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
VIBE 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.
VV: 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