Stunt Performer Spotlight: Faye Yvette McQueen

Faye Yvette McQueen was born on December 19, 1961 in Jamaica, NY. She is the third child of Lenwood and Daisy McQueen. As a young child, Faye was shy, skinny and bowl legged. She used to fall down stairs frequently. When the YMCA located in the basement of the building where she she lived, started a dance school, her parents signed her up immediately!

She excelled in dance and lived every day to take class and performimg. At the age of 12, she started her own dance school called, "The Dancer's Delight". She gathered the neighborhood children together and taught them the movement that she learned from her dance classes. She collected money from their parents, bought and made costumes. Faye produced dance shows for the elderly residents the local nursing homes in far Rockaway, Queens where her mother worked.

While in high school, she joined the dance team and was asked to perform for just about every event during her time there. After school, she volunteered to teach dance to the residents of Elmcore Youth Drug Prevention Program in Corona, NY. On the weekends, she performed with Liberation Ensemble and Inspiration Dance Ensemble in Queens and was introduced to the work of Alvin Ailey.

Faye, hungry for more, traveled to Manhattan and studied Horton technique at The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. After class she would sneak and watch the company rehearse. She loved watching Alvin Ailey direct Judith Jamison and fell in love.  One day Alvin noticed her and asked her to come in and sit beside him to watch the rehearsal.  This was the highlight of her dance career!

Her college Advisory, Mr. Schnabel instantly thought of Faye when he received a flyer from Goucher College announcing the Roseburg Scholarship in Dance. He called her to his office and convinced her to audition. F aye felt the pressure to represent her school even though her sites were set on NYU Tish School of The Arts, Brooklyn College and SUNY Purchase. She thought, why would I attend a school in Towson, MD that had a logo that resembled a marijuana leaf?

Her mother put her and her best friend Lisa on a Greyhound bus to audition. While on campus, Lisa mentions that she didn't see any men. Faye told her, "What are you talking about? I saw a few guys walking around!" She was so amazed at the beautiful campus that she didn't notice that it was an all women's college.  She went on to attend Goucher which was the best decision of her life!

She earned a BFA in Dance Education with a minor in Spanish. After Goucher she Faye pursued an MFA in dance at Southern Methodist University. With a recommendation from her company dance director, she auditioned for Dallas Black Dance Theater and became a company principal. While in Dallas, Texas she was discovered on the streets of Dallas while being her animated, graceful, and confident self with her friends. She was asked to film her first commercial for Interstate Batteries and found her a passion.

After graduate school in Dallas, Faye moved to Atlanta, GA where she started a non-profit dance school named "The Dance's Warehouse, Inc." She taught dance at Spelman College and fitness at Georgia State University.  Faye has been described as having the regal and classiness of Diahann Carroll, the “in charge” and confident personality of CCH Pounder and the style and grace of Judith Jamison. When she walks in a room people take notice and when she smiles, she can warm your heart.

She never wanted the hear the word "No"! She always had the gift of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. That is why the word "no" is of no use to her. Faye says, "I just become very creative in obtaining my goals. My ambition is my drive! My ambition is my motivating force. My ambition is what sets my apart from most people, especially those in my age category. It gives me a youthful glow. It keeps me young. It makes me appreciate myself as a "Woman of the World!""

What inspired you to become a stunt person?

In 2009 I moved back home to NY from Atlanta after the Fannie Mae scandal hit hard. I had a dance school and my student enrollment was reduced to half. The economy was crumbling and many people lost their homes and jobs. 

I decided to give up my studio and come back to NY and pursue acting full time. I started by doing background work. One day while working on the set of 30 Rock, I saw a woman, who I thought was Tina Fey, jump off a table.

I had a conversation with her and she told me that she was her stunt double. I was blown away for two reasons. First she looked just like Tina Fey and secondly, I knew that I could easily jump off tables and from that moment on I became curious about stunt work.

What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it?

Fire gags. I have yet to do it for the camera but I do have a training story. I was attending John Zimmerman's Stunt Camp in Orlando. The last day of camp we did full and partial fire burns. We waited until nightfall to do the full burn for the effect and photo opportunities.

When it was my turn, I forgot my outer layer of pants so I used what they had for our use. I was lit and ran my planned course when my pants fell down to my ankles. I became disoriented for a second and my dance training kicked in. To keep myself from tripping on my pants I knew that I had to take snake running steps and cut my originally planned course in half and make it to the mat where they would put my fire out.

This caused my cape that I was wearing to wrap around me and singe my eye lashes. Well, I made it safely to the mat and the incident made for a sensational and hilarious burn photo.

What is the best part about being a stunt performer?

The comradary amongst my fellow stunt performers.

Tell your all-time personal favorite stunt story!

 I have been a fan of The CW television series BLACK LIGHTNING. I look just like Christine Adam's who plays the mother on the series. I was always hoping to be able to be her stunt double. One day I saw that there was in open call for stunt performers for the series. A friend and I drove from New York to Atlanta for the audition. Months went by and we heard nothing. One day I got a call from someone who attended the stunt camp with me in Florida. He was the assistant to the stunt coordinator for the show.

He told me that they were looking for Christine Adam's stunt double and that I was the only one that fit the build perfectly. They flew me to Atlanta and put me up in a hotel and gave me a rental car. The director was Tasha Smith, my all time favorite actress. When I arrived they told me that the stunt will be very dangerous and that I could get knocked out or bite my tongue. I was so excited to be there and to finally be living my dream that it didn't matter to me.

The other stunt players lent me their equipment so that I could perform the stunt safely. I rehearsed for 2 days. They cut my hair very low to match hers. This concerned me because my hair was finally growing out nicely after a brief stint of hair loss. When it came time to actually perform the stunt I was nervous but I knew that they were depending on me.

The stunt was with a break away railing. They only had two railings. So I had to do the stunt right the 1st time, period. Also, at the very last moment, they told me that there would be a tree with lights on it that could possibly fall on me because of the impact of my body hitting the stairs. The riggers told me to keep my arms covering my face after landing.

Now if I did not stay still after the stunt was over I would have to do it again. This caused so much anxiety because I was not sure if the lights would fall on top of me while I was laying still trying to look dead. I only held my pose for a few seconds but it seemed like an eternity. I knew I had to get it right or we'd have to do it again.  I also knew that the stunt coordinator did not know my work and he was probably concerned because I'm an older stunt person.

When the stunt was performed I did it right the 1st time and everyone was very pleased. After calling CUT, Tasha Smith yelled very loudly, "YES!"  She ran over to me and gave me a hug and said, "yes sister yes!" The stunt coordinator told me that I would be back and he was gladly willing to fly me in again. And they did less than a month later.

What advice would you give other stunt people?

Train. Keep in shape. Buy all necessary equipment and stay alert. Follow directions. Be willing to help set up and break down. 

Anything else you would like to tell the community about?

John Zimmerman's Stunt Camp is the best place to get your start in the business


Instagram: @faye_yvette_mcqueen

Twitter: @faye_yvette_mcq


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