Entertainment & Lifestyle

Hollywood’s Soul Sisters: Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd, Wendy McKenzie & Rowena Husbands – Part I

Soul Sisters - Featured

In an industry where loneliness can be described as just another day on the set and “friend” is just another word thrown around for A-List access, it’s amazing how true friendships still find ways to prevail. And from television sets to Hollywood studios, the bond between famed casting directors Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd, Wendy McKenzie and celebrity photographer Rowena Husbands is one for the books.

Casting everything from music videos to Whitney Houston’s last film, Sparkle, Twinkie Byrd doesn’t plan on pressing the breaks any time soon. McKenzie has an eye for discovery after casting Jamal Woolard as Notorious B.I.G. in the 2009 biopic, Notorious, and Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher in The Blind Side. Wendy’s also a motivational speaker, and believes in sharing and teaching all she learns to up-and-coming talent of the acting world. Husbands, owner of Blink Of An Eye Photography, is a master behind the lens, and has the ability to tell a story through any photo. Together, the three help one another evolve and become the in-demand pioneers of their selected crafts, making sure to provide nothing but support and encouragement along the way.

Crème Magazine caught up with the outgoing trio for a Sunday brunch in Brooklyn, NY at Bed Stuy’s best kept secret: Mac’s Landing, and learned the ins and outs to companionship in the entertainment business, tips for breaking into the industry and more.

Photography courtesy of Kristal Mosley

Describe the moment your business plan came together as casting directors and a photographer?

Rowena: I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t aspire to be a photographer. I just fell into it. After I had my daughter, I wanted to take some photos of her. I used to work at Canon USA years before I had her, and I borrowed some equipment and just started taking pictures of her. Then a friend of mine named Robin Dunn noticed and said, “You have a great eye,” and I said, “An eye?” So I didn’t have a plan, I just wanted to take some pictures of my daughter and then it just snowballed. Thus 18 years later it’s a whole different ball game, but I had no business plan.

Wendy: That’s the same for me. I had no plan. I started in the industry as a model, and while modeling I auditioned for Ms. Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd and I didn’t get the part I auditioned for but she called me [later] and said, “Would you like to work for free?” (Laughs). I said “Why not?” I took the job and worked as an extra — I always feel like if you are not doing anything, you should do something. Surround yourself around people that are doing what you are doing or what you want to do. [That idea] allowed me to be around the entertainment business.

Then, Twinkie and I just started talking about managing models and what my take on it was, so I said, “I [can] teach you about models if you can teach me about casting.” People always want something, but it’s a give and take and that’s what people don’t understand. So she gave me some really good advice: “If you want to be a casting director, surround yourself with casting directors, go get a job at Musical Theatre Works,” so I did. My first casting job was working on New Jersey Drive for principle casting director Tracey Moore. [Editor's Note: Musical Theatre Works was a rental studio based in New York where casting directors held their auditions]. After I realized that was what I wanted to do, I started putting two and two together. I figured that as I go, I would learn.

Twinkie: This was 22 years ago when I got started. A business plan now is important, and I’m not saying that a business plan then wasn’t important, it’s just that it didn’t start that way.

I was in advertising first, and then worked my way from advertising to Essence magazine.  There are a number of different [things] that were set in my path, so I didn’t have a business plan written out per say, but I had a plan in my head which was to be successful at something. I fell in love with casting and I didn’t even know. I didn’t know why I knew the names of the people on television, and my mother kept asking me, “Why do you think you need to know their real names?” I said, “Because when I meet them, I want to call them by their real name. I’m not going to be like the fans.” I had to separate myself from the fans.

It began with interning for a casting director so I could learn, and watch what they were doing. When the job from DMB&B [(D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles)] ended and the Essence job began, I started to RSVP for my boss, and myself, so that I could be wherever they were to meet the people they were meeting. You have to be around the people that you want to move and shake with. The interning has everything to do with OTJ (On The Job Training)as my father would call it. Then I opened my big fat mouth at Def Comedy Jam to Stan Lathan saying, “I could cast dancers better than that,” [and] he was like “Really?” I was like, “Yeah!” He was like, “Okay then, you got the job!”

Rowena: Being fearless also plays a big part because we are three fearless women!

What made you ladies name your companies after one another?

Twinkie: We had a great name for our company which was Picture Perfect Casting, but then I moved to L.A. and Picture Perfect just didn’t do it. I wasn’t inspired and I wanted an inspirational name. So I told a friend of mine, and she was like well, “You’re spiritual, and your name is Twinkie [so] how about In the Twink of an Eye Casting? As soon as she said that my logo popped up in my mind — the color and everything. Then I called Wendy and said “Guess what?” (Laughs)!

Wendy: I was also looking for a change, and with casting I found myself helping people and pushing their career to another level. So, I said that could work for me too. I’ll call my company In the Wink of an Eye. So it was like Wendy ‘wink’, Twinkie ‘twink,’ that works. Instead of calling my company In The Wink of an Eye casting, I just call it In the Wink of an Eye to leave it open for endless possibilities. [The name] stands for teaching you the truth like a wink, it’s that simple.

Rowena: When they were Picture Perfect Casting, my daughter was an actress. I was at a casting with Wendy for something, and then years later I met Twinkie. We were on the phone and she’s talking Wink of an Eye, Twinkie’s a twink, and I said well dang, ‘I’m a photographer, I’ll be Blink of an Eye.’

Related Articles

  • SheNotes

    Nice!!