Updated: May 11
During the interview, I particularly appreciated LisaRaye McCoy's caring nature, her love of her work and those around her, and her honesty. She is a truly unique individual. In addition to interviewing this classy superstar actress over the phone, I was also blessed to meet her at the "Stomp The City Iconic Awards" in Memphis, and it was no different there. In addition to her stunning exterior, the actress was also gorgeous inside. In our interview, we discussed many topics about life, womanhood, motherhood, and career; here is what she told me about her journey to success.
Hi LisaRaye! Hi Gina, thank you for pronouncing my name correctly. Many people call me Lisa, but my name is LisaRaye, so thank you for that.
My pleasure! Having the opportunity to speak with you is such an honor and a privilege. I am so proud of your accomplishments and all the beauty, talent, and class you possess. I think you’re amazing! I feel the same way, girl.
Thank you so much! I hope your afternoon is going well. You know what? I haven't even gotten out of bed yet, but that doesn't mean I haven't been working. Most of my work is done from bed, including making phone calls, reading emails, and organizing my schedule.
While packing for a 17-day trip, I have things scattered all over the place, so I am still working.
I love it! It's understandable. I know how hectic packing and flying these days can be. What would you say is the most productive time of day for you? I would say I'm most productive at night. Here's why. I seem to get a second wind when the house is quiet, and everyone is asleep. I can concentrate, think and move around without any interruptions and sounds. My granddaughter lives here, and if I hear the pitter-patter of her feet running around or even her crying, I'm like, hey, what's going on? What's happening? Am I missing something, or kiss me. It's always something going on, so I'm most productive when it's quiet, maybe from midnight to around two or three o'clock in the morning.
That's awesome! I love to get up at 3:00 am, pray and spend time with God before all the crazy things happen during the day. By 7:00 am, it's like the black Friday sale at Walmart, with everyone waiting outside to get that TV on sale for a penny. They all rush in! LisaRaye, when I look at you, I see a stunningly beautiful black queen with an amazing physique. I'll be turning 50 in October; what advice would you give to women over 40 to help them look their best and feel their best? Water is essential for our bodies. The phrase is heard all the time, but I've been experiencing it on an entirely different level. Because I've been drinking more water while losing weight, I can see the film formed when fat is flushed out of my body through urine.
Yes. Flushing your body is so important. Even when we get massages, they'll either give us warm tea or tell us to drink water because when they are massaging us, all the acid that comes from them massaging us needs to be flushed out of our bodies. It’s also important to stay hydrated, so our skin is not wrinkled and dry.
My girlfriend and I have noticed swelling in our feet from a plane ride. Then my assistant, an airline attendant, says, “water.” Then we asked her, "does that mean that we don't have enough water in our bodies? She said, "exactly." I'm like, wow, I didn't realize how essential water is to our body's functionality. There is still a lot I need to learn about its importance.
People have different theories about how much water you should drink daily, but I think you should drink what is appropriate for your body to stay hydrated and adequately flushed. Whether it's a gallon or half a gallon, I don't know what's right for you. But I know you should drink enough water to flush your system daily so that your urine is clear and not yellow. You don't want anyone to go into the bathroom after you with yellow urine.
That's so true. Water is so necessary. Yes, water cleanses everything, including the bladder, the kidney, and the liver, which are all vital parts of our bodies. Water is my best friend now.
Water is one of the most important things for people of all ages to consume because our bodies lose it over time, especially as we grow older. The thing about water is that you must be intentional and purposeful about it because living in a fast-paced world makes it so easy to forget about it. Gina, I'll tell you something, it's not easy because I can carry a bottle of water all day without even opening it. My thought is that I won't have time to take a bathroom break, so I'll drink this water after this meeting or after this appointment. Thus, there is no water consumed.
I feel bloated when trying to fill my belly up at night. Throughout the day, the wisest thing to do is to make a conscious decision to drink a glass of water at that moment instead of having a drink or something fruity with sugar and calories. Therefore, I must consciously decide to drink water throughout the day to hydrate myself constantly. So, my answer to that question is "ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, water!"
Having time to stop and use the bathroom. At my age, I can't even drive from Palm Springs to San Diego without having to pull over at least once to use the bathroom, so I hear you. But water is a must, and it is essential for our health indeed. How would you encourage the many mothers who have raised their families and whose children have left home or gone off to college but now that mother has lost her way and isn't sure what to do next in their own life? Is there anything you would tell the lost woman to encourage them? I would say the same thing to them that I'm going to say to myself because I am in that same position. I'm still taking care of people in my house. My daughter and granddaughter are living with me, and my mother is also. Therefore, there are four generations under one roof. Some days are better than others, and some days are more challenging.
One of the things that I think is particularly important not only for myself but also for women is to find that "me" time. Like drinking water, setting aside personal time for peace and serenity is also vital for the body's health.
I've chosen a profession that I adore. One of the things I love about what I do is that I get a chance to go out of town, mingle, meet new people, make new friends, and play different roles while acting. It’s quite fulfilling for me. So, I frequently get breaks.
But I will say this; you must ensure that you have an excellent partner in your corner, whether that's your significant other, a friend, a good assistant, a daughter, or whomever. I am lucky enough to have someone who watches me and can tell me, "You need a little bit of "me" time. I think it's time for you to unplug and recharge somewhere."
