Teyonah Parris Teyonah Parris

Vixen Chat: Teyonah Parris Talks 'Mad Men,' Embarrassing First Impression and Natural Hair

Seeing a Black woman on television is nothing new, but watching a brown beauty navigate through the Mad Men mix is an exciting event.

Teyonah Parris just so happens to be that breath of fresh air.

Playing Dawn Chambers, Don Draper's new secretary, Parris is a gleaming representative of the era's racial tensions. Prior to her character's arrival, the show's penmen kept civil rights issues at a dull whisper. Now, however, the talks are loud as Chambers outs the prejudices that her fellow agency dwellers didn't even know they had. (See: "Mystery Date")

Vixen chatted with the ad agency's cocoa cohort to talk her new role, her most embarrassing moment on set and how she tames her natural mane on a daily basis.

VIBE VIXEN: Were you nervous when you got the gig or when you started to go on set?
TEYONAH PARRIS: There’s always that first day of school kind of jitters. For me, it usually manifests itself in some type of clumsiness, so I was very excited or giddy, that kind of thing. My first second on set, they’re like, 'Okay Dawn come see your desk,' [and] I go to the desk--which you guys see me at all the time--and I sit in the chair, but I miss the chair and the chair flips behind me. I was like, Ugh. [Laughs]

Wow! That's a great first impression.
Yeah, everybody had a good laugh and were like, 'It’s ok.'

Now outside of talking to your grandmother, how else did you prepare for the role of Dawn?
It was [listening to] more music definitely, but moreso than that, I wanted to get into the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, so it was marathon weekends of Mad Men. I had seen a few episodes but not all of them.

So you weren’t with the Mad Men mania prior to your role?
I had watched the show and enjoyed it but I wasn’t.

What were some of the things that stood out while you were watching all of  Mad Men?
This man (Don Draper) gets around. He definitely has a lot going on in the romantic area. He surely goes through a lot of secretaries, and I really found myself drawn to the story [and how] it’s just so settled. I was really drawn to that aspect of the show. It just seems so perfect and normal on the outside, but they all have this undercurrent rumbling in there.

You’re really drawn to the complexity of each character.
I think that’s what draws a lot of people to Mad Men mania, I would say.

When you were cast, where did you see your character going?
The breakdown for this character said African American, early 20s co-star. I thought I would be there maybe a day, maybe two and I had no clue in what capacity I was gonna be used. I didn’t know I was his secretary or anything, so once I got hired and I found out I was his secretary, I was like, Oh, okay.

Now, you’ve seen how the secretaries are with Draper...
Right, but I have no clue how long I’ll be here, so I don't have any crazy expectations.

What were some of the top three lessons you learned from the other actors and working with everyone?
The other new actor Ben Feldman, we started on the same episode. He does a lot of television, so he and I would kinda talk and he just helped me learn very technical things.

You know, I come from a background of theatre, and in theatre, you got that one time when you’re up there. If you mess up or anything goes wrong, you have to find your way back to the scene and everything without skipping a beat. While filming Mad Men, it’s very rare that they’ll even use one whole take of anything. And I knew that before doing this, but it really hit home for me in doing this.

Which do you love better: the stage or the TV?
I love theatre. I like the immediate gratification or the you suck-ification of it [laughs]. With film, it's just this whole waiting thing. I mean, it's like you wait to get to set, once you’re on set, you’re waiting and you finish the project then you gotta wait some more. But at the same time, I love that cause it’s so different for me. It's so different.

With Mad Men being super authentic, tell me how you got comfortable with the ‘60s style. Was it something that you already loved?
Oh yes, I’ve definitely always loved it. I love playing dress up. If I could wear a ball gown to the grocery store, trust me I would. So the clothes? It was just like, Yay I get to try on clothes and they’re very different! And the wigs? Oh, my goodness, oh my goodness.

They were crazy?
I have a huge afro, so it was very different. I hadn’t worn a wig in so long. In my mind, I imagined that it would be the big Diana or something, that kind of fabulous. Uh, no you’re gonna be this little shy, church-going, homely young lady named Dawn, and we’re gonna comb your hair over, [laughs].

Was it irritating to have the wig on?
It wasn’t irritating, it’s just a lot of work pinning that hair down. When you release it, you wanna look normal for the next day; you have auditions or whatever, and you have to not [have] braids all the way back or twists or whatever. I need my hair to be out so pinning it down and getting it flat every night was a process.

It sounds like a taxing process.
But I would much rather do that than have them try to press my hair. I was totally fine to do it.

What products do you use on your hair?
I got into YouTube and started following this girl, Naptural85, I think that’s her name. She uses all organic stuff: you get raw shea butter. You know how they sell the tubs of raw shea butter? I get that and add essential oils like lavender or tea tree, and whip it up with a cake batter mixer. I whip it up like a cream to put on hair when I wanna do a twist out. Then, Naptural85 has one with coconut oil that’s a little lighter for everyday hair dressing. It’s all natural stuff like coconut oil, shea butter, tea tree oil, lavender, ylang ylang, nothing crazy.

In terms of you being the first African American employee on the show, what other African American actresses or women in the business do you admire right now?
I really admire what Ava Duvernay is doing right now, she’s with the independent films. I had the opportunity to see her film I Will Follow, and I’m just really excited about the work people are making, telling stories about us that need to be told that aren’t necessarily comedic or aren’t necessarily somebody’s mom is on crack. I'm really excited about that, and with Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington doing “Scandal”, the first African American woman on primetime [television] with an African American head writer. That is amazing. I am beyond proud and just excited for what that means for us coming up behind them.

