Whether you’re watching Tarik Frimpong light up the big screen in Mary Poppins Returns, or tear up the streets of London with a freestyle self-tape on Instagram, his smile and infectious energy inspires you to live your own life with authenticity. No matter where his journey leads, Tarik returns to one word: grateful. Born and raised in Melbourne and now living in London, we connected with him to discover more about his career triumphs, how he navigates personal and professional challenges, and what motivates him to make his mark in the world everyday.
Innate gifts and early influences
Tarik’s earliest professional performance memory is from the age of 10, when he performed in Disney’s stage production The Lion King as the role of Young Simba in both Australia and China. Such an experience during his formative years played a profound role in shaping Tarik’s appreciation for the combined power of performance and culture, a mode of creative expression that would go on to motivate him throughout his professional career.
‘I got to experience the magic of theatre on such a massive scale and from the inside at such a young age. The fact I made my professional theatre debut in this epic show, a show that celebrates Black and African culture, is something I am incredibly grateful for,’ he reflects.
It only takes a few moments of watching Tarik sing, dance or act to appreciate that his creative gifts are innate, a harmony of rhythm, emotion and strength that simply cannot be taught. ‘I guess you could say performing is in my blood,’ says Tarik, sharing that his biggest influences to this day are still his parents, who were both professional performing artists. Like any performer with aspiring dreams to reach the global stage, Tarik also notes several other artists who have inspired him on his personal and professional journey so far.
‘Growing up Michael Jackson was a massive influence. He’s simply a once in a generation talent. I will never forget how listening to his music and watching him moonwalk for the first time (and the one millionth time) made me feel. I only ever hope to be able to captivate people in the same way he did with his art,’ says Tarik.
‘More recently I’ve been tremendously inspired by the likes of Jamie Foxx, Chadwick Boseman and Jeremy O. Harris. Jamie Foxx and Chadwick Boseman are phenomenal talents and truly multidisciplinary artists – able to act, sing, dance and more. All three of these artists are influential in the way I navigate the industry and my life – they are strong Black men, vocal about their beliefs and the pursuit of justice in both their industry, and most importantly, beyond.’
Moving through challenges
As one can only imagine, succeeding in the entertainment industry at a global level is no easy task. Even with his pure talent and determination to fulfill his potential, Tarik describes the challenges he has faced in his career so far as ‘many and varied.’ Never having been to Europe before, Tarik moved to London at 21 in the hope of furthering his career. Being an artist in an unfamiliar country so far removed from his support network was often a very lonely and difficult experience, but one that ultimately nurtured his sense of resilience and independence.
‘Other challenges I’ve faced include the constant rejection associated with pursuing a career in the arts; self-doubt, imposter syndrome, burn out and falling out of love with particular disciplines. On top of this, it’s a constant challenge to experience and consider systemic racism prevalent in the performing arts industry – and to enduringly have to work against this systemic issue and work against the odds so to speak,’ says Tarik.
The scope of Tarik’s singing, acting and dancing roles since moving overseas only demonstrates his ability to navigate these personal and professional challenges with a spirit of optimism and a strong sense of self-belief. In 2018 he starred as ‘Angus’ in the much-loved Hollywood film Mary Poppins Returns, alongside Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Some of his other theatre credits include Aladdin (West End), Bring It On: The Musical, The Lion King, MADIBA: The Musical and ZUP (Geneva, Switzerland). Prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns, Tarik was also in pre-production for a new Disney feature film shooting in London, for which filming has now commenced.
On dance and empowerment
Tarik reflects that there is simply nothing like the feeling of being ‘in the zone’ while performing. He describes the sensation as being ‘at home, at peace, present, connected, powerful and vulnerable – all at the same time.’ Even for most people who are just dancing around to Billie Jean in their living room, there is an unmistakable feeling of empowerment that comes from being present in that very moment, and having no rules to follow.
‘What I like about dance is the idea that you are required to create something out of nothing. It’s you, your body and space (technically not even music is required). I think the simplistic nature of dance at its core, combined with the fact there is no right or wrong, is what can inspire people from all walks of life to celebrate their individuality. To dance freely is to celebrate your individuality,’ Tarik shares.
The Artists of Colour Initiative (AOC)
2020 has been a year of immense personal and professional growth for Tarik. In August he founded the The Artists of Colour Initiative (AOC), born from a recognition of the underrepresentation of Bla(c)k and Indigenous people, as well as People of Colour in the Australian theatre industry. The AOC Initiative is a scholarship competition providing financial assistance and industry support to six theatre performers based in Australia who identify as Bla(c)k, Indigenous or as People of Colour. Since launching the Initiative only a few months ago, the support Tarik has received from peers, colleagues and industry professionals around the world has been truly astounding.
‘Founding the AOC Initiative was me stepping into my power – knowing I was capable of more than what I had previously done,’ notes Tarik.
‘I chose to act on, develop and manifest an idea in my head. I’m consistently leveraging any knowledge, resource and connection at my disposal – and in doing so I’m championing and celebrating artists of colour, whilst simultaneously helping to further the conversation regarding the lack of racial diversity in the Australian theatre industry.’
Making his mark
True inspiration comes from seeing a person use their unique gifts and talents to empower others, both in the professional and personal sphere as Tarik does. From celebrating his place in the Australian arts industry as a Black mixed race man, to establishing the AOC Initiative, to simply leading with love everyday, Tarik demonstrates that true happiness doesn’t come from fame, money or career success, but from a sense of personal empowerment through which he is able to connect deeply with those around him.
What are Tarik’s tips for living a more empowered and fulfilled life? He suggests waking up each morning and reflecting on all the things you’re grateful for, and living by the values of ‘kindness, introspection, reflection, action and love.’
And his expressive colour of choice from the MAISON de SABRÉ collection?
‘Black Caviar. I guess it's technically a shade but it’s sharp, sleek and sophisticated. It’s classic and impactful. To me Black Caviar says “I am here and I mean business” and I relate to that, I feel that,’ he shares.
Discover more about the AOC Initiative:
Connect with Tarik @tarikfrimpong