Beauty, brains, talent, and personality, Crystal Renee Hayslett has it all! This girl is on fire! (in my Alicia Keys voice). You may know her best from her engaging performances in 'Sistas' and 'Zatima', but there's so much more to discover about this rising star. From her humble beginnings to her rapid rise in the entertainment industry, Crystal has a story that is as captivating as her on-screen characters. In this candid interview, she shares her journey, inspirations, and insights into the world of acting, offering a glimpse into the life of a woman who is making waves in Hollywood.
GP: You have such a remarkable story. So let's start from the beginning. Did you always see yourself in the entertainment industry?
C: I did. Ever since I was about five years old. I saw myself being an entertainer. I used to watch Janet Jackson music videos. I'd record them when VCRs were around! I would record her videos and learn the routines and I would give acceptance speeches in the living room by myself. I've always dreamed of this. So, yeah, I did always know.
GP: And how did you get your start in the costume design industry?
C: Actually, my stylist at the time was working in the costume department, and she got me a job as a Production Assistant at Tyler Perry Studios, and I just continued to work my way up. That wasn't even why I wanted the job. I was actually pursuing acting and music at the time, and I just wanted to work around what I wanted to do and in some kind of way costuming and costume design fell into my lap.
GP: When you moved to Atlanta, there were people who didn't even know that you were pursuing acting at the time, not even Tyler Perry. So you were silently pursuing both singing and acting. But with your recent role as a preacher’s wife inPraise This, we see you get a chance to pursue both passions. What was your favorite part about getting to experience that?
C: You know what my favorite part about Natalie is? One, I grew up in the church, so it was fun getting to play a modern day First Lady, but also getting to sing, because a lot of people didn't know that. Back in 2012, I put an EP out, and actually, the photographer who shot this shoot did my EP cover, Allen Cooley! And a lot of people, if you know me, you know, but if you didn't know, they're like, wait, she sings, too. So I think that was the most fun part.
GP: And how did you end up becoming Tyler Perry's stylist?
C: Well, actually, I started off as a PA at Tyler Studios, and then I became the background costumer. I became a key costumer, and then I took a break. I was actually working on a production outside of Tyler Perry Studios called Sleepless Nights, starring Jamie Fox, Ti and Gabrielle Union.
And I got a call, and they were like, hey, Tyler wants you to costume design the next set of shows. And at that point, I was starting to get callbacks for auditions! And I was like “Oh! Casting directors know who I am!” Do I stop doing what I'm doing to go style Tyler, or actually to costume design? Then I prayed about it and I was like, “God just order my steps. Is this what I'm supposed to do?” Then let me know that, because for me, I just wanted to be creative. I ended up taking a job as costume designer, and not long after that, I ended up being Tyler’s stylist.
GP: Is there anything that you have personally learned from him?
C: Absolutely. You know what? A lot of times we don't understand the journey as it's happening in real time, and we're constantly like, “God, why are you taking me down this path? What's the lesson in this?” And I will say that being around Tyler for those five years, being that close to him as his personal stylist, I learned how to handle myself in the position that I'm in now as a celebrity.I know how to handle fame. I know how to find balance in life. I know how to handle my finances and my business. And I wouldn't have known these things or I wouldn't be ahead of the game like I am if I didn't have that time to be basically a little shadow to Tyler. So I'm grateful for that time, and those are some of the most valuable things I've learned from him. But something that has stuck out that I'll always carry with me. After filming season three of Sisters, he called me and he said, “Crystal, I never want you to forget where you came from.” He was like, “don't forget what it was like to put people's shoes on to work behind the scenes, because that's what's going to take you farther. Because a lot of times people don't understand what it takes to make a production happen. And because you have that insight,” he said, “Just make sure that you don't let things get to your head and you're going to go far.”
GP: You're very open about some of the struggles you faced by moving to Atlanta and pursuing your dreams. More specifically, about moving and not really having guidance in the entertainment industry specifically. So if someone comes and sees potential that Atlanta has to offer, what advice would you give to them?
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Written by Sydney Davis
Photographer: Allen Cooley
Creative Director/Makeup Artist: Mimi Johnson
Hair Stylist: Shornell @shornelll
Wardrobe Stylist: Ryan Christopher @ryanisstyle
Oftentimes on our entrepreneurial journey, we get discouraged because we’re not exactly where we desire to be, but insight is what allows one to see the bigger picture, and what’s to come if we simply persevere. At 13, Dr. Mya Smith-Edmonds began working at her father’s McDonald’s where she developed her strong work ethic, accountability, discipline and focus. Today she is the proud owner of nine McDonald’s restaurants.