What’s next for you? What are you most looking forward to?
Right now, it’s back to auditioning. It’s been pretty busy with that, so that’s always a good thing. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to just work on more good material, more material that challenges me, excites viewers and tells the stories of women, stories that need to be told that aren’t told.

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The emotional ballad is simple in production thanks to the presence of an acoustic guitar, allowing Lamis to show off her vocal chops. Reminiscent of 2000s R&B gems like "I Wished You Loved Me" by Tynisha Keli and recent classics like Tink's "Treat Me Like Somebody," Lamis finds the right words that almost anyone can relate to.

"The track “Best Thing” was birthed from a realtime heartbreak," she tells VIBE. "I went into the lab and wrote it while I was ending a relationship that had a strong hold over me. I literally cried in the booth as I was singing it. My hopes are that every woman or man that has been emotionally broken and taken for granted by a lover will feel comfort in knowing that leaving was the best thing they ever did for themselves."

Thanks to her around the way aura, the video plays off her personality with the presence of "Smakie Lamis" taking Lamis out of her sad girl feels over her deceitful partner, allowing her to hop in the whip and bust out some car windows–even if it's not her beau's car. Directed by Michelle Parker, the video also plays up Lamis' Houston swag as she rides around town in a candy green whip.

The budding singer knows how important her songwriting plays a role in her relationship with fans. Lamis previously shared a bit of her writing style with Refinery29, while opening up about the importance of body positivity.

"Anytime something impacts my life, I write it down and make a song out of it," she said. In her previous visuals for "Suga Daddy," the singer turned up the sexy for a good reason. "I've displayed my confidence as a chunky girl in this video. So many people have things to say about curvy, bigger girls. I feel like we're in a space now where we're able to finally have a voice and be free, and still be sexy. Particularly with the wardrobe, I wanted to show some skin, to show those curves, those back rolls, those fat little pockets I got underneath my chin and shit. I wanted to make sure I displayed that and rocked the hell out of it, confidently."

Lamis is gearing up to release her debut EP S.O.L.A.R. (Storytelling Over Lyrics and Rhymes) on Dec. 13. The singer hopes to share more stories her fans will appreciate and the masses will adore. Her come-up is a digital grassroots movement thanks to her remake of Ella Mai's "Boo'd Up" in 2018 leading to her debut studio single  "N.A.S.," an acronym for "Ni**as ain't S**t."

 

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BEST THING CHALLENGE 🔥 -Stream/Download my new song BEST THING -DM me your videos -No instruments -No music -Just you & your voice -#Bestthingchallenge

A post shared by Aʅʅ I Nҽҽԃ Iʂ Oɳҽ Mιƈ... 🎤 (@inayah_lamis) on Nov 18, 2019 at 12:05am PST

Taking things up a notch, Lamis announced the #BestThingChallenge to welcome fellow sangers to show off their vocals.

Before diving into the challenge, enjoy the visuals for "Best Thing" below.

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Singer Whitney Houston is seen performing on stage during the 2004 World Music Awards at the Thomas and Mack Center on September 15, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Whitney Houston's Close Friend Robyn Crawford Details Romantic Relationship In New Memoir

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“We never talked about labels, like lesbian or gay,” writes Crawford. “We just lived our lives and I hoped it could go on that way forever.”

As their journey continued, Whitney's star began to rise which put allegedly put their romance on ice. “She said we shouldn’t be physical anymore,” writes Crawford. "Because it would make our journey even more difficult. She said if people find out about us, they would use this against us....and back in the ’80s, that’s how it felt. I kept it safe. I found comfort in my silence.”

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But Crawford is finally ready to tell her own story while "lifting" Houston's legacy.

“I wanted to lift her legacy, give her respect and share the story of who she was before the fame, and in that, to embrace our friendship,” she tells People. "I'd come to the point where I felt the need to stand up for our friendship. And I felt an urgency to stand up and share the woman behind the incredible talent."

A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston is expected to hit bookshelves this fall.

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Keke Wyatt Announces That She's Pregnant With Her Tenth Child

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"My husband Zackariah Darring and I are so happy to announce that we are expecting our new bundle of joy!" she wrote on Instagram. "We are excited to welcome the 10th addition to our beautiful family."

The vocalist continued to state that fans can follow her pregnancy journey on her YouTube series The Keke Show where she gives an intimate look at how she balances her career and motherhood.

 

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My husband Zackariah Darring and I are so happy to announce that we are expecting our new bundle of joy! We are excited to welcome the 10th addition to our beautiful family. Stay tuned for the release date & information for my new YouTube Series “The Keke Show” where you will see me balancing Wife, Mommy and Artist!!! Trust me.. it’s never a dull moment with my family. Love ya sugars💋💋💋 photo credit: @keever_west Styled/Designed by: @keever_west Asst: @freddyoart

A post shared by Keke Wyatt (@keke_wyatt) on Oct 14, 2019 at 4:43pm PDT

In an interview with The Christian Post, Wyatt said she believes she has "an anointing with motherhood" and looks at her children as fuel to keep striving in her career.

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