For some parents of aspiring actors, the response to that career choice is a resounding NO! In fact, the late iconic Emmy and Tony Award-winning Cicely Tyson’s mother was not in favor of her daughter’s decision to become an actress. During interviews, Ms. Tyson often told the account of when her mother eventually warmed up to the entertainment industry. She unexpectedly came to one of her performances and was later swarmed in the theatre’s lobby by fans who raved about Cicely’s talent. That’s when she overheard her suddenly proud parent respond that she always knew her daughter was destined for an acting career.
Cicely Tyson was fully engaged in her gift, even literally days before her passing earlier this year at the age of 96. A 2019 recipient of a Nyack College honorary Doctor of Letters, Dr. Cicely Tyson paved the way for many other women of color who are following in her footsteps like Nyack alumna, Markita Prescott.
Markita’s career started with singing jingles, doing voice-overs and being in television commercials. During her junior high school years, she attended the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan where she studied musical theatre. When she enrolled at Nyack College as a communications major, it was because she had her eye on becoming the next Sade Baderinwa, the ABC-TV New York news anchor. Her appreciation for broadcast journalism was influenced by her mother, who worked as a radio producer for many years. The 2006 alumna explains, “Then that acting bug bit me right after graduation.”
After Nyack, she earned a Master in Fine Arts degree at the Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts and began to land acting roles—while holding day jobs like real estate manager, kindergarten music teacher, dance instructor and television production assistant.
Her agent sent her to audition for a spot with a few lines on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the popular 1950’s period comedy-drama series that premiered on Amazon Prime Video. Subsequently, the SAG-AFTRA actress was sent on another audition for the show, but this time for the recurring role of “Martha,” a member of a singing trio, The Silver Belles. The group performed eight songs on the show and also recorded four original songs, which are all featured on the original music from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel soundtrack.
Though the pandemic has dimmed Broadway lights and made filming a maddening routine of COVID-testing, masking and unmasking, there’s no doubt that Markita will find her mark in front of a camera again. She actually hasn’t given up on one dream role: “When someone’s ready to create a Janet Jackson biopic, I’ll be ready!”