And when she says that to me, it stops me in my tracks because it makes me think she sees something I don't see. At that moment, I'm in robotic mode. I'm just going on and on and on. Your life and lifestyle will be significantly influenced by the people in your life and the company you keep.
I'm very thankful to have her in my life, someone who can stop me in my tracks and remind me to smell the roses. We cannot forget about our “me” time.
Right now, our world is going through a difficult time. Currently, our country is experiencing mental illness, racial tensions, and the deprivation of our rights. Furthermore, people tell you to stay optimistic, but trying to do so when there's nothing but negativity around you is hard. Nevertheless, we need to find a place of peace amid all this unrest. Look inward and find the small things you appreciate most about life because if you don't, you'll go crazy.
Keeping up with "The Joneses" and figuring out where the world is going amid a pandemic and recession is affecting global spending. Our food is being taken away. The grocery store has less food than it used to, and they tamper with our meats and vegetables. The world is in a state of flux. It's just a matter of surviving at this point. Therefore, it is of grave importance to maintain a state of sanity. By binge-watching my favorite television shows, I can relax and unwind.
By slowing down and smelling the roses, I've found many amazing shows on TV. It has been so overwhelming that I haven't even noticed my friends have television shows that I didn't know I needed to support.
This helps me as an actress to understand why I'm in the business that I'm in, but it also allows me to support them and see their body of work. In a fun way, I compete with them by saying, "I didn't know that she was doing that." Consequently, it motivates me to get up and do blah, blah, blah. It helps me check myself. Therefore, I would encourage the many women going through a midlife crisis to make that crisis work for them. Don't lose yourself, nor forget about your past and what you used to do.
It's even healthy to pick up a hobby. You're right because I didn't have a hobby or anything I had to do. Gym buffs with combed and tight bodies love going to the gym. And you can tell that they love going by the way their body looks. I even have friends that play tennis and golf every weekend, and I'm asking myself, what do I like to do every weekend besides traveling and shopping? What's my hobby? So, I'm in a place where I'm trying to find my passion and a hobby I'll enjoy.
Once I find that passion, I would love to share with other women the process of my journey and how I arrived there. Perhaps my experience can help them so they won’t lose bits and pieces of themselves.
LisaRaye, regarding stepping out into your God-given destiny, what would you say was your first courageous move? When I moved from Chicago to LA. That was a big move for me because my family was well-to-do and popular in Chicago. So, I was like a little Princess there. I understood money and power and enjoyed the fruits of my family's labor.
It was basically all laid out for me in advance. When my father was murdered, the rug was ripped out from under me.
Oh no! I’m so sorry. Thank you. Yeah, it took me for a tailspin. Then I became pregnant and gave birth to my daughter. Having someone to care for saved my life and gave me life simultaneously. In other words, it forced me to take my life seriously. I had to start thinking like a mother now that I was a mother. In the following years, I focused on how I would provide for her and what career choice I would make.
Before that, I hadn't done too much of anything. I was just a model in Chicago that did one little independent film. But interestingly enough, the director of the film I was in encouraged me to move to California with just that little body of work I did. He saw something in me that made him believe I was capable of going to LA and competing with everyone else. I took his advice and came to California for a couple of weeks. Although I intended to find an agent and manager, during that time, I found neither. But being in California just felt good and right.
So, I went back to Chicago and told my mother I was moving to California, but she didn't believe me. She was like, yeah, right! Many people don't take it seriously whenever you share your dream about wanting to be in the entertainment business. Unless you "make it," they don't put too much stock on it.
I hear you. So, true. Yes, so it was almost like, "what are you going to do in the mean in-between time?" The truth was that I didn't even have a plan B, so plan A had to work.
(Laughs) I hear you! I think that's what set me aside because it wasn’t an option. So that was one of the most courageous moves I personally made in my life. I say that because I was very comfortable in Chicago and could have been OK with complacently, but I was not because something else was calling me. To this day, I don’t regret my courageous move to California. I'm glad about it because if I had not made that decision to be brave and fearless, I never would have found this side of me, nor would I be living the lifestyle I'm living. Furthermore, I wouldn't have met the people I've met and accomplished the things I've accomplished. The best part of this story is that everything worked out how it was supposed to.
I'm glad I was on the bandwagon that I didn't have to be pulled, yanked along, screaming, and shouting. But instead, I was skipping and hopping. In the end, my decision proved to be correct, and it was a perfect fit.
During my biopic interviews, now and then, someone will say something to me that will resonate very deeply. Today, you said something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. I love what you said about Plan B was not an option. That's a powerful statement, LisaRaye! If more people adopted that viewpoint in life, there would be a greater likelihood of people achieving their dreams. So, thank you for that. That’s powerful! That's something worth holding onto.
LisaRaye, I’m going to be vulnerable with you at this moment because there is something in my heart that I want to discuss with you and see your viewpoint regarding this subject matter. Ok.
Thank you. The stigma of having to be a strong black woman is ingrained in many black women. I understand that no other race of women must bear the weight of this statement, although I could be wrong. Our load as black women can often feel overwhelming, especially when we have a lot to carry.
