Photo: Derek White
Photo: Derek White

Former Atlanta reality star helps fans find power, transform their lives

Africa Miranda left Atlanta in 2014 soon after learning that the Bravo reality show in which she starred would not be renewed. “The New Atlanta” was created to give a fresh look at the new South through the eyes of the young, diverse cast members making their mark in the local business and entertainment scenes. But after just one season, Bravo pulled the plug. Miranda, then a successful model and frustrated singer, decided to head back to New York for the second time. 

In the four years since, Miranda, 41, a native of Alabama, has had a series of ups and downs that she has leveraged into a program for transforming your life. She documents the journey in a new how to guide she calls, Step Up. Step Out. And Shine.

On Oct. 11, Miranda returns to Atlanta for a book signing and Q & A at Midtown Collective. In addition to the book, her latest venture is a new talk show in partnership with Facebook Watch, an opportunity Miranda said she never would have received if she hadn’t followed the same steps she encourages everyone else to consider in her book.

“I realized in many ways I had been writing the book over the last few years,” said Miranda during her visit to Atlanta. “I feel like I have gone back and got a PHD in my own life.”

Much of the book is focused on ways in which Miranda (and readers) hold themselves back through behaviors such as negative self-talk, lack of self-promotion and generally allowing life to happen instead of taking a proactive approach to building the life they want. Looking back, Miranda realized that for most of her life she felt powerless.

Born in Boston, Miranda moved to Montgomery, Ala. when she was very young after her parents divorced. She saw her father during annual family trips to visit him at prison in Boston. Growing up in the rural part of Montgomery with her mother’s side of the family who were Jehovah’s Witnesses left Miranda feeling a deep sense of otherness. She wanted to belong but rather than being her authentic self, she played the role of a person she thought would be most loved and accepted. 

“I wanted to be the same. I knew something was different. I learned to pretend,” she said. Not long after graduating from college she got an opportunity to pursue her dreams of being a singer. She moved to New York to join a girl group billed as the next TLC but those dreams were squashed when a producer told her she didn’t have the talent. Miranda hung around New York for several more years until a friend invited her to help open a branch of their family business in Atlanta. 

In Atlanta, it seemed she would finally get a break. Opportunities for modeling flowed in and then came her moment with Bravo. “It changed everything,” said Miranda. “Atlanta is where I went from being aspiring to being actual. It was the first time I booked national commercials, films and TV shows. Atlanta is where my career and my talent became real,” she said. 

It gave her enough confidence to return to New York when her run on the show ended. “I felt like I had reached a point where I wasn’t being challenged enough. I needed to dig deeper and New York represented a place that I ran from,” she said.

But after a few months with both her bank account and auditions dwindling, Miranda fell into a six-month funk. She released her manager and publicist, cut off her trademark mane and wondered what to do next. In March 2015 she discovered the live-streaming app, Periscope that would become her lifeline. 

She began filming herself walking around New York, talking and interacting with people. That evolved into actual programming where she shared everything from beauty tips to how to book auditions when you don’t have an agent. Soon she had 70,000 followers and recognition from the social media community. 

“One of the big moments for me was recognizing that I was not being proactive about my career,” Miranda said. “The reality show was a turning point for me, it was the thing I had done that have me the largest platform but it was also the thing that gave me the most anxiety.” Periscope gave her a way to connect with the same global audience but in her own voice. 

Offers began to flow in -- television pilots, travel opportunities, brand partnerships -- all of which allowed Miranda to be herself. Last year, a Chicago-based publisher reached out about a book project. After they met at Starbucks in Atlantic Station, Miranda was hesitant -- did she have enough perspective on her life? -- but she decided to trust that she had something valuable to offer readers. 

She had done a lot of different things in her life and career and she knew other people were experiencing the same struggles. She had already been developing the concept of Step Up, Step Out and Shine on her social media channels and she began wrapping it all together to communicate her personal mantra to others. “If you want to be out there, someone shouldn’t have to come look for you,” Miranda said she finally learned. 

But last year, she found herself leaning on her own advice yet again after a year-long travel project fell through a month before it was scheduled to begin. Miranda had already sold her possessions, given up her New York apartment and was ready to hit the road. She had to ask herself if she was a hypocrite or if she could do all the things she was telling other people to do in her forthcoming book. 

Now in what is technically her third move back to New York (she returned to the city in Nov. 2017) Miranda has a new attitude in which she embraces the opportunities coming her way not because of the glam factor they represent but because they fit her vision for her life.

That was her attitude when Facebook approached her earlier this year to create a show on Facebook Watch. At first, she thought the email was spam. “I am the executive producer and I have full executive control,” she said. “I wasn’t doing anything to get their attention, it was the result of doing the work.” 

She wants others to recognize they are not alone in trying to harness their power and live a life of meaning. “I want them to recognize and know they have a community. If they are in a situation where they don’t know how to get out of the box...there is a way out,” Miranda said. “You can make small changes in your life every day to be happier.”

Event Preview: 

Shine Book Tour ATL

Free. 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Oct. 11. Midtown Collective, 2195 DeFoor Hill’s Road NW, Atlanta. Register at eventbrite.com.

About the Author

Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone has been a features writer for the AJC since 2006 covering people, places, pop culture and news, in and beyond metro Atlanta. She also writes...
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