Art is imitating life for actress Racquel Bailey.
The 32-year old spent $2,000, months worth of savings, on two billboards near Tyler Perry Studios, the motion picture lot in Atlanta belonging to award-winning director Tyler Perry.
The New Jersey-based actress was inspired by a scene in the 1999 Halle Berry film, “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.”
In the movie a casting director said Dandridge was irrelevant if he didn’t walk outside and see billboards of the actress around town. Later in the movie, he walked outside to see billboards of Dandridge plastered near his home.
Dandridge paved the way for many performers, especially African American actresses, Bailey said.
This is the second time the mother of two purchased billboards to grab Perry’s attention.
In 2012, she spent $1,500 on a billboard in Atlanta, which read “Attention top film maker in ATL: Let me be your next leading lady” and provided her website.
She didn’t get the results she wanted then. Walking away without a role working with Tyler Perry motivated Bailey to become better at her craft, she said.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University theater major started going on more auditions and enrolled in acting classes. In 2016, she appeared in two episodes of HBO’s acclaimed series “The Night Of.”
Bailey’s professional improvement influenced her to better her billboard strategy for a second time this year.
With the encouragement of her husband and her 13-year-old son, Bailey revisited the idea. This time around, she would buy one more billboard than before.
“I actually spoke with a billboard company and told then what I was trying to do,” she said. “I wanted to make sure it was something Tyler Perry would see going to work and back.”
The billboards were erected near Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta in May, featuring her new head shot, website address and Instagram account, and read “Attention Mr. Perry: Racquel Bailey is your next leading lady.”
Perry responded with a somewhat scathing review on his Instagram page.
“Auhhh … soooooo...... here’s the deal. This is not the way to get my attention if you’re looking for a role in one of my shows. Please DON’T DO THIS, SAVE YOUR MONEY!!”
The director did, however, say that he had seen Bailey in her HBO role. He closed his statement by saying that he appreciated Bailey’s effort.
Bailey was not dismayed by Perry’s words.
“As actors, we get constructive criticism all the time. He was speaking to me like a director,” she said. “This is just something I chose to do as an actor [and] as a leap of faith.”
Her investment has produced returns despite Perry’s initial response. Bailey has been cast in an upcoming Perry production for BET called “Sistas.” She filmed her part earlier this month.
Bailey said she had to audition five times for the role, which she said is a little abnormal. She received a call from the casting director during her now 13-month-old daughter’s nap time.
“It took me a long time to put her to sleep,” she said. “I had to scream quietly.”
She was pregnant with her daughter last summer as she commuted to New York City from New Jersey for acting classes, hoping to sharpen her talent.
Bailey described Perry as an exacting director who comes to set knowing what he wants from scenes and actors. He never mentioned the billboard to her.
The billboards weren’t just for actors hoping to get noticed. It was for anyone wanting more than what they currently have.
“Trust God. Take a leap of faith. Go for more,” she said.