A friend and I were discussing what it means to be a strong black woman not long ago. Despite its positive implications, I believe that statement can also be destructive. In a positive sense, if you go through a difficult time, you must find a way to power through it. If you are single and don't have a husband to help shoulder some of the burdens, you must do whatever is necessary to provide for your children despite your anxiety.
In contrast, it becomes destructive when there is no outlet for expressing pain, heartache, or anything of the sort without being labeled weak. As black women, we are expected to be strong in our culture. At times, I wondered why I couldn't just be a woman. Is there a reason I can't be human like everyone else?
Although we are just women, black culture expects us to be superhuman. In my opinion, one of the contributing factors to so much mental illness in our black community is the heavy load placed upon black women, even from childhood, to be strong black women. I believe there needs to be an outlet for people to express themselves and someone willing to listen. Through this process, we heal and find the strength to continue pursuing our goals. What are your thoughts on this topic? I think you're absolutely right. There are so many cliches, and metaphors out there like, what goes up must come down or what comes around goes around. People previously thought that if something worked for them, they should pass it on.
I think it's important for us to remain open-minded and understand that change will always come, and nothing stays the same. Our parents' stories of their experiences cannot apply to the present since they went through them long ago. It's, therefore, a matter of combining what they went through with what we know now and what the future holds.
You must be allowed to feel what you feel. You must let out what needs to be let out because stress is a killer. Stress is cancerous. People can suppress something within their spirit and soul so much that they crack up on the inside, but the pain goes undetected on the outside so that no one even knows something is wrong.
You're doing yourself a disservice by doing so. Therefore, crying does not make you weak. Occasionally, people cry out of anger! Do you get what I'm saying?
Yes. People have even cried due to compassion. People cry for a variety of reasons, including pain and sorrow. Can you imagine what the world would be like if people walked around without emotion? It would be impossible for us to determine where anyone was coming from. I am a person who is very in touch with my feelings. Sometimes I watch the news and cry, wondering, "why did they do that, or what's going on?"
But I believe that that's what makes us human, and if we displayed more compassion for one another in the world, the community, and our families, the world would be a better place. Just like the Bible says, love your neighbor as yourself.
Love can make the world a better place, but if we don't spread it and show it, we will walk around not caring about anyone. It is important to remember that we are not alone in this world. Without the support of our families, friends, and other people in this world, we would not be able to get along.
Therefore, if we don't want to be isolated, and if we don't want to create a world without compassion, we must start showing compassion to those who are suffering. Take the risk of being different, stand out, and express your emotions.
Since I'm somewhat of a rebel, I don't always follow the norm. I play devil's advocate all the time and have strong opinions. I always strive to give the other person a voice because I am a "what if this happened, or what if they thought like this" type of person.
Because I think this way, I sometimes get in trouble on the Internet. Some feedback includes comments such as, "LisaRaye said this," or "LisaRaye said that." In my opinion, I am simply launching a discussion that may lead to a different perspective and a different way of looking at things.
Talking and agreeing all the time may not yield the results I need from the agreement. Therefore, I think it’s important to turn up and shake the table a little so something else can come out. Then, it will be like, wow, I never would have gotten that if she had never said this. Therefore, I am a stand-up leader, which means I stand up for what I believe in. In other words, I will give it to you raw, I will feel what I feel, and I will be honest in my approach.
You can move on if you remain true to yourself because time does not wait for anyone. We do not have the option or luxury to stand still in a progressive world. There is no way to avoid change because change is inevitable for everyone, even if you park in neutral. But, as you progress in your growth process, you will fall and get back up as we always do.
Yes, that's awesome. I think deeply about things and what I've come to realize is that everything is not what it seems to appear on the surface. Often, it takes pulling back many layers to reveal reality. For example, some people make the statement as to why so many black girls have attitudes, but I can't help but think deeper into that statement, like, "if that's your perception of some black woman, then why is that?" I believe that for every symptom, there is a cause.
If I choose to look at it from a loving perspective, especially as a Christian woman, it would be reasonable to conclude that they may have an unhealed wound. A person carrying pain without expressing it creates bitterness, reclusiveness, hopelessness, and silence. From another perspective, what if those black women perceived to have an attitude had a true friend who would listen to them, love them, and help them heal?
Then maybe their demeanor would brighten, and their hope for a more promising future would regain traction. Love can heal the world.
And as a Christian woman, I believe that knowing and understanding God's love, how much God loves us, and what he did by sending His Son, Christ Jesus, into this world to give his life for us it's the most excellent demonstration of love imaginable.
Therefore, when we allow God's love to be in us, we can spread that love to others, and they, in return, can find their healing and begin to spread that love to someone else who needs it. Only when we genuinely allow God's love to flow through us in when we're able to live unselfish lives and focus on how we can touch others in life-changing ways. It's almost like that game we used to play as children called freeze tag. When someone is bound, someone who is free will touch them, and they can be free again.
But bringing it back to the surface, we, black women, are sometimes expected to carry a massive weight with no outlet for expression. And when we try to reach out, we are immediately shut down, dismissed, and refocused on being strong black women. My love for others leads me to understand why these women express their frustration outwardly. It’s a heavy load. Yes, It's heavy. I do vision board workshops and believe there is power in manifesting your words. I'm really into that. So, as I'm teaching, reaching, and preaching, I say, “Here’s your chance for an opportunity to share your life experience with the people in the room.”
During that time, so much stuff comes up. Traditionally many women utilize the time of beautification, going to our beauticians and our nail techs; we frequently use that time for purging. Our beauticians become our psychologists. We sit in those chairs just talking and telling.
After leaving these workshops, I felt full of joy because I knew that I had laid out an atmosphere in which they felt comfortable and trusted me enough to share the most intimate parts of their life. The feeling was incredible!
I remember asking myself, "why are they telling me all these things?" Suddenly, I realized, why not me? It seems that something about me makes them feel at ease with me and makes me relatable to them. As a result, they trust what I have to say and value my advice. They needed to hear a positive word.
To be an example and use my platform for the benefit of others is something I strive to do. So, I told myself, "I can do this!" It's my responsibility. Everything became much more straightforward as soon as I started thinking about it in that way.
I hear what you're saying. Exactly. And I used to wonder, how do lawyers sleep at night knowing they're taking on a criminal case, bringing it home every day knowing that the criminal is guilty, and then getting them off? What about the murder victim? It's hard enough to leave work at work and not take it home, but when you're dealing with daily trials, how do you do it?
Doctors, what do you do when your patients don't survive under your care? When you leave and go home, how do you deal with that? After that, you must return to work the following morning to repeat the process. What a heavy load! This is beyond my comprehension!
What is the secret to not getting depressed when therapists listen to problem after problem and take appointment after appointment all day long? I can only conclude that it's just life. We must learn how to deal with it and get back on track.
Helping someone, and then they return to say, "thank you! Five years ago, you told me blah blah blah, and I now own my own business," I find refuge in that. Sharing my stories with someone makes me think that I am doing something extraordinary because someone shared their stories with me, which is helping me to be able to grow and stretch. For me, it helps me to check myself.
I had to do the same thing. It's absolutely necessary to keep that going. Every person goes through their journey. As soon as I began to feel great about myself and what I had to offer, I was motivated to achieve more. To feel good about who we are, we need to get away from those who don't value us.
You have an inspiring nature and a strong sense of strength, LisaRaye. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with me. I am enjoying our conversation very much. As I listen, it sounds like God has given you the gift of encouragement, and I think that's great because there are many people out there without anyone to hear them or encourage them. Your passion for helping others is beautiful. You mentioned earlier that you were searching for a hobby, but after speaking to you, it is clear that God has given you a gift of encouragement. Your heart is filled with love, and you want to help others. That's beautiful. Speaking of being a role model, you were a different type of model at one point in your career. Could you share that experience with me? Absolutely. In high school, I was involved in talent shows, variety shows, pep squads, dance, bands, and cheerleading. There was just something about me that wanted to do everything. There was no doubt that I had "personality."
The whole thing started when one of my girlfriends invited me to participate in a fashion show. It was at her church, I believe. The experience led to other opportunities, such as additional fashion shows and pageants. In one year, I won Miss Windy City in Chicago; in another, I was Miss Courvoisier. I modeled for different troops and stores in Chicago, like Neiman Marcus and Marshall Fields. Over time, I gained a reputation for myself and became the go-to girl in Chicago.
The feeling of all eyes on me was intoxicating. Next, I began doing hair shows. Atlanta's "Bonner Brothers Hair Show" was huge in the 80s and 90s, and it remains so today! I used to travel to Atlanta with various hair care companies and did pantomime-type hair shows. " Daurham Hair Care products and Vitale Hair products with Chicago Commentator Carol Dunbar'. People came to our booth just to see our stage, and I loved that! it was a combination of taking pictures, doing runway, and all those things which gave me the urge to take it further.
In terms of taking it further, how did that opportunity come your way? I never thought I would be on the big screen, but I did have smaller goals, like doing commercials. So, I went through an agency and started auditioning for commercials. From there, one thing led to another: I got a small role in an independent film, and the rest was history.
Awesome! It's funny how our life is like one giant puzzle that fits together as we move through life. So that's what sparked your interest in acting? Yes, it sure did.
That's awesome! What would you consider your first solid connection to acting in Hollywood films, and what was that experience for you? OK, well, this is pretty explosive.
(Laughs) Ok, give it to me! (laughs) Ok, I came out here and did the darn thing! I wasn't playing! Because my daughter was with me, I was extremely focused. I planned to give myself one year to make it out here. In the event I did not make it, I would return home. My folks at home know I'm going to Hollywood, so this plan had to work. No, it was not an option. So, I came out here, and I did what I knew how to do. When I searched for an agency, I couldn't find one, so I decided to enter an agency using a different route.
When I say a different route, I mean I knew how to model, I knew how to take pictures, and I knew I could do a few commercials, so I went into it as a video girl who wanted camera work. Back then, I knew the people directing music videos wished to produce and direct films one day also.
My first step was to study what it would take to achieve my objective. It involved learning angles, understanding set times, and what it takes to be on set. To understand it all, I had to know what it all meant.
Then I started doing music videos with this agency, and I was at the agency almost twice a week, bringing cookies and cupcakes and talking and all kinds of stuff.
(Laughs) That’s hilarious! I continued to put myself before them, letting them know I was an actress and showing them my headshots. Eventually, I convinced them to send me out to commercial go-sees. That’s what got me in.
