words by: james johnson
I must say connecting with Donielle Artese has been a dream come true. For starters, we’ve been looking to connect with talent from Insecure for quite some time, so chatting with Donielle was yet another example of how things happen in God’s timing. In addition, in our conversation, we have the ultimate blessing of hearing about her TRIUMPHS with Lupus. Nope, it’s not a struggle, simply because he’s kicking Lupus’ ass, literally. No matter what obstacles she may face with her illness, she hasn’t let it stop her one bit, and she’s accomplishing more than the average healthy person because on of thing she clearly has: PER-SE-FUCKING-VERANCE!!!! Yep. She’s got it for sure, and it’s the very reason she been so successful. Naturally, the best is yet to come. Take a moment to check out our exclusive below!
U.G. Digital Mag: Thank you so much for your time. It’s exciting, first of all, because you’re on Insecure. I’ve been wanting to connect with someone from the show for quite a while. Secondly, your back story resonates with me because of my diagnoses a couple years ago with Lupus.
Donielle Artese: Oh wow. It’s unusual for men, too.
U.G. Digital Mag: I know. It’s good to hear your story and see first hand how you have persevered through it, even with daily dialysis. It’s inspiring.
Donielle Artese: Thank you so much, but I have to say it ain’t me. I don’t take any credit for that. I give all that glory to God. If it were left to me, I would be in my bed in a little ball, crying everyday. Somehow, God just takes over and gives me that strength.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. That’s so amazing. I’d love for you to start by talking about Insecure, and how it all came into play.
Donielle Artese: So, OK, at the beginning of the year, I decided I needed a new vision board. I had not done a vision board in about ten years, and it’s like I was just playing. I see things in my spirit, pray about them, but it’s something to seeing them in the physical. I started printing out shows I wanted. The very first one I printed was Insecure, but I hadn’t been getting a lot of auditions, so I didn’t know how that was going to happen. The third audition of this year was for Insecure. I said, OK Lord, and I thought I killed my audition. I asked my manager to call them for feedback. She said “you must have done good because you’re in their top 3 favorites”. It was a guest star role, and I was so excited. I was praying like Please God. She called me that day and said they booked someone else, but they do like you. Two weeks later, I get a second audition. Now this was for a smaller role, but it also said a recurring role. I said, recurring? I don’t care what size it is. It’s recurring on Insecure. So I went in and said I was going to kill it again. I left, didn’t hear anything, and then the original date for the character passed. I called my manager, and said the date passed, but I’m not worried about this. I feel very confident they’ll have me on this show at some point. The next day, she emailed me and say “Boy, I don’t know what kind of praying you’ve been doing, but I just got a call that you are pinned for the role on Insecure. Then, the next day, she told me they booked me. Four episodes later, here I am.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s crazy, but it goes back to what you said. It’s not you; it’s God. Everything falls in place as it should. It’s just the same as me wanting to connect with the show, and after several declines, something brought you to me. Everything happens when it’s supposed to. This is your time.
Donielle Artese: Thank you for that. I receive it.
U.G. Digital Mag: Definitely. So talk about your character….
Donielle Artese: Now, I can’t give you that yet. I have to be very careful.
U.G. Digital Mag: I had to ask (laughing).
Donielle Artese: That was cute, but I can not tell you that (laughing). It is a cute role though. I pop in and out. But let me tell you what struck me the most. I’ve been in this business a long time, and I’ve done a decent amount of television and film work, but I realized I had never worked with any black directors. The one I did work with was Ava Duvernay, but she wasn’t a director yet. It was her very first thing, and she was trying her hand at it. It was a short. I got to work with four black directors on the show. I also had never been on set with so many black people. Watching that was so empowering and inspirational for me. I wrote my own show about my life story. I used to be a professional dancer. I did my whole dance career with Lupus, and then what killed my dance career was my kidneys failed. So, I thought, what a great jusxtaposition - someone who is active and glamorous in the lights and camera going to the dark, musty, depressing world of being a sick patient. I didn’t do it well. I came in like I was going to a video set; nobody understood I was the patient, and they didn’t understand if I understood I was sick. I mean, the script is really powerful, funny, and human - as I like to call it. I’m watching how Issa moves, and instantly I said I want black directors for my show. She’s like my hero. She is so nice, approachable, real, and not big-headed. She gives me a hug and speaks. She is just wonderful. It’s been really great.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s a tremendous thing to be wrapped in such an empowering position where you can witness these things. There’s so many opportunities for black people, and it’s great to be in this position.
Donielle Artese: Right. And one more thing I want to say. So often, black women are so tough on each other, and that has not been my experience. She is absolutely divine in that respect. Specifically black woman to black woman. When she talks her talk about routing for everybody black, believe her. I didn’t feel anything but love.
U.G. Digital Mag: I believe that. I’ve heard it many times.
Donielle Artese: Definitely.
