Andrea Lewis Andrea Lewis

Vixen Chat: Andrea Lewis Teams Up With Issa Rae for 'Black Actress' Web Series, Explains How She's Similar to Meagan Good

If Kerry Washington taught us anything this year, it's that 2013 is the year of the black actress. Although the plight of brown-skinned thespians is a never-ending story, the emergence of web series like Issa Rae's Awkward Black Girl not only gives us meaty characters, but it allows for creative freedom. For Canadian industry vet Andrea Lewis (Degrassi, Cadet Kelly), this new media breakthrough makes being a black actress more exciting than ever before. Her upcoming series of the same name will spotlight the quirky everyday life of Cory Bailey, a mildly successful actress struggling to overcome Hollywood roadblocks.

Vixen recently caught up with Lewis to talk about teaming up with Issa Rae, running a successful IndieGogo fundraiser and her craziest audition experience.

VIBE Vixen: Is there camaraderie between you and other Toronto entertainers?
Andrea Lewis: Yeah! Any city or place you come from where there’s multiple people pursuing the same career, you definitely meet everybody and get to know everyone fairly well, whether it be on a professional level or friendship wise. I’ve always been blessed and very fortunate that I’ve lived in different parts of the U.S. and I always have friends there that are from Toronto. So, I’m never far from home [in a sense] which is really good.

Is there one person in particular you count as a close friend?
I’m really close with Melanie Fiona. She’s been my girl for many, many years. Maybe because we’re both Canadian. We both have West Indian background. She’s just a truth teller. Melanie keeps it real all the time. She’s always been my closest friend.

At what point did you realize being a black actress was going to be difficult?
I knew being a black actress was going to be difficult when I was 14. I started in the industry when I was only a toddler and I think if there’s one big thing you learn right away, it’s who you are or what you are in terms of the protocol and list of parts. There was always projects that wanted the token person of color. I was going to auditions that wanted people of color period and not just black girls. Everybody’s there and they’re just trying to fill one role. You learn that very quickly. It’s eye opening. It makes you take a stand, whether you’re going to stick by the stereotype or you say ‘Eff it, I’m going to create my own opportunities.’

Did you feel the same way on Degrassi?
My character a lot of the time was the token girl of color in a scene. She wasn’t necessarily significant. I might’ve been in a ton of episodes. I might’ve been in advertising and all kinds of things, but you didn’t always know things about my character or you didn’t get to hear her speak. I used to ask and talk to them about developing my character a little bit more and giving me a little more shine, but it was always fairly difficult. That’s just the system unfortunately. Luckily, we’re in a time now where the first lady is a black woman and you have TV shows like Scandal. There’s a real sense of turning around to bring in more people of color.

Canada is not like the U.S. in the sense that we don’t have a Canadian BET. We don’t have shows that have a full cast of black people. It is a feat itself to have been on such a recognized show in Canada and the U.S. as a person of color. That is an accomplishment.

Andrea LewisWhat television characters inspire you?
I’m definitely inspired by Scandal. Not just necessarily Olivia Pope, but everything about it. This is a show written by a black woman about a black woman starring a black woman. When you saw the ads or the behind the scenes for it, that in itself is exciting to me. Those are things I literally live for and look for my entire life. I watch those shows to support. I watched Deception simply to support Meagan Good she’s similar to me in a sense that she’s been acting forever. And it’s inspiring because it shows you you just have to stick this thing out and the chances will come.

Who are some of your favorite black actresses?
I love Taraji [P. Henson]. I think her growth is amazing. I used to see Taraji on like Sister, Sister and Smart Guy, so to see her Oscar nominated is like ‘Wow. The work will pay off.’ I think when I was a little girl, some of my biggest inspirations were Tia and Tamera Mowry. I’ve always loved Kerry Washington and the roles that she takes. I also love Sanaa Lathan and Nia Long—they’re the 90’s queens of film and TV.

What was your take on web series before deciding to create your own?
I had my idea for the show for a long time. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it. I ended up going to this really interesting panel discussion where it had a whole bunch of content creators that were making content for the web. Mainly because studios and networks weren’t giving them the opportunity to put their work out. Instead of waiting of joining a rat race, they went online. They were just talking about being online and how we are in the beginning of something huge when it comes to scripted content for people of color. And I really do feel like that. You can complain all day that there isn’t enough shows with people of color, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not working. When you look online, there are so many different shows. Before collaborating with Issa, I was a genuine fan of Awkward Black Girl.

