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Taryn Manning: Tearin’ It Up

Orange Is The New Black star, Taryn Manning talks to VIBE Vixen about Pennsatucky, popularity, and playlists for her November cover shoot.

She left Orange is the New Black fans clutching their crucifixes at the end of Season One, but this pint-sized powerhouse’s real strength lies in her ability to encapsulate every role she encounters. 

Remember when Britney Spears took a stab at acting in 2002? Chances are film executives didn’t predict either of her Crossroads co-stars climbing to the A-list years later. While Zoe Saldana continues to make bank in Hollywood blockbusters, Taryn Manning has built one of the most colorful, daring and unpredictable resumes in the entertainment industry. Anchored by a knack for the unconventional and commitment to every character she portrays, the West Coast native has always used her universal appeal to her advantage. Whether it be a micro-braided prostitute (Hustle and Flow), rapper’s ex-girlfriend (8 Mile) or free-spirited romantic (Jack and Jill vs. the World), Manning’s past roles practically honed her for a scary good turn as Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett on Orange is the New Black.

Bible-totin’, God-fearing and downright frightening, there is nothing nice about this inmate, including her teeth. Alongside her fellow cross-bearing allies, Pennsatucky’s demeanor frequently straddles the line between humorous and offensive, a testament to both the Orange writers and Manning’s nearly flawless execution. While many of the OITNB stars’ roles are clearly defined, Taryn has the fortune of experimenting with a woman whose backstory is as erratic as her daily encounters with Taylor Schilling’s Piper Chapman.

Naturally, we assume actors that take on “odd” roles are just that behind-the-scenes. With moccasins on her feet, heels in hand and larger-than-life shades masking her face, normalcy is the first thing that comes to mind when Taryn casually arrives for our interview. Cool as a menthol, she lights up gushing about her love for animals, fashion and even Buddhist chanting. A self-proclaimed “girly girl” and family fanatic, Manning is probably one of the most misread actresses in Hollywood. Amongst her OITNB co-stars weeks later she’s soft-spoken, ethereal—the first to hand out hugs.

You think you know, but you have no idea. Prepare to fall in love with the real Taryn.

Taryn Manning-polaroid-collage

This has to be one of your most successful gigs to date.
It’s a different type of format of a show. I think the platform is super unique and I think that lends to why it’s having a different type of success because it’s more accessible to people in their household.

How crazy does Pennsatucky look on paper?
When I first read it, my immediate reaction to my manager was that it would be so much fun because she’s so crazy. But as time went on and some of the content they were writing, I really had some moments of moral conflict between the character and my real beliefs. As Taryn, I’m not racist or anti-gay. She’s a total walking contradiction because she’s religious, but doesn’t like anybody. She’s so radical in her beliefs, so I’ve just committed my heart and self to that fact that it’s just a role.

How do you effectively play a meth addict without actually doing drugs?
They’re some actors out there are stupid. They’re so method that they’ll go try a drug to really feel the feeling and I don’t know if I have time to perhaps overdose or put powder up my nose. There’s actually a lot of documentaries about meth and meth users. There was one I saw recently that went into all the ingredients and that helped me shape sort of why my character’s so crazy because if she’s been using this drug for as long as she has…I have the list in my phone. I’ll read it to people just to trip them out. It’s everything from Drano to ammonia and brake cleaner.

OITNB-Taryn-Manning

 

Photo Credit: Jasmine L. Gonzalez

Religion is a big part of Pennsatucky’s life. What are your beliefs?
One very cool thing about playing this role is because of all the research that I did like going to church. I’d been to church my whole life, but I’m not a Christian. But, in doing this, I’ve gotten more connected to God, so there’s been a source that speaks to me. I’ve always been very spiritual and even with my friends I can get kind of preachy and on one about whatever it is I believe in, so it’s funny that I ended up with this role.

Have you seen any of the memes floating around?
I see them everywhere. I think it’s hilarious. I saw a Miley Cyrus one before I knew about all the [VMA] controversy. But, I give it up to her. I respect people who have courage and whether the world agrees with it or not, I still love that she’s committed to the ratchet pop thing she’s doing.

