We had the good fortune of connecting with Toni Morgan Haye and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Toni Morgan, what makes you happy? Why?
Happiness is an interesting topic for me. I didn’t really experience or know about happiness when I was young. There were small moments where I experienced it as a kid, like bike rides to the library, reading for hours, but I’m not sure if that was happiness or just me escaping the real world. I always felt like I was meant to be strong not happy. Life for me, was far from smooth. I was abused as a child and teenager and wasn’t accepted by my family because I’m LGBT. So, I had to find strength within to not give up. I had to fight suicidal thoughts. I constantly told myself someone, somewhere in the world was going through something similar or worse. I didn’t want my time on earth to be unhappy, so over time I learned how to find my own happiness instead of looking for it in friendships and family.
One moment of happiness that I remember vividly was when I was in the 4th grade. The class used to celebrate birthdays at the start of each month and parents would bring cupcakes in for everyone to share. When it was my turn, my family didn’t remember. I was friends with a girl called Callan in the class, and her mom noticed I didn’t have anything. Her mom brought cupcakes and said they were for ‘Callan and Toni.’ The ‘and Toni’ really meant a lot to me and made me feel like someone cared.
These days, I’m truly happy on set, working and pouring my heart into what I do. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Outside work, I find happiness in cycling, being outside and connecting with nature. When you get to the peak of a mountain or the top of a hill and breathe the air, that’s happiness for me y’know?
I also find happiness in giving and helping people. If I’m honest, helping people brings me the most joy. I’ve worked at children’s homes (orphanages) in Jamaica and the US with abused or abandoned children. I wasn’t a paid employee, I just volunteered. I would read to the kids, bring clothes and books to them because I knew what it felt like to feel as if you were rolling through life alone. I wanted to be their support. I know what it feels like to not have anyone care and I wanted them to have someone that cared.
To me, happiness can’t be quantified. It isn’t found in material things, happiness is helping your fellow human being in whatever way they need.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I got to where I am today because I never gave up. No matter what obstacles came my way and no matter who tried to tear me down or ruin my reputation, I just kept moving forward. This is definitely something I’m proud of.
As a person and director, as cliché as it sounds, I’m not like everyone else. Those close to me and people in the industry often comment on how patient and understanding I am, almost to a fault. This understanding is applied to my personal life and my work life too. I find it easy to be patient with my crew and the actors and this bodes will when it comes to being on set as it can be a stressful environment. I’ve also been told that I have an ‘eye’ for what’s possible and somehow make the impossible come to fruition.
I’m feeling really grateful at the moment and have a lot of things I’m excited about. I’m most excited about two projects. The first one is an upcoming animation that I have the honor of producing, titled ‘Nim the Last Red Witch.’ It is very different from my past projects as it’s my first animation which has been challenging but really rewarding. It’s shown me that I can’t be pigeon holed and am able to step outside of my comfort zone which is usually sci-fi, mind bending, thriller type of stuff. Secondly, I’m really excited about my upcoming directorial ‘Asgaya.’ We filmed it in LA and Jamaica. It was a really cool experience being able to show the crew where I’m from and of course to be able to eat my favourite foods! Asgaya, is scheduled to be released April 2022.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I recommend eating at Sat Down Jamaican Grill which is in Studio city. I usually have ackee and saltfish or the red snapper. It’s hands down the best Jamaican food I’ve had outside of Jamaica. I also really like Sage and My Vegan Gold on Sunset. Their spicy ‘chicken’ burger is bomb. I don’t drink alcohol but I do enjoy getting fresh juices at LA Pressed. My ‘go to’ juice is called ‘the producer’ which is all the good, green stuff.
I tend to hang out in Venice Beach on the rooftop of The Venice Whaler, it’s a great place to people watch and just chill out. I love getting in my car and driving down the PCH with friends or just listening to music. Hiking is something I love and you can usually find me on weekends at Fryman Canyon Park.
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 want to send a shoutout to B.A Tobin who I’ve worked with on several projects and has been like a brother to me, and everyone who supports me through my social media.