rochelle-aytes
Rochelle Aytes stars on 'Mistresses' and 'Criminal Minds.'
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Actress Rochelle Aytes On Pulling Double Duty For 'Mistresses' And 'Criminal Minds'

Rochelle Aytes is clearly #TeamNoDaysOff

Rochelle Aytes came out of the womb with a love for performing. As April Malloy on ABC’s Mistresses (which is currently in its third season), show writers have infused bits and pieces of Aytes' personality into her character. But the biggest role actress faces? Being herself.

Before Aytes played Lucy's widowed mother on small screens, she started out dancing. The Harlem native sashayed her way into LaGuardia High School in Queens and went on to perform with Ballet Hispanico. After being cast in Aida on Broadway, Aytes’ career took a two-step in a different direction. Not only did she have to show off her fancy footwork, her role required her to sing and act, as well. After saving up bread for acting lessons and a year of touring, she came back to New York to study a new craft.

“I ended up at a studio. I just wanted to see if it was something I could do, if I was good at it, if I really liked it," said Aytes. "I ended up loving it."

Now, her acting portfolio is stacked with TV and film gigs including My Favorite Five, Tyler Perry’s Family Reunion, NCIS, Drive, Trick of Treat, and Crazy, Sexy, Cool. In addition to her Mistresses role, she also holds down double duty by starring in CBS' Criminal Minds. Aytes recently took a break from her packed schedule to explain her love for drama and what she'd tell the on-screen women of Mistresses IRL.—Kathryn Jones

VIBE: You’ve starred in a lot of drama shows and films. Why that specific genre?
Rochelle Aytes: I definitely love the dramas because I get to deeper places than I want to go to in life. I feel like we're allowed to really let go and express ourselves without judgment because we're just acting. It's like therapy for me. I may be working out some of my own issues via another character.

Mistresses has all these twists and turns. How do you keep up with the storylines?
It's hard enough to keep up with my own storyline. I don't even realize how much drama it is until I actually sit down and watch the show in its entirety. I was just on the edge of my seat because I just think it is so exciting.

How has portraying April changed since season one?
In the beginning, a lot of stuff was happening to her and she appeared kind of fragile, weak, and confused. She's been able to show so much strength and build upon that throughout the season. This year, she's still got some trouble going on with her daughter. She's still feeling stressed out. However, she's handling it in a very different way. She definitely starts to put her foot down.

Not every woman can say they’ve gone through what April has. Why do you think she’s still relatable?
Women in this culture [are] so focused on building a career, being a parent, trying to find love. We juggle these all pretty well. It's challenging. It's exhausting because we're forced to be pulled in so many directions. That's the beauty and essence of being a female. We can do it all. We can multitask. The struggle with April is trying to be perfect at everything. You can't be. There's going to be some mistakes along the way.

SEE ALSO: Rochelle Aytes: Role Play

What has April taught you?
It forces me to ask the question, 'Do I want children?' I love children. I know I do. That age where they start to get sassy, challenge you... I can imagine it can get very hard. So I definitely learned that it's not going to be perfect, having a child. She also helped me to be a little bit more open and vulnerable with expressing myself.

How do you balance being April Malloy and being Savannah Hayes on Criminal Minds at the same time?
They are very different. [Savannah’s] a doctor. She's very smart, and she's very driven and focused. She's looking for a relationship as well. I try not to bring my April characteristics to Savannah. Sometimes you can't help it because it's still Rochelle.

What would advice would Rochelle give to the women of Mistresses?
I would tell Joss that it's the worst idea in the world to fall in love with your sister's ex-husband, no matter whether she cheated or not. I would tell Karen she needs to stay away from men for awhile and put on a condom. I would tell Savi, who's not here anymore, she just needs to be alone and figure out who she is, find herself without the comfort of a man. What would I tell April? How 'bout that! I don't know what I would tell April.

What can viewers expect this season?
They will see April break some hearts this season instead of April's heart being broken. Lucy will be even more rebellious than she already is. You get to see more of [April's history] and find out why she is the way she is. Her mom comes into one of the episodes. Lynn Whitfield plays April's mother and she's just a diva in the best sense of the word.

Any chance your Criminal Minds’ love interest could appear on Mistresses?
A Shemar Moore cameo on Mistresses? Aww, that would be awesome, right? No, he's not gonna be on Mistresses—at least this season. Maybe we can get Twitter trending and have him on season four.

Keep up with Mistresses on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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