FADE Students: FADE Colloquium Guest Artist Series featuring Nova Payton (Nova Nelson '98) on Dec. 12th at 7:00 pm in the Fine Arts Theatre.
If you said simply, “Nova” to someone who is fluent in Latin, one might turn towards the sky and look for the “new star.” That’s because a star, previously too dim to be seen with the naked or untrained eye, can become the brightest object in the sky when it becomes a Nova…
How fitting is the name Nova for the Washington, DC native who for 26 years has had talent unrivaled by her peers, passion for music, dance, and theater, and an insatiable drive to perform.
Stars often are found in pairs, where they are in orbit around each other. Such is the case with this star named Nova. From the time Nova was in the womb through college, her mother, Thomascena Nelson, the confirmed First Lady of Gospel Jazz, gave relenting exposure to her daughter of all things creative and artistic. Nova was constantly sharing her gifts, releasing energy into high school and college musicals, plays, choirs, and performances, and mom was never too far behind. A former American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) student, Nova appeared in churches, in special events throughout Washington, DC, and even in Leon Roberts and Roberts’ Revival.
Like any other star that shines due to the reaction in its core, Nova has been in the atmosphere with well-known artists including Yolanda Adams, Anthony Hamilton, Freddie Jackson, Karen Clark Sheard, Richard Smallwood, Hezekiah Walker, and the legendary Stevie Wonder. Nova has been fortunate to stand behind these artists, even when she was white hot.
For other heavyweights, Nova has moved into the forefront position, opening for the likes of The Chi-Lites, The Dramatics, Will Downing, Stephanie Mills, Melba Moore, and Ashford and Simpson. Welcoming the opportunity to shine bright in those instances, she had to quickly move aside for another named, identified star to captivate the crowd. With each chance she has gotten to perform, Nova has soaked it all in and promised to radiate brightly when it was her time.
The opportunity to fall under the tutelage of world renowned musical influencer and performer, Roberta Flack, was one that Nova could not refuse. Joining Roberta’s full-scale international tour, Nova performed in over 150 major cities across the US, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Europe.
Nova has been on national tours in 3 Mo’ Divas as a Diva, Smokey Joe’s Café as B.J., and If This Hat Could Talk. These tours have given thousands a taste of Nova’s acting, singing, and performing abilities, and have left them craving for more. Fortunately, people who come to the Washington, DC area have been able to experience Nova in a number of productions including The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas as Jewel, Hairspray as MotorMouth Mabelle, Xanadu as Melpomene and Medusa, Ain’t Misbehavin’ as Nell, Black Nativity, Malik Yoba’s Acoustic Chocolate, 8-Track-The Sounds of the ‘70s, and J’s Jook Joint.
There have been special occasions where Nova has been recognized as an emerging bright star. Nova starred in a soul-stirring rendition of Effie White in Dreamgirls, which earned her the 2006 Barrymore nomination for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical. The DVD / CD for 3 Mo’ Divas received a 2010 NAACP nomination for Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration. In 2012, Nova was honored as the Helen Hayes Award Recipient as the Best Supporting Actress in a Resident Musical for her portrayal of MotorMouth Mabelle in Hairspray. This is the highest award bestowed on a performer in the Washington, DC theatrical community. And the blessings keep flowing and flowing…
Other honors have come in the form of singing the National Anthem at the dedication of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial live as the world watched on C-SPAN, and performing in Cairo, Egypt as a part of a United States Department of State delegation to foster cultural exchange and understanding (with Nolan E. Williams and Neworks). Nova has also appeared on the Jimmy Fallon late-night talk show accompanying artist Glen Hastard.
With all spinning in the stratosphere around her, Nova has always been intent on staying rooted in her faith and exposing youth to the opportunities thru musical theater. Nova serves as a cantor and an amazing lead vocalist directing her own choir, Favour, at her church, St. Martin’s Catholic Church. Nova founded Yashim Studios, musical theater troupe for youth, and has produced a number of productions with the next generation of budding stars. Who would have thought that from her days of training with Leon Roberts, Derek Campbell and Donna Reid that Nova would be leading and teaching and directing others? Nova always knew the brightness of her star.
She’s excited about starring as Effie in Dreamgirls, particularly since superstar Jennifer Hudson received such heralded acclaim for the portrayal on the silver screen.