What is Black Actress and who is Cory Bailey?
Black Actress is a mokumentary style scripted web series in the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm or Modern Family. It’s following a black actress named Cory Bailey who is in the phase where it’s really up to the powers within her to change her circumstances. But right now she’s at that place in her life where she’s a little insecure; she’s quick to blame others and doesn’t really recognize that everything is in her hands if she really wants it. The show also features interviews with other well known black actresses for the “real” documentary part of it. These people include Kerry Washington, Tatyana Ali and Nia Long, Tracee Ellis Ross—women I truly admire. The audience watches Cory Bailey, a girl in her 20’s, figuring out life. Which is something I think we can all relate to.

What is Issa Rae's involvement? 
She read the script, thought that it was very funny and that it fit her channel and her content. When it came to Black Actress, she said she would love to be a part of it and be a producer on it. I thought, Why not? What is more fitting? A friendship between us is perfect because the last thing I want is for people to see Black Actress and compare it to Awkward Black Girl. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to be or trying to follow. And you know there’s always people that are going to say stuff like that. So when Issa came along, it was perfect for her to give the co-sign.

What’s your craziest audition experience?
I went for an audition the other day and I was playing an elf and whole time I was just like ‘I’m playing an elf,’ but I had to just go along and make it the best audition I could make it. But you literally leave the audition like, ‘what’s going on in my life?’

Why did you go with Indiegogo to raise money?
The crowdfunding idea was mainly to get people involved with the project. I believe in community and letting people feel like they’re a part of your journey as much as possible. We knew we couldn’t create our project on little money. So we figured we'd see how crowdfunding works out. I was so scared. I thought, how can I avoid this as much as possible? You’re literally at your most vulnerable state. I’m begging people for money! But, it teaches you a lot about yourself and what you want. It opens your eyes to who your supporters are.

Was campaigning an adjustment?
It was interesting.  I don’t mind tweeting, Instagramming, Facebook and all that stuff. I’m that person that might do a couple a week or even a couple a day. It’s all spontaneous. But, with the crowd funding, you have such a limited amount of time. I think for the people observing it, 40 days might seem like a lot. To me, 40 days flew by. It was one of those things like “I can’t miss a day.” Because I want it so bad and I need it. It’s for something bigger and this whole plan.

What does the money go towards?
All of the money is for the production. That entails equipment, hiring the cast and crew, locations, permits—everything post production, marketing. Everything goes toward the actual show. I knew I wanted something great. If I’m going to make a statement about black girls and black women and black actresses, I want to show it in the best light possible. With that, it’s going to take some serious finances.

What advice can you offer actresses just starting out?
The best advice I’d ever gotten was…the best thing you can do for yourself is have fun. It sounds cliché, but no matter what the outcome is, just enjoy the fact that you are going to play this character. I try to do that as much as possible.

Watch the trailer on the next page.

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Kylie Jenner attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Kylie Jenner Doubles Down On Being Crowned A "Self Made" Billionaire

The premise of "self-made" and its interpretation when it comes to privileged celebrities has been a huge debate. When Kylie Jenner was named Forbes' youngest self-made billionaire, debates were raised due to her timeline in the limelight and her wealthy family. The 21-year-old defended her title, explaining how she doesn't fall into any ofter category.

"There’s really no other word to use other than self-made because that is the truth," she said in Q&A with Interview Magazine's German edition. "That is the category that I fall under," she started.

She acknowledged how her fan base equated to her success but refuted claims that she used her family's money to jump-start her wildly successful Kylie Cosmetics line.

"Although, I am a special case because before I started Kylie Cosmetics, I had a huge platform and lots of fans. I did not get money from my parents past the age of 15. I used 100 percent of my own money to start the company, not a dime in my bank account is inherited… and I am very proud of that."

Earlier this month (March 5) the mother-of-one officially surpassed Mark Zuckerberg as the youngest person to reach billionaire status, when Kylie Cosmetics hit a billion dollars in revenue.

