do voice overs. What are your dreams in that field?
JR: I want to be like Betty White, with a lifelong career that goes into my 90s. I want to express myself truthfully for the rest of my life. I write as well. I would like to have my own production company creating television shows and movies that really matter. I want to create awareness by sharing stories–not only my stories but those from the people I meet. We relate to people through stories. I’d like to have my own sitcom, and I’d love to do action and comedy movies.
SCT: What are your business dreams?
JR: I have my hands full with the acting world, so there isn’t much time. My goals outside of that is to spend time helping people. I volunteer with Food Bank for New York, and I want to get involved with the Endometriosis Foundation of America.
SCT: We were impressed to see a model of your stature stand up for endometriosis. Does it still affect your life?
JR: I am still dealing with it. I was also diagnosed with adenomyosis where the lining of the uterus grows into the uterine wall. I wasn’t responding to medication. It’s even less know. I want to create more awareness so that it’s caught earlier to help women find ways to manage it. It’s no fun. I’ve decided to have a hysterectomy. I am 36 years old. I have no children. It is a very tough decision to make. I am deciding between quality of life and small percentage of chance of maybe having a child. Sometimes you must choose quality of life and find other ways to create a family rather than have my own biological children. If my main objective is to help people, then if I want to start a family, I can adopt and help others. I still get emotional discussing it. This is part of being an actress. I go there and have a moment. And now I can make jokes about it. I’m getting spayed.
SCT: What motivates your creativity?
JR: Being outside and in nature is huge for me. If I’m feeling blocked or confused, just trapped, I’ll go outside. One of my favorite places to be is in the woods. I’ll just sit there and be still. Observe what is around me. Another way to find inspiration is by traveling. I’m by myself. I pay attention to all around me. The sky, the architecture. I people watch. It reminds me of things I’ve been through. I get inspired by the people I meet when I do decide to speak. It goes back to that inner voice. You’ll find yourself connected to someone. I get inspired to share stories and I learn things. Nothing is more inspiring than hearing stories from people that move you. These are things that you cannot make up. Connecting with certain people.
SCT: Solo travel? You must do quite a bit of it.
JR: I let my days flow. I figure out a few things that I want to do, and I set out and go and do it. I don’t get mad if I don’t get to one place or another. I like to walk around in a city. There’s no such thing as getting lost. I see things that I normally would not see.
SCT: Are you ever afraid traveling solo?
JR: Yeah, the first time I had that fear, I was traveling with my sister in Bangkok for my 23rd birthday. It was right after the movie Breakdown Palace, Claire Danes stuck in a Thai jail. We got overly cautious and missed a lot of things. It’s good to be cautious, but also listen to inner voice when it tells you to avoid some things. But also explore and do it. It’s like riding a bike for first time. You’re scared you’re going to fall. But it’s exhilarating when you’re pedaling and the wind is in your face. It is scary sometimes, but it’s okay. People are friendly wherever you go. Even with communicating, it can be difficult, but you figure out how to get by.
SCT: When you look back over your career many, many years from now, what do you think you’ll be most proud of?
JR: That I could be myself and follow my own path. Not what my parents or friends or boyfriend or husband wanted me to do. And that I could help people.
SCT: What sort of advice would you offer to women who have similar dreams but don’t know how to step out to make them happen?
JR: Listen to your inner voice. It tells you exactly how to do things. Remove yourself from the chaotic environment and be still. Write down exactly what you want to do. Start talking to people about it. They will give you ideas. Whatever field you want to be in, surround yourself with people who do those things. They will inspire you. Don’t listen when your mind is telling you “You can’t do this because….” Listen to the inner voice that says, “I think I want to ….” The only way to do things is to do it. You will fail and you will find satisfaction.