Phyllise Tolliver was seated behind a computer, clueless as to who was on the other end of the screen when American singer and actress Halle Bailey appeared to congratulate her for being one of four winners of the Angel Scholarship.
Bailey launched her Angel Scholarship initiative in association with her latest single “Angel,” a track that speaks to empowerment and self-acceptance for Black women. A total of $40,000 was distributed amongst the four recipients, who are all young Black women in the performing arts. Each individual received $10,000 and a video call with Bailey.
Tolliver, a junior musical theatre major at Howard University from Atlanta by way of Kansas City, Missouri, has a background in theatre, starting with her involvement in an award-winning, non-profit youth training and performance company Youth Ensemble of Atlanta (YEA). She attended Tri-Cities High School “which has a strong performing arts program,” according to Tolliver, and says she applied to Howard “because it is the HBCU with the most nationally recognized musical theatre program.”
“I’ve always been associated with performing arts. I’ve been a theatre major kind of my whole life.” Tolliver said.
Tolliver shared that she started making music at the age of 13 and had released a few singles before entering Howard University as a freshman. During her freshman year, she released her debut album “I Loved You First.” Her latest release is the single “Mr. Right” which she created during a solo trip to New York. Her portfolio currently comprises three self-produced and directed music videos, an album documentary, as well as performances on campus.
Howard student and producer Troy White produced Tolliver’s debut album in a studio near campus.
“Phyllice is a fantastic person, working with her was like magic, she just takes control of the room … she’s got that it factor,” he said. “If somebody’s a star, you can help amplify and elevate it, but that’s something that’s born within them.”
Tolliver’s professor Micheal Mc Elroy, one of the co-founders of Black Theater United, played an instrumental role in the application process. He encouraged her to apply over the summer and to submit her materials for the application. Throughout the process, the prize and name of the celebrity were not disclosed. Applicants were simply told that there was a possibility of meeting a celebrity from Atlanta.
“So, I was getting all these pieces but I didn’t know exactly what it was until I got back on campus,” Tolliver said.
Tolliver expressed that during the time of submitting her materials for the application, she was at a standstill and she felt like this might be her last stretch of hope with the portfolio she created. Tolliver further expressed how validating it was to have won the Angel Scholarship.
“It’s a reminder to all of us, women, that we are beautiful, we can do anything we set our minds to and our hearts to,” Bailey said in an Instagram post before announcing the winners.
The recipients of this scholarship were selected based on Halle’s expressed desire to support young Black women pursuing an education in the performing arts. The winners, who were formally announced on Thursday, include Aliyah D. Walker, Crystal Ike, Melodee Pouponneau and Tolliver.
The Hilltop contacted Bailey’s PR team, however no comment was given at the time of publication.
Tolliver sees this scholarship as an opportunity to do what she wants creatively and disclosed that receiving this scholarship will help her enhance the quality of her work by giving her the capital to invest in better equipment. “I’m able to pay more attention to the details because I have the capital behind me and I definitely think it’s going to help me launch myself as an artist, period,” she said.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew