Lauren London Lauren London

Lauren London: Hollywood's Not-So-Nice Girl

Lauren London

LAUREN LONDON IS MILES beyond Down South coming-of-age flick ATL, both literally and figuratively. The 28-year-old actress phones in from the Left Coast, somewhere in the Hills where cell service is worst than kitten heels. She sounds calm but prepared. Sugary sweet even. But the mom of 4-year-old son Cameron with rapper Lil Wayne makes no mistake about her ability to take it to a place called There when it comes to he said, she said chatter.

Despite hanging against the Hollywood ropes for a round (or three) while pregnant, L-Boogie maintained consistent work, managing to appear in quite a few silver screen features (I Love You, Beth Cooper, Next Day Air, Good Hair) and TV slots (90210, Entourage). Still, her off-screen journey is where most media attention locks in, splashing headlines of false romantic match-ups and speculations about her relationship with Weezy across the 'net. "I’m still a human and things do hurt, but you can’t let people’s opinions define you because we’re all battling something," she says of brushing up rumors, adding, "Me? Yeah, I’m definitely a fighter."

While appealing to both African American-specific and mainstream audiences like a Top 40 pop record, Lauren's personal life--the intimate details, at least--remains off-limits. Behind the curtain? A semi-vet who is admittedly in the business but not of it. "My life, my son's life, my soul and who I am as a person means much more to me than the limelight," she explains. "[Acting] is what I chose to do, not who I am." No matter how much blogs try to peel back specifics, Lauren remains tight-lipped. "If they want to see more of me, go rent your movies or watch the show."

Now, officially taking lead role reigns in BET's fan-favorite sitcom The Game as flirty former child star Keira Whitaker, the Rachel Zoe-loving prima donna's back on Hollywood geo-maps and rubbing elbows with Tinseltown's brown-faced elite (see: Gabrielle Union, Loretta Devine, Regina King, Mekhi Phifer). Edit in: London's forthcoming character as Paula Patton's little sis and bride-to-be in David E. Talbert's Baggage Claim, due later this year. "I’m engaged to Terrence J, which is awesome because he’s really like my brother in real life, so I love him."

Any chance LL's walking down the aisle anytime soon? "I’m not dating at all. I don’t know if I’ll have the time. But I’m very fiery and sassy, so I need someone to keep up with that."

But there's more to Lauren's bark and bite. And apparently, we don't know the half. -- Niki McGloster

Lauren LondonVIBE Vixen: Something you've mentioned about your character on The Game--“20somethings are a hot mess.” Tell me how closely similar you are to Keira Whitaker at that age?
Lauren London: I could relate to her on figuring out my placement as to who I wanted to be as a woman. I didn’t ever have a wildin’ out stage, and Keira gets drunk and belligerent. I was never like that. But in my early 20s, starting in the business, you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be, where you fit in. That was more where I can relate, but other than that, not at all.

How did you get into character and tap into that wilder side?
To keep it real, it was what needed to happen for the characters, so I just tapped into it and did it. It’s acting. You just become the character.

What do you think young women can learn from other 20somethings on TV, especially on HBO’s phenomenon Girls? Are they true to the real experience of a 20something-year-old girl today?
What these characters show you is raw vulnerability, that it's okay to not have it all together and in the process of getting it together, you’re going to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. That’s what all these characters kind of possess. In the process of figuring it out, you mess up, but in those slip-ups, that’s how you figure it out.

You say you didn't have too many wild moments. But is there a lesson you learned in your early 20s that you carry with you now?
Starting my career, there was a lot of rejection going on. I remember my dad telling me that if you let that define you, they’ll basically make you nothing. You have to define yourself. Every time you hear a no, it's one step closer to a yes. Jobs come and go, so I don’t get too down on myself. You have to stay self-motivated. If you wait for someone else to motivate you, you’ll be waiting for a long time. You have to really be your own cheerleader. Even if you don’t feel all that way in the moment, tell yourself that you’re enough.

Any lessons learned from your mom, ones you'll pass down to your son?
Being resilient. No matter what, never giving up on your dreams. It sounds cliché but it’s so real. She grew up struggling, but she was always very positive, no matter how bad things came. We kept a positive outlook because your perception is everything. It is your reality. That is something I want to pass down to my child. My mom was very into inner beauty. She would say all the time, “Being cute is cute, but who are you on the inside?”

Smart woman. So, who are you?
I’m still growing and still learning. I’m okay with the process. I understand the growing pains a little more than I did. I’m more trusting with the process and it doesn’t come easy. I question it sometimes.

What is one main thing you're still learning?
Faith and thicker skin. Not letting what people have to say about me matter so much.

You get a lot of bullshit, especially in the media. Have you always had that will to fight back in you?
I’m not going to front. I'm not a lover, I’m a fighter. I will forget that I am Hollywood and get Holly-hood [Laughs].

But a lot of gossip is just rumors since you're so private.
I was always a private person. My business is my business. I have a small group of friends, and I just like the simple things out of life. My privacy is something that I value. I’m also socially awkward.

No way. Really?
Yeah. I get nervous in large crowds. I’m approachable though because I’m just like you. I just have a different job.

Über private megastars like Denzel Washington come to mind. You have to be able to master that kind of balance between real life and celebrity.
Yeah. When they see you, they see you. Sidney Poitier said, “Why would they come see you on Saturday when they saw you on Friday.” I’m going to take that advice and follow the footsteps of somebody like that. I love to act, I love doing films, and it’s that simple. I have more to prove to myself because I can definitely be better. I’m not stopping here. I’m still working on me and exercising my muscle called acting. I want to be great. I don’t really care for the other stuff. People get really shocked when I say that but that’s just who I am.

With you being a private person and all, when you got pregnant, what was going through your mind?
The public was the last thought. Most of my thoughts were on my family and inner circle. It was mostly how is this affecting Lauren as a person and is Lauren ready to completely put herself to the side and be a mother. My priorities were changing. My career was last.

Before ATL, people didn’t know about me. I auditioned for ATL and no one cared who I was. I was a regular girl in L.A. who auditioned and got the role. No one knew I was doing it and I did it. No one gave me that. I did that. They can’t take what they didn’t give. God has the last say, so I just trust that. Is it an uphill battle? Yes. But isn’t everything? I’m not starving.

Family – you were worried about how they would take it?
Well, you know, it’s another human being in the world. That affects everybody, and one thing I learned about life is that your choices don’t just affect you, it affects everybody connected to you.
Lauren LondonVV: Speaking of family, the set of Baggage Claim must've been like a mini reunion.
LL: I did most of my scenes with Paula, Terrence and Jennifer Lewis, who is awesome. We had a good time.

You're getting married in the film. What are your thoughts on walking down the aisle?
I think it’s awesome when it's done right. I don't think anyone is supposed to be alone, you know. Having a partner and having somebody that is with you through the ups and downs is awesome. I’m all about connection. If I connected with someone and met a nice guy maybe, but I just haven’t ran into that yet.

Sometimes the nice guy can be too nice.
The grown man is a good alternative.

When you mean grown – no games, established?
Grown, secure in himself and who he is, aware of what he wants and willing to learn and grow with somebody else. I think everybody is waiting for me to settle down and find him [Laughs]. I’m really selective and picky.

Give us a quick synopsis of your sexiest sex story?
I’d have to kill you if I tell you [Laughs]. I can’t have my son reading this shit 20 years down the line.

Photgraphy: Cliff Watts
Styling: Eryka Clayton
Cover Design: Dae Howerton 

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

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Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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