On the Couch with Mariama Whitton

Mariama-Whitton-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Mariama Whitton?
I’m an actor who was adopted from Ethiopia when I was three and a half. Growing up I could either be found running around outside playing football, scrapbooking, writing stories or attempting some other creative endeavour. I’ve always been a deeply curious person who loves learning, whether that is knowledge or a new skill.

My love of design – particularly of magazines and typography led me to do my Masters of Design while I was honing my acting through courses at institutions such as NIDA, ACA and the HubStudio. In 2016 I graduated with my Masters of Design from UNSW Art & Design and in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts (Acting) from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I don’t actually think there is anything I’d do differently. For me, the main thing that is important is that I maintain a sense of curiosity and continue to learn, grow and challenge myself.

Who inspires you and why?
I know it’s probably cliche but definitely my Mum. She is an absolute powerhouse and also the most supportive person I know – not just for me but also for others. She is in a constant state of curiosity and loves learning which is definitely a trait I’ve inherited from her. Growing up I was always blown away by her because if she had a big idea that other people wouldn’t think was achievable, she’d somehow manage to do it and make it seem effortless.

She taught me the importance of dreaming big but then following it up with a plan and taking action. She’s a natural born leader (even if she doesn’t like to admit it) and places a huge importance on giving back whether that’s to our neighbour or working for charity organisations and groups. She’s generous with her time and goes above and beyond to help others.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
A couple of months ago I met a family who host dinners every Wednesday night at their home in Newtown and anyone who wants to come is welcome. They believe that the best way to create community and feel connected, is through breaking bread – over a shared meal. This is especially important in a big city like Sydney where people can feel more isolated, particularly since COVID.

Each Wednesday people can bring something or you can just bring yourself. It’s definitely made an impact in my life – it’s a place I know I’m always welcome  and they feel like family – and I know that, that invitation extends to any of my friends or people in my life. I’m really interested in focusing on how I can make a difference like that – on a micro level – in my community and in the lives of those around me.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Definitely London, it’s my favourite city in the world. I grew up reading books set in London and watching a lot of British TV shows. When I finally visited for the first time I was instantly in love.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I’d take them to the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk. I think one of the amazing things about Sydney are our beaches and there is nothing more beautiful than walking along the coast on a gorgeous sunny day, having a swim and going for a coffee or brunch.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve recently started reading a book that my friends bought me for my birthday called How many female type designers do you know? I know many and talked to some! by Yulia Popova. I’m also reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s one of my favourite books that I like to read every couple of months.

What are you currently listening to?
Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan. I love her music but I also really admire her as a creative and as a business woman – particularly with how she carries herself in a very male dominated industry and also supports and mentors young artists. I’m also a big fan of podcasts. Two of my current favourites are How to fail with Elizabeth Day and The Tim Ferris Show.

Happiness is?
A feeling, not a destination. But I find it comes when I’m surrounded by people I love and doing work that I find fulfilling.

What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully travelling! I’d like to be working across TV, film and theatre while continuing to work on design projects. I recently launched a monthly online magazine called meraki which interviews emerging actors and creatives who are working across TV, film and theatre in Australia. Each issue focuses on one particular creative and is designed to express and reflect their individuality. It’s a project I’m really passionate about because we discuss things creatives often avoid talking about. Things like imposter syndrome, jealousy and how to handle the endless rejection. We also discuss topics such as self-taping and booking work; building resilience; how to financially support yourself; creating your own work; mental health; and, life outside of acting. I’d like to continue the magazine but as to where it goes – you’ll just have to wait and see.

Mariama can be seen in Griffin Theatre Company and Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta’s production of Orange Thrower at the SBW Stables Theatre until 26 March, before playing the Lennox Theatre –  Riverside Theatres, Parramatta from 30 March 2022. For more information, visit: www.griffintheatre.com.au for details.

Image: Mariama Whitton (supplied)