Student Profile: Layla Crawford ’22 juggles academics and service with a successful acting career.
Bright. Confident. Elegant. Poised. Thoughtful. Empathetic. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when talking with recent graduate Layla Crawford ‘22. She has a smile that lights up a room and an accomplished acting résumé, but it is the inner qualities that shine the brightest for this impressive young woman. In conversations with her about her acting career, accomplishments, and career goals, she is proud of what she has done and excited about what is next, but she is also humble, grateful, and blessed. Layla Crawford has big plans for her career, but at the center of everything is using her voice to help others.
Crawford’s acting career began when she booked her first role at the age of six when she played Olivia Johnson in the television show “The First Family.” But truth be told, her career really began when she was three and performed in school plays and dances. As long as she can remember, Crawford has always had a love for performing and putting on a show. “I would watch all the Disney Channel shows and knew I wanted to be like the actors,” she says.
In addition to “The First Family,” Crawford has been blessed to have prominent roles in several other popular television shows, including “Two and a Half Men,” “Criminal Minds,” “True Blood” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.” When asked about some of her favorite projects she has worked on, Crawford quickly responded that her role in “True Blood” was an incredible learning experience because it was an intense role that forced her to think differently about what her character was experiencing. In her role, Crawford played a young girl from an abusive household and she spent hours researching and studying different behaviors in order to understand her character. “I’m a visual person,” says Crawford, “so I watched documentaries, videos and spent time talking with the writer and director to get their take on playing the part to get connected to the scene and the character.” It is no surprise to Crawford’s British Literature teacher that she would go above and beyond in preparing for a role. “Layla has this joyful excitement about her, but she is also not intimidated by hard work; she just makes it happen,” says Sierra Evans ‘10.
Crawford’s biggest role to date was her portrayal of Lyndrea Price, a step-sister of Venus and Serena Williams, in the 2021 film “King Richard.” The film, starring Will Smith, earned multiple nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and Critics’ Choice Awards and has grossed more than $38 million since its release. For Crawford, it was truly an amazing experience. “I am so blessed to have worked alongside so many wonderful actors and learn from them,” says Crawford.
As impressive as her résumé is Crawford’s ability to balance her schooling and her career. It has not always been easy, she admits. Crawford and her parents value education and the relationships formed with classmates and teachers. And because at times she is away from school for extended periods, she has to act as her own teacher and be an advocate for herself. “The confidence that my parents always instilled in me,” she says, “has been a guiding factor in my career and school success.”
As someone who is in the public eye, Crawford understands that she can use her voice – and her experiences – to help others. She has already done work on issues regarding social justice and mental health and plans to continue that work throughout her life. She certainly is well-equipped to make a difference. “In addition to being bright, thoughtful, and funny,” says Evans, “Layla has a self-awareness about her that I think is pretty rare for students her age.”
Crawford admits that things have not always been easy. Like any actress, she has dealt with her share of rejection when auditioning for roles, but it has forced her “to grow up quickly.” It is why, she says, she “has a soft spot for the underdog.” Crawford has learned to be resilient and she wants to pass on the lessons she has learned. “I try to be a poised and elegant example for others – especially young women – to show them that they are not alone in whatever they might be dealing with,” she says. “We all have struggles and I want to share mine with others so that I can help people see that they don’t have to be alone.”
As for what is next for Crawford, she is ready for her next adventures in her academics, her career, and her work helping others. She is headed to UCLA in the fall where she plans to major in communications and minor in film and television. As for her career, she plans to find roles that fit her and she also wants to write and direct. Although she says she has never actually written a script yet, she has dipped her toe into directing. Last summer, she was an assistant director on a short titled “The Emotion.” She also plans to continue helping others improve their mental health. Whatever she does, Crawford feels blessed to be doing the things that she loves. “I feel like I am giving God something to work with by putting in the work myself and letting Him handle the rest.”