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'Boomerang' Episode 7 Recap: Family Matters And Pride

Bryson and Simone are a thing, like for real for real. They can’t keep their hands (or tongues) off of one another. As the two of them get steamy in the jacuzzi, a sexually riled up Simone tells her new beau that she wants to treat his face like a bean bag. They are in it, y’all. There’s just one problem — they may be half-brother and sister (insert vomit emoji here). The excitement of finally landing the girl of his dreams is shut down when he reveals that his mother, Jacqueline, informed him that Marcus Graham may be his papa. (Wait. Does that mean Marcus cheated on Angela back in the day? Regardless, what a way to ruin a mood.)

As they wait for the DNA test results, Simone and Bryson still try to be business as usual, you know, chillin’ like they used to. Speaking of business, Bryson is all that. Ari may be his boy and all, but when it comes to directing Tia’s music video, Bryson wants an Italian dude to shoot it instead. He just doesn’t believe Ari can execute. All great directors have vision and through Bryson’s eyes, Ari has none. Simone can’t help but agree. It’s obvious that Tia and her bae are not at all pleased with the video production of her single. Bro gotsta go. Tia has never been one to hold back and in a fit of frustration, she does what Simone couldn’t verbalize; she fires Ari.

Like the “big bad boss” he is, Bryson harshly tells Ari that not only will he basically fail at being a producer, but people will notice that he doesn’t belong here. Hold up. Are we sure Bryson and Ari are friends? Tough love is understandable but to completely obliterate the dreams of someone you’ve been rocking with? That’s foul. Unlike Ari, Bryson knows that he was brought up with the keys and basically helped himself to whatever role he wanted in the industry, a luxury he can afford to extend. Why not help your friend out now even with a little guidance knowing his career aspirations?

Bryson may be able to but Simone is not willing to give up on Ari just yet. She lets Ari collaborate Bryson’s pick, Shayan, who is also seemingly having a hard time capturing dope shots. A conversation with Simone about perfecting his craft leaves Ari somewhat disappointed but open to the constructive criticism.

While enjoying the Atlanta Black Pride festivities, an old filing recognizes Ari and waves him down. In catching up, the discussion quickly takes a turn to sexual orientation labels with a judgemental tone and Ari is not having it. Sure, while he was with her, he liked women but sometimes he’d rather be with a man. “Bisexual,” “Gay,” call it whatever, he just likes who he likes, refuses to be put in a box, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is not about to happen is him being judged by a woman with five kids and three baby favas. Yikes.

That frustration instantly births inspiration. Instead of dryly shooting Tia performing with Pride weekend just happening around her, Ari points out how the world needs to see all black people not caring about what anyone has to say about them, especially when the world includes women rocking $12 jewelry. Sashayers, milly-rockers, and twerkers galore, the video shines on the culture, highlighting Kings and Queens of all shades, ages, genders, and sexualities. It’s a good time. Even Bryson can give up his props and that lead director credit to Ari. You see, Bryson? You gotta have a little faith like David always has.

Speaking of our fave pastor, unlike many Baptist churches, it’s amazing to see that David embraces and participates in the Atlanta Black Pride weekend. With the help of Crystal, David is preaching a message of loving who you are and loving others. His sermon last week no doubt spoke to the soul but if you recall, Crystal did notice that a lovely lady attended the service moreso for David and less so for Jesus. That obviously triggered something. Crystal and David may not have been able to work out their marriage but the attraction is absolutely still there. Could it be one-sided though?

You didn’t think we forgot about Bryson and Simone, did you? It should be noted that for his entire life, all Bryson ever wanted was to be like Marcus Graham, but not like this. David is right: be careful what you pray for. No matter the outcome of the paternity test, Simone and Bryson will undoubtedly be in one another’s life (maybe less like Whitley and Dwayne and more like Denise and Theo).

Well, folks, the results are in (insert Maury voice). In the case of Bryson J. Broyer, Marcus, you are NOT the father! But, you may still have some ‘splaining to do. Now that they are officially not related, Simone can finally go ahead and have that seat. We know, sis has been tired all day. Ow!

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Yvette Nicole Brown and Gabourey Sidibe were some of the actresses who were vocal about the treatment of actors of color when faced with beauticians in Hollywood.
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Celebrities Use #ActingWhileBlack Hashtag To Point Out Pitfalls Of Hollywood's Beauty Scene

While being a working person of color in Hollywood is something to admire, those fortunate enough to be working in these spaces often have difficulties finding the right person to do their hair and makeup with the right amount of diligent care.

