Women in Entertainment Mentee: How UTA's Louise Ward Became My "Perfect Match"
Ta'ja McCoy, currently enrolled in THR and Big Brothers Big Sisters' Mentoring Program, pens an essay on how the WIE program prepared her to become "a better lady" and her aspirations of becoming a homicide detective — "or at least playing one on TV."
This story first appeared in the 2015 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The day I found out I got through to the interview stage for the Women in Entertainment Mentoring Program, I remember rehearsing with my mom on the phone, constantly asking if I made sense or not, or if I said "um" too many times. I was really excited, anxious and nervous at the same time. I was nervous because I wanted this badly — and competing against my best friend made it no better. I remember waiting outside the interview room and contemplating whether [the interviewers] would see that being accepted into this program meant so much to me. Then [Big Brothers Big Sisters'] Sylvia Martinez opened that door, and all that adrenaline went away.
I walked in more confident than I thought. I shook hands, sat down and waited for the questioning process to begin. I think the easiest question was, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" This was easy because I have dreams and I have set guidelines multiple times of where I want to see myself. The most challenging question was, "What's it like being in a foster home?" That question took time to answer. I couldn't say "great" or "bad" because it was neither; it's just always been something I had to learn to accept.
I found out I got accepted into the program when I was on my way to a Lakers game with my mentor from a Sony Pictures program, and she started crying as she said, "You got accepted into the WIE program, so this might be the last time we hang out for a while." I cried as well, for what she said was true — and because I, Ta'ja McCoy, just got accepted into the program I'd been dying to enter since the 10th grade. That night, I went home and boasted. I called my mom and let her know, and we both screamed. I was just excited that it really happened. I was ready to become a better young lady, and I knew WIE would help me personally and educationally.
When I attended last year's Women in Entertainment breakfast, it blew my mind. It was way more extravagant and magnificent than I'd envisioned. The women there were phenomenal and very puissant. I was dumbfounded when I saw Shonda Rhimes, Angelina Jolie Pitt and Kourtney Kardashian, all inspiring. When Shonda said, "I haven't broken through any glass ceilings yet," I connected with that automatically because as an African-American and a woman, it's almost impossible to achieve your dreams without someone trying to bring you down and make you feel humble. But the concept of her message was: As a woman in general, it's less seen for us to be successful, and striving for success is the best possible way to go.
I remember meeting my mentor, Louise Ward. It was kind of a nerve-racking experience. As I was sitting there in the United Talent Agency building, in her office, all I could think was, "Wow, are we going to get along?" I felt like this because Louise is beyond extraordinary; she walked in with so much confidence that it frightened me. She walked with confidence, she talked with confidence, she even sat with confidence. Louise can't walk by and have no one notice her — it's just the fierceness in her presence. In the beginning, I was confused about why The Hollywood Reporter and Big Brothers Big Sisters chose this magnificent woman to be my mentor. We discussed so many things that day, I don't even recall as much as I would want to. On that same day, Louise taught me how to posture myself. So I walked in as Ta'ja McCoy and walked out as Mini Louise Ward.
Over this past year, Louise and I have done so much. On the first site visit, when it was just Louise and me, we went to the set of Hail, Caesar, where I met Channing Tatum, which was awesome — I loved it. I was able to see premieres of movies such as Pitch Perfect 2. We took a visit to the Beverly Hills Library, and Louise picked out great books and movies for me to read and watch. We took a trip to LACMA. I met her family — and she has a lovely family. We even ate at Clementine, which is like a cafe and a lounge combined and is located in the UTA building. Recently we went into a maze room and spent an hour trying to escape, which was exhilarating and fun.
But all the visits weren't just about having fun. Most consisted of us discussing college options, backup plans, my personal statement for university applications and what I wanted to do with my life after high school and college. Louise and I went to the Pomona College Fair, and she introduced me to her niece, who attends the University of Miami, which is a university I am quite interested in. Her niece discussed ways to get in and scholarships to apply for. Louise and I came to be a perfect match.
My main goal right now is to attend a university and double-major in criminal justice and psychology, and then get a Ph.D. in psychology and hopefully become a homicide detective. I also want to minor in performing arts — so, just in case being a homicide detective doesn't work out, I can always play one on TV.
McCoy is part of the current Mentoring Program class and will graduate from high school in 2016.