Meet VALLEY’s Fall 2023 Entertainment Section Opener: Liana Simmons

Photo by Taay Jaack and Shana Andrews

“Don’t live in fear because fear keeps you from growing. While growth may be uncomfortable, so is staying where you’ve outgrown,” these are the words Liana Simmons lives by as she continues to strive for greatness not only at Penn State but also in her future career. 

Simmons is a third-year student studying film production with a minor in Chinese, but she didn’t always know that film was the lane for her. Like many students on campus, Liana grew up here in Pennsylvania (but she is a Detroit native at heart.) Throughout her childhood in Pittsburgh, Simmons was one of a few Black girls who grew up in her area. Simmons was a pastor’s kid, the youngest out of her three siblings. While she didn’t pick up the traits of being boisterous, being observant and knowing who you are and your place in this world is exactly what she wanted to be for herself and others around her. 

Before Penn State, Simmons joined the student council and most importantly became one the first Black women drum majors in the marching band at her high school. She saw that more and more Black girls at her school felt encouraged to take on the task and join the team after joining. 

I have a passion for being a positive representation for younger Black girls who may be doubting themselves!

Liana Simmons

The platform she created in high school has propelled her forward into her new home at Penn State. Simmons is a well-rounded student who’s a Bunton-Waller Scholar, videographer for the Movin’ On festival, Penn State Blue Band videography intern, CommAgency Client Executive and a Bellisario Fellow. 

But, inside this world, Simmons still faced the systems of oppression as a Black woman at a PWI. Between misogyny and racism, the #WeAre mentality can only go so far especially if you’re not the “we” they’re looking for. While it was not a shock due to her upbringing, the feeling of becoming the singular one in the room can feel disheartening.

“I didn’t realize how male-dominated this field was until I went to my classes. For my entire three years at Penn State I have been the Black woman in my classes,” Simmons says. This is why her involvement in programs like the Fellows is important, as Simmons is one out of two Black girls inside the cohort, she prides herself on serving the communications program by speaking up for issues affecting students of color on campus.

As a film major, the art of has also helped Simmons in this journey of finding her place in the entertainment industry. Currently, the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes have been fighting for their rights to have stable incomes and careers in the entertainment field.  This forced Simmons and many others inside the collegiate space to turn their attention to Hollywood because these changes would affect them post-grad. 

 When I was younger I saw entertainment as what it was. But now that I am in this space, my perspective on the industry itself has shifted. While it is very toxic, I pay attention to the people who are making changes for students like us stepping foot into the industry!

Liana Simmons

Simmons’s goal to showcase diversity and shift the landscape of the entertainment industry is alive and well. Inside the entertainment industry, her goal is to showcase stories of diverse figures who are making a difference in this world. In her eyes, it’s rewarding knowing that the skills she’s taken away from this campus are only continuing to grow further as she goes through her journey. While she might not know where her career is taking her post-grad, Simmons knows the plan God has for her is truly inside his timing.  

Throughout every season of her life, Liana Simmons has paved the way for little girls who look like her to dream big. While she didn’t know where or what she wanted to go to school for before, after those sleepless nights and early morning brisk walks to Willard, Simmons knows that if she didn’t love her craft, she would’ve transitioned into something else a long time ago. With her family’s support, a community atmosphere she has built on campus, and the love of the art of sharing others’ stories, the world is Liana Simmons’s.  


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