“Never underestimate OR despise the gifts and talents that God has placed within you (and don’t let anyone else do it either)! There’s nothing wrong with bettering your craft, but when you start complaining about your gifts/talents or wishing that you had someone else’s gift, you grieve the one who gave them to you.”
- Nikeya Young
There is something about being a renaissance person that is very intriguing. Their versatility affords them the luxury of being able to not become trapped in one area. Their various talents allow them to be a standout in a crowd of the one-dimensional. Their actions, performed with passion, grace, and poise, enable them to inspire those who observe them in all of their elements. Being in their presence or simply watching them from afar makes admirers believe in themselves, their abilities, and aspire to be like the person they enjoy.
However, what very few understand and see for themselves is how that renaissance person came to be who they are – the long hours of practice they spent putting into their talents, the endless amount of networking they do to make their skills and gifts known, so they can attain different opportunities and get to where they want to be in life, the everyday hustle of applying and auditioning for opportunities, and getting accepted for one opportunity while being rejected from several others at once. People always see the finished product. They never see the behind-the-scenes work.
Renaissance people do not just face the obstacles aforementioned. They also face the harsh criticism of their peers and those who are at a higher level than they are. Sometimes the criticism is constructive – it allows them to polish themselves and refine their talents and skills. Other times, the criticism is made out of jealousy and has no other purpose other than to discourage them. Despite facing all of this, renaissance people are forced to be strong and rely on their faith, having to stomach abuse and shoulder opposition while keeping their heads high and continuing to strive towards reaching their goals.
Nikeya Young, singer, actress, model, motivational speaker, writer, and former beauty pageant contestant, is a shining example of what it means to be a renaissance person.
Young, who was born in Chicago, was raised by her mother in Tulsa, Oklahoma following her parents’ divorce at the age of 2. She would live there until she was 18. She has a half-sister through her father. Despite being raised as an only child, Young never felt alone.
“[It] was just me and my Mom growing up; however, my mom had 9 siblings, so I have TONS of cousins,” Young explains.
Young started singing at the age of four. Her mother noticed how developed Young’s voice was at such a young age and began to polish her instrument.
“My mother was a Sunday School Teacher, so naturally, when she discovered that I had a gift for singing, she put me in the choir at church. Mom made very clear to me that God gave [me] that voice, so [I] give it back to Him by singing for His glory!”
From there, the rest is history.
Young began singing in various church and school choirs throughout her youth. While studying at DePaul University, she was a member of and a lead soloist with the DePaul Gospel Choir. Her voice became known for its wide range, spanning from a heavy tenor to 2nd soprano.
Since graduating from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (Concentration: Child Development) in 2003 , Young has gone on to earn her Master of Arts in Special Education from Northeastern University in 2007 while recording and being a part of several music projects. In addition to singing, she enjoys writing songs as she has written songs and sung background vocals for many artists under R Price Music Group, where her husband, Rodney “RJ” Young, Jr., is CEO and head music producer. Her voice can be heard on two songs on the Golden Age 2012 Mixtape, which was released in 2012.
Young also recently released her debut album, Victorious One, which infuses a Kingdom-based message with Pop, Hip-Hop, R&B, and House beats. Young considers the album to be her “PROUDEST moment thus far” and “a LIFELONG dream fulfilled.” Her current single, “E.T.” featuring King David Tha Vessel, was written for those believers who have ever felt oppressed due to their faith. According to Young, Victorious One is sure to get listeners “fired up!”
Young has several television credits under her belt as an actress and personality. She played a nurse on an episode of NBC’s hit drama, Chicago Fire, and has appeared multiple times on the Starz series, Boss, Steve Harvey’s daytime talk show, and Style Network’s Chicagolicious. Additionally, she has been featured on CBS 2 Chicago’s “Someone You Should Know” segment. Most notably, Young starred in the lead role of Tameka Anderson in an episode of TV One’s Find Our Missing, a performance which earned her positive reviews from the family of the woman who has been missing since 2010.
In addition to her credits in music and television, Young has been featured as a plus-size fashion writer in publications such as USA Today, PLUS Model Magazine, SKORCH Magazine, Examiner.com, and Global Grind. A former beauty pageant contestant, she has competed in the Miss Plus America beauty pageant and placed in the top five for three consecutive years. Young has modeled in various fashion shows in the Illinois and Wisconsin areas and has been a fit and print model for Milwaukee’s boutique, Larrieux, and Chicago’s vFish Designs.
