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Interview Tue Apr 20 2010
Through modeling and acting in feature films and television, Chicago-born actress LisaRaye is used to being in the spotlight; however, in the midst of a high-profile marriage that ended in scandal, that light became dim. For this outspoken and determined South Side native, the light is beginning to shine again, even brighter than before.
Here, LisaRaye talks about her new reality television show (currently airing on TV One) and other projects that are helping her get back on track to reclaiming her place in Hollywood.
How is the show doing? What has the reaction been like from fans?
The reaction has been totally phenomenal, awesome and exciting! "LisaRaye: The Real McCoy" is the highest-rated TV show in TV One's history, with over a million viewers. I'm riding high right now and looking forward to riding this momentum.
You're on the path now to being back in Hollywood full time -- are things different now since your hiatus?
Yes, they are; now, there are less roles and opportunities for black actors. When I came back, there were no black sitcoms on the air, except for Tyler Perry's shows. Even all the black films that come out are his; I mean, we can't all fit into his stories. But they say when you get older, the acting jobs are few and far between. I haven't really felt that, though -- I don't feel older. I don't look older.
You do keep things very real in the show. Was that conscious on your part?
Many feel that the "real" is missing from most "reality" shows. There are so many reality shows out now that have the fights, outrageousness, and all that. I've got a grown reality show; I've got a message to get out there to all the women that want to be married, and I don't want them to go through the same thing I went through. I want to be able to share my story of learning how to bridge that gap and empower each other. I hope the show allows people to understand my journey and really know how to accept it and encourage me to move forward and to see the newfound strength I have. It's refreshing to have TV One on my team because they really believe in me and my story.
That's good to have that solid support from them.
But it's not just my reign as First Lady [of Turks & Caicos] and the scandal of my divorce why I did the reality show; I also did it to unveil and cleanse myself and take responsibility for what happened. I wanted to take the humiliation and pain away, and move forward and let people know who LisaRaye is and not the perception of who she is or who they think she is.
Your life has been a whirlwind, beginning with your acting career, the ending of your marriage to the Premier of Turks & Caicos, the rumors, the gossip -- with all those distractions, how did you keep it all together?
You know, Jamie Foxx once asked me, "Do you look at the internet?" I said, "Sometimes." Then he said, "Turn it off! You don't know those people and they don't know you, so why do you care about what they say?" I answered, "Well, I look... to counter what they're saying, maybe?" Jamie then said, "Do you. This is your journey -- you're an actress, you entertain, that's what you do." And he was right. Sometimes, some of the things hurt you, but when you're in the business, you know what you got yourself into -- you know there's the build-up to tear you down. So you just have to brush it off, shake it off, and keep it moving.
On "The Real McCoy," you give Chicago lots of love -- would you say the city is never far from your thoughts?
Absolutely! When I come home, I get nothing but mad love from the radio stations, the morning news shows, my fans, my friends and my family. There were times I was in Chicago, and people would see me walking down the street -- and when I first got married, I would hear, "You're that 'prince's' girl" or "You're that first lady!" It's great for my ego -- it's a great boost of love -- and I know if no other city cares about LisaRaye, Chicago is surely proud of me!
Parts of the show were filmed in Chicago, right?
Of course! I took [my cast & crew] to Harold's Chicken, Uncle Joe's, and Hoy Toy [Chop Suey] on Stony Island. I had to represent where I come from!
So it's safe to say that one of the things you miss about the city is the food, huh!
The food! Garrett's Popcorn! Goose Island! And Al's Italian Beef! But also, the city is so pretty. Our downtown is clean and beautiful, and the skyline is gorgeous! The Lake, the boats -- I love it! Even when it snows, it's pretty. I also love downtown and the Magnificent Mile. But Chicago is in the middle -- not as fast as New York, but not slow and laid back like L.A., either. It's right in the middle and I love that!
On this week's episode, we'll see you visiting your sister, (Chicago rapper Da Brat), who is currently incarcerated in Georgia -- how is she doing?
Da Brat is doing well; she's utilizing her time very well. We all go through something. We all have a story. She realizes she had to sit still to be able to realize what's going on in her life.
Yes, sort of like, getting that "focus" back.
You have to get that re-focus back -- I couldn't have said it any better.
Speaking of family, on the show, we see through your relationship with your daughter Kai, that family is very important to you.
Kai -- that is my baby, my love "thang." But for single parents, we have that "no-nonsense" thing about us, because we have someone's life we're responsible for: We're the mom, dad and everything. It's also that sense of urgency and hustle in us that makes us go out and do what we have to do. It's always been just the two of us. She's my friend, my family, my daughter, my everything, and she gives me that drive to do what I've got to do.
What's next for you? When will we you see back on the big screen?
I just booked a part in a movie with Flava Unit, Queen Latifah's production company. I start filming in Atlanta on May 10.
What can you tell us about this movie?
Well, it's still unnamed, but I can tell you it's about three friends -- sort of like "Sex and the City." Of course, my character is most like "Samantha!"
Any other projects?
Well, I have a book that I'm looking to get a publishing deal with soon. I'm also looking for endorsements. I think with my age and with the way that I feel that I look, a skin product line would be great for me.
No clothing line or signature fragrance for LisaRaye?
Well, every celebrity gets that. I want to do something different. When I had my lingerie line, it was perfect for me because it was hot and sexy, but when I became first lady, my image of being a sex symbol didn't work well with being a first lady of a country, so I had to let that fold. But that's the reason why I'm glad I'm back to branding myself because the sky is the limit; now, I can do what I want!
You also have another project that will be up and running soon, right?
Yes. I started a social networking organization called "Back to Business" (B2B). For me, "back to business" means that everybody, especially in this economy, needs to get back to doing what they do -- whether it's in business, in family, in love or whatever -- just get back to being you! So I'll have people join me this Memorial Day weekend, May 28-31 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. You can contact www.montrosetravel.com/b2b to find out more information.
Well, thanks for getting us caught up on all your endeavors -- congratulations!
Anything else you want to tell Chicago?
I love you and keep on loving me!
Catch Chicago's own LisaRaye in "LisaRaye: The Real McCoy" on Thursdays at 8pm on TV One.