While the effects vary for everyone, there isn’t one person whose life hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic. For actress La La Anthony and her family, her son has been going to school remotely, filming for some of her projects has had to come to a halt, and she admittedly has her days where the usually bubbly and smiling starlet doesn’t feel so good and optimistic about things. She gives herself permission to feel that, and says others should too.
“You have to understand there are going to be days where you don’t feel okay and allowing yourself to have those kind of days I think is important,” she told me over Zoom chat. “Trying not to just keep it all together all the time. It’s not realistic in what’s happening around us. This is not normal, yet it’s become our new norm. It’s an interesting time.”
What has kept the multihyphenate in good spirits most of the time has been her faith, but also, staying connected to loved ones.
“Realizing what is important, which to me is my family and my friends,” she said of what has helped her through these crazy times. “You start to realize that the things you stress over, the most important things really aren’t stressful when you get back to the core. It’s about relationships and staying connected with family and friends.”
Anthony has kept in contact with loved ones, celebrating with them through virtual festivities, including a ’70s-themed birthday party and a wedding that took place on a stoop in Brooklyn. She’s hoping to help others stay as connected as she has been with help through her partnership with SIMPLE Mobile. She’s working with the mobile company to get the word out about their Friendsgiving themed program, which offers their Truly Unlimited wireless plan for $50. It’s currently available at Target. As part of her partnership with SIMPLE Mobile, Anthony will be crashing the virtual Friendsgiving of a fan.
“It brings us back to what is important, which is checking in on family and friends and finding cool ways to feel like you’re there even if you can’t be there,” she said of what inspired her to collaborate with SIMPLE Mobile. While she won’t be able to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday in person with friends, she too will be enjoying yet another virtual get-together.
“I’m going to host my first ever virtual Friendsgiving this year, which will be interesting,” she said, encouraging others to play it safe this holiday while still having a great time. “We’re going to make it cool. If you get creative, it can be really, really cool.”
Despite the way things have changed because of the pandemic though, Anthony still has a lot on her plate to look forward to. She has an upcoming project in the works with Issa Rae that’s in the “beginning stages,” another about Cyntoia Brown’s life that she’s producing with friend Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. She’s also set to begin shooting Season 4 of Showtime’s The Chi and has a new Facebook series called La La Anthony: Reclaim Your Life helping everyday women transform their circumstances, and themselves. Episode one is available now and she hopes to shoot more episodes when it’s safe to do so.
We talked to her about what’s to come, centering women’s stories as a producer, parenting a teen in the tech age, and the power of thirst traps.
MadameNoire: You said you have allowed yourself to have bad days during the pandemic. How do you go about doing so as a parent while trying to stay positive for your son?
La La Anthony: I try to stay positive for my kid, but I also want my kid to understand, like, he’s going through changes during this time, too. I make sure I check in with him. It’s okay if today you didn’t feel like sitting in front of the computer for seven hours to be in school. If there were times during the day where you might have checked out a little bit, it’s okay. This is a new way of learning, a new way of living that we all have to get adjusted to for the time being. But my overall spirit is very positive, even on days where I may not feel my best. I’m still overall a really positive person. I bring that energy in my household and I bring that energy to my son. I definitely try and keep him upbeat and in a good place. I think a lot of times, we check on each other but sometimes we don’t check on our kids. It’s just like, “Do your work! You better focus!” But they go from being in school to just being in front of a computer. That’s not an easy adjustment. So I make sure I check in with him. We’re home now so I was just in his room and I told him, tonight we’re going to have movie night. I try to give him something to look forward to at the end of the day.
Despite the pandemic, you’ve been very busy. I know you have your makeover series Reclaim Your Life on Facebook. Can you speak on what inspired you to create that?
I’m just a girl’s girl and all about women empowerment. I know for a lot of women out there, there are different times in our lives where we kind of feel like we’ve lost our way. We’re not feeling confident, we’re not feeling good about ourselves. We could just be coming out of a bad relationship, bad breakup, marriage, kids, whatever. I wanted to create a series where women got to reclaim their life and feel good about themselves again. So we start the show by just talking about where they are in their life now, why they feel the way they feel. We kind of give them the tools to know their value and get their self-esteem back going. We end the show by giving a makeover with my hair and makeup team, my styling team. It’s just an incredible thing to see the transformation from when these women get into the space to how they feel when they leave the space.
It’s a show I’m really proud of. It’s a feel-good show. I also think during this time, people want to see and watch things that make them feel good. There’s enough chaos and craziness going on around us. You just want to watch something that makes you feel empowered and feel good.
