January 21, 2018

Young Author of Guyanese Heritage Featured on American TV Show

Anaya Lee Willabus

At the tender age of eight, Anaya Lee Willabus penned her first book. Now at 10 years old, she is an award-winning author, poet and visionary. Notably, she was recently featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – an American late-night talk show.

Anaya was born and raised in Brooklyn, US, where she resides with her Guyanese parents and two siblings.

Her first book, “The Day Mohan Found His Confidence”, was written after her inaugural trip to her parents’ homeland, Guyana, in April 2014. Anaya’s second book, “A Bully’s Disguise”, was launched on June 24, 2016 at the Brooklyn Borough Hall, US.

In an interview with Sunday Times Magazine, Anaya said she has completed her third book, but because of the editing process and other stages of publishing, it is not out as yet. She hopes to launch it by the “end of the summer in time for the new school year”.

In explaining how she ended up being on The Tonight Show, Anaya said she was featured on Hollywood actress and comedian Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls social media site. Amy heard about Anaya after Anaya published her first book two years ago.

Anaya (far left) on The Tonight Show

“Amy’s initiative was to highlight young girls who are following their dreams and not allowing age or any other factors to stop them! Additionally, Amy started up a non-profit to further promote her idea. She was appearing on The Tonight Show to promote Smart Girls and her new movie, so it all worked out perfect knowing she mentioned me as an inspiration,” Anaya recalled.

Many other celebrities, such as singer Debra Cox; singer Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child; actress Zoe Saldana and others, have featured Anaya’s books on their websites. The young author also had the opportunity to meet singer/actress Zendaya, from The Disney Channel, who also appeared on The Tonight Show – the same night with Anaya.

The Tonight Show segment, “Are You Smarter Than A Smart Girl?” featured Anaya, Amy, Jimmy, his other host, Steve Higgins, and another ‘Smart Girl’, Maya.

Relating her experience on the show, Anaya said: “It was a surreal experience! I had my own dressing room with my name on the door. Also, the dressing room was filled with snacks, drinks and gifts from the host, Jimmy Fallon, and The Tonight Show’s band drummer, Quest Love. My mom, sister and I all received t-shirts, as well. Being on The Tonight Show is an experience of which I will treasure forever. I do know it is one of countless great things to come! I have a few other upcoming shows and campaigns.”

Anaya added that she had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy Fallon. She said he is as “funny as he appears on his show”. She met him on set of the show before it was aired. They chatted and shook hands.

Talking about meeting Amy Poehler, Anaya mentioned that she is honoured that Amy chose her as one of the ‘Smart Girls’.

“There are so many children who are doing great things to make our world better and she selected me. I do not take these opportunities lightly. It is my belief that we all have a purpose and this is another experience to confirm what I do as an author is contagious and not limited to anyone, including celebrities to use as inspiration,” she declared.

Anaya said before the show Amy and her chatted, which was when she told Amy about her parents being Guyanese and about Guyana. Upon watching the show, you will hear Amy mentioning that Anaya is from “South America”.

Apart from writing, Anaya enjoys creating duct tape craft. She said there was a club at her school that offered as a “fun concept” to showcase how creative one can be with something as simple as duct tape. Anaya stated that she wanted to challenge herself “to find out what I can possibly make out of it”. The duct tape bag Anaya made for her mother was featured on The Tonight Show.

Anaya would like to advise fellow youths in Guyana to “stay focused in school and participate in the betterment of their communities”. She said she understands that “it may not be an easy path, but it is so important to the future”.

Additionally, Anaya encouraged youths to participate in local clean-up campaigns and other initiatives that will improve their communities. She pointed out that “when your neighbourhood is clean and safe, it makes for an overall better way of life for everyone”.

“During my two trips to Guyana, I had the opportunity to visit Berbice, Linden and Georgetown. Each gathering of children was special in different ways, but two things I observed that were similar: the desire to be better and eyes filled with hope,” she remembered.

The young author said that her father would always say to her: “There is no substitute for an education.” Hence, she is “determined to continue to work hard in school and otherwise”.

Anaya’s future plans are to continue to do excellent in school, contribute to her community (volunteering, author readings, writing more books/poems, etc.) and improve in her favourite sport, soccer. She also works on “being a better Christian”.

For more information, visit Anaya The Author on Facebook.