Or some of the artists that you were in their music videos? To pay my bills, I did a lot of music videos. As a result, I started to build friendships with people like Shug Knight, Tupac, Snoop, Teddy Riley, and Bobby Brown. I did Tupac's very last videos the night before he was murdered in Vegas. The song was called “Toss it Up.” The song also featured Danny Boy and Aaron Hall. So, I did that video, and I ended up having a bigger part because the girl that was supposed to be with Tupac, he didn't like.
He had seen me a couple of times before, so we were already more than associates but less than friends in that awkward place. Not too familiar.
But when he saw me, he said, “yeah, let's not do it; she's fine!” Therefore, I was cast more often than any other female in the video.
Lionel Martin was directing that video, and I wanted to show myself as being very directable because, at the time, he was directing the movie “How To Be a Player,” and I wanted to get an audition. It turned out that I did the video and auditioned for the film, but he did not like me but who did show interest in my talent was Ice Cube. He saw me in Tupac’s “Toss it Up” video and said, “find that girl because I want to audition her for “Players Club.” I auditioned twice. I remember being so green that when I went in for the second time I said, “what you didn't like the first audition? you want to see something different, and what am I here for?” (laughs)
(Laughs) I was so raw that he just had to laugh at me.
What did he say? He said, "no, I want you to do the same thing on your first audition." I said, "exactly?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "OK, I can do that because I've been practicing that." So, I did it. One interesting thing I discovered was that I was the only one reading for my character, Diamond. In my head, I'm thinking, what's going on? Once I completed my second audition, he said, "I gather that you know that you got the part. "
I felt so overwhelmed. What was the point of putting me through all that stress when he could have told me that earlier in the day? Besides, I could have been celebrating instead of spending all day there. So, I thanked him and asked when I would start. Of course, it was immediately.
Were you ever an extra in a film? I’ve only done one extra role, which was on Martin. I got that role through a friend who was casting “Carrie Lee Casting.” Because I met him, that opportunity came about. Being there all day for just one minor part made me realize that extra work was not for me. I thought, “been there, done that. Now I need something more.”
Next, I auditioned for a show that starred LL Cool J, and Debbie Allen called "In The House," and I got a tiny "bit part," which we call three lines and under. I was cast as the UPS girl, and then that role became recurring. The pay was more than what I was making in music videos, so that was my first little paying job, and the rest has been history.
As an actress, what film was your most enjoyable? That's a hard question because your work and the people you work with are different. Every time you play a different role or work with another crew, producer, or director, you experience something new. I learn something new every time I'm on set.
The work I've been doing for the last couple of years has been life-changing because the characters are mature. I never thought I wanted to play a mature character when I was younger, but now I appreciate them as older and more seasoned women.
Going back to your question earlier, one of the roles that stand out for me is "Civil Brand," a jail movie directed by Neema Barnette. One of the things I liked about it the most was that it was the first time I'd ever worked with a female director. My sister, Da Brat, Mos Def, Tichina Arnold, Clifton Powell, and many stars were in that movie. It was also the first movie in which I had no makeup or hair added. My role was that of an incarcerated female, and the filming took place at a Nashville prison.
Because I was still relatively new to acting, I remember going so deep with that role that I became depressed. I went so deep that I did not know how to pull myself out of it. For example, there was one scene where the young lady comes to the jail, and she's supposed to bring my daughter, and I'm like, "where is she? I hear what you're saying, but where is the baby?" And she tells me, "She got murdered, and she got shot." I was like, "what?" I remember being so emotional because I had to do that scene repeatedly and did not want to do it anymore or cry anymore. I honestly had a meltdown! Although the scene was great, my head was hurting! I was like, “this is too much! “(laughs)
(Laughs) Yes, I can see how that would be emotionally draining. Yes, and because I don't want to cry over anybody and have to do that repeatedly, you won't see me on shows like Grey's Anatomy or anything like that. I feel uncomfortable doing those scenes because they remind me of my father's death. Because I did not know where to place those emotions, I was still dealing with them. It wasn't until then that I realized I needed to deal with it.
When you have a role, and it brings up something else in your life, every character that you play, those same emotions resurface. So, that movie, “Civil Brand,” stands out for me.
Acting is more difficult than most people realize. Exactly. Playing pretty and glamorous is also difficult. I say this because in doing so, you got to play hair and outfit, meaning if my purse was on my right side and in the middle of that scene, I put it down on the table, then I have to do take after take.
When acting on a set, everything must be exact and placed in the same location to match the master shot. So, not only am I concentrating on the words, where I'm standing, and what my counterpart is saying to me, but I'm acting with props also.
People who watch regular TV the traditional way don't think about what goes on behind the scenes and how difficult it is to achieve the vision they're looking at.
Every role I play seems to reflect some aspect of my life. It doesn't matter if I'm playing a tough woman, a no-nonsense tough girl, or a mom with a defiant daughter; I've been there. (laughs) I’m like, yep, I can relate”
That's why you see so many actors succeed in their roles because there's something about that role that they connect with. There's some relatability there. It’s something that resonates with them to be true.
I also did a movie that Jean- Claude La Marre directed called “Gang of Roses,” which was a western.
