We had the good fortune of connecting with Etta Mae Mumphries and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Etta Mae, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
I have several favorite quotes, but one of the best is the scripture, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinithians 5:7) This works really well for those of us in entertainment or other fields where there is an element of “chance” or “luck.” Each and every day, you have to get up and work on your craft, your business, putting your “wares” out there. The sight part is, there are many, many days, maybe even years where you don’t “see” as much growth or gain as you desire. The faith part comes in knowing you are doing something worthwhile, something that will perhaps pay off one day and contribute to the greater good. Another quote I love is “Only what you do for Christ will last.” The spirit behind this isn’t just a religious notion, but rather the most important things we can do daily, and in terms of our legacy, are those things that you can point to as promoting the greater, higher things like, say, faith, hope, charity and love.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Etta Mae Mumphries came about as part of a one woman show I created. I literally created a voice to speak encouragement and life to myself (and my audience) as an aid to coming out of depression and navigating an entertainment career. Etta Mae is the ultimate lemonade out of lemons maker. I love that nearly every day, I receive a note somewhere that Etta Mae’s words made someone smile or feel a little lighter. We have been creating and putting out videos and content for over ten years. Although we have not yet achieved “viral” success, I have learned to trust that whether I reach 12 or 12,000, we are fulfilling our purpose. I am excited because my exposure online is expanding. During this pandemic, many entertainers have had their lifelines and income sources entirely shut down. Being able to work remotely, and put videos out through youtube, facebook, instagram, and now TikTok is an awesome way to stay connected. These are challenging times, and a lot of people are struggling in so many different ways. I want to do my part to put some light and hope into our world. I want the world to know the darkest hour is just before dawn, and you gotta keep your head up so you can let your hair down. Forgive all the cliches, but I want the world to know Etta Mae Mumphries means it when she repeats her catch phrase, “You gotta make like Lee Nails and press on! Keep pressing on, don’t ever look back, and the rest is history!”
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would start right here near where we live. The Rose Bowl is alive with joggers, dog walkers, soccer players and lots of beautiful sights of Pasadena. The stadium itself is beautiful and there are statues commemorating Brandi Chastain and Jackie Robinson. The drive along Orange Grove Boulevard to get there is always breathtaking, day or night. We always return to the scene of the crime, which is the Pasadena City Hall, where we did our wedding pictures. And it’s so beautiful with those amazing statues of Jackie and Mack Robinson. Since we’re close by, I would take my guest to grab a great brunch or lunch at Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles on Lake Avenue. Even if there’s a wait, it’s worth it. Or, another great alternative is to stop by Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. Not only do you get to pass through some of the beautiful sights of downtown, you will be overwhelmed by the myriad of great choices for lunch. It would be worth it to stop by LA Live to see the Staples Center and if you have time, definitely spend some time at the Grammy Museum. This museum is such a gem even though it’s not that big, you can spend hours, looking at the exhibits, which change monthly and tuning into the hands on samples of every music genre you can imagine. I would be inclined to head towards the shore, so we would hit all my favorite beaches, starting with Redondo, my old neighborhood. The pier there is so quaint, and if you like fresh seafood like my mom, be prepared to pick out some great crab, grab a seat and a bib and go to town. There are seals and birds and usually dolphins to see, and if you’re feeling sporty, you can take a fun ride out in a kayak and see (and smell) the sea lions up close! The beach just south of the pier is glorious with jetties, vollyball nets, walking and bike paths, and and a nice stretch of sand that is not usually too crowded. Absolutely would take the drive down through Palos Verdes and stop in to see the Wayfarers Chapel. I discovered this place as a potential wedding location, but it is one of the most beautiful places for any occasion. If there is not a ceremony of some sort going on, you can actually go in and meditate in the chapel, and it’s the most amazing photo op for your out of town guests. That drive is one of my absolute favorites in all of southern California as the cliffs and waves, and deeply blue gorgeous water are world class. Turn up the radio, drive and sing like nobody’s watching! For a different beach experience, we would head up to my other old neighborhood (I moved a lot!) which is Venice Beach. It’s just the right amount of SoCal crazy and you can catch every great element there – skaters, skateboarders, street vendors and entertainers, junky pier food (like Jodi Maroni’s!!), dogs, birds, souvenirs, and just wonderful, wacky, California sunshine. And, the beach there is not too shabby. You can grab a towel, soak up some sun, and stick your toes or whole body in the ocean. The great thing about