Ten years ago, Notorious, the Notorious B.I.G. biopic, was released. It was a success, but the process of making the film became a headache because rapper Lil Kim wasn’t pleased that she was being portrayed by former 3LW singer and newbie actress Naturi Naughton. She not only claimed that Naughton “never made an initiative to even try to come to me” before going forth with the role, but she also slammed her physical appearance in comparison to her own.
“I wasn’t even able to choose who I wanted to portray me in this movie,” she said years ago. “I would have never picked Naturi, she doesn’t have a Lil Kim aura at all! She looks nothing like I looked back then. We have NO similarities. Watching her on-screen was so ‘dreadful’ as Simon Cowell would say. She is tasteless and talentless.”
Looking back on that time and that drama while appearing on TV One’s Uncensored, Naughton opened up about how disheartened she was by Kim’s feelings about her and the performance, because “I did my absolute best.”
“I decided, if I’m going to do Lil Kim, I’m going to murder it. I’m not going to halfway this character,” she said. “So if she got her titties out, we gon’ have the titties out. If she’s going to spread her legs Queen Bee style, I’m going to have to spread my legs Queen Bee style. On the stage, I learned everything. I embraced the tone, the style, the swag, Brooklyn; I made sure the best way that I could. I wanted to honor her because she was so dope and I grew up loving the Notorious B.I.G. and Junior Mafia. It was legendary. So I just wanted to do it justice and I did my absolute best. I’m very proud of the work I did.”
She also made it clear that stories claiming she never reached out to Kim are false. And the one time she and the rapper were in the same space and she hoped they would be able to talk, things didn’t go well.
“I would never take on the role of a real-life person, that is alive and well, and not try and speak with them and reach out. So for the record, for all those interviews or things people have heard where they said, ‘Oh, Naturi didn’t even try to get in touch with Lil Kim’? Lies. Lies,” she said. “Let’s clear the record. At the time, there was a manager that was managing Kim, I think his name was [Lance] Un [Rivera}. I called, I left multiple voicemails. The director of the film, George Tillman, was like,’We’re going to put you guys together so you guys can ask questions.’ I’m thinking, great!”
“I’ll never forget, I was at the production office in Brooklyn, and Kim comes off the elevator. I happened to be there for rehearsal. Huge, beautiful fur, I was like, ‘Oh my Gosh! The queen is here.’ She walks right by me with her crew, goes into the director’s office. He closes the door. All I hear is ‘What the f–k [inaudible]!” she added. “They’re arguing and yelling. It gets heated and I’m like, ‘I hope this isn’t about me.’ But it was. I guess there was some miscommunication about the casting process, but again, I’m just an actress. I was just hired to do a part. So I was hoping and praying. I reached out via phone and tried that time in person.”
Naughton said the rejection from someone she looked up to so much reminded her of the same rejection and negativity she faced early on in her career.
“Maybe my look had something to do with it,” she said. “Again, it started to replay the memories of 3LW saying you’re not good enough, or because I was darker than she thought the character should have been.”
Despite that, the 34-year-old would love for Kim to know that she still has nothing but love for her and hopes that one day she will know that is the exact reason she wanted to play her in Notorious.
“I just wanted to have her blessing, I really did,” she said. “To this day, I have nothing but love and respect for Lil Kim. She really is to me, what has spawned all the careers of the Nicki Minajs and the Cardi Bs. We should all be looking at Lil Kim and being like, ‘Yo, they just took from that book and did it now.’ No disrespect to those artists, but let’s just keep it all the way uncensored. Y’all know y’all got that from Lil Kim. So please give her her just due. So for me, I have nothing but love and respect. And I hope that she knows that I was honored to play her and I hope one day she can see that and really know that.”