Did your interest in acting or singing come first or at the same time? If they came at different times, did one open a door to the other? Give us a little insight into this.
I guess I have always loved music, dancing, and performing. I know my mom told me I would always dance when I was young. I guess it’s always been a part of me. [My mom] put me in dance class, singing lessons, and things like that.
Between Empire and creating singles on your own, what kinds of things do you to keep your voice in top shape?
I do a lot of warm ups. I perform a lot so I try to work out as much as I can. I dance and sing so that’s its own task in itself. I try to stay in shape as best I can.
Your song, “Driving Me,” has a very upbeat and carefree vibe about it. Are you planning to stay with this direction or do you plan to experiment a little bit?
I feel like “Driving Me” is an emotion. I don’t think it’s my full potential. I think it is just a small sliver of just a feeling. There’s definitely going to be lots of elements in my project coming out soon. All of it are emotions we all go through, whether we are having fun or sad over a relationship issue.
What’s it like being in a show and not only acting but also singing?
It really does take a toll. I didn’t realize it until other actors on the show say, “You guys do so much more than us.” We are there and present for acting, but then we are also present for rehearsals the other half of the week for 10+ hours to rehearse to do a scene. It can get pretty crazy. I know I’m more chill than I have been for the past three seasons. Those dance moments can get brutal.
What are your future plans concerning your music? Any full-length albums in the works?
I have a whole album I am putting together that I have been working on for the past year. I was with Columbia formally, but I got dropped from Columbia. I have been trying to put out music is my point. I have tons of music, and I am really excited and fortunate enough to have a team to support me and believe in me. I’m just ready to go. I’ve been waiting so long, I’m about to burst.
Switching over to your acting career, do you ever plan to branch out to movies or other show genres?
Oh my god, yes. I’m going to do a movie with producer, Riza. That’ll be a really dope movie. I’m shooting that around November. It’ll be out around 2018. Definitely movies for me because I have a lot of music coming up. I think after Empire I’ll be doing a lot of music, touring, and movies.
Who are some actors or artists you would like to work with in the future?
I would love to work with Halle Berry, she is my idol. I love Meryl Streep. I really want to work with Missy Elliot. I would love to collab with a lot of my peers, some of the rappers out now. Someone cool like Bryson Tiller. I’m looking forward to opening that next chapter.
What songs are you constantly listening to lately?
Right now, Musiq Soulchild’s new album. I love him. I really love GoldLink. I really love Gucci Mane and Migos.
Where did your ideas for the “Driving Me” music video come from?
For me, it was such a fun song I wanted to do something different. I’ve always wanted to do a video in-studio, and I like being able to be creative with graphics and stuff like that. With this song, I found the perfect opportunity to do kind of that and reflect the 90s and things I saw growing up.
Obviously, our country is in an odd place right now. What’s it like being a strong woman of color in the entertainment industry?
More than ever, at my age, I feel like there’s a big responsibility to be true and honest to who I am and who I represent. And that is other young girls who look like me and girls in general. I feel like I am always going to be there for what’s right and have a voice for what’s right. If I don’t, I feel like I am just as sad as people making negative connotations on this country. I feel like it’s important for me to have a platform and do something with it.
Who are some other women you look up to?
I have always looked up to my mom a lot. I look up to women like Tracee Ellis Ross. You know, people that are aware of what’s going on, have a voice, and don’t hold their tongue. Including my mom. Those people have a big opinion, and that’s great right now. We have a president who has lots of opinions so I feel like everyone should have the freedom to speak their mind.
What are some things you want young girls to know?
In general, I feel like right now it is important to have self-reflection. It’s always something they go through whether now or through social media. I just feel like it’s so much more self-conscious. It’s important to know yourself, and if you are going to do certain things, make sure to do it for you and not because you feel like you need to fit in or you’re not happy with yourself. Love yourself first.
Love yourself first.
How do you balance everything you do in your career? And where do you find the energy to do it all?
I find that a daily struggle. I try to do yoga, and working out helps a lot. Hanging out with family and spending time at home with family tends to reset my mind and keep me from work.
What are some things you do outside of the entertainment world when you need a break?
I sound so old. I like collecting things. I collect records. I go to record stores and go through time. I am really obsessed with time. I think that’s something no one knows. Whenever I watch a movie, I have to know when it’s made and who is in it. That’s my thing. And just simple things like going to the movies, going shopping, getting my nails done, or getting a massage.
I do admit I totally scrolled through your Instagram quite a bit. It’s amazing! How would you describe your personal fashion style?
I would say it is kind of nostalgic. Whether it’s something like 90s grunge or tomboy chick vibe. I like to be cute but also super comfortable. If I can fit both of those in an outfit, I’ll do both.
Not too long ago, you did a body confidence post with Seventeen. What’s your journey been like with self-love?
We all have our images of ourselves and things we don’t like. I really liked that day (self-love day) because we took a day to acknowledge that no one looks perfect. It was cool to take a second and appreciate real bodies and that it’s all okay and that’s what women look like. Whether you’re really skinny or you’re thicker, that’s how God made you. It’s all acceptable. I loved how some girls posted wearing no makeup. Taking time to appreciate real bodies is important. It’s needed.
Why do you think it is important for everyone to love themselves?
It’s all a self-reflection thing. I feel like if you love yourself, you can love someone else. If you don’t, I don’t feel like it can be reciprocated. There’s a lot of people not accepting themselves, and that turns into externally putting that same energy back out. I feel like once we begin to love ourselves, we can have that compassion and room to love others.
What are some things you do for yourself when you’re feeling down?
I stay off social media. I just take a day to be with myself and take my mind off all that because it doesn’t matter. What goes on in your head half the time is just a self-thing. Every day, for me, it is just being myself and being okay with who I am.
What’s one thing you wish you could have told yourself 5 years ago?
I would have said, “It’s possible.” Growing up, we moved around a lot and struggled a lot. I always felt very like I didn’t have anything and insecure. I would tell myself it’s possible because it really is. Once you open your mind and stop focusing on what you don’t have and start being grateful, opportunities start opening. Again, it’s a self-thing. It’s the energy you radiate. What you put out is what you get back. I’m a believer in that.
PHOTOS DERRICK FRESKE
HAIR TAI PHILLIPS
MAKEUP PAUL BLANCH at OPUS BEAUTY using HOURGLASS COSMETICS
STYLIST ANNA SCHILLING
CREATIVE DIRECTION ANNA ZHANG
WORDS ELIZABETH STAFFORD
Read more in Volume III, Issue No. 001 – Winter 2018.Like this