this area, at least for me, is there’s a pretty strong chance if you look, you’ll see our dolphin friends passing through. Since you’re close to the west side, I’d drop into the Getty Museum, which is a beautiful site with a great view, and the exhibits can’t be beat. And being on the west side would require a lunch or dinner from Versailles, our favorite Cuban restaurant. The location on La Cienega or Venice Boulevard will do, but be prepared to carry eau de garlic around with you for the rest of the day. From there, I would take my guest through the Wilshire corridor and visit my alma mater, UCLA. I fell in love with this campus since I came to visit as a prospective student, and it just keeps getting bigger and better. And there’s some good food in the student union, too. From there, we would shoot through Beverly Hills and maybe stroll past all those fancy expensive stores. That never gets old, although it’s just window shopping for me!. And Century City mall has changed so much over the years, but it’s a beautiful nice outdoor shopping location with a a great food court. Speaking of food court, I think the Farmer’s Market at the Grove is worth a look. It’s in my other old neighborhood (West Hollywood), and being able to stop there and also stroll through the Grove is an awesome afternoon or evening. I love the Nordstrom there and the fountain is just,well, glorious. If you are there on a warm day or evening when there’s some great music or just folks with their little kids or dogs frolicking on the lawn, well, that’s a great dose of SoCal right there. Also, I’ve never been, but a lot of my friends like to enjoy the jazz at the museum over on Wilshire on Friday nights in the summer time. Speaking of music, any concert at the Hollywood Bowl is worth the drive, parking and walk up the hill. I cannot tell you how many fabulous nights we have had there, especially if there’s a full moon, a warm breeze and/or fireworks. From Diana Ross, Earth Wind & Fire, Luther Vandross, Sergio Mendes, Star Wars with John Williams, Guys & Dolls, Black Movie Soundtrack, to taking my mom to see Aretha, I have nothing but happy memories from every night spent there. I would even throw in a Hollywood bus tour. We did that when my husband’s family came to town for a reunion, and even after all these years living in LA, I learned and saw so much more sitting on that bus and touring the stars’ homes and other things. For more great music, I would stop into the Catalina Bar & Grill and also The Rose in Pasadena has a lot a great, surprise concerts. And, being an actor, we would have to check out some of the amazing theatre venues, such as Antaeus, A Noise Within, or the Pasadena Playhouse. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Mark Taper Forum make for a great evening of taking in downtown, people watching and great theatre. Oh, and the Norton Simon Museum is just up the street from us and they have so many famous and interesting pieces, and a beautiful garden to experience. The chocolate cookies at the little snack bar are worth taking a seat and enjoying, too. If we swing through Mid-City, I wouldn’t miss Leimert Park. There’s great synergy of Black-owned businesses on Crenshaw Boulevard. EsoWon book store has a thorough selection of African American literature and culture. Jazz legend Barbara Morrison has a performing arts center and also a great jazz museum chock full with history, and there are so many places to find art and artists, great food and the Hot & Cool Cafe is one of the coolest places to just chill, have a great beverage or snack and enjoy some live music or spoken word. And I can’t wait for the opening of the renovated Vision Theatre down in Leimert. Or feeling athletic, why don’t we do the Culver City steps?! It’s not for the faint hearted, but you will say “hey what’s up?” to so many people, and get a real work out. I do it once, and marvel at those crazy folks going up and down numerous times. Go on with your bad self! On the way home, if we’re feeling brave and not queasy, I’d take my friend straight up Mt. Wilson, which is the highest point in town. There’s a great little information center heading up there, which tells the story of the Native Americans which were living here way before any of us, and the observatory up there has some mind blowing history. Another great visage, and it’s free! With our time left, it’s definitely worth it to take a day or two and check out any or all of the amusement parks in town because, why not? Magic Mountain, Universal Studios and/or Disneyland are always fun, especially with great friends who are ready to let their hair down. To quote our friend Thomas Jefferson, “What’d I Miss?” So many more to mention, but I’ll stop and take a rest. We are blessed to live in a place where so many great places are within reach and you could literally visit, walk, hike, shop or eat at a different place every day of the year. So, let’s do it! #livelovelaugh
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shoutout to my dear friend and play sister, Arvis Jones. Her mother, a phenomenal woman named Bernice Edwards, is one of the inspirations behind my character Etta Mae Mumphries. But Arvis is a phenomenal woman in her own right. She is a music therapist, working with children to overcome emotional issues using her tremendous musical talents. As a therapist, she works in conjunction with groups such as Mothers Demand Action, Mothers of Murdered Children police and sheriff’s departments, to provide hands on therapy for families of victims of gun violence, and promote awareness. Through her own loss, she has mentored, educated and counseled more people than I can count.