One of the reasons I started this blog was to reflect on the stories that inspire me — and share them with the world. I’m constantly amazed by our people and our fans, and I’m so proud that our Taco Bell Foundation supports many of them with millions of dollars in scholarships. About this time each year, my colleagues get so excited to share the stories of our passionate Live Más Scholarship winners and their incredible pursuits. While these scholarships are meant to break down education barriers and uplift the next generation of leaders, we often find them uplifting us in return. I know it’s the season of awards shows and celebrities, so I’m excited to roll out the red carpet for three rising stars who are enacting social change with their powerful filmmaking skills. Please join me in welcoming these Live Más Scholars into the spotlight; it’s so well deserved and you’ll see why.
Nicole L. Thompson
Two-time scholarship recipient Nicole L. Thompson, from Newark, NJ, graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2019 with a master’s degree focused on directing. She fell in love with filmmaking at 13 years old, but her creative processes did not develop overnight; it took time, dedication, and lots of education, but it’s all she’s ever wanted. And wow, payoff has been outstanding.
In school, Nicole created Blackbird, an award-winning thesis film that she wrote, directed, and produced. The story follows a young woman working at an airline cleaning planes, on a journey to defy the odds and chase her dream of becoming a pilot. The film is currently streaming on a major platform and earning acclaim on the film festival circuit. What’s even cooler is that Nicole was able to connect with fellow Live Más Scholars for guidance in accurately portraying aviation industry roles. In her words, “the dream can only be accomplished as a team,” which is a philosophy close to my heart.
Growing up, Nicole noted that it was a struggle for her to imagine ever stepping foot in Hollywood. But she has this mindset that I can’t get enough of: Don’t let the world decide the fate of your passion. She said, “we have an innate power that’s burning inside of us, but too many people let theirs burn out.” And that’s why she hopes to inspire more people to chase their dreams and to open the door to the next generation of creatives.
The awe I have doesn’t stop there. Nicole is dedicated to her craft and creates her art with intention, hoping that all people can see themselves in her films. She lives by the motto “with a dollar and a dream, you can move mountains,” and her dream is taking off. She recently directed a magical animation called Between the Pages; she has written three feature-length scripts; and she’s planning to direct a feature film, To Vegas with Love, this year. One day, she hopes to launch her own production company. Talk about restless creativity.
Michelle Do is a screenwriter, actress, and director who is also a two-time scholarship recipient. She admitted that she has no back-up plan to her passion, and she doesn’t need one. Remember her, because she’ll soon be on a screen near you.
Sure, business can be tough, but filmmaking is a whole other world of difficulty to break into. So I was thrilled to hear that Taco Bell Foundation friends helped connect Michelle with peers who rooted for her with unwavering support. Those fellow Scholars, in the arts and beyond, provided encouragement solidifying that she belonged and indeed has a voice in film. And she’s now using that voice to amplify those who have not yet been heard.
Michelle grew up without seeing people like herself on the big screen as a first-generation Vietnamese American. After experiencing the trauma of a sexual assault, she had trouble finding her struggles conveyed in a way that was genuinely relatable. So now, she is dedicated to conveying accurate representation in her work, creating authentic and inclusive art that makes people feel seen, heard, and understood. A recent example of that work is her short film We, Them, which showcases and uplifts the LGBTQ+ community and is currently earning film festival accolades.
What is she doing today? More like what isn’t she doing. While screenwriting for a studio producing inspirational content, she’s also found the time to get signed with an acting agency, get cast in a speaking role on a major content platform, produce her web series Sasha Reclaimed, write a poetry book inspired by the rise in racist attacks on people within the Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and collaborate with her boyfriend (who happens to be a talented cinematographer). Fast-paced, restless, and endlessly creative.
Two-time Live Más Scholar Nash Consing is another young person with a deep passion for filmmaking. Inspired by his late cousin, he found inspiration from adventure books and social media platforms alike throughout childhood. He even had a poetry Instagram profile at age 15 that amassed over 12,000 followers. Navigating both worlds of technology and reality, Nash quickly came to rely on the power of prose as a way to process and approach various life moments and transitions.
Growing up as a first-generation American of Filipino immigrants, Nash was often the only Asian American in his North Carolina classrooms. Facing stereotypes assigned by classmates, Nash promised to live his authentic truth through vulnerability and creativity. That promise has shone through his artistic endeavors as he moved beyond poetry and into photography and videography. Inspired by a prior Live Más Scholarship winner, Nash ultimately became a Scholar himself, using the funds to invest in equipment that he has since used to make award-winning videos.
Most recently, he created a documentary about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on job prospects from the perspective of recent graduates. A self-reflection piece chronicling his own struggles as a near-graduate, it has earned journalism awards and White House recognition. But he hasn’t stopped there. He’s working on a new documentary about the Hmong community in his hometown of Hickory, North Carolina, paying homage to his community while reflecting on his perceptions of identity.