Making Big Names
These stars got their starts at Oakland School for the Arts.
Photo CC Tore Saetre
Since Oakland School for the Arts opened in 2002, many of its alumni have gone on to find commercial success and stardom. Here are a few that have reached a national — and even international — following.
The 24-year-old singer/songwriter/dancer has had a star run, appearing on America’s Got Talent with the group PopLyfe, later opening as a soloist for Demi Lovato and Halsey, and being featured on Cardi B’s “Ring.” Since then, she’s headlined on her own tours, You Should Be Here in 2015 and SweetSexySavage in 2017.
She’s had a tumultuous life, experiencing homelessness, a suicide attempt, and gossip on social media, but rises strong with six nominations for Grammy, BET, and American Music awards. Gorgeously adorned with roughly two-dozen tattoos and an abundant mane of curly, dark hair, Kehlani always demonstrates strong, confident showmanship. In February, her latest mixtape While We Wait released, replete with pop-up shops in six cities, including Oakland as well as London, Tokyo, Sydney, and others: truly an international star. She was listed in Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30” feature in 2016.
Kehlani attended OSA for sixth through 11th grades, transferring out to Berkeley High. Her video for “Butterfly” featured two OSA student dancers, Munir and Mosa Omar, who choreographed their beautiful, moody dance in a single night. In 2017, in concert at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Kehlani invited the OSA choir on stage to sing with her. In a 2015 radio spot, an interviewer asked her to confirm she was from “the Bay Area,” and she firmly responded, “Oakland.” Woot!
This 28-year-old actor achieved one of the highest awards in his field: a Tony for best supporting actor in a musical, for The Band’s Visit. His television credits include Jessica Jones and Blue Bloods. As well as his time at OSA, Stachel graduated from NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts. Slender with a penetrating gaze, Stachel struggled with claiming his Middle Eastern heritage in the years following the 9/11 attacks, saying in his tear-filled Tony speech, “I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they would be able to portray their own races, and we are doing that. … I want any kid who is watching to know that your biggest obstacle may turn into your purpose.” (photo courtesy Ari'el Stachel)
The 22-year-old actor/singer got an early break portraying Rocky Blue on the Disney Channel’s Shake It Up. She was a contestant on Dancing With the Stars, a producer and star on K.C. Undercover, and the lead on HBO’s Euphoria. She’s appeared in several movies, including The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider Man: Far From Home. In the song world, she has hit #40 on Billboard’s Top 100 with the single, “Replay,” #51 with her album Zendaya, and even hit platinum internationally with the single “Rewrite the Stars” from The Greatest Showman soundtrack.
Years ago, you may have seen her on stage at Orinda’s Shakespeare Theater. She’s won 10 Teen Choice awards, and her credits are too many to list, but two that bear particular interest was her guest judgeship on Project Runway and Mattel’s making of a Zendaya Barbie. The Barbie doll depicts her as she appeared on Oscar night in 2015 with long dreadlocks and a white gown and for a time was sold via Target.
Her charming website offers videos of Story Time with her mom and her nieces, makeup tutorials, and even a feature on The Book I Can’t Put Down (she is a huge Harry Potter fan, she told InStyle magazine). Watch for her in next year’s Dune movie. (photo CC Toglenn)
The 23-year-old actor began modeling for Macy’s and Nordstrom at age 5 and joined OSA in middle school. Her IMDB profile talks about her directing and performing in many productions there. Since then, she has achieved a résumé with many roles, from appearing in The Emoji Movie, Nickelodeon’s The Thundermans, CW’s The 100, Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Hulu’s Freakish, and Disney’s K.C. Undercover along with fellow OSA student Zendaya, among many others. It’s sweet to see the OSA students supporting each other; Zendaya and Tati follow each other on Twitter. (photo courtesy Riverdale Wiki)
This 20-year-old singer is now based in South Korea. She was a K-Pop star (a reality series to find pop stars) and released Kriesha Chu 1st Single Album in 2017 and the EP Dream of Paradise in 2018. She speaks four languages and got her start in OSA’s chamber choir, memorialized now in two YouTube videos of the choir singing at public performances in 2014 — a fun look at the singer before her international stardom. (photo by Julie Anderson)
This 25-year-old actor’s first appearance was in HBO’s Euphoria — perhaps as a hand-up from fellow OSA student Zendaya, who plays his love interest in the show? GQ Magazine, however, said he was just walking down a Manhattan street when a casting representative asked him to come in for a read. As of this writing, he doesn’t yet have a Wikipedia page, and his IMDB listing only mentions Euphoria ... but just wait.