Creative Light in Motion

Actress, writer, director and producer Nadhege Ptah on her long and complex journey to find full expression as an artist.

I began dancing in my mother’s womb and leaped my way out after seven months, because my feet couldn’t wait to find the rhythms of life. As a little girl I was often misunderstood, because I was painfully shy, sensitive, quiet and independent. Being the firstborn of three siblings, I became my parents’ ticket to stay in America. Growing up in America with Haitian values provided a unique experience. During those times, I heard Haitian parents speaking of only three career options for their children: becoming a lawyer, a doctor, or a nurse. Although my destiny had been decided in the womb, my divine path was altered at the hands of my family, my friends, and my own low self-image, which then started me on the road towards self-execution.

Nadhege Ptah in second grade at Catholic school.


Whenever anyone asked me about my aspirations, I heard the voices of my family. So I gave the only correct programmed answer: “I want to be a doctor.” Broken parental promises of dance school left me with only one option after Catholic school: to secretly apply to a high school that also offered performing arts in their curriculum. Divine intervention got me into my first-choice school. There, my innate artistic ability began to flourish. Peers and teachers respected my reputation as a dancer, choreographer and actress. I was finally riding the path of my destiny. But I made a U-turn after a green-eyed friend said, “Dancing is not a real career. Besides, dancers are prostitutes.” Those words crushed my spirit and boomeranged me toward a path of self-execution again. All I could hear during my senior year was, “What are you going to study in college?”

As a teenager, on the subway (above) or in the studio (below), Nadhege Ptah was always dancing.

I don’t know, let’s see: I struggle with math. I hate science. Maybe medical school doesn’t look quite right for me … But maybe there’s hope? I’m good at listening and helping people. I can find myself and help individuals to solve their problems. Wait a minute, I know – I want to become a psychologist! Wrong. I didn’t even find myself, but became more confused about who I was, because I thought I fitted every dysfunction in the psychology textbooks. I learned more about Sigmund Freud’s life than my own. I struggled in graduate school because I refused to listen to my spirit’s screams and cravings to perform. I was stale, limp, poisoned by the energetic forces. My soul screamed: Please free me – stop being manipulated by your ego’s needs to attach itself to the desires of others and living to the expectations of everyone other than yourself. Free me! Free me! Free me!

Nadhege Ptah’s college graduation photo.

So, I listened. In December 1997, I took my last exam, completed graduate school and never looked back. I courageously moved forward and began the journey of healing to find my soul’s purpose. I had stopped performing many years ago, so I had to crawl again before I could walk. I had to fight the monsters of the past that interfered with my faith and hope. I stepped out of being a shadow artist and began executing my soul’s passion by performing out of the womb, to my own rhythm, exploring the journey as a dancer, actor, writer, director, and producer.

After I had finally found the courage to walk the path toward my soul’s passion, I began thriving in the world of independent theater, earning recognition for my work. I also became a teaching artist consultant to supplement my living as an artist. I was in a pleasant place. Then a turn of events opened a window of opportunity to move to California and explore film. I was naive about the harsh, false nature of the entertainment industry, about the highs and lows I would encounter as I inched my way upward. Energetically, I operated as an artist, with no interest to see it as a business, but I became depleted and hollow while in California. I cherished the craft over the money. I mourned the culture in New York that liberated my heart and escaped from the industry. After seven months, I returned home, and resumed balancing theater acting with consulting gigs.

Nadhege Ptah in the 2018 short film Paris Blues in Harlem, which she also wrote and directed.

After a few years, I began feeling stagnant, tired of jumping from one production to the next, solely based on my performances and accolades. The truth was, I was afraid of climbing the ladder. I was not confident being alongside commercially successful actors and wanted to avoid the sting of all those rejections that were inevitable before I’d get that big “yes.” I could not risk it; my fear of success was deeply embedded in issues of abandonment. I was too thin-skinned. I liked the humble glow and compliments I got in theater, but my artist’s engine was becoming exhausted. It didn’t pause to ingest life outside of the stage. I had a partner who supported my dreams, but I was living only to be an actor. I had to ask myself, What kind of artist am I becoming? What is my mission as an artist? Is my reality solely the stage? Am I afraid to live life fully, for fear of distractions? The thrill was temporary and not authentically blissful.

Nadhege Ptah with her husband and children.

I turned down the next role I was offered and took a pregnant pause; I got married and had three babies. I sold myself the illusion that balance is achievable as a mother, wife and artist. I was not realistic. Heck, I emerged from the hiatus of my first pregnancy and performed two weeks before my due date. I was determined to fulfill my fantasy of “I can do it all.” I failed miserably as an artist and caved to societal pressures by trying to wear the Supermom cape. And I died a slow self-death, ignoring the silent voice whispering: “What about me?”

I was miserable, bitter, and building lethal levels of toxins — emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. I was on auto-pilot, following the laws made by patriarchal society. But one day, a fire was ignited in me when my son — a toddler at the time — said I was just a mom, but his dad was a professional. I lost it and realized that, through his lens, he saw me breastfeeding his infant sister, running him and the second youngest daughter to and from school, and to extracurricular activities. It was an epiphany which allowed me to shed the cape, mute the criticisms, and reject the unwritten societal laws. It was also an important moment for my daughters to see me as I truly am, unbound by generations of patriarchal restrictions.

Nadhege Ptah in the 2021 Showtime series City on a Hill.

From this moment on, I felt free to explore my other gifts as a writer, director, and producer and stepped into the world of filmmaking to pursue stories in need of manifestation. I discovered that the core of my authentic artistic voice is truth. My personal motto is: I am a creative light in motion. A sage birthing ideas on the page, then expressing them on the global stage.

Nadhege Ptah is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and dancer. Whether it’s a dance choreography, a visual project, or some of her acting work, it’s pertinent for Nadhege to tell compelling stories that depict the human condition to connect with the audience. Her work was acknowledged and praised in her teens by the United Nations. Television audiences might recognize Nadhege from her recent appearances as a recurring co-star on the Showtime television series City on a Hill. She has also starred as the lead in her produced films, and appeared on major networks such as CBS, PBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox, to mention only a few. Nadhege’s performances have the deeper goal of portraying the human experience’s truth and exploring its depth and nuances. With every character study, she is not afraid to go deep and take it to the next level to add a more genuine flair to her roles and creative works.