Talking with Tao: Up & Coming Arts and Entertainment Creative

Photos courtesy of Tao Finklea

Our quest to bring you the hottest and brightest Black gay talent leads to an all-points bulletin to Atlanta, where we caught up with Tao Finklea. He is the self-described “multi-hyphenated King,” a term he coined to describe the multiple hats he wears in the creative space, which includes producing, directing, and writing.

“The ultimate goal for my brand is to open hearts and minds through art. Notice, I didn’t say change hearts and minds. That’s not my mission,” he said.

PrideIndex recently interviewed Tao via email. He briefly shared with us his experience as a participant in GLAAD’s Black Queer Creative Summit this past September, his work on Starz’s P-Valley television show, and more.  

PrideIndex (PI): I first became acquainted with you through our mutual friend, Dr. Derrick Tennial. You were the director of our “Artists in the Afternoon” author’s panel in Atlanta. I still feel like I don’t know enough about you. In one sentence, tell me who exactly Tao Fi is.

Tao Finklea (TF): I’m someone who’s trying to be the person he needed when he was younger.

PI: What makes you angry?

TF: Injustice and violent ignorance make me angry. Want to see me go from zero to ten really quickly? Point me to the nearest bully.

PI: I’ve read some of your writings for The Huffington Post and elsewhere. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

TF: Honestly, I’m not sure. Language arts have always come naturally to me. I think it really hit home for me when I wrote a play in high school that was produced for a summer theater program I was enrolled in. The theater director read it, loved it, and said, “Let’s do it!”

PI: Is there a possibility that you would ever write a book and have us bring you in front of the camera at a future “Artists in the Afternoon” event?

TF: I’m not sure. People have been telling me to write a book for years. My life has been quite an adventure. I think a novel is a possibility one day, but for now, I’m focusing on screenwriting, producing, and directing for television and film.

PI: You were among the fortunate ones to have been selected to participate in GLAAD’s Black Queer Creative Summit this past September. What can I share about that experience?

TF: The Black Queer Creative Summit was a healing experience that I didn’t know I needed. It was a truly magical event with a lot of really amazing people. One hundred and fifty-two Black, queer creatives brought together from around the world to fellowship in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, and there was not one shred of drama, envy, pettiness, negativity, or anything of the sort. The love, camaraderie, and support felt unreal. It truly felt like a dream. In addition to the attendees, I got to meet quite a few high-level creatives, executives, and talent agents that I’ve admired from afar for quite some time. I even got to catch up with a few high-profile people I’ve worked with before and know personally, like Nicco Annan, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with on P-Valley as a rehabilitation therapist and movement consultant, and Patrik-Ian Polk, who I’ve also worked alongside on P-Valley and the forthcoming Noah’s Arc movie. Getting to see an advance screening of the film “Rustin” was also a highlight. I could go on and on, but I simply can’t thank DaShawn Usher, Julian Walker, and their entire team for such an amazing weekend! It was definitely needed, especially with us being in the thick of the WGA and SAG-AFRTA strikes and not being able to work. It was a blissful respite from the bitterness of the world’s current state, and I know every attendee was more grateful than words could allow.

PI: Do you have plans for future collaborations with any of the other Black Queer Creative Summit participants?

TF: Absolutely! DaShawn’s goal for the summit was for every creative invited to participate in the summit to be able to build a team to help them complete any project they had in mind. Artists of just about every medium were invited, and those of us from Atlanta really clicked! Most of us had yet to meet before this summit. We also formed bonds with other creatives from around the country, and international locales were in attendance. We all have a lot of great ideas, and you’re sure to see some pretty amazing things come from this first cohort. The group chats and private social media groups are popping! The summit definitely fueled our fires!

PI: What is your ultimate goal for your brand?

TF: The ultimate goal for my brand is to open hearts and minds through art. Notice, I didn’t say change hearts and minds. That’s not my mission. I simply want people to think, to be open to possibilities and different realities, and to help foster understanding of whatever the subject matter is. A person doesn’t have to agree with a thing to understand it, and understanding often (though not always) fosters compassion and empathy. I think that’s how I can most effectively affect change in this world.

PI: Is there anything else you would like to share?

TF: Don’t box me in. I’m a multi-hyphenate. In addition to my writing, producing, and directing aspirations, I’ve also worked as a professional dancer and choreographer. Though I don’t anymore, acting was also something I pursued for a time. I’m a martial artist as well. I took music lessons from the sixth grade all the way through high school. I played the tenor sax, I could read and write music, and in college, I took formal music production classes and wrote and produced songs for fun. I say all of that to say you never know what I’m going to do next. Heck, I don’t even know most times. It all comes about organically, and I am so thankful I never listened to the countless people who told me to pick one thing and stick to it.

My talents are very diverse, yet they all come together to allow me to work in very unique capacities. In fact, my unique skill set, and breadth of knowledge is why I was hired and utilized in multiple ways on P-Valley. I mean, how often do you find a Southern-born and raised licensed medical massage/ rehabilitation therapist who’s also a former professional dancer/choreographer who also navigates the world of film/television as a burgeoning writer, producer, and director, thereby able to understand all of the nuances and components needed to work on a show about dancers in a club in the Mississippi Delta!? I mean……COME ON! If that isn’t a lightning strike, I don’t know what is! The lesson is to tune out the naysayers. Tune out the people who try to tell you you’re doing too much and allow your gifts to make room for you. All of them! Everything I’ve ever done has required using at least three of my talents/skills. It never fails. If you’ve ever doubted that you could successfully be more than one thing, I’m living proof.