These two words strung together carry meaning to Christ-followers that they do not for anyone else. Matthew 5 behooves us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. These verses provoke us to preserve and to shine. It is the contrast that magnifies the value of these elements. It is only set against the pitch of a night sky that stars shine brightest, but we often hesitate to venture into the dark.
Some would say one of the darkest vistas in culture is the entertainment industry. Nearly void of light. Nearly Godless. A place where many things go, anything goes, and the apparent “absolutes” of Christianity may not be welcome. Faith is often whispered, rarely shouted. I deeply admire believers in this field, especially those who are bold about their faith. Tracey Baker-Simmons is one of these.
Right off the bat, you may not recognize the name, but she is a pioneer of reality television. If you’ve ever watched an episode of BEING BOBBY BROWN or heard any of the catch phrases that emerged from that heaping slice of American pop culture, you have encountered her creativity and innovation. And if you meet Tracey, you will encounter her faith.
Tina Dula: You are in a field that is widely unchurched and irreligious. What are the tensions of creating in your field, and living as a believer?
Tracey Baker-Simmons: On the creative side of things – everyone has their own idea of the type of content a “Christian” person should create. Christians and non-believers both judge you from what they perceive as the biblically correct thing to do. I don’t really box myself in in that manner. I believe I am blessed to be creative and whatever ideas I have I should pursue. I know that God can use or cause all things to work for the good. I have my own personal perspective on certain topics, and as I get older and grow spiritually, my approach changes and I try to be more conscious of the message the content I create will deliver to the audience. Often times, when you state you are a Christian, people think you should or only want to do “faith-based” content. Unfortunately, that is not my niche. I started my career in the music industry, and I love pop culture. In our industry Christians are often referred to as “Jesus freaks” and it is not really looked upon as a plus. In this world of entertainment where lying, cheating and all other levels of deception are the norm, most Christians potentially keep quiet about their beliefs until they have reached a certain level of success and feel that individuals will no longer judge them. Typically no one wants to be in the room with a “goody two shoes”, and to be honest there is also an inherent fear that if I say I’m a Christian and then I happen to do something un-Christ-like or make a mistake, then I’m judged even more harshly and I’ve then shamed myself and my faith.
Tina Dula: Do you see what you do as a calling? If so, how so?
Tracey Baker-Simmons: Thanks to my life coach and purely just seeking God, I recently have become aware of what I believe is my purpose or why I continue to long to remain a leader in the entertainment industry. For me, I believe my purpose is to be more aware and encourage others in control to do the same. Media can no longer continue to ignore the effect of media on culture. I don’t think this requires us to be more preachy or less entertaining. I think first we need people to become aware of the effect, and then work towards being more aware of how it affects others.
Tina Dula: Tell us about a time when the way you live your life demonstrated God’s greatness to those watching in your field.
Tracey Baker-Simmons: I would say the most recent was three years ago when my husband and I decided to move to NY. Neither of us had jobs or the financial means to make the move, but we stood on our faith that this was where we needed to be and God showed up for us with a nice place, jobs and the resources to get my son through college. Honestly, the people who hired me saw enormous growth in their business and often times during the most stressful business issues or situations, I would just say, “I’m going to pray.” They watched God’s hand work. One time one of the owners texted me and said “Your prayers work.” That was one of the greatest compliments those people ever gave me. Essentially my God works things out!!
Tina Dula: What do you consider or how do you define success? Personally, spiritually, career – whatever.
Tracey Baker-Simmons: For me it’s the ability to work and grow and strive in an area where your heart is filled. My heart’s desire is to produce for film and television, creating as well as nurturing and developing other creative talent and having the opportunity to continue to pursue that dream and live is success for me. Personal success comes in much the same form for me. Just watching my son and my husband live happily and believing and pushing their dreams means I am being successful as a wife and mother. I am a nurturer, so as I am able to encourage my fiends and other family to pursue their life’s passion, I feel encouraged and successful personally as well.
I define spiritual success as the growth and insight that I gain as I become more connected to God. I honestly rely on the acknowledgment of this from my friends whom I respect spiritually.
Tina Dula: What advice would you offer to a young believer interested in a career in entertainment?
Tracey Baker-Simmons: Have a prayer team! You need folks who are praying for you and keeping you covered. You’ll often get caught up in the trenches, and that is when the covering is most needed. The industry needs believers. The key is to allow God to determine how he will use you. Don’t let others dictate your role in the industry. Know and trust that God will guide you. He has a place for you, and it doesn’t just have to be faith-based content. God needs soldiers everywhere.
Tracey Baker-Simmons is a Christian, Wife, Mother, Visionary, Executive Producer, Boss, Lecturer. Nurturer, Teacher. Professor, Leader, and Giver. She works as a development executive in television and resides in North Bergen, NJ with her husband Karriem and her son Jacob (when he is not away at college). She loves GOD above ALL!! Follow her on Twitter @tbakersimmons.