Feature image: Celine Tshika on Instagram
First of all, if you haven’t already, go watch Jess Goes West on YouTube. You will laugh…LOUDLY.
From a girl I’ve known since age 12, Celine has always been one of the kindest, creative and most diligent friends I’ve ever had. I’ve witnessed her achieve some remarkable goals over the years and it’s ever so inspiring to watch her live out her dreams and realise her potential.
Here’s a little bit more about this week’s highly talented creative genius.
How old are you?
Where are you from?
I was born in DR Congo and raised in Johannesburg
How long have you lived in the USA?
It’s been almost 2 years now
Where did you study and what did you study after high school?
I studied Civil Engineering at the University of Cape Town after high school. After that, I studied acting for film in LA.
Do you believe that you’ve taken the “traditional” route (of studying) and if so, was it at all beneficial?
I did take the traditional route, yes. It was beneficial in the sense that I grew and learned a lot. It’s hard to say after the fact, since I’ve made lifelong friends from Engineering and had experiences I treasure. Although I knew I would go into acting anyway, there was a big part of me that was interested in the field. That part of me was satisfied, but I know for sure that it’s something I’d want to keep for humanitarian endeavors, rather than as a career.
What are some of the greatest things about moving from South Africa to LA?
I think it’s just knowing that this was something I’d been working towards and that I didn’t give up on it. It’s obviously exciting to be in the city where most mainstream entertainment is made!
What have been some of your scariest moments since moving?
Whew, so many! I think most of them have been since I graduated and started working. Knowing that I had to start putting myself out there if I wanted to make anything happen.
You’re the creator of the web series, Jess Goes West. What inspired the story line and how long will the series be?
It was inspired by a few ideas I had for YouTube vlog rants. I’d made one while I was studying and it was received relatively well. I thought I’d get back into it. But, I started working on a 30-minute series idea, and I realized I could marry the two and make something lower-budget and easier for a beginner writer.
It’s definitely based on a lot of the experiences I’ve had since moving here. I’ve been asked some really ridiculous questions about Africa, and I figured it was time to view Americans through the eyes of an African, instead of the other way round.
The series has 4 episodes. I do unfortunately have to take a break from filming, since I have to take a few months to sort out visa things. But I’m going to keep creating more content while I’m out of LA.
What have been some of career highlights?
The first shoot for ‘Jess Goes West’ was definitely one of the highlights. I actually shot episode 3 first (December 2018), and the people who came through to be in that party scene were so supportive and so much fun. We laughed so much on that set, and almost all of them let me know that they were down to help out if I needed them for any other episodes. That’s actually how a lot of the characters in the classroom (episodes 1 and 4) got added.
As a Jo’burg turned LA girl where are some of the most inspiring/fun places to see in LA?
Universal CityWalk definitely reminds me of Jo’burg. It has everything we like: a wonderful cinema with THE BEST recliner seats, restaurants, an entertainment area, an amusement park and shopping! I’m lucky to live quite close to it. Doing audience work was also cool- it’s great to have a seat in one of those big studios where popular shows are taped, and of course, see the celebrity hosts/judges in person. But LA is also mountainous so it has some really great hiking spots for those who are into that.
Which artists inspire you the most?
Hmm, for Americans I’d say Issa Rae. Typical, yes, but for good reason. I value especially what she said about networking across, instead of networking up, because it rang true for me. The people who showed up to my shoot, hungry to work more were critical to making the show the success it was. I’m a firm believer in all of us winning.
For South Africans, it’s Terry Pheto and Michelle Mosalakae. Terry Pheto…I’m just obsessed with her. She’s talented, gracious, gorgeous and I always try keep up with whatever work she’s doing because I know she kills every performance. Michelle is someone I’ve known about since I was in university. She’s a friend-of-a-friend, and it’s been amazing to see her go from “my friend’s friend who tells the most hilarious stories” to this huge star in the SA entertainment industry. I love her confidence, her passion, and especially the fact that she takes her work seriously. I have so much respect for her and she definitely inspires me.
Where can people find and follow your work?
My work can be found on www.jessgoeswest.com! I post updates on social media- there you’ll be notified of behind-the-scenes material that’s made available, and other recognition that the show receives.