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Cheryl Vienna: The "Freaky Tales" Actress On Defying Odds and Embracing the Art of Life

Updated: May 17

The poet Oscar Wilde once said, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." Actress Cheryl Vienna is putting that theory to the test.  

Early in life, Vienna took the road that is often the safest traveled. Following her mother's advice, Vienna set aside her creative aspirations and went to Purdue University to study engineering. While it wasn't her first love, she continued to rise in the professional ranks. "Climbing the corporate ladder is not something for the weak at heart," she says.  

Vienna says the corporate world is challenging, but for Black women, "You have to be twice as good. Maybe three times as good. And many times, you are the only one in the room." Without the presence of female role models and working as a single mom, Vienna continued to find success.  

Life, no matter how successful, never comes without challenges. In 2009, Vienna was diagnosed with Stage IIA breast cancer. Receiving the diagnosis just three days before her wedding day -- she decided only to tell a few people and continued with the wedding as planned.  


A year later, while she was going through chemotherapy, her job offered her a buyout. That moment would forever redirect her path. "When you have any type of life diagnosis like that, it makes you intentional," says Vienna.  

As Vienna speaks of how she went through two surgeries, chemotherapy, and losing her hair, she still has a smile on her face. "It allows me to speak about what God has done for me," she says. God has taken her on an incredible journey of resilience, perseverance, and determination. Moving to Malaysia with her husband was another step in her journey that helped her tap into her creative side. Vienna debuted as a filmmaker and executive producer (credited as Cheryl Ash-Simpson) on the documentary Sunshine, Noodles and Me. "I wanted people to see you could get through anything pretty much with love, faith, and wellness," she says. The title speaks of the sunshine and noodles Vienna experienced in Malaysia and her path to a new phase in her life.

That path led her to Los Angeles in 2021. She quickly began working as a model, with her face and likeness featured in print advertising for the beauty brand Haus Labs by Lady Gaga. While Vienna is thankful for her modeling opportunities — especially since she is providing representation for older women, the joy she feels with her film debut is evident.

With an ear-to-ear smile on her face, she recounts her role in the film "Freak Tales." The film, set in 1987 Oakland, depicts a mysterious force guiding the town's underdogs in four interconnected tales: Teen punks defend their turf against Nazi skinheads; a rap duo battles for hip-hop immortality; a weary henchman gets a shot at redemption and an NBA All-Star settles the score. Vienna plays the mother of the character played by Jay Ellis and also includes Hollywood elites such as Pedro Pascal and Ben Mendelsohn. 

The film recently debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah to rave reviews. The Cosmic Circus calls it "cult classic material." Awards Watch gave the Film an A- saying, "It has style and knows how to pivot to make every scene more worthwhile."

Vienna had one response when she learned she was cast in the film. "YES!" She says, "I'm the newbie, and I'm in this. And I'm defying age, and I am defying all of these things. Yes! And thank you God."

To follow Cheryl Vienna as she continues on her journey, you can follow her on Instagram or on IMBD.

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