#Interview: Who’s That Lady in the Illinois Lottery Good Life Commercial…It’s Keesha J. Merritt

If you are in the state of Illinois, at some point you have seen one of the Illinois Lottery Good Life commercials, where an African- American lady opens up the lotto box, and gives us a series a funny faces and dance moves. Well, if you are like me, I was wondering, who is this young lady, and what is her story. So, I did a little research, and found out the amazingly, silent actress, is Keesha Joyce Merritt, from right here in the city of Chicago. She’s a humble, young woman pursuing her dream, and is determined to stay focused on the gift God has given her. Peep the interview.

KJ!

Illinois Lotto commercial…how did this come about.
Well, I have been acting for a while, and just trying to find commercial auditions on my own. It wasn’t really working out like I thought it would. I recently got an agent last year, they called me and me told me I had an audition for the commercial. They sent me the information about it. It just so happened I was having a bad hair day, I put my hair in a bun. I went to the audition. I didn’t have to speak, I just had to react to what they were telling me was going on, and dance and have fun with it. So, it was kind of me being myself. Honestly, I feel like that was nothing but God. Going to so many auditions, and being told no so much can make you feel like I need to get a regular job. It was just a yes I needed to keep going.

What was your reaction.
I was smiling from ear to ear. Just you asking me again has me smiling. I was so excited. I just started saying thank you God. I felt like, yes, I needed this. This is my first commercial. It’s a silent commercial, but I don’t care.

What do you think when you see yourself on the commercial.
I think, oh gosh, I look like a grandma on there. I never wear my hair in a bun, and for some reason, it worked for this. They had a hairstylist there, but they were like, we want your hair like you did it [for the audition].

What are goals as far as being an actress.
I love doing positive things, something that tells a story. So, as an actress, I already have in mind certain roles I dont ever want to do. When I do roles, I want people to be happy. I love when someone watches my thirty second commercial, and starts cracking up. That just makes me feel really good. I want to do clean comedy, and if it is a dramatic role, I want it to be someone who overcomes something. I really want to help other people follow their dreams.

If you give me a crate, I will take that crate, and show people you can go far. If you don’t go as far as someone else, that’s alright. Do what you love.

How long have you been pursuing your acting career.
Since, right after high school. That was like 2003.  My senior year, my sister was killed, and what I knew about her,  she was doing something she was great at- she was a hairstylist. [Right before she was killed], she was telling me, go to [Morgan Park], it’s a good school, they have a nursing program, they have a computer program. But, ever since I was a child in elementary school, I loved acting. When that happened to her, I was like life is too short. I wanted to go to the University of Illinois (Urbana), major in economics, maybe do a little acting on the side. But, throughout my senior year, I was trying to push through, just trying to make it. After that, I was like, I’m going to go to Columbia, they have theater, I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it, but I’m going to go. Whenever I heard of auditions, I was like I’m going to go to that. I started getting into plays and doing that. I’ve been pursuing it since high school, because I felt like there was nothing else for me to really take seriously.

We all know acting is a come and go thing. Sometimes you get booked, so how to manage in between time.
I just left Express. I did promotions in between time. I worked for Redbull in between time. I worked for 5-hour Energy. Little side things. My favorite is promotions, and different things dealing with customer service, because it always involves me with people, so that’s what I do when I find my little side hustle.

KJ4

Have any casting people reached out to you.
(Laughs) Girl, when I say they disappeared. It was like, yea, I’m on now, I have to have a bunch of auditions coming up after this, right? I went to three auditions after that, but it seemed like I didn’t nail it. I got my hair done. I’m like maybe I should’ve kept my bun. It seems like the last month has just been crickets, but people have been telling me I did a good job- so that’s been a cushion to not booking other stuff.

How do you keep pushing.
Honestly, and I’m not even that deep. It’s just the fact that I’m breathing. There is no reason for me to not go for anything that I love. When I try to get involved with things, that I’m not passionate about, it eventually just wears you out. You have to have a way of living, but you don’t have to do everything, so that’s something that keeps me motivated.

I know God put this want in me for a reason. If he gave me the gift, he’s going to make a way for me to use it. I believe it. I may not be where I want to be, but I know it’s a process.

Can you relate? Stay inspired, and check out the commercial if you missed it.

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