Do you relate in any way to your character?
I do. I feel one way I relate to her is that she’s kind of ostracized and left out in a way and I can relate to being around a big group of women. Even junior high, I can remember having a lot of friends, but there was always somebody wanting to bully somebody. This role has shown me so much and inspired me to want to go speak to youth about feeling that way. I mean, she brings it on herself because she’s such an asshole (laughs), but at the same time, I feel like I’ve found the compassion in her and there’s something deeper going on with her. Slowly she gets broken down and realizes she’s not as tough as she thinks she is.

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Photo Credit: Jasmine L. Gonzalez

You’re also a successful DJ and musician. What kind of music would be on Pennsatucky’s playlist?
Have you seen the one meme that’s like “up all night to get tucky?” (laughs). That one kills me. That’s a good question. She’s been in jail for a long time, so I’m sure it’d be a little dated. It’d be stuff people would not assume like really bad Shania Twain or Celine Dion.

If you could have any musician guest star, who would it be?
Actually, I think we have someone coming.

Really? Who is it?
I don’t think I can say! I can’t say for sure if it’s a musician, but there are definitely new characters. But, girl wise, it’d be funny to have Lil Kim on there or it would be awesome if Iggy Azalea cruised in and joined my team.

How do you balance music and acting? Do you prefer one over the other?
I am very serious about music, but acting is a big part of my life, so I work my music around that. Sometimes it gets tricky and I have to pass up on a lot of DJ gigs because of filming, but it’s still a fun life to be able to do all of this. Right now, I love this role so much because I finally feel like I’m being challenged. I don’t prefer one over the other. I just prefer the one that’s stimulating me the most at the time.

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Photo Credit: Nicholas Nichols

You’re often described as being a victim of typecasting. Do you think that’s why people assume so much about your personal life?
I think the misconceptions come from the roles I play. Typecasting is a real deal thing and I don’t mind it. Sometimes I’ve been frustrated, but honestly I think people would trip out if they knew how different I was from the roles I play. I’ve been told I’m pretty intelligent and well read and spoken and a really hard worker. I love animals and family’s number one to me. And I’m actually really mellow and into chanting and meditating in Buddhism. Some of the girls on the show, their friends ask them, “So that one chick on the show, is she just nuts in real life.” That’s interesting to me because I’m shy in real life, but grateful that when the camera goes on and someone yells “action,” something comes out of me. All egos and fear are put aside.

Is there such thing as a good typecast?
I think there is such thing as a good typecast. I remember there was a time in my career where I became very frustrated. I was in my mid twenties and I started to turn roles down, but then there was no work. And I ended up doing a role where I was the girl next door and it was kind of boring and I wanted those colorful, layered characters back. So now I embrace it.

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Photo Credit: Jasmine L. Gonzalez

Will you ever do another romantic comedy?
Definitely. Deep down, I’m a total girl. I love love and to fall in love. My heart’s been broken several times and I think I could tap into that side of me and do a really good job.

I see you have your heels with you. What is your personal style?
I don’t care what label it is; it’s cute and I like it (laughs). Anything from like an H&M or lower price point. Obviously, sometimes I put on dresses that are very high end and I get the whole thing just because of the way they fit your body- they’re sensational. I’m so impressed by so many designers. It’s such a hard industry and I had a line for six years, so I have a lot of respect for designers.

It leans toward the casual side. I’m told I’m pretty rock and roll with my style; maybe a little grungy. But, if you put me in a dress and do my hair and make-up- I love it. I’m just lazy sometimes (laughs).

So you’re ok with not wearing a lot of makeup on the OITNB set?
I don’t get any makeup. I get teeth (laughs). I can’t even look in the mirror. I’m “Ok, yup. She looks great.” All of the girls have called it a life changing experience not having makeup or having to worry about a wardrobe. And because of it, everyone’s really dove in, even to the point where I’ve heard little things like “I haven’t shaved my armpits in two months” or “I haven’t gotten a waxing. (laughs)” It’s been liberating.

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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.

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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.

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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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