Home People Profile How Birmingham Voice Actor, Writer Erika Wade Became the Consummate Creator

How Birmingham Voice Actor, Writer Erika Wade Became the Consummate Creator

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Erika Wade, 33, born and raised in Fairfield, is up for a Southeast Emmy award for her work as a performer/narrator on the Alabama Public Television series Yellowhammer History Hunt. (Provided)

By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson | For The Birmingham Times

If unconventional success could embody a person, creator Erika Eileen Wade, an award-winning voice actor, writer and producer and the founder of Birmingham-based Glenda’s Baby Productions, could fit the bill.

Wade, 33, born and raised in Fairfield, is up for a Southeast Emmy award this month for her work as a performer/narrator on the Alabama Public Television series Yellowhammer History Hunt.

It wouldn’t be her first award for the series, but it would be the first award for her individually.

Yellowhammer History Hunt is an educational video compilation highlighting historical Alabama places and people. Wade said she recorded these voice-overs in her makeshift home studio – her “coat closet.”

The first Southeast Emmy Award for Yellowhammer History Hunt came in 2022, with the second Emmy for the same program in 2023.

She received her first Emmy “after recording in my closet, while trying to keep my dog – that I’d just bought – from barking, while underneath my coats. They took that sound, and they mixed it,” she said.

She also won a couple of Telly Awards (honoring video and television projects across all screens) for her voice-over talent for History Hunt as well.

The Consummate Creator 

 There are many more layers to her diverse and celebrated resume.

Wade also recently wrote a movie that will be based in Birmingham, has so much interest that she’s currently in a bidding war with production companies, she said.

“I can’t speak too much on it, but it’s about a topic that’s near and dear to me about Black women and mental health.”

Asked about her winning formula, she said it’s an innate gift. “My marketability can’t be taught,” said Wade. “I have a natural empathy that I can take from reading a script, then I put it in my voice, and deliver it as if I’m speaking directly to you. I’m not just talking to a sound board or talking into a mic. I always visually put a person in my head.”

The Gift Made Room

Erika Wade graduated from ASFA in 2008 and attended the University of Alabama. She then attended Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts in 2016. (Provided)

Throughout her career, Wade said her first meaningful award came when she was a senior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) during the 2007/2008 school year and was awarded spoken word champ for Word Up! in the City of Birmingham, an honor given to youth who express themselves creatively.

It landed her a job writing for the Birmingham News writing for the Opinions section and taught her that she could “make a living off of creating things.”

Wade graduated from ASFA in 2008 and attended the University of Alabama, where she published a book at age 19 – ‘Eyestodewhurld’ an anthology poetry book about political culture, Black history and culture, the decay of society and other themes on the human experience from the early 2000’s.

She then attended Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts in 2016 the same year she was “selected as a finalist for the Kennedy Center’s MFA (Master of Fine Arts) playwrights which meant she was “chosen as one of the top 22 playwrights in the country at the time” for her play Justifiable Force, sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement.

After graduating from SCAD, Wade traveled to Los Angeles in 2016, California to light the flame of her desire for a career in show business. And it worked.

In 2017, she performed her one-woman show, The Rhythm/Da Blues, in L.A. at the Comedy Film Festival. The show, which tracks the life of a young, Black woman named Lena Darling and all the joys and pains of her life experiences, was written while she was in grad school at SCAD.

On opening night of the show, she was called by a colleague from SCAD who worked in development and programming at MGM “and asked if I could be at MGM (Studios) that week to meet with the Vice President in development and programing…. and off that same show script (The Rhythm/Da Blues), was asked to pitch some original titles.”

While nothing transpired from that meeting about her production, a relationship with MGM Studios was born and she earned a reputation “as a creative who can take an idea that might be stale, and breathe new life into it,” said Wade.

Emotionally Intelligent Acting

Not only is Wade an accomplished artist, but she also teaches others how to write and act.

She favors a method which allows actors to get in and out of character, rather than becoming completely immersed in a role.

It’s what she calls emotionally intelligent acting. The goal, said Wade, is to play the role without losing sight of self.

“Because at the end of day, acting is only beautiful if you’re doing just that – acting; if you can leave it and you can still be who you are and not let that role infect you,” she added.

Tracking Success

Growing up in Fairfield with her mother and older brother, Kevin Brown (owner of Xtreme Fitness and Performance in downtown Birmingham), she always knew her work would involve creative vocal and written projects.

“I would sit and watch The Smurfs with my grandma and give alternate scenarios,” said Wade.

Her grandmother, who lived in Birmingham’s Dolomite community, gave Wade the confidence that helped instill the fortitude she takes into each project.

Once she finished her schooling and after graduating from SCAD in 2016, she told her mother she was going to Los Angeles, California. That next week, she relocated and stayed in the City of Angels until 2022.

That’s when she came back home to Birmingham – all part of her resume-building strategy, she said.

“It was never just to go to LA and lose sight of Birmingham …. It was always to learn what I could, get the networks that I could, and bring that back to the city,” she said.

People “thought it was crazy” when she told them she was moving back to Birmingham to create content.

And Wade said she has stayed the course since “because the film market (in Birmingham) is blossoming and it’s new.”

Growing in Confidence

Wade said her career course has always been certain, but far from perfect.

The confidence you see from her now, in a lot of ways, “came from failure,” she said. “In a lot of ways, I was my own worst enemy when it came to elevating in my field. I didn’t believe I could do things.”

And that doubt, she said, was visible to others who “can smell it on you.”

She said she saw colleagues, who were not as qualified or who didn’t want it as much as she did, get opportunities because they walked into a room like they believed they should be there. That’s when her course changed for her, she said.

“I woke up and decided one day if I fail, it’s not going to be because of me. It’s going to because the stars aren’t aligning or it’s not God’s will, it’s not going to be me anymore. That changed things immediately for me,” said Wade.

The Name Says it All

“When I make my first million, my mother has already told me she wants half,” said Wade, laughing. “Not 10 percent, but half.”

And Wade said her mother deserves every penny.

Her production company, Glenda’s Baby Productions, is named for her mother, Glenda Brown-Wade.

She is, literally, her mom’s baby daughter and the product of her mother’s confidence.

“My mom has always been the type of person that understood what I was interested in, and I was the type who had to see it for myself.  So, she just provided that safety net for me to go and do things that I needed to do, but to know home is always here.”

And for those seeking a career in the arts or otherwise, Wade said the best way to get into the industry and to stay in the industry is to know your audience and to meet them where they are.”

For more on Wade visit www.glendasbaby.com.