Hidden Figures star Donna Biscoe, a 1973 graduate of Kendrick High School in Columbus, told a group of sixth, seventh and eight-grade girls that now is the time to start thinking about a career during her visit Saturday to the Mildred L. Terry Library.
“Even at your young ages, be ready,” Biscoe said. “Always be ready. Always present yourself in a particular way to your teachers, when you go out in public.”
Biscoe was guest speaker for the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Gamma Tau Omega Chapter’s Head of the CLASS program aimed at giving children life skills for the future, said Jewell Lewis, a member of the sorority and who helped coordinate Biscoe’s visit.
In “Hidden Figures, Biscoe played the role of the mother of one of three women featured in the film about black women mathematicians at NASA during the space race.
Biscoe, 61, talked about how she graduated from Kendrick, went to Clark College in Atlanta and started work as a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines although she had a degree in elementary education.
With her mother Mildred Skillern an English teacher at Carver High School, Biscoe said she had to stay out of trouble. “It did keep me out of trouble and that is where I really started my love of the arts,” she said.
She said middle school is the most challenging time for children. “People are going to try to influence you to do things you don’t want to do to keep you from your goal,” she said. “I challenge you to stay the course. It’s hard. You want to be a member of the team, you want to be cool, you want to be hot, and want to be that person that people continuously talk about. You can do that and stay your course. I promise you, stay out of trouble and it will take you far.”
Biscoe said she received a degree in education because her mother was a teacher. “I did that not knowing I really wanted to teach,” she said. “Now is the time for you to try different things seriously if you think it’s something you might want to do. If your parents want you to do it, I don’t care if it is for two weeks, do it.”
Working as a flight attendant led to Biscoe getting into the arts. She saw a passenger looking at head shots on a flight and mentioned that she always had an interest in doing that some day. After the plane landed in Milwaukee, she said there was a message from a man who wanted to talk to her.
The passenger on the plane asked if she wanted to work in his show. She never worked for him, but Biscoe put together her own glamor shots as soon as she returned to Atlanta. “The very first agent I went to signed me because I was ready,” she said.
She was first sent out on commercials but she wasn’t thinking about acting. She was told to act the part and she did that. That led to her taking acting lessons.
In the film “Hidden Figures,” Biscoe is the mother of Katherine Johnson, portrayed by Taraji P. Henson.
Biscoe urged the young people to take an interest in something and do it everyday. It makes no difference whether its running track, playing tennis or shooting a basketball on the court.
“I got better and better,” she said. “Today, I’m in a movie with Taraji. You never know.”