Chalaya Miller: Poise and Self-Assurance

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Chalaya Miller, UW Tacoma first-year student, already has a life of hard work and hard-knocks behind her.

UW Tacoma first-year student Chalaya Miller in 2015. Photo by Cody Char.FIRST-YEAR STUDENT

The aura of poise and self-assurance surrounding Chalaya Miller is hard-won and authentic.

Hard-won because she’s had more than her share of challenges in her life so far. Authentic because, through it all, and thanks to the support of those dear to her, she has her eye on a goal and the route to get there.

She was born in Seattle, but spent many of her early years in Las Vegas. Her parents separated and her father moved away when she was in 8th grade. Then her mother got very ill and tragically died in 2013, when Chalaya was 16. Chalaya’s aunt took on the task of raising her and her three sisters and baby brother in Renton, Wash.

When they were just kids, she and her sisters discovered their talent for connecting to an audience through the eye of a camera. They loved making home videos and sharing them with friends and family. As their talent grew, they starting getting modeling gigs and auditions. Chalaya was turning into a pro, having her first professional jobs at age 10.

It was the school of hard knocks. Unscrupulous agents didn’t come through with promised jobs or failed to pay Chalaya or her sisters the money they’d earned. Modeling and acting are careers where, it seems, it takes money to make money. Without her rightful earnings, Chalaya had to pass up many opportunities that were tantalizingly just out of reach. Her family simply couldn’t afford the expenses for costumes or travel or sundry other pay-to-play aspects of the career.

When she moved to Renton with her aunt, her focus pivoted. Her aunt, who works at UW’s Seattle campus, reignited in Chalaya a childhood dream of college. She got a summer internship in culinary arts at Renton Technical College.

The momentum from that experience in the RTC kitchen, baking and making pastries, has swept Chalaya here to UW Tacoma, where she hopes to major in business.

Her dream now is to become a retail entrepreneur in the restaurant business. She wants to share her love of soul food and southern-style cooking with others, mining a seemingly-inexhaustible supply of family recipes collected by her mother, who loved cooking.

Here’s hoping her dream comes true and we all get to enjoy those recipes!

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Written by: 
John Burkhardt / October 2, 2015
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or