Model Olivia Anakwe took to Instagram earlier this month to detail the issues she faced before a runway show, when she was disrespected by haircare professionals who refused to work on her textured hair.

"Black hairstylists are required to know how to do everyone’s hair, why does the same not apply to others?” she wrote. “It does not matter if you don’t specialize in afro hair, as a continuous learner in your field you should be open to what you have yet to accomplish; take a class."

The hashtag #ActingWhileBlack began to spread on social media over the weekend, and people of color chimed in to share their stories.

Actress Yvette Nicole Brown shared that she often carries her own hair extensions and clothes for shoots, and that having stylists who are untrained in black beauty often runs the risk of them looking bad later on. Oscar-nominee Gabourey Sidibe shared a similar sentiment.

Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell hit the nail on the head in her tweet about the issue with not hiring the right people to work with ethnic hair.

“If you cast a POC— And thank you for doing so!—you also have to hire someone who knows how to do ethnic hair,” she wrote on Mar. 11. “Not someone who's "comfortable with it" but someone who actually knows how to style ethnic hair types.”

Check out some tweets from celebs on this issue below.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

This message is to spread awareness & hopefully reach anyone in the hair field to expand their range of skills. Black models are still asking for just one hairstylist on every team no matter where your team is from to care for afro hair. I was asked to get out of an empty chair followed by having hairstylists blatantly turning their backs to me when I would walk up to them, to get my hair done. If I am asked to wear my natural hair to a show, the team should prepare the style just as they practice the look and demo for non-afro hair. I arrived backstage where they planned to do cornrows, but not one person on the team knew how to do them without admitting so. After one lady attempted and pulled my edges relentlessly, I stood up to find a model who could possibly do it. After asking two models and then the lead/only nail stylist, she was then taken away from her job to do my hair. This is not okay. This will never be okay. This needs to change. No matter how small your team is, make sure you have one person that is competent at doing afro texture hair care OR just hire a black hairstylist! Black hairstylists are required to know how to do everyone’s hair, why does the same not apply to others? It does not matter if you don’t specialize in afro hair, as a continuous learner in your field you should be open to what you have yet to accomplish; take a class. I was ignored, I was forgotten, and I felt that. Unfortunately I’m not alone, black models with afro texture hair continuously face these similar unfair and disheartening circumstances. It’s 2019, it’s time to do better. || #NaturalHair #ModelsofColor #BlackHairCare #HairCare #Message #Hair #Hairstyling #Backstage #BTS #AfroTexturedHair #Afro #POC #Braids #Message #Spreadtheword #Speak #Awareness #Growth #WorkingTogether #BlackGirlMagic #Melanin

A post shared by Olivia Anakwe (@olivia_anakwe) on Mar 7, 2019 at 9:07am PST

#ActingWhileBlack Makeup & Hair in one bag. The other bags are filled with clothes because some wardrobe stylists don’t know that cute clothes exist in sizes larger than size 10. “Here try on this mumu, I know it’s a little big, we’ll just belt it!” #ActingWhileBlackAndChubby https://t.co/gl3b64Omtj

— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) March 11, 2019

Most black actresses come to a new set w/ their hair done (me) or bring their wigs & clip-ins w/them. It’s either that or take a chance that you will look crazy on screen. Many of us also bring our own foundation. One too many times seeing no shade that matches you will learn ya! https://t.co/mGAzpuoKtb

— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) March 11, 2019

Most black actresses come to a new set w/ their hair done (me) or bring their wigs & clip-ins w/them. It’s either that or take a chance that you will look crazy on screen. Many of us also bring our own foundation. One too many times seeing no shade that matches you will learn ya! https://t.co/mGAzpuoKtb

— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) March 11, 2019

If they don’t have the budget to hire a black hairstylist for me, or won’t, I just get the director to agree that my character should have box braids or senegalese twist.

— Gabby Sidibe (@GabbySidibe) March 11, 2019

PSA: If you cast a POC— And thank you for doing so!—you also have to hire someone who knows how to do ethnic hair. Not someone who's "comfortable with it" but someone who actually knows how to style ethnic hair types.

Congratulations on advancing to the next level of inclusion! https://t.co/A1Q9ZpvXmH

— Natasha Rothwell (@natasharothwell) March 11, 2019

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