Nicole Ari Parker has a lot on her plate. Aside from being a stunning woman, a great actress, and a devoted wife, she is also a doting mother to two beautiful children, Sophie, and Nicolas. In an effort to help them flourish in the future, Parker had her kids photographed for the book Future American President by famed photog Matthew Jordan Smith. The book is a “visual journey of the American dream seen through the eyes of our nation’s children.” It features 50 children, representing 50 states. It’s Smith’s aim to inspire all the children in the book, as well as those who see it, to dream big by asking them what they would do if they were president. And that’s exactly why stars like Angela Bassett and Parker have included their children in the book and want to get the word out about it. I had the chance to speak with Parker about Future American President, and she has nothing but lovely things to say about Jordan and the visual book.
“For one, I think that Matthew Jordan Smith is one of the great photographers of our time. I would do anything to support his work, ” Parker said. “And secondly, the vision of the book is so remarkable and right on time considering everything that’s going on in our country and all over the world. It’s celebrating the greatness in every child of every race and giving them a voice to express possibilities. That’s the greatest gift you can give your children as a parent. I think the book helps. It becomes another tool in the house to help someone lift their child up. ‘See, baby? See what you can be?’ Every little bit helps.”
Nicolas is featured in the book, and inside, he nominates big sister, Sophie, to be the future president of the United States. Parker stated that for the kids, seeing themselves in the book, as well as other children of different backgrounds with the same goals as them, had quite the impact. “You see another kid your age who doesn’t look like you but has the same dreams as you. That’s very unifying.”
And while her kids may want to be the future commander in chief, they might also wish to follow in the footsteps of their famous parents and try showbiz. Parker and husband Boris Kodjoe have had great success in entertainment, even starring in their own talk show, The Boris & Nicole Show, which just wrapped a summer test run. If the program is picked up by Fox, it will launch in 2016. This isn’t the first time the pair has worked together. Of course, we know that they met while working on the Showtime hit Soul Food from 2000 to 2004. But Parker admits things are much more complicated now that they’re married, taking care of kids and working together each and every day.
“This is a little different because we’re now coming home together. On Soul Food, we weren’t married. This is a new space for us, but somehow it worked out. I think we naturally know how to give each other natural space. The space to pray, to sit. I think in any marriage, whether you’re working together or not, that’s important.”
But space and time to be alone is limited when you’re juggling responsibilities. Dinner has to be made, Sophie and Nicolas have to be tended to. Outside of the red-carpet glamour, Parker says that her life with Kodjoe is just like anyone else’s.
“I think we passed out every single night because we still had to come home, do homework and make dinner,” Parker said. “Boris and I fuss about the same regular stuff married people fuss about. Our work situation doesn’t make or break that. He’s still a husband who doesn’t listen to his wife [laughs]. He can’t hear me when the game is on. He always gets the wrong thing at the grocery store [laughs]. Same old, same old.”
Because Parker believes that she is living just like any ordinary individual working a 9-to-5, the actress and her husband jumped at the chance to have their own talk show. They want to relate to others, share their stories, and in the end, help people.
“That platform helps you reach so many people and relate to so many people. You can do a lot of good,” Parker said. “A lot of celebrities and people and general are drawn to that and drawn to having a positive impact on other people. It’s exciting, but it’s not easy. It looks like a lot of ra-ra and good times and fun, but it’s a grind. The greats like Ellen, Steve Harvey, Dr. Phil and Oprah, they put in a lot of work and that’s what you discover. So when you take on exciting jobs like this, you gotta be ready for everything that goes on behind the scenes to make it great.”
But despite a jam-packed summer schedule, Parker isn’t stepping away from acting. She is guest starring on the new Fox show Rosewood, playing co-star Morris Chestnut’s girlfriend on the drama, which debuts September 23. And this is a big time for her co-star, as his film The Perfect Guy just went No.1 at the box office. As someone who has starred in many projects with majority-Black cast members, Parker says that such success opens doors. “We as Black people are starting to step into the power of our dollar. We’re starting to see where we spend our money makes a difference for all of us,” Parker said. “When we show up in numbers for these films, it gets the attention of the studios and networks and shows that we are a demographic that has a lot of power and a lot of say, so we need to be represented.”
And seeing more faces that look like Chestnut’s and Parker’s on the big and small screen means a lot. Especially Parker, who has embraced her natural hair over the last few years and feels great about it. She’s doing it not just because she loves her natural look, but because she wants her daughter to embrace the hair she was born with as well.
“I just think I look better when my hair has a little kink in it. I feel like myself,” Parker said. “I feel more beautiful that way, but I know it’s not for everybody. I still wear my hair straight for jobs and I do like having a little flow sometimes, but I think I just feel better with my hair natural. There’s not really any political statement that I’m trying to make. But I do know that when I had my daughter, I wanted her to love herself just the way she is. The first 10 to 12 years, they really look at mommy for standards of everything: how to carry yourself, how to walk, talk and love yourself. So when she sees me wear my hair natural, she wants to wear her hair natural. She loves it. And that’s important to me, for her to know that the way she is is her first option.”
But what does Kodjoe think of her kinky and coiled look? According to Parker, he’s all here for it. “Men are funny. He likes long hair, okay? Like most men. So I think he loves when I wear my long twists. But when you’re happy and feeling yourself, they feel you right along with you. You know, happy wife, happy life.”
However, Kodjoe’s past comments about how a wife and husband should look and carry themselves in a marriage landed him in hot water before. A few years back, he stated that when you get married, you take your partner off of the market. Therefore, you should keep it right and tight, otherwise, you can’t blame your spouse if they “start looking around.” But Parker believes that more than anything, a wife or husband should want to keep it together, physically and emotionally, for themselves. Not for anyone else.
“I think the point he was trying to make was taking care of yourself is important in a marriage,” Parker said. “Not necessarily being skinny. I also think it was him speaking the way men speak privately: ‘I want my wife to be her best self. We take each other off the market in a sense. Not that she’s controlling the way I move throughout the world, I have to be a grown man and handle my business, but I want my wife to be in the best shape that she wants to be in. And that’s important to keep the relationship going.’ I think that’s true, not just for your weight but for your emotional health as well. You can’t just all of a sudden unleash on someone emotionally with your anger or unresolved issues. You have to work it out. You can’t all of a sudden just let yourself spiral out of control in any capacity. In a relationship, you have to have compassion for your partner, but you also have to have compassion for yourself.”
So with the pressures of keeping one’s body, mind, and career together, how have Parker and Kodjoe managed to make it work after 10 years?
“You and your husband have to look at each other and say, ‘I know that we’re going to go through a rough patch,’ whether it be financially, intimately, life decisions, you’re going to go through a rough patch,” Parker said. “But then you have to make the real commitment to say, ‘We’re going to be with each other through the rough patch,’ because there is joy on the other side. You become better people on the other side. Everyone wants to run if you have one argument, one misstep or one mistake. But if you commit to going through the desert, so to speak, it’s so good on the other side. And No.2, just as your girl [laughs], treat him like your boyfriend. Because in marriage, you get into a practical rut. It’s nothing new. Don’t panic. You’re going to get in a practical rut about who is doing what, paying bills, sharing the house, two different jobs, then the children. You become roommates. But if you remember that this person is your boo [laughs], you keep it fun. You can’t wait to get home, even if 10 years have gone by. You can’t wait to buy him a gift for no reason on your way home from work. He gets you flowers for no reason. So, I always say, the minute you find your husband, make him your boyfriend.”