This week we chatted with Teni Panosian, an actress and writer based out of Los Angeles. In the latest installment of our interview series, Teni discusses working with Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg in the recent film, Mac & Devin Go to High School, her stint as a vampire in a music video for The Wanted, and her favorite vegetarian restaurants around town.
Twenty Two: Let’s start with the basics. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Teni: …Where to start?! Well, I was raised in a suburb of Los Angeles called Glendale. I was a very artsy kid, always drawing, painting, or making my own clothes and jewelry. I also got into dance, making my way through the drill team to my high school pom squad, and eventually to the Song Girls at USC. (Fight On!) That’s where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communication, as well as a Master’s degree in Communication Management. I’m a Trojan, through and through.
Twenty Two: Have you always been interested in acting and writing?
Teni: I was quite the little writer as a kid. I just went through storage a few months ago and discovered a bunch of my K-12 artwork and essays. It was cool to see that the seeds of what I’m doing now were planted long ago. As for acting, I was always a performer, but I stuck primarily to dance because it was something I could do alongside academics. I really didn’t have the courage to admit my desire for acting until my early 20’s. It was something I struggled with for years, but part of me was afraid to take that leap. Three years later, I couldn’t be happier that I went for it. So the answer is yes, I was always interested!
Twenty Two: Can you describe the experience of playing Wiz Khalifa’s girlfriend Ashley in the upcoming film, Mac & Devin Go to High School, featuring Snoop Dogg, Mike Epps, and Andy Milonakis?
Teni: It was one of a kind, I’ll tell you that! Everyone involved was great to work with, especially Wiz Khalifa. He couldn’t be more nice and down to earth. And Snoop was quite the comedian, so there was never a dull moment!
Twenty Two: What was it like playing a vampire in The Wanted’s music video for “Chasing the Sun”?
Teni: The vampire part of it was more difficult than I expected. Keeping those fangs on was quite a challenge. But I was very happy with how the video turned out… Kissing cute British boys is my idea of a great day at work!
Twenty Two: Which projects are you most proud of?
Teni: Truthfully, I’m most proud of the YouTube videos I’ve created for MissMaven.com. I shoot and edit those myself, and it’s not easy. But I like to challenge myself, and with each video I learn and implement something new. I’d love to venture out and shoot/edit something that’s not a tutorial. I did this briefly when I made a moving lookbook for my friend’s online clothing store, and I was really pleased with what I came up with so I’d love to do more of that. I just got a new lens last week… Can’t wait to shoot with it.
Twenty Two: Is there a particular role you’d like to play or actor you’d like to work with?
Teni: My dream role would be a character like Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. Katee Sackhoff nailed the crap out of that role — I fell more and more in love with her character as the series went on.
Twenty Two: What inspired you to start your beauty and fashion blog, Miss Maven?
Teni: A few things: One being that I had friends calling me pretty regularly saying things like, “Okay, so I’m at Sephora… Which bronzer should I get?!” I became the go-to girl for makeup and skincare advice because I’m that weird consumer who does a ton of research on everything. I might as well have a license by now! On top of that, I’d always wanted to write. So I figured what better platform to write as much as I want, about whatever I want, than my own site? I taught myself how to create and customize websites and started building the blog. The type A side of me likes to have control over everything, so everything you see on MissMaven.com I’ve done myself.
Twenty Two: You describe yourself as an animal advocate. What kind of work have you done in this area?
Teni: I first started connecting with rescue groups in southern California through Facebook. They’ve got a great system where they use Facebook’s photo albums to put up pictures of shelter animals, along with their information, and people use the comments to communicate with each other about the status of each animal. It’s such a great tool because simply sharing a photo on your wall can expose an animal who needs a home to hundreds of people… A lot of lives have been saved this way.
Outside of helping to network these animals, I’ve done my share of fostering. Fostering is a unique experience because you grow attached to the animal — as the animal does to you — and when you find them a good home, it’s the hardest thing in the world to let them go. You know you’re doing the right thing and you’re giving them a chance at a great life, but that doesn’t make you miss them any less! Nonetheless, it’s more rewarding than I could explain. It brings people together, too: I sent one of my fosters to Halifax, Canada, and the lovely woman who is now his proud mama sent me a package with photos of him, a little chihuahua necklace, and a letter telling me how happy he is with his new brothers and sister. She is now family, you know? We’re connected because of one little curly-tailed chihuahua named Simon!
But as much as we do our part in helping save animals’ lives, my goal is to get to the root of the problem and get animals to a place where they don’t need saving anymore. Oftentimes people forget how powerful a tool awareness is: People won’t change overnight, we are very much rooted in our routine and our beliefs. But simply educating people about the plight of our animals is a huge advantage. I’ve had several people contact me over Facebook saying things like, “Hey, I’ve seen your posts about animals. I’d really like to help. What can I do?” And these people actually follow through and become advocates themselves! Over time, kindness and respect for animals won’t be this inconvenient concept anymore. NKLA (No-Kill LA) is a great organization that’s doing tremendous work to help cease shelter killing in LA County, which is among the highest in the US. So, lots of support to them. And on that note… spay and neuter your pets!
Twenty Two: As a vegetarian, what are some of your favorite vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Los Angeles?
Teni: Of course, Veggie Grill is one of my favorites! Sage Vegan Bistro in Echo Park is another favorite, as well as Gratitude and Native Foods, but Native is a bit of a drive for me. I just discovered a new spot the other day… I was at a wardrobe fitting down in Culver City and happened to drive by a place called LA Vegan. It’s a vegan Thai restaurant. I got myself one of their “shrimp” curry bowls, and it was heavenly!
Twenty Two: How has living in Los Angeles influenced your work?
Teni: Considering LA has been my home since I was five, much of what people would find extraordinary is pretty commonplace at this point. And that, I think, makes the influence even stronger. Pretty much every move I make is laced with some type of Los Angeles flavor.
Twenty Two: When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
Teni: Mostly hanging out with my dogs. Nightlife makes me nervous, so I don’t go out much. I paint and read a lot, too.
Twenty Two: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Teni: All I can say is consistency. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know who I will be and what I will believe in, and that’s exactly who I am at this moment.
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