When did you first get into acting and what compelled you to enter the entertainment industry?
I’m originally from Houston, Texas, and when I was a kid I would do church plays, so that’s where my love for acting all started. It wasn’t until high school that I decided I was moving to Los Angeles. And throughout my time at Chapman University, while I studied theater, I’d ride the train into town, I would stay for the summers and just get a feel for L.A. Getting to the city was always top of mind for me. Of course, it’s a challenging career to go into. So many people move here for this dream, and you go up against so many incredible actors for roles, so I was trying for a long time. I was doing plays in smaller theater groups for years. At some point, my creative partner Dime Davis and I said, “This is hard, and it’s hard to come about opportunities, so what can we do to help ourselves?” It was then we started creating our own projects. She would write and I would produce and star in it.
That led us to do a short film together entitled Sugar, which began to make things move. From there, opportunities were coming in and I started to meet people, and then I booked the character Trina on Insecure. That was so out of the box of any character I played before, but when I booked that more people were like, “Oh, this girl is kinda interesting.” As opposed to all the theater work I’d done before, it was one of the most significant on-screen roles I had had yet. It’s honestly so cool because it’s one of my favorite shows, and Insecure opened up a more prominent portal for conversations and opportunities to come about. And eventually, Justin Simien called and I auditioned for Bad Hair.
What’s interesting about you starring in Insecure and Dear White People and now Justin Simien’s newest film Bad Hair is that they’re all satirical. What role has satire and humor played in your life?
You know, honestly, for me, I love real characters and I love to ground them. And I think in comedy the stakes are higher, and when you authentically play a character I feel that’s when the humor comes in. This idea that this is real, but in an outlandish situation. It’s played a role similar to a drama, which is all about creating the character and being honest with it. And then once those parameters are there, you get to have fun and play.
What intrigued you the most about the script for Bad Hair?
Well, I understand this character. I know what Anna Bludso has been through and I have been through similar versions of this. You know I have my own hair traumas and I have my own stories of wanting something so badly and pursuing a dream and having someone tell you that the way you are isn’t good enough. You have to adjust yourself and conform even to be considered, even though you may have the talent. There are all these rules you’re supposed to abide by, but in the end, the only way to win is to break the rules. And so that journey she goes through in the film is almost like a journal entry for me. I loved it. I’m not necessarily at that place in my life where I feel like I have to conform so much. Still, I knew I could be honest and truthful with her. And I was grateful that Justin had written a role like this and used the experiences so many women have, and then put it in this world and layered and wrapped it in satire and horror and real authentic commentary.
You’ve already spoken to how you see yourself in parts of Anna’s character, but have you ever felt like you’ve had to compromise on your journey? And do you feel like you’re finally getting to a place where you’re like, “No more?”
At the beginning of my career, many people told me what I needed to look like to be an actress, which is so insane because as an actress you’re taking on so many different characters, there’s a metamorphosis that happens. But all of the advice and feedback I was getting from people that had been in the industry for years had to do with changing who I am—chipping away at, tucking in, or hiding parts of myself so that I present in a cookie-cutter form. And I took that advice because they had been in the industry longer and I wanted to be successful, but at some point, I looked up and said, “I don’t even feel like myself.” So I went on a self-journey to figure out who I am, and in that process, I decided to be my whole self as much as possible. I think that’s the first step, and don’t get me wrong, I’m still figuring out, I’m still learning, but when I started to make a decision for myself that I wanted to live for myself as much as I can, that’s when more opportunities came.
Speaking of your self-care journey and your hair journey, do you have one moment you can recall where you decided you would define things on your own terms (albeit your relationship to your hair or your approach to your career)?
I think the first moment was when I decided to cut off my own hair. I decided I wanted to have a relationship with it in a way I never had. I’ve never been natural. I’ve always had chemicals in my hair, gotten weaves, or straightened it. I decided I wanted to start over and try something new and see what happened and I just cut it all off. I think that was a turning point in my life that I didn’t realize would start to bleed into other areas of my life. So yeah, it is a hair journey.
What’s special about this film is it does such a great job of displaying how from a very young age Black women are taught to idolize eurocentric beauty standards. In what ways do you feel this film and your role challenge those standards?
Well, the obvious thing is that there are so many beautiful brown bodies in this film. The casting represents the full diaspora and colors of Blackness—and that’s shown and put before your eyes. The film also speaks to assimilating and how in assimilating we all lose who we are and how we never end up being who we want to be. And in the end, it celebrates the idea that you get to choose how you want to be and look, and that’s beautiful as long as it’s your choice. It celebrates Blackness in a way that doesn’t apologize for Blackness, and it gives a lot of women and men something to be proud of whether it’s individually or culturally.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.