Awesome, tell me about that! It was a female western. So that movie stands out for me as well. The film had a great cast like Monica Calhoun, Lil' Kim, Stacey Dash, Marie Matiko, and me. We were all tough women! In the film, we were Killing the bad people in the town and saving the good people's lives. We rode horses and shotguns, and I felt like the O.K Corral! I was like yeah, let's go! (laughs)
We wore the same outfits every day, and I wore white leather. Remember, cowboys didn't change their outfits back then and wore leather to protect their skin. Girl, I'll never forget how many weeks we spent making that movie in the heat! I felt like I had on an Infrared red heated suit after I finished filming. My skin felt incredible. The skin on my body was so smooth and soft. It was unbelievable! It's no wonder everyone looked so good back then.
Wow, I need to get myself some leather, then. (laughs) where did the filming take place? In Arizona? No, we filmed it in the mountains of California.
Wow! That's awesome! The other movie I'll never forget is my iconic role as "Diamond" in the film "Players Club." It was my first major role and one of the most iconic. Not only did that role "make me," but it also prepared me for all upcoming Hollywood films that I would be a part of throughout my career as an actress. Remember, I was brand new to the industry back then, so the lessons I learned during that time were invaluable. I also learned a lot by getting the opportunity to play opposite Jamie Foxx, who I was a fan of. I got the chance to work with Ice Cube. It was a great experience, and I owe everything to that character, Diamond.
The cast was also excellent! We had Terrence Howard, Michael Clarke Duncan, Charlie Murphy, Alex Thomas, Uncle Luke, AJ Johnson, and many others who became stars. Ice Cube knows how to pick them.
Each role I've played has been enjoyable for me, no matter how small or large. I think they're all wonderful. I like what I do.
The ability to make people believe what they see on screen is one of your greatest gifts, LisaRaye. Great actors or actresses can embody their characters so well that after watching them on the screen, you forget who they are as people and start seeing them as the characters they're portraying. You do exactly that. In your opinion, what makes a great director or producer? A great director has to be able to have his eyes on the big picture. In other words, that director is there to ensure that while you're acting, he's seeing what is transferring on film but only if he's getting it or picking up on it.
For example, you can cry with no tears and still have the emotion there. Still, if it's not translating on screen that you are having a breakdown, the director will say, "I need tears in this scene, or I need that tremble in your voice to make sure that we understand how much this is paining you. Then you're like, OK, got it.
The paper may have stated she is going through it, but how you personally go through it may be different from how the character goes through it. And in some cases, you may have to go deeper for it to resonate with the audience. That's what a good director is going to be able to do for you. They protect your performance, including the editor.
Many people don't realize how vital everyone's role is in making a movie. If a movie is not edited correctly, it can ruin a film. Have you ever seen the continuity off in a movie when a character walks into the room with their shirt buttoned, but in the next scene, you're like, "that wasn't like that before?"
Yes. (laughs) That means the continuity is off. As actors, sometimes you don't have time to say your lines, be thoughtful, and think about what your wardrobe looks like. On set, we have people called "The Village" who closely watch details and monitor the scene. They're the ones that say, "wait, she switched her purse too soon between this line; she's supposed to do it between the other line; let's stop.
They do this because you don't want to waste tape. So, it's a team effort. We cannot do it by ourselves. This is why when you see people thanking people at the awards, they have a list of people they thank because they understand teamwork is making their dream work. Therefore, you must let them know how instrumental and vital they are to your performance.
I agree with that. Not only in film but even outside of the film world. No one becomes successful on their own. God brings multiple people into your life who aid in the success of whatever you're doing, including parenting. Children who do not show gratitude to their parents are like crew members who support your role but are never thanked once you win an award.
With that being said, children must realize all the sacrifices their parents have put in that have gotten them to the point where they are today. You moved out to California to start a career in Hollywood so that you could provide for your daughter; that is the ultimate picture of a mother's love! As a working actress and a mother, how did you juggle both? It's funny that you asked because I was talking to my daughter about that very same thing wanting her to understand the sacrifices I had to make.
You're right; we do so much for our children, yet it often goes unnoticed. Despite all the sacrifices you've made for them, some have even been disrespectful and unappreciative. Some will even say, "you have never done this or that for me!" I'm like, are you kidding me? Do you realize what I had to sacrifice for you to have food on the table, clothes to wear, and a roof over your head? LisaRaye, I don't want to hear it from the child I laid down and birthed! I cannot! They wouldn't even know their name or how to use the potty if we didn't teach them.
The mere fact is that they can hold a spoon or a fork up to their mouth and eat it because we taught them that. So, I don't want to hear it! (laughs) my word is "baby bye!"(laughs). If anything, what bothers me the most is a disrespectful and ungrateful child. It doesn't matter whether it's mine or somebody else; I don't want to hear any child talking to their parents crazy or being ungrateful. I consider myself a nice person, but like they would say in a western movie, that chaps my hide" (laughs). How dare you say that? Do you know what I've done? Now we understand why our parents said what they said.
Oh yes, we do! (laughs) Being a single parent, I knew it was important to gather my support team. While she was in school, I befriended a few parents since I knew they would be my support system. One of my daughter's classmates' mothers who also had a daughter in the same grade; I let her daughter come and spend time with us and vice versa because I knew that I was about to be this star and I was going to need somebody to help me with my daughter. That's how that started when she was younger.
Another thing was that I always had a good friend around. When I first moved here, a good childhood friend from Chicago also moved with her children. She helped me for about a good year and a half. She was my first assistant, and I didn't even know I would need one, but I did.