Although Young mainly did singing for many years, acting and modeling were longtime interests of hers that took her a bit longer to pursue.
“I‘ve always been interested in being an all-around entertainer (dancing, singing, acting, and modeling)! However, I didn’t pursue it professionally until 2008. Modeling was first. In January of 2008, I set up a photo shoot for myself as part of my New Year’s resolution to step out on faith and DO some of the desires that had been in my heart since childhood! I paid my deposit (which was nonrefundable), so there was no turning back! I went and bought some cute clothes, got a fresh sew-in, and made it do what it do! Once I got my photos back, I researched plus-size beauty pageants, and found the Miss Plus America Pageant. I entered, got 2008 Miss Illinois Plus America, and got 4th Place at Nationals. By the end of 2008, I had modeled in over 20 fashion shows and landed a feature role in a Chicago stage play! I’ve kept the ball rolling ever since.”
Young quickly became a notable figure on the entertainment scene in Chicago. However, with all that she managed to accomplish, she has been no stranger to facing setbacks.
“My family has been pretty supportive for the most part. Still, anytime you set out to do anything for God, the devil throws a hissy fit! But the Entertainment Industry? It’s an ‘equal opportunity’ BEAST that hazes people of all races, shapes, sizes, AND RELIGIOUS BELIEFS! I’ve been ‘underestimated’ by MANY people over the years, but I’ve chosen not to focus on that. If you think on it too long, then you’ll start to think ‘Well, maybe they’re right’ and you’ll give up. Ain’t nobody got time for that! There’s LOTS of rejection in this industry, so you definitely have to go into it knowing who you are and WHOSE you are, but that’s with anything.”
As a result of her experiences, Young often speaks at conferences and workshops on many topics, including “Pursuing Your Passion”, “Walking Tall”, “Fashion”, “Abstinence”, and “Body Image/Self-Esteem.” Young explains, “When I do my speaking engagements, I always tell people, ‘If you don’t have an identity, then one will be provided for you.’”
Just as bright as her past has been and her present is, Young sees her future as being no different. She plans on continuing current endeavors while starting and raising a family with her husband.
“In five years, I’ll have two kids (a boy and a girl) – preferably twins. I’ll have at least two more albums under my belt, and I’ll be touring the country doing speaking and singing engagements that draw people closer to God. My husband and I will be doing what we love FULL-TIME and our kids will grow up knowing that following your passion is the RULE, not the exception.”
When asked about lessons she’s learned that could help those who want to do what she does, she spills some gems of wisdom:
“Never underestimate OR despise the gifts and talents that God has placed within you (and don’t let anyone else do it either)! There’s nothing wrong with bettering your craft, but when you start complaining about your gifts/talents or wishing that you had someone else’s gift, you grieve the one who gave them to you. Also, if there is someone around you that is trying to discourage you, or clearly does not have confidence in your abilities, dust your feet off and keep it moving! Trust God to bring the resources and people you need into your path.”
Young hopes that her legacy “inspires people, young and old, to be ‘Go-Getters’” and allows people to know her as “a woman of integrity whose life pleased and brought glory to God.”
Nikeya Young, we here at Livin’ Like Maya celebrate you for sharing your numerous gifts with us on stage, recordings, film and generously imparting words of wisdom to readers. We thank you for being the renaissance woman you are and boldly pursuing a career doing what you’re passionate about while remaining true to yourself. We are excited to see more great things unfold for you in the near future.
Continue to illuminate the world with your light, share your wisdom so others lives might be changed, and last but never least, live, learn and evolve each day. We pray nothing but God’s continued blessings over your life.
The Livin’ Like Maya Fam
Nikeya Young is represented by Lily’s Talent Agency (Chicago), Lori Lins LTD (Chicago & Milwaukee), and Jennifer’s Talent (Milwaukee). For speaking engagements, please send an email with “Speaking” in the subject line to Booking@NikeyaYoung.com.
Learn more about her at www.nikeyayoung.com.
Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialNikeyaYoung
Connect with her on Twitter: @nikeyayoung
**Nikeya’s debut album “Victorious One” is now available on iTunes, Amazon.com, CDBaby, and Google Play!
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