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.

From the Web

More on Vibe

City Girls Get "Careless" In New Music Video

In honor of the one-year anniversary of their debut project Period, City Girls has dropped a music video for their song "Careless."

The video stars the rap duo, Yung Miami and J.T., the latter who is currently serving a two-year sentence in Tallahassee. The visual directed by Gabriel "Video God" Hart, features the two rap divas sporting their iced out Quality Control chains rapping in the streets of what appears to be Miami. Both Yung Miami and J.T. are donning the same outfits, distressed jean shorts-underwear, a cropped Miami jersey with a white turtleneck underneath and the classic Timberland boots.

City Girls are showing exactly what they're made of as they rap about "living life so careless," and "h**s [being] so mad it's evident" with an entourage of women behind them. The short clip is full of fun-filled energy as the hot rappers bounce from location to location. Whether they're in a hotel room sipping on some Hennessy, in a store copping a couple of things, they still manage to get their bars off.

The visual is a good representation of what fans can expect from the rap duo, even more so if they see them in concert. Most recently Yung Miami performed the girls' big hit, "Act Up" at Rolling Loud with the help of Lil' Yachty, their co-collaborator on the song. Next up for Yung Miami is the Hot 97 Summer Jam on June 2 at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Make sure to check out their music video above and stream Period in celebration of its one-year anniversary.

Continue Reading
Blac Chyna attends the BET Hip Hop Awards 2017 at The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater on October 6, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida
Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

Blac Chyna Named As Suspect In Assault Against Hair Stylist

Well, this isn't the best way to celebrate your birthday.

Blac Chyna has reportedly got in trouble with the law again after a confrontation with her hair stylist. TMZ reports the Chyna and the employee who hasn't been unidentified, were at Chyna's home in San Fernando Valley, Calif. when they got into an argument over payment.

The police report alleges after the hair stylist attempted to collect her check from Chyna, the 31-year-old pulled out a knife. The hair dressed left and reportedly threw soda cans at Chyna's car. A source shared with the outlet that Chyna didn't have a weapon on her person but there were cans thrown at her car.

Because Chyna's six-year-old son King was present, there's a chance the L.A. County Dept. of Children and Family Services will get involved for a possible welfare check.

Chyna hasn't addressed the incident but will more than likely still have a nice birthday.

Continue Reading
Queen Naija attends the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 01, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Queen Naija Responds To Backlash For Going Public About Plastic Surgery

Queen Najia's decision to be blunt about her plastic surgery was met with backlash when she was accused of normalizing the procedure for young women.

The singer-songwriter who is known for her bold personality and power vocals shared the video titled, "Revealing My New Body | One Week Post Op Tummy Tuck + BBL (Brazillian Buttlift)" on YouTube Friday (May 10). In a previous video, Naija vlogged her plans to get a tummy tuck while heading to the Billboard Music Awards where she was nominated for Top R&B Female Artist.

The singer previously went under the knife after the birth of her first child in 2017, leading to a case of bad fibrosis. "I'm really really happy about the results," she said. "I basically got a tummy tuck and I got my hernia repaired around my belly navel, it would puff out because of my loose skin. I had really really bad fibrosis from the smart lipo I got two years ago."

In her recap video, the singer seemed to be visibly happy with the results and additional unplanned surgery for the Brazilian Buttlift. "I'm just really really happy. I feel more confident with my body and being a mom with two kids and having two c-sections, and all the stuff going on with myself, I'm really happy," she said Friday. "I will not be getting any more surgery. I won't turn into one of those girls who gets lip fat added and all this stuff. I'm not touching my face. As yall know I got eye fillers and I'm never doing that again."

But her joy was quickly met with criticism after The Shade Room picked up a portion of the video on their Instagram page. Naija responded in jest. "Now if I would have kept it a secret, like a lot of other women who’ve had surgery.. everyone would have saying “Liar, did you get surgery, why you hiding it?” she said.  Lol, I tell the truth & it’s still an issue. Hilarious. Imma take my new booty and hide in a ditch."


View this post on Instagram


#QueenNaija stepped into #TheShadeRoom to say she’s keeping it real about her surgery, period. 👀👀 (SWIPE)

A post shared by The Shade Room (@theshaderoom) on May 10, 2019 at 7:39pm PDT

The "Medicine" singer has been open with her journey to building her self-esteem and has shared why she decided to try surgery. "I do love myself but at the same time, you have to make your self happy," she said in 2017. "You don't have to look in the mirror and see what I see. At the end of the say, I'm the one who has to put up with my self-esteem. I tried to diet and workout but I didn't see any results in my stomach area [because of c-section]."

The topic of surgical enhancement with women of color has been a controversial topic, with many women dying for trying under the table procedures. Standards of beauty have continuously changed with social media and influencers holding relevance over the youth but the singer hasn't promoted the option to go under the knife to her fans.

Continue Reading

Top Stories