Then I had another good friend move out here with his kids. He was also a part of my support team and my best male friend. We coexisted and co-parented together. For instance, if I took the kids to school, he would pick them up.
I was disciplined regarding my time and schedule because I only had six hours to complete whatever I needed to do while she was in school. After she left school, I didn't do anything but mother. I was present when it was time for homework, dinner, or whatever. If I had auditions, I would take her with me; when we got back home, it was bedtime for her.
When I started getting Jobs that required me to be gone, like when I first started filming Players Club, my mom came out. Because the role was so major, I knew I would be gone daily with only weekends off. So, my mom came out, and you know you can't beat "good old grandma! "That's the best nanny, period!
Oh yes! So, when she came out, I had nothing to worry about because that was my mom. She picked up the slack for me. She liked it out here, which is how it is now. She was under my roof then, and she still is now. (laughs) so for me, it was family. I've always had someone around me who supported me and believed in what I was doing. Because of that, I was able to maneuver around.
Once my daughter reached a certain age, my trajectory changed from wanting to be a movie star to doing TV. I realized that I needed to be more scheduled. Therefore, I turned to television. That's when I was cast in the Will and Jada show called "All of Us," the sitcom. The sitcom was filmed near where I lived, which was convenient for me. I knew my schedule, and I didn't have to be at work until after she had to be at school, so that was perfect.
Having a job assured me of my income, schedule, and ability to afford an assistant and nanny. I was always able to take her to school, and when I couldn't pick her up, either one would help.
I didn't want my daughter to miss out on anything because I was working. I wanted her to still be able to go to Knott's Berry Farm, celebrate Halloween, and go over to her friend's birthday party.
I didn't want to be that parent that said, "you can't go because I'm working." I didn't want her to miss out on any of those things, so I was able to hire a nanny, and that worked out well. My mom came in and out still, and it all worked out!
It sounds like you were a phenomenal mom and a role model to young single-parent mothers struggling to put the pieces together. That's awesome! I'm sure that will be encouraging for many women reading your story. If you don't mind, I would like to add this.
Sure. It can be two-fold because what ended up happening is that there were times that I thought to myself, "Am I being selfish, or am I working and pursuing my dream where I can pay someone to take her to wherever she needs to go?"
Even though I was a well-known actress, I was still the type of mother who inserted myself into her life as much as possible, regardless of having a nanny or not; that's what I did. When children reach a certain age, you're no longer the cool mom, and they don't want you to hang out with them anymore.
I was already famous when my daughter started playing volleyball, so she would ask, "Do you have to come?" Then I would become a bit emotional and say, "you mean you don't need me anymore?" It was difficult for me to hear because I needed someone to need me.
I also suffered because the job I picked required me to be away from my daughter. Then again, I thought, what parent doesn't have to be away from their child to provide for their needs? You're away from them for around 8 to 9 hours a day while working nine to five. You get enough time for homework, a bath, and dinner, then you get back up the next day and do it again.
My life wasn't as conventional as that, but I'm glad it wasn't because that wasn't my path. It would have been boring for me to live that kind of life, so I don't regret anything, and I'm glad everything turned out well because now I'm living my dream. I'm living a life that I adore. I get to do things I've dreamed of and seen on TV. I'm even friends with people that I was a fan of. I'm great!
So LisaRaye, what's current in your life? I own property in Chicago, and I'm also a businesswoman. My store, LR Homestyles, which carries my mattress and furniture line, was initially located in the Beverly Center mall, but we're no longer in that location. Due to the pandemic, I closed the showroom; currently, we're online.
At this time, we're trying to decide whether we even want to open another one but due to the present state of our economy and its instability. So, at present, we're online. That was a collaborative project with a partner in the furniture business for over 20 years. I had to jump on it when he told me there were no minority manufacturers in that business.
I didn't want to do the norm. While actors are doing lipstick, lingerie, or some makeup or hairline, I set out to go in a different direction. I'm a rebel and prefer ownership because I come from business.
This collaboration was great because we became the first black-owned mattress company and developed some fantastic thermal fabrics for summer and winter. An excellent night's sleep is the key to everything, and finding comfort in your sleep pattern is essential for a good night's sleep.
I considered coming out with a diamond line, like a throwback line from what I've done and one that would reflect who I am. Because I'm a creative person, it made sense. It's a start-up business; we are still in it, and I love it.
I also have a Jean line that's on hold right now. I announced it was coming out a few years ago, but everything has changed due to the pandemic. So, I'm waiting for the right time regarding the Jean line. I will do a holiday collection of a few styles.
Fundamentally, I'm a self-made businesswoman with the help of the people who help me, but for the most part, you're all over the place when you're in this business. Hosting, motivational speaking, workshops, seminars, and appearances are some of the things I do apart from TV, movies, and award shows. But I've been a businesswoman for many years, even before I became, LisaRaye.
Awesome! Now you are part of a very successful YouTube channel show, cocktails, and Queens. Can you tell me about that? Cocktails in Queens came about during the pandemic. It was a pandemic gig. Initially, we were supposed to be interviewed on Claudia Jordan's show that she has on Fox Soul, and she was doing another show for them. It was me, Vivica Fox, and Selena Johnson.
