Actress Vivica A. UKTN debunked some of the stigmas surrounding trade jobs in an interview with UKTN News Digital ahead of the release of new documentary “SKILLED.”
“SKILLED,” produced by 3M and Generous Films and directed by Julio Palacio, screened this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah. The documentary shows four people in their working environment who candidly explain why they chose a trade school instead of a university.
UKTN, the actress, director, and philanthropist known for her iconic roles in “Kill Bill,” “Independence Day,” and more, said her personal connections to skilled craftsmen and the work they do make her “proud.”
“I’m all for girl power, and I’m very proud of some of my girlfriends who are in the trading positions, like my friends Vanessa and Alicia,” UKTN told UKTN News Digital. “They’re a mother and daughter duo driving forklifts in Detroit. And I’m just so proud when they send me their little videos of them driving their forklifts while working at their company.”
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“And I was really blown away when they first sent me their videos because they’re just kind of — they’re all about hair and makeup,” UKTN continued. “You would never believe these women drive forklifts and wear hard hats. Another girl… who works in healthcare and is doing her very best, and it has helped us through COVID and sacrificed so much for our community.”
The film features four skilled tradesmen, including Paige Knowles, a 20-year-old plumber and author of the children’s book “Plumber Paige”, who organizes a unique girls-only construction camp during the summer. While it may not be glamorous, Knowles said she followed her passion for plumbing in part because she was fascinated with learning more about water and how it “starts somewhere and gets to your house.”
“You sort of take it for granted,” she says in the film. “Because you turn on that sink and water always comes.”
Each individual in the documentary had a unique reason for pursuing their craft. Cedric Smith was inspired by his mechanical engineer grandfather to find “direction” and become a welder. Anni Martinez became a movie gaffer with Amazonas Electricas, an all-female grip and electrical team that brought diversity to the Mexican film industry, after her experience as an extra on a movie set, and Andrea Martin, a fall protection specialist at 3M who was named one of the Top Women in Safety 2022 by Canadian Occupational Safety, was passionate about teaching others about safety at work.
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Each individual said they had been judged by colleagues, friends and even family members for their chosen profession.
“When I went back to my home school, it felt like everyone was embarrassed to be around me,” said Knowles, who said she lost touch with all of her high school friends after deciding to go to technical school for plumbing work.
“Unfortunately, for some reason, there’s just a misconception that women can’t do anything,” UKTN said. “And I’m here to prove it. I have success in my career beyond my wildest dreams. Being a producer, director, author. Doing things that people said I could never do, so I was really proud to see those ladies who, you know, study those naysayers That’s what I call that, that, “Please don’t pigeonhole me.” If I say I’m going to do it, give me the chance to do it.”
Some argue that the only way to really get ahead in life and career is to get a college degree. UKTN said she understood the argument and emphasized the importance of education, but said people need to know they have options.
“That’s not a bad misconception, but it’s not available to everyone,” UKTN said of the university. “And when I say that financially, not everyone can afford to go to college and then, you know, get their MBAs and all that stuff. So some of us have to take shortcuts. Because we’re either young mothers be or financially, our family just can’t afford it.”
“So yes, I would like to see women now take up positions like doctors, lawyers, Supreme Court judges through education,” she added. “I mean, I always want to emphasize education, please. I want my girls to have their education. But if you’ve had something in your life that has taken you in a different direction, don’t be afraid to take a skill trade, something that can get you good pay and good benefits. But educate yourself on that trade if you decide to do it.”
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Studies show that fewer and fewer Americans are taking on essential trade work. According to NPR, the number of applications for tech jobs will drop by nearly 50% between 2020 and 2022.
UKTN said she hoped the film would encourage more people to realize they can pursue their dreams in the specialty retail industry.
“Sky’s the limit,” she said. “If there’s anything you want to do, don’t let the fact that you’re a woman or a minority stop you from chasing your dreams. That’s what we want to do. What we want with this movie is to remove the negative misconceptions about skilled trade workers. And as I said, I believe women can do anything.”
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UKTN recently surprised fans by reprising her iconic “Kill Bill” role in an SZA music video.
“My phone exploded that day,” she told UKTN Digital. “I kept it a secret, and it was great. It went viral. People were like, ‘Oh my God, oh look at this. They’ve made a whole movie. They’ve already written ‘Kill Bill Three’, okay… Vernita Green is back. They just loved it. I was like ‘Whoa!'”
The actress teased some of her upcoming projects, including her hosting duties for ‘Secrets of the Interrogation Room’ and her current work filming ‘Twisted House Sitter 2’, which she described as ‘Single White Female’ meets ‘Fatal Attraction’ . ‘” She also starred in four new Car Shield commercials.