I took classes at iO over 25 years ago in 1994.
I had just moved from Manhattan and was testing the waters for a possible career switch.
I was one of the only Black stylist that worked at NYC's Bumble & Bumble and world-renown colorist Louis Licari in the late 80s - early 90s.
When I moved back to Chicago in Jan. 1994, I was excited at first because acting was in my dna and improv was right up my alley. At the time, there were two Blacks in a class of about roughly 20 plus white students.
There were no Asians, Hispanics, Mexicans, Indians nor Pakastani performers that I could remember. Just white performers and two Black guys.
Nevertheless, Charna and I hit it off very well and began to get close as we talked often about the beauty and glamour side of the business.
One day she invited me to her house and I cut her hair and gave her a makeover. Now anyone that knows Charna or took one of the classes knows she prefers to dress casually and wears very little makeup.
When she looked in the mirror, it took her breath away. It was as if she was seeing how glamorous she could be for the very first time: just like any Hollywood or NY-based actress. We were both truly excited about her new look.
But, her boyfriend at the time became very insecure and jealous that I had brought out a different side of her that was now getting her more attention.
Soon thereafter, she started assigning everyone to teams and I was the last person to be put on a team, which I thought was odd since I was one of the better performers.
Then, the synergy we had was lost and she began to distance herself from me with each passing week. She stopped speaking to me completely and then most of the other white students as well.
That's when it became clear to me that I was no longer welcome and I stopped attending classes. It was very disappointing, but I wasn't terribly surprised because I was a native Chicagoan and knew how segregated, prejudice and racist this city was and still is.
So I wholeheartedly support the proposed reccommendations in this petition as well as the POC that have passed through iO's doors over the decades that may have experienced racism in all its myriad forms.
And whose dreams may have been crushed like mine.
I pray that justice is served, because Charna Halpern knew or should've known what was happening to Black and brown performers because she was the one running the entire show.
Keep up the pressure and if there's anything else I can do to help bring about change, don't hesitate to contact me at 312.488.9581.