Phyllis St. James, Bio
“…to express love and light through song and story…”
Act I - Born (Phyllis Yvonne Williams) in Oakland, California’s inner city, Phyllis discovered the best free entertainment her parents offered was the Public Library where books and music boosted her imagination. Then movies thrust her into the fantastic world of stories and songs from which she has never returned. Her early academic activities brought her 1st place in a citywide essay competition and the role of middle school valedictorian. Leadership roles in student government gave her recognition at Oakland Technical High School. Singing in a gospel group helped pay tuition at California State University, Hayward, where she fell in love with classical music and literature. A professor of History of Western Culture recognized her writing ability and encouraged her to major in English under his tutorship. Instead, she transferred to University of California, Berkeley where she acquired a B.A. degree in Dramatic Art, mentored by the esteemed Dr. Travis Bogard.
Lena Horne once said, “Go out and getcha some life!” So Phyllis took off to ‘get some life.’ First stop was Haiti as a volunteer during President Duvalier’s (‘Papa Doc’) brutal dictatorship. Leper camps and abandoned children pierced her heart and provoked her to write. Bob Hope’s USO sent the group to Vietnam during the last stages of the war to sing gospel music for US troops. World Vision took her to the Philippines right before Marshall Law was declared, and then to Cambodia, where she escaped only days before the Khmer Rouge overran the country. Deciding to play it safer, she accepted roles as actor and crew with a San Francisco Shakespearean company and toured college campus and outdoor venues in the U.S. From there Phyllis took the highway to L.A. to work in entertainment and ‘live some life’ in Hollywood.
Act II - Under the professional name of Phyllis St James she wrote chart songs for various recording artists and spun stories while using her natural abilities as a studio singer/contractor. While working as an actor she attended classes at Hollywood Scriptwriting Institute, and American Film Institute. With Andrae Crouch she toured the US, recorded several Grammy award-winning albums, and performed with ‘gospel legends’ in the first Gospel Festival at Solomon's Pool in Jerusalem. As a background singer she toured parts of the world (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, British Isles, Israel, and most of Europe) with Boz Scaggs, Leo Sayer, Olivia Newton-John, Helen Reddy, Celine Dion, Eichiki Yazawa, Don Henley, and the Bee Gees.
Under contract to Famous Music Publishing for Viacom and Paramount Pictures she wrote her first album, recorded and distributed by Motown Records, Another composition “So Primitive,” recorded by the exiled South African artist Letta Mbulu, was released in England and Africa. Phyllis performed the South African national anthem in a celebrity choir celebrating Nelson Mandelas release from prison, she greeted and shook hands with him, the future president of that nation.
A name change to Eyvonne Williams created her identity for behind the scenes, but did not change her desire to inspire. She won a songwriting competition involving “Heal L.A. through Music.” Initiated by the L.A. riots she produced a music-docu-video of her original song, "Heal the Land", with 200 of Los Angeles’ top studio singers. In the course of recording ten independent CDs, she has appeared on numerous television shows as an actor and singer; has sung on scores for films, television, and commercials with a substantial discography of albums, CDs, and soundtracks to her credit.
Eyvonne was nominated for best supporting actress by the NAACP Theater Awards in “Achieving the Dream,” starring the eldest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the late Yolanda King.
Act III - After several years in the industry, Eyvonne returned to academic life at California State University, Northridge to earn a Masters degree in Screenwriting. As a blossoming writer, she received the Abraham L. Polonsky Graduate Critical Writing Scholarship while earning her masters degree in Screenwriting. A Semi-Finalist in Screenwriting Competitions, an author and screenwriter, Phyllis St. James has come full circle in her name and in her passion to continually share her Voice with the worldwide community of fans and friends.