I know you also produced Killer Curves, a documentary that was featured on BET about illegal butt injections. What motivates you to center the stories and lives of women through the projects you produce?
I want to produce and be a part of projects that speak to what I saw growing up, what I see around me now. Women that I admire and look up to. Just real, authentic stories. Those are the kind of things I gravitate to. Killer Curves was about women who want to change things about their body and their image, but they’re going cheap and illegal routes and they’re getting really sick from doing these pumping parties and things like that. I wanted to draw attention to it so women understand, if you’re going to do this, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Just making sure people are educated. So many times when it comes to that world, we think cheap is the way to go. Cheap is not always the way because you don’t know what people are putting in your body. That was a really big project for me. If we were able to just even save one life by saying, if you’re going to do this, not judging you for doing it, just do it the right way, that would be something I would be really proud of. But yeah, just stuff that speaks to me, and the world that I live in and the people that are around me is important. The joys, the struggles, all of that, those are the kinds of projects I look to be a part of.
Taking it back to smartphones and your partnership with SIMPLE Mobile, you take some very, very sexy photos on your phone [laughs]. Some people refer to them as “thirst traps.” What do you think about the fuss people make over them, and does your son ever give you a hard time about posting them?
He never really says anything about it to me. He’s not allowed to have Instagram, but I’m sure he sees it somewhere. He doesn’t really say anything. I’m of the mindset that whatever makes you feel good! I’m not going to be able to take those kind of pictures forever. While I can, I’m taking them and I’m going to put them out there and feel confident and sexy and hope it inspires women to feel confident and sexy about themselves no matter what people say. People are going to say something about anything you do. As long as you feel good about it, that’s most important.
Why would you say you don’t want Kiyan to have an Instagram? A lot of teens are really immersed in social media these days.
For me, I can only parent my child. I don’t think Instagram is a place for a 13-year-old. There’s just too much going on. You get tagged in things you don’t want him to see. It can just get really crazy. We decided that’s not for our son yet until he’s mature enough to navigate through it. In the meantime he’s got Tik Tok, which we’ve got to pay attention to as well. But he can do his dances and have fun. He has a Snapchat that I monitor. I just haven’t gotten into the Instagram thing yet. But trust me, he asks me every single day, “Mom can I get Instagram today?” So I’m going to have to really think about it. I think I will fold soon, just not yet. But just with some boundaries. He’s like, “Mom, I need a place to put my basketball videos,” which I do understand, but it’s just about monitoring it because it can get really crazy.
Back to the photos. Why, in your experience, would you say it’s important for moms to not be afraid to embrace their sexy and show out from time to time, whether it be on social media or in everyday life?
Whatever makes you feel good! You’re beautiful no matter what. Embrace who you are and what makes you feel good about yourself. Just own it. That’s what I’m about. Show people, “OK, so I’m a mom so all of a sudden I can’t be sexy? I can’t wear a bikini? I can’t do certain things why? Cause I’m a mom?” Who made that rule up? All of a sudden you’re a mom now so you need to cover up completely. Who said that? My thing is, as long as I raise my son with morals and values and to respect women, that’s what’s important, not oh, I took a bathing suit picture. Who cares? That’s what I wanna do. I would encourage other women to not care either and do what you want to do, whatever that may be. It might ignite something inside you and make you feel really great. Don’t knock it until you try it is what I’m trying to say [laughs]. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
And speaking of trying things, you are clearly a woman who wears many hats: media personality, actress, designer, producer and more. What’s the key to never being afraid to pursue new passions and veer out of lanes people say you should stay in? You’ve done it successfully since you started your radio career as a teen.
I think you first have to be your own cheerleader. You have to be your own number one fan because you will find so many people who will give you a reason why it’s not going to work: “You’re a journalist, you shouldn’t be trying to be do anything else!” There’s so many people that are going to tell you that and it’s like, why can’t I do more than one thing and actually be good at it? Why do I have to just be put in a box because I started out on radio? So now for the rest of my life I can only do radio? I can’t do anything else? But I had to believe in myself along the way because if I was relying on everyone else, I would be told why it’s never going to work. An MTV Veejay can’t be an actress. An actress can’t be a producer. You hear all these things and I’m just like, why not? If you put the work in and you’re dedicated to the craft of whatever it is you’re doing, why can’t you do it? That was my motivation. I hope I’m able to motivate other women on their journey as well. It’s never too late to start over in life, in your career, whatever it is. Just chase whatever makes you happy.