This is turning out to be a momentous year for model-turned-actress Yaya Alafia, formerly Yaya DaCosta. She’s starring in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and two other films (Big Words and Mother of George), celebrating her one-year wedding anniversary with filmmaker Joshua Alafia, and expecting her first child. For her turn as student activist Carol Hammie in The Butler, Alafia says she didn’t have to reach far into her playbook to imagine the character because both her parents are lifelong activists who were active in the Civil Rights Movement. Alafia chatted with ESSENCE.com about unleashing her inner activist for the role, preparing herself for reenacting sit-ins, and why she wasn’t geeked out about working with the likes of Oprah and Forest Whitaker.
On her role as Carol in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and if she could be that person in real life:
I wouldn’t have been Carol. I wouldn’t have necessarily have made the specific choices she had made but yes, my personal history is very much one of activism. My parents were very active in the Civil Rights Movement. My father was a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worker; my mother was a secretary with the Panthers. I definitely come from that. I grew up going to marches and protests, so that’s just part of how I was raised. Still, it’s hard to say. It was a very different time and people sacrificed not only their comfort, but also at times their lives. So it’s easy to say in 2013, yes I’d be one because it’s just not the same.
On marriage and this being such an exciting time in her personal life:
I’m really grateful for every opportunity that I’ve been afforded thus far in life and I feel like life is amazing. With losses come gains. We had already planned my wedding when my brother passed away in 2012. When you’re grieving you don’t necessarily want to think about something like that, but my brother told me that he wanted me to so we went ahead and did it. It’s very common for new spirits to enter the Earth right after someone has passed in the family and I just feel so blessed to have so much love in my life, to have found my husband and to just continue doing what I love to do.
You can read the rest over on Essence.com. It is awesome to see how Yaya continues to flourish in both her professional and work lives – she was big fan favorite on America’s Next Top Model. Congrats to her and her husband on their baby!