Alumna Crystal-Lee Naomi will appear in an episode of the new Netflix series “Dear White People,” which premiers April 28. The show, based on a 2014 movie with the same name, is a satire that follows the lives of black students at a predominantly white, Ivy League college.
Naomi, a graduate of the School of Communication + Journalism, will play “queen bee” sorority president Karen, known on campus as Big Sister Too Fabulous.
Landing the role fulfilled a dream Naomi has had since seeing the movie in theaters. She related to the main character, Sam, with whom she shared the experience of growing up biracial. And since then, she wished she could’ve been part of the production.
So she was elated the morning she was called to try out for Netflix’s adaption of the movie, dropping everything to prepare her best “mean girl” and make it to the audition at 5 p.m. the same day.
“I was so crazy about it, so when I booked it, it was just that much more rewarding,” Naomi said.
The show’s satirical writing appeals to Naomi most; and although the show has been met with criticism in the months leading up to its release, she is confident in its discussion of identity issues.
“It’s not racially charged in a way that makes you uncomfortable. There’s an art to comedy in that you can talk about sensitive topics in non-threatening ways,” she said. “You can breathe life into something without making people defensive.”
Naomi’s television career has blossomed in the last year. In March, she guest starred as victim Gigi Stevens in an episode of “Criminal Minds.” She has also appeared in episodes of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and Netflix’s “Flaked,” which are currently airing. In June, she will guest star in Showtime’s “I’m Dying Up Here,” a comedy co-produced by Jim Carrey.
Naomi knew she wanted to be in the entertainment industry since she was little, but overcoming her initial fear of rejection was not easy.
“I was trying to protect myself from the rejection, and I’m still working on overcoming it. But when you love something, you just kind of surrender to it. I think my love for acting outweighs the fear.”
Over time, she realized not getting a certain role doesn’t mean she didn’t have a good audition; it could simply be that casters were looking for someone who fit a different physical description. It helped her develop a thicker skin.
Naomi learned to manage her busy acting schedule during her time at FIU. Back then she juggled classes and auditions during the day with a job at a call center on nights and weekends. Tracking her days down to the minute in a planner helped her stay on track.
“It was about managing my time as best as I could, because I loved all of it. I loved the idea of having a degree, as well as working and auditioning,” she said. “I wouldn’t have let any of it go.”
A Coral Springs, Fla., native, Naomi drove to the Biscayne Bay Campus every day for class, where she majored in journalism. Although she didn’t pursue the field after graduation, learning about news writing proved useful as an actress.
“It helped me when it comes to analyzing scripts and figuring out why things would be important to characters,” she said. “The analytical skills we learned helped me be able to decipher and become a character.”
At FIU, Naomi grew close with Sarah Anderson, a student services coordinator in the School of Communication + Journalism, who helped her make sense of her major and the path she would take in life.
“With her, it just felt like more than work. She was happy to nurture. She felt like mom,” she said of Anderson’s mentorship.
At BBC, Naomi was involved in Student Government Association and the Student Programming Council, where she helped plan events and get students involved on campus. And it’s where she met some of her closest friends.
“It helped me get more involved at BBC, and made it feel less like school and more like an experience. It’s something I look back on and have so many great memories.”