CBS actress shares college experience at Hampton

Leenika Belfield-Martin | Lifestyle Editor

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Shannon Wallace

If you watch CBS’s new comedy series God Friended Me, you might notice a familiar face in the cast. That’s because Javicia Leslie, who plays Ali Finer, is a 2009 graduate of Hampton University. Before she starred in TV shows and commercials, Leslie could be found right here on campus.

The actress was born in Germany and spent most of her childhood in Maryland. She was a trailblazer from the start as one of the few people in her family to graduate from college. Leslie credits her godmother’s step-daughter as the reason why the actress decided to come to our “Home by the Sea.”

“She was someone I looked up to,” Leslie said. “I don’t even remember if I had applied to any other universities. I knew [Hampton] was where I wanted to go.”

Leslie was a performer growing up and continued to refine her craft on campus. She joined The Hampton Players, where she created strong bonds with her fellow actors and instructors.

“It was fun just kind of creating a world on stage,” she said. “You become a family with your cast, so even if you weren’t on stage, you’re always together.”

Her theater instructor, Mrs. Evans, was a mentor to the alumna.

“To me, theater was my safe haven, and she was a part of that process,” the actress said.

Leslie was also a member of the Greer Dawson Wilson Student leadership program. One of her fondest moments as a student leader was planning different activities for the freshmen during New Student Orientation week, such as the “Celebrity Wanna-Be” concert.

During her junior year, the alumna was crowned the 2008 Miss Hampton University. The name of her program was “Speak Out,” and she encouraged children to express how their health affects them socially and emotionally.

The actress loved the camaraderie that came from Hampton traditions like 12-2 that brought students together. “I think that we kind of take these moments for granted as just fun, but it creates a social bond between you and your classmates,” she said. “It creates a network for you that is super powerful.”

One of Leslie’s fondest memories on campus was the night Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

“Everyone between the Harbors and campus all just came outside and started celebrating with each other,” Leslie said. “I thought that was a really powerful moment.”

While the actress had a thriving social life, she was also serious about her studies. She majored in business management and understood the importance of academic excellence. She said, “One thing that I learned in school is if your GPA isn’t at a certain level, it slows you down from the things you might have a passion for.”

The advice Leslie would give current Hamptonians is to follow their passion while they are in school.

“The major you pick should be something you’re going to want to get up every day and go to class for,” she said. “If not, there’s always going to be a separation between the educational and social aspect. And you want to be able to enjoy the educational aspect of it.”

God Friended Me can be watched on CBS Sundays at 8 p.m.

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