U.G. Digital Mag: So what has driven you to continue doing so much, given your illness. It has to get tiresome at some point…
Donielle Artese: It’s tiresome everyday (laughing), but I get up anyway. I’ve lost so many years from being sick that I told God that I refuse to lose anymore. I can’t go as hard as I want to go. My mind wants to go one way, and my body reminds me. I didn’t want to lose anymore time. I’m not getting any younger and I felt like I was in such a good place. This is the second time my kidneys failed. The first time was when it took my dance career. So, you know, it took my whole career, which was my life. I’ve danced since I was three years old. To go from that to no career was hard. I was already trying to migrate into acting because I started much younger, but when I was diagnosed at 18 with Lupus, they told my mother I would never dance again. I made a choice: I can act for the rest of my life, but I can’t dance for the rest of my life. I’m going to prove these doctors wrong, and I went on to have one of the most coveted dance careers of all. I’ve worked with everybody: Michael Jackson, Prince, Cher, Madonna….
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s commendable. The same way you were empowered with Insecure, you’re empowering so many people by living as you do and accomplishing things in your life and career.
Donielle Artese: I hope so. I hope someone says if you can do it, I can do it.
U.G. Digital Mag: Hell, I’m saying that (laughing)
Donielle Artese: Good. You especially because you’ve probably had struggles..
U.G. Digital Mag: I say I have, but not really. I have a lot of the underlying symptoms still, but even in that sense, I have not struggled the way others have. There’s so much I’m still learning about it all, and I’ve found that a lot of doctors simply don’t know. You end up doing more research than anything and finding out things on your own.
Donielle Artese: Good. Praise God. I was pretty blessed in my diagnoses. I was having a lot of symptoms. I had just gone to college, and two people from my ballet studio - I still feel in my gut that something in that studio triggered it, but maybe not - but two people there had extremely severe cases of Lupus. Came from nowhere. One was my friend’s mother. I happened to be at their house during Christmas break my first year. She was watching me, and asking me my symptoms. She recommended I be tested for Lupus. I told my mother like two months later, and we went to children’s hospital of L.A., walked in the ER, and I thought it was odd, but for once I had an answer. The question was if I had an idea of what I thought was wrong. I was like, what kind of question was that to ask someone coming to the ER, however, I had an answer. They tested me, and that’s exactly what it was. I got a quick diagnoses. Now don’t get me wrong, I went to a couple doctors before that and they told me some crazy stuff. But otherwise I had a quick diagnoses. I get how they still don’t know what to do with us.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. I saw Urology, G.I., Hematology, and it ultimately came down to me reading through the medical record and pursuing it wit Rheumatology. It took maybe seven to eight months. But I commend you for all you do. You’re living your best life. I know you dream of dancing with the stars, and I look forward to seeing that.
Donielle Artese: That’s my dream! It’s my dream. If I go on there I’m going to win…
U.G. Digital Mag: I know already.
Donielle Artese: I already know who my partner should be. I want that mean little Russian, Val. I met him on the streets and told him he would be my partner.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think it would be amazing, and I can see you pulling it off.
Donielle Artese: From your mouth to God’s ears.
U.G. Digital Mag: What other things are you working on?
Donielle Artese: Right now, I have a few commercials out now. I’m in a Sling TV commercial. Those are pretty funny. I do a lot of commercials. That’s my bread and butter, thank God.
U.G. Digital Mag: How can everyone keep up with you online?
Donielle Artese: Well, I’m on Instagram at @MsArtese, or on Twitter at @DonielleArtese, or Facebook which is also @DonielleArtese
U.G. Digital Mag: What is the one thing you say to anyone going through struggles and wanting to accomplish things?
Donielle Artese: Well, first that all things are possible. Period! You can do anything you want. You have to make a choice. Do I want to live or die, and it was a simple answer. I want to live, and if I’m going to live, I may as well live. Then, I had an audition with Kelsey Grammar. I don’t know if I can say this. I knew I wasn’t going to get the job. I was the only little chocolate drop in there. I say Kelsey, listen! What do I need to do to sit in your seat one day? He was like wow, no one has ever asked me that. You know, it’s cute to audition, but I want to work non-stop, and then be the boss one day. He said he had one word for me: Per-se-fucking-verence. I wrote it on my wall. That’s what you need. Nothing can stop you. You’ll never hear me say I quit. NEVER!
U.G. Digital Mag: So here’s the question. Did you get the job?
Donielle Artese: I told you I wasn’t getting that job (laughing). It was three white girls and me. They were not giving me that job.
U.G. Digital Mag: I had to ask. Wouldn’t it have been something if you did?
Donielle Artese: He should have given it to me. I already knew he wasn’t. It probably didn’t even go because that was when he was married to that one on Beverly Hills Housewives, Camille. I loved her. She was a doll, bu they’re not together anymore, so…(laughing) there goes that project.
U.G. Digital Mag: Thank you again so much. This was amazing.
Donielle Artese: You’re welcome. Thank you so much. This has been a pleasure.