“I’m just a normal, imperfect person who isn’t foolish enough to think I can do what I have a dream to do…but I know GOD can do it through me.”
Tonja is an actor turned producer/director, talent manager with a passion for television and film. She has several television and film credits in supporting and leading roles. Her background as a performer goes back to her early childhood. She did modeling as a teen, studied music and acting, and did numerous stage performances as a singer and actor. Tonja travelled extensively as a rodeo queen in her teen years. She credits that experience as well as the disciplines received from having horses and being around good, hard-working people for her understanding of who she is and her love of public speaking; for developing her love of performing to all types of audiences.
Life drew Tonja away from entertainment for several years. She went through many life experiences that she credits God for doing the inexplainable through that healed her from trauma of hidden abuse and rejection, breaking off repeat patterns that plagued her family for generations.
Tonja proved to be successful in the business world working her way up to an executive level as a regional sales and marketing director in the real estate and building industries and then owning her own businesses. Tonja was also introduced to the incredible leadership of Mary Kay Ash. It was there that she met female mentors and was introduced to leaders like Zig Ziglar. Through this journey, God has built roots of audacious faith and discernment to do what He created her to do. He birthed a passion inside of her that ultimately drew her back into the entertainment and media industries.
Tonja was drawn back into media and entertainment as a result of a surreal dream she says “rocked her world” while pregnant with her daughter in 2004. In this dream, Tonja was taken on a journey through old Hollywood and God showed her that the church had pulled his Light out of the media and entertainment industries years ago. He asked her to be willing to be, among others, a Light through her gifts and talents. Tonja said “yes”, but not immediately. She knew if this was a real dream she just needed to be willing, but not manipulate it to happen. From there, she went through several years that ultimately drew her into her passion and purpose. Through it all, she never lost perspective of that moving dream.
Tonja later realized that the gift of performing was also in her daughter. Ari René is a teen actor, writer, singer and influencer. Tonja is an actor as well as a writer, producer, director, and the founder of EmpoWORD2B, the branding name for EmpoWORD Media & Talent (pronounced M-POW-WORD, because we are empowered through THE Word and words spoken). Through her passion to raise up talent to work at top levels in productions, Tonja moved into talent management.
Tonja is just a normal everyday person who loves people from all walks of life. She has lived her professional life mentoring others, being mentored, and using her gift of marketing, storytelling, and design to connect people. Tonja is training up leaders of excellence in the media and entertainment industries rooted in integrity, boldness, and talent. Her passion is to raise the bar of excellence rather than excuse the lack of excellence; to stay relevant, and to create empowering stories and media content for the culture we live in.
Tonja lived in Los Angeles for nearly six years. She began acting lessons again through top industry coaching in LA. As an actor, Tonja has played many roles in television and film. She has also been involved in ministries such as the Christian Entertainment Guild in LA. Tonja has used her leadership, marketing, and interior design backgrounds in her new endeavors and, yes, even her struggles and success. She has been blessed to work behind the scenes in casting, production, and post-production as well as with writing teams on some amazing projects. She went back to school and finished her degree in Media Arts with a Biblical Worldview & Intercultural Communications in December, 2021.
Tonja has written and produced marketing materials through the years. She is also writing and developing her own projects with an amazing team.
In Tonja’s words, “It’s not been easy, but it has been worth it”. Life has thrown her some trials intended to break her. However, she used those trials to become stronger and more focused.
Her eye for excellence and bringing out the best in others is something that has followed her throughout her professional career. Tonja is gifted to see beauty from a blank canvas in design, stories, and people; to develop them into a beautiful masterpiece.
Tonja is a native Texan who loves America and the values it was founded on. She believes that freedom isn’t one-sided; that Americans don’t have to agree on everything to support others’ rights to freedom. There is a beautiful humanity in that.
Ms. René has three kids of her own, two grown sons and one daughter, and several young adults who call her their “adopted” mom. She is an animal lover who loves horses and currently has two furry children known as “dogs”. Part tomboy and part southern lady, Tonja has a vast array of interests. Her happy place is anything near a lake or the ocean. She also loves things that go fast, archery, most things outdoors (except snakes and spiders), music of most genres, horse events, live or filmed performances, dancing, traveling, and dressing up for a night out on the town. Tonja loves life and people and credits her faith for not just sustaining her, but making her a warrior. It is her passion to empower others, too.