Alumni Q&A with Roxanne “Roxy” Morris
Roxanne Morris has been described as “a multi-faceted television inspiration.” A 2006 Penn State graduate and former Penn State Altoona student, Roxy is enthusiastically fulfilling separate callings to the ministry and acting profession.
The subject of numerous feature articles in print and electronic media, Roxy has appeared in a variety of reality television programs, including Survivor: Philippines on CBS. She also is pursuing a master’s of divinity degree in Urban Ministry, tending to the spiritual needs of American military personnel as a chaplain in the U.S. Army, and performing volunteer service at local hospitals and social service agencies. Roxy offers presentations at colleges and universities, conferences, churches, schools, and community events across the country.
Roxy graduated from the New York High School of Performing Arts in New York City. She earned bachelor of arts degrees in Theatre and African American studies from Penn State.
Roxy resides in New York City. Her website is www.roxannetelevision.com.
Q: How did your education at Penn State Altoona and University Park prepare you for the opportunities that you have embraced since graduation?
A: I have a diverse education. I accomplished a bachelors of arts in theatre studies and a bachelors of arts in African American studies. I accomplished both in four years, and I was not alone in my journey. I had extremely supportive academic advisors (Charles Dumas and Karen Durst), attention from senior faculty such as Dr. Grace Hampton of the college of Arts and Architecture, and a huge arena to build my network at both campuses among students from all over the United States and the globe. But at the same time, Penn State is a competitive school with superb school spirit. It prepares you for the real world. I can be competitive in the work force but then still maintain great loyalty for my country by training to serve in the Army Reserves as a chaplain.
Q: What was your most enjoyable experience as a competitor on Survivor: Philippines?
A: My most enjoyable time as a competitor was being able to see how other contestants and the fans reacted to me based on my looks before we had a chance to interact very much on camera. No matter how much we all know “looks are deceiving,” we all fall into the trap of prejudging.
Q: You lost 17 pounds in less than a week on Survivor. What is the best way for a competitor to prepare for the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of the contest?
A: I am sure glad I got married after Survivor because I can imagine missing my husband. I would be sad. My advice would be “Get fat and no matter what the votes say, BE CONFIDENT!”
Q: Based on your own experiences, what do you think would surprise television viewers most about the production of reality television?
A: When I was in junior high school, I wanted to be any of the following three things: an actress, a lawyer, or a journalist. At the end of it all, I realized that I just love a good spectacle! This is why Reality TV intrigues me. I love watching it, and I enjoy being a part of it. I’ve got nothing to hide. No one is perfect in my eyes except Christ. I would say a huge part of Reality TV is actually real. For me, there is nothing like a good story and a good storyteller to tell it. I have heard people say, “I can’t believe that person would say that on TV,” and I say, “you only realize the camera is there maybe the first few hours, then it’s Let Go and Let God.” People come alive. There is where you find the story.
Q: When and how did you first realize you had a call to urban ministry?
A: When I decided to go to seminary, I was merely answering a call from God. I remember getting recurring dreams about being late to math class. Math was not one of my best subjects as an undergraduate. Yes, I was one of those people who fulfill my math credit with The History of Math. So in this dream, I am running from North Halls (University Park campus) to my math class, and I am late for it. In the dream, I never seem to get to class. I just kept having the recurring dream that I am running, pushing people out the way, late. After having this dream a number of times and finding this awesome church community after returning home from Penn State, I realized I was having a Samuel (Old Testament) moment. I was being called, and I was behind.
When I got to seminary, I looked at the degree concentrations, and I prayed throughout my first year, asking God what he would have me do, and it made sense. With my love for sociology, missions and theology, Urban Ministry made the most sense.
Q: What message do you seek to impart to your audiences during speaking engagements across the country?
A: Well, in the last few years, gratefully, my speaking engagements have been as far as West Africa (Ghana & Togo). I really seek to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, love people, and do life with them. No one is ever too young, too old, too smart, too ignorant. As a chaplain, I work not only in the Army but also in a hospital in Brooklyn, New York, providing pastoral care to people of all religions, races, ethnicities, etc. Within the context of my job as a chaplain, I am there to not proselytize, but to protect the second amendment, which provides freedom of religion. That may sound weird to some, but the beauty of America is the liberty and it should not be taken for granted. I want others to have that freedom because I would never want someone to take that freedom away from me.
Q: What personal sacrifices have you made to achieve stardom in reality television?
A: When you sign on for any Reality TV project, you know that part of your privacy is going to be taken away. That for me is worth it, in order to reach as many people as this genre of media is able to reach.
Q: What is your favorite reality TV show, and why?
A: Unfortunately, my guilty pleasure is the ladies of the franchise The Real Housewives. Although most people would roll their eyes at the thought of them being worth viewing time, I enjoy them shattering the one-dimensional image of the 1950s housewife. I enjoy watching the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Q: In the future you imagine, what will the public be hearing about Roxanne Morris within the next five years?
Well, I was so busy last year that I got married but never had a ceremony. I plan to have one this year, and hopefully can share that on air with fans and followers. I am almost on my way to graduation from seminary in May 2014, so I do look forward to continuing on to a doctoral program, still waiting to see which university makes me the best offer. At the end of the day, I feel a calling to shake up and contribute to the face of tele-evangelism with Reality TV, hopefully with my own show. I would love to write a book about my spiritual journey, so we’ll see where God takes me. For now, everyone can stay tuned by checking my website: www.roxannetelevision.com, following me on Twitter @roxannedotcom, and doing life with me through YouTube on RoxanneTelevision.
Q: What are one or two of your fondest memories of Penn State Altoona?
A: My fondest memory of Penn State Altoona was being in the play Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet, fall 2002. The play is quite racy and controversial, especially for central Pennsylvania. The play starred four actors, so that was a lot of attention in my first semester of college. And of course, I played the super conservative and prude character Joan.