Beautiful Journey of Lotus House Alumni

"You grow through what you go through" is the lasting belief of Lotus House alumni Tenisha Johnson. From her time with us at Lotus House to working on the production set of the limited series "The Underground Railroad" on Amazon Prime, take a moment and read about her journey and unwavering strength of character which is an inspiration to all.

Lotus House alumni, Tenisha Johnson, in front of the billboard for "The Underground Railroad" on Sunset Drive in Los Angeles

What was your experience like at Lotus House?
The experience at the Lotus House was life changing. I don't believe I would be where I am today without the assistance of the Lotus House. Many people have a false depiction on what a homeless person looks like, but in actuality have no idea. At first I felt like I didn't belong there due to my own circumstances, better yet, I felt like my situation wasn't as bad as everyone else's to be considered homeless. I realized I too fall under the category of seeing homeslessness with a false perspective. I became officially homeless at the end of 2012. I was a college student living my best life on campus but if I'm honest with myself I was homeless then too. In  the summer I found myself staying with my friends & her family. The nurse at my college told me about Lotus House one day. She called and L.H said a bed had just opened up and if I don't grab it now I'll probably be waiting a while to get in. I was terrified but I moved out of my dorm and went that night.  Homelessness to me is not having a stable, reliable, consistent, and safe place to live. I didn't receive that stability until 10 months later transitioning out of the Lotus House Women's Shelter. During the 10 months living at the L.H. I was able to gain employment, housing and continue on with my college education. I love the saying "You grow through what you go through". It was extremely difficult but I made it through. If you're currently experiencing homelessness understand it doesn't have a face and you too deserve to have stability and peace.
Can you tell us more about your life after you left Lotus House?
After leaving the Lotus House I went on to have my very first apartment. I continued to be employed and received my AA at Miami Dade College in 2015. I made the decision to go and complete my bachelor's degree in Savannah, GA at the HBCU Savannah State University. I received my bachelors degree in 2017 in audio/video production. My career goal is to be a screenplay writer and direct my material. I'm currently pursuing that career in Atlanta, GA.
What sparked your interest in filmmaking and visual effects? 
I've always known I wanted to be in the film industry since I started college. To do what? I had no clue. As a freshman in college I chose the path to be a nurse then I thought I wanted to be a psychologist. After realizing those two career paths wouldn't really bring me long term happiness; I realized my creative side actually held more space in my life. As a teenager I loved reading stories and diving so deep in them I never wanted to put the book down. In high school I would literally spend my lunch time in the library reading. As I got older I realized I wanted to start writing stories, so I did. Throughout college and Youtube University lol I've learned the foundation of writing a good story.
As far as visual effects I didn't go to school for it but it kind of fell in my lap on the Underground Railroad. I learned my responsibilities as I worked and gained so much experience from it.
What was it like working on the set of "The Underground Railroad"?
I couldn't have asked for a better introduction into the film industry. I've gained life long friends. This was an eye opening experience and I was able to see a masterpiece come together. This limited series on Amazon Prime is called The Underground Railroad; A story told by Miami naive Director Barry Jenkins. I was the Visual Effects Coordinator on the show for 9 months. Production isn't glamorous. Working through 12hr overnight shoots, working through any weather, dodging bugs in Savannah, GA and working through winter in Atlanta wasn't fun. A film production crew/cast really give it their all on these shows. Underground Railroad content is nowhere near glamorous but Barry did an amazing job with it. Visually and musically this series will take you into another world. It's a show I believe everyone should watch. There was even a therapist on set just in case you needed someone to talk to when we had tough shoot days. Barry made sure no one felt alone on set. Additionally, to offset the heavy content at work the cast/crew would do fun activities after work. Activities like bowling, potlucks, game night or karaoke we were able to get our minds off of work. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
I'm currently living in Atlanta, GA working on a TV Show. It's my second film job and I couldn't have asked for a better team. My film career has been anything but traditional. I started working on this TV Show during the pandemic and it has been quite a ride. I'm looking forward to the many film productions I'll have the honor to be a part of.
Anything else you want to include?
My life story is a beautiful journey. I believe everything happens for a reason. I took the bricks that were thrown at me and created a solid foundation. I'm an aspiring screenplay writer/director who's currently writing a short-film series to showcase my talent. Currently, I'm looking to attend UCLA Screenwriting Professional Program this year. I was accepted into the program last year but due to Covid hardships, I couldn't start. My goal is to sharpen my screenplay writing skills and work towards attending that 10 month program. Filmmaking is a powerful tool and everyone has a story. I want my stories to change lives and make them feel deeply about things, circumstances, hardships and/or people. This career path won't be easy. If I didn't let homelessness stop me, nothing will.