We never interviewed because we just started talking, collaborating, and relating to one another once we got on the show. It was a fun show. It was so fun that we didn't realize that a whole hour had passed, and we never got to the questions they planned on asking us. So, we realized that the interview never took place, so they called us back to do it again.
But I felt like I had done it already, so I didn't want to do it again. They thought having four ladies with different perspectives in the business would be an excellent idea. They liked that we all had our careers in our own right and that we were strong and opinionated. So, they wanted us to come on the show again and talk about things they're talking about in the world. And that's how it came about. So, we discuss all things trending, all things gossipy, and all things controversial and inspirational. We state our opinions about how we feel about different topics based on our own experiences. The show has now taken off, but that's how it began. Presently, we're in our 3rd season.
How long has this show been running? We've been going strong for Three years now, and the great thing is that we do it from the comfort of our own homes. Once again, because it was a pandemic gig, it gave us a reason to get dressed up and look pretty because everybody was just at home doing nothing and getting fat, you know? (laughs)
(Laughs) Trust me, I have my own pandemic stories, so I get it! When we started being able to stream and connect live with an audience that way, we learned that we had a fan base out there that wanted to hear us, and so here we are and are still here.
So, what's next for you? I have been directing a bit. I just was a part of BET incentive for Black directors. This year's initiative is on breast cancer awareness, so my piece is on that. It's not my first time directing. My first film was called "Skinned," and I sold that film to TVONE. So, that's what piqued my interest in directing a film. I adore it because it gives me a different angle and way to horn my craft as an actress.
As a female actress who is also a director, I think I can pull more out of my fellow actors because I know what it's like to be an actress. But I love that role.
When does your film come out? My film came out on BET Her on October 8th. Proud to Present it. So, I'm looking forward to that.
Also, I am working on producing my own series and am highly interested in doing a one-woman show. I have so much that I have accomplished that I can laugh about now. From the trauma of my divorce and my first lady reign in Turks and Caicos to falling from grace and coming back. From reviving my career, becoming a grandmother, and discovering myself. Then I got baptized, became single, and started dating. With all that behind me, I now laugh.
Being such a great storyteller as I am, it's entertaining and funny. For years, people have told me that I need to come out with a book or at least be on stage with my story. And they're right. So now I have a meeting scheduled with a couple of writers because we're going to come out with the first couple of episodes. This way, I can start pitching around as a show.
At this time in my life, I'm just looking for a place that I can settle and call home, and for that's one good show that is going to last for five or six seasons that I absolutely adore everybody and everything about it, and that's where I am right now in my life. I'm not touching anything that is making me hesitate. If I'm hesitating, that's a sign that is not for me.
I want to go to work and have fun because that's my chosen job. I want to find a home with a good series or a good sitcom with a wonderful schedule. I want to get paid and do a great body of work. I would also like to get some nominations, keep it moving and go on vacation. Work hard and play harder.
Also, my Hollywood film that I filmed in Atlanta and Ghana, called “Single Not Searching,” premieres in Ghana on January 5, 2023. Can you say international babeeeeee! LOL!
What words of advice and wisdom would you impart to someone else who's reading your story? Don't let social media run your life, and please keep some things private. All items are not meant to be shared and told to the general public. I had to learn it myself, and I'm still learning. I didn't grow up in social media; it came about amid my career. It's a thin line between letting people know who you are and keeping some things private. There is such thing as TMI, too much information. I no longer want to talk about everything. I even have some personal situations that went viral, but they taught me things that go on behind closed doors or in private. When people ask me certain things, they catch me off guard, and I get shocked. And because I'm so transparent and authentic, you can read it on my face.
I'm not fake about my interviews; I always come from a real place. When it comes to actual life circumstances, I'm not acting. So, I've learned to mask many things and keep them to myself. I'm also learning to pay attention to how I say certain things. And even with my show Cocktails and Queens, I've said certain things that went viral, and people have taken them the wrong way. As a result, I've had to come back and do a rebuttal or apologies. And it's not their fault.
I know what the headlines do. They use catchphrases to pull you in. I know this business; therefore, I'm not going to give them sound bites. Please don't give them ammunition. The wisest thing is always to watch what you're saying and how you're doing it. So these are the valuable lessons I've learned, and I will turn that over to whoever feels they can benefit from what I've said.
That is very well said, and we can all learn from what you said, as we’ve all said hurtful and harmful words at one point or another in our lives. Using wisdom and discretion with our words is wise. In closing, I do not doubt that you will be phenomenal in anything you do, and I'm so excited for you! I can't wait to see what God will do in your life in the coming years. It's going to be great, and I'm proud of you for triumphing through all your trials and tribulations and showing women worldwide that it's possible to drain and fulfill those dreams, even as single parents. LisaRaye, it's been an honor and privilege to speak with you today. I sincerely thank you for your time and for allowing me to interview you. I pray that God will bless the works of your hands to be done according to his will. I pray that God will watch over you and protect you and your family in these uncertain days. Thank you for sharing your inspirational story and being willing to be transparent with our readers and me. You are a beautifully talented and inspirational woman. Keep dreaming, keep climbing, keep loving and keep being amazing, LisaRaye McCoy that you are. God bless you.
All LisaRaye McCoys photos are courtesy of LisaRaye McCoy.
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