We were recently asked to interview Troy Byer Bailey. We were familiar with her work, but unable to match the face with the impact she has made. When we received an e-mail outlining her experiences however, we couldn’t help but be taken aback and feel as though an interview with an icon was soon to take place. How could this woman have slipped through our fingers? How come we didn’t know her?
We would come to find out through the course of our interview that her endeavors in various industries were like jewels cascading from a priceless necklace. Speaking of jewelry, we discovered that this too, was one more industry Troy Byer Bailey was endeavoring to make her mark in. As if that wasn’t enough.
Some of her accolades include being cast on Sesame Street at the fragile age of 4, and playing as Diane Carroll’s daughter on the mega-hit, Dynasty. In addition to that, Troy has written and directed one of the first studio films by an African-American female director, and write the first comedy with Halle Berry as the lead. Needless to say, Troy has continued to embark on several new territories. You do not want to miss out on this interview with a woman I can only describe as a bold and graceful pioneer.
WBM: How did you get on Sesame Street?
TROY: We lived next door to Alvin Alley and he advised my mom to take me to audition for Sesame Street. It was such a strange time in my life because although I was just four, in many ways I already felt like my mother’s keeper. Whoopi Goldberg, then known as Karen Johnson, was my babysitter [and] used to have to take me to Sesame Street when mom was too high off acid and opiates to get it together.
Here I was starring in one of the most innocent childhood shows in history while being molested by my stepfather. When I look back at pictures of myself from that time on set, my solidarity is so obvious.
It didn’t take long after for me to be placed in juvenile hall after being taken away from my mother for child neglect. At that time, there were no foster homes available, so I was subjected to coexist basically with criminals. I shuffled through juvenile hall to the foster care system while constantly being by [a] psychologist. My only solace was that I loved my social worker.
WBM: How did you get out?
TROY: In 1977, I moved to Idaho and clearly learned I was black in spite of black people clearly teasing me for being white. I loved having a normal life in comparison to past life with mom. I cannot say that my life in Idaho with my father was wonderful, but it surely wasn’t what I went through with my mom.
WBM: What brought you back to NYC?
TROY: In 1982, [I] applied for and got accepted to New York University, and I remembered filling out the application at the age of 18 in a tiny apartment I rented thinking if I didn’t get in I would feel like dying. Months later, I got accepted but did not have the money to attend.
I moved back to NYC, got a job at a doctor’s office, and returned to acting in order to make enough money to go to college. The following year I auditioned for Fred Ruce and Francis Ford Coppola, and they cast me in their new film The Cotton Club as Gregory Hines’ younger sister. While waiting for my final audition, I sat in the waiting room and in walked a woman named Whitney Houston. She and I talked about our nervousness and how we were both raised in the business but this was the first step we were truly taking on our own. She gave me coaching on singing, I gave her coaching on acting. We were both prepping each other to be the best we could be for the same part as Gregory Hines’ sister. Neither one of us got the part but that afternoon created a bond between us that we relished for many years to come. There wasn’t a second we didn’t run into each other after that audition and collapse into each other’s arms – remembering our first meeting and how we supported each other through. A few years later I auditioned for and was cast in “Dynasty”.
WBM: Wow that’s amazing. I understand that you dated Prince for a while and he even wrote a song for you and put them up put you on album cover.
TROY: This is going to sound so Hollywood, but during my first season on “Dynasty” Prince’s people contacted me and said he wanted to go out with me. I went to his concert which was my first concert ever.
WBM: That is so crazy how Whoopi Goldberg was your babysitter. Have you seen her since then?
TROY: Yes, in 1986 I ran into to Whoopi Goldberg at Spago’s and she had just shot The Color Purple. she insisted that I meet Quincy Jones because I was the splitting image of his daughters, and she knew he would look out for me as I further attempted to enhance my show biz career. She was right. After being fired from “Dynasty”, I moved in with Quincy and family, and spent the following year hanging out with Oprah, Will Smith and Steven Spielberg. It was surreal.
WBM: We are big Star Wars fans and read you dated George Lucas. Is that true?
TROY: Yes, it’s true. I dated George Lucas for a bit. He is a wonderfully generous man.
WBM: In 1989, you starred in Roof Tops and earned the Show West Newcomer of the Year Award. How was that for you?
TROY: I was very excited to have a lead role. But the film was a flop and my potentially right star status crashed and burned with it. I was devastated. I finally thought something really great was going to work out for me after all I had been through. But I’m a fighter, so I took myself back up [with] small acting jobs. So for the next 10 years, I was on “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World”.
WBM: Was that when you knew you wanted to write and direct?
TROY: Yes, I’m not that good at sitting around, waiting for things to happen. After that time, I married Mark Berg and focused my energy on writing in order to direct. I wrote and directed Lets Talk About Sex and wrote and sold BAP’s starring, Halle Berry. Sometime after that, I wrote and directed Love Don’t Cost A Thing with Nick Cannon and Christina Millian. That film was not a box office hit, so I left show business vowing to never return. When you create, invest your time, pour your heart and soul into something only to be rejected, it is painful. I just felt like I needed to go experience something else.
(Mark Berg is the Executive Producer of the SAW movie franchise, “Two and a Half Men” and “Anger Management” with Charlie Sheen.)
WBM: We totally know what you’re talking about and know that everyone we’ve interviewed on Why Blue Matters has experienced that same thing, including myself.
TROY: After that, I lived my life, became deeply invested in transformational work, and fell in love. Or so I thought. It turned into a tumultuous relationship which led to my authoring, “Ex-Free: 9 Keys To Freedom After Heartbreak.” I had a wonderful time promoting that book and being allowed into people’s lives to support healing their failed relationships. I love being of service.
WBM: As they say in The Godfather, every time you get out they pull you back in. You ended up back in the entertainment business, didn’t you?
TROY: (Laughs) Yes I did! In 2010, I wrote the screenplay [for] Ex-Free starring Leon, Shari Headley and Darrin Dewitt Henson. I am still in post-production on that film, but excited for the release.
WBM: And now jewelry?
TROY: Actually yes and no. I am working with [a] wonderful woman named Audrey Cavenecia of Redesign and Living. We are working on and developing the Troy Brand, which is about freedom and power as a woman. Really as a human being. So instead of my career being these moments of triumph, we are weaving it together and more to create a lifestyle brand.
I have more films coming out, ones that I will even star in. I have my jewelry line with the first collection being named the Freedom Collection and the tagline “Remember”. Because I think we always need to be reminded that we were always free. I’m also coming out with an organic skincare line for women of color.
I am so excited about the next few years. It is like all of the beauty and madness has finally come together to reveal a majestic tapestry.