Nia Long is not only an amazing actress, but a devoted mother and the kind of sister friend any girl would love to have. I had the privilege of chatting with Nia Long about purpose and balance in life, personal style and what she’s been up to. Here’s what she had to share with Clutch readers.
Q: I understand Nia is one of the seven days of Kwanzaa, meaning purpose. Have you always known your purpose? And when did it become apparent to you?
I don’t think that’s something we ever truly know. I think it‘s one of those things that as you grow, change, and become more of a woman you try new things, and you sort of discover your purpose. But I know acting sort of hit my heartstrings when I was like fifteen years old; I felt this tugging to learn more and get more deeply involved with my craft. What I am doing now, I am pursuing my purpose in terms of the acting part but there is so much more that I want to do, and as you mature and grow and travel and have children and have relationships, life has it’s way of sort of revealing what’s next. I think the key to being happy and growing is really just to be open to that.
Q: As a single mom with a demanding career, wearing so many hats can be overwhelming. How do you maintain balance in your life?
You know I have tremendous support. And I have a great kid who really is like my best friend, he’s my son and I am of course the authority figure. We do a lot of things together and I try to look at life, no matter how stressful it gets, through his eyes, because I know he’s watching everything that I do. So rather than saying ‘oh God I have to make dinner—I’m tired’. I just bring him in the kitchen and we do it together.
And I always make time for myself. Part of my ‘peace of mind’ in terms of having Nia time is to workout and I take mini vacations. I just got back from Bacara spa in Santa Barbara. It was great and I was in great company. You carve out those moments for yourself, so when I return I’m like ‘mommies back, let’s do it all over again!’
I also have amazing girlfriends, we do dinners and girls nights, we make sure we get that in. I think if you have really great friends it’s important to maintain those relationships whether you’re married or single, because girlfriends are going to just understand from day to day how life works. We need that sort of springboard and that place where it’s safe to ask ‘what do you think about this?’ Especially when you’re in a business where you’re under a microscope and everything you do is going to be judged. Whether it’s positive or negative, someone is going to have something to say about my choices, so I plan carefully and I have a support system, but most importantly it’s my faith. Faith that what will be will be in God’s time and that relieves 99.9% of my stress. And the rest of it is the knowledge that God help’s those who help themselves. So it’s pretty simple yet so complicated. (she laughs softly)
Q: You mentioned working out as something you do for yourself. What approach do you take to your fitness/wellness?
I hate the thought of working out, but I feel great afterwards. I have a love/hate for the gym, but have the most amazing trainer Harley Pasternak. He is so much fun to workout with, plays the greatest music; he makes it fun and I see the results.
Q: What’s on the radar in terms of your career?
I’m working on a show called Big Shots, set to air on ABC in September. It will come on right after Grey’s Anatomy. It’s basically about four best friends, successful businessmen. It explores their personal and professional lives. My co-star is Michael Vartan, he’s my boss and I work directly under him. There is a lot of sexual tension there, so I’m sure it’s going to turn into something else. It’s a great character, she’s smart, she’s successful, wears a suit but a sexy suit. She’s got a good sense of humor, she’s playful, she’s single, she’s exploring being in love, she’s independent and I don’t think she’s at all afraid to speak her mind.
I think it’s so important that we have images on television that people of color can relate to. When I think of like Vanessa Williams contribution to Ugly Betty, she’s created such a wonderful character for herself and it’s fun. It’s great to know you have job security and it’s great to know everyday I have a place to go. I work with amazing actors, funny people, and seasoned television actors. So for me this show was perfect, it made sense.
Q: Do you have plans to do more films in the near future?
I just completed a film with Giancarlo Esposito, it’s called Gospel Hill. I play his wife; it’s a small town story. My character is a little bit of an alcoholic, she’s a little all over the place and unhappy. That was fun for me to play because it’s totally different from anything that I’ve done, a lot more dramatic. So I think the key for me is to mix it up. A lot of times in Hollywood, they take chances but they also know what works. So if something is working, their attitude is ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ so I think in the past couple of years I’ve played the mom or the girl next door or the girl that the guy wants, so I’ve been trying to make choices that will take my career in a different direction and be more fulfilled and challenged as an artist.
Q: When is the film scheduled for release?
I don’t know, because it’s independent film they’re figuring all of that out.
Q: In addition to being such an accomplished actress, I understand you’ve done some directing?
Yes, I did. I directed a couple of music videos, which I will do more of in the future. I’d like to direct a feature.
Q: What advice would you give young black aspiring actresses?
I would say definitely go to college, because it doesn’t happen overnight and that education will give you the confidence to make smart and informed choices. For me, I didn’t finish college so I am an exception to that rule, but I advise that strongly because everybody has a right to higher education and I think it’s important.
I’d also say make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and that it’s not about being famous but that you actually love what you do because it’s hard work. Also, there is a lot of rejection involved so you have to never stop trying to be better.
Q: When you reflect on all the characters you’ve played, is there one you’ve been able to relate to more?
You know I think they’ve all had something in them that has obviously attracted me to play the roll. The character I play in Gospel Hill, the only thing she and I have in common is that we both like nice clothes. She’s one of those characters that’s just all over the place. Very, you know, caught up. But it was a great character to play.
Q: You’ve worked with a plethora of gorgeous leading men, has there been a favorite?
Oh Gosh…Will Smith, Lorenz Tate, all of them. They’re all just so delicious. All of them, I love my job, I can not complain. I haven’t had a bad experience yet with any of my guys. They always look out and that’s a beautiful thing. When everyone else says no, Martin (Lawrence) says yes and makes things happen. We have mad love for each other.
Q: What qualities do you look for when you are choosing your mate -off screen?
Smart, good sense of humor. I would have to say financially stable, because it just doesn’t work if I am doing what I’m doing and they’re still trying to find their way. Someone with a zest and excitement for life. Someone who is incredibly secure, that goes without saying, that’s just so important. What else? (she questions herself) someone who’s thoughtful and who can appreciate the red carpet, but can also appreciate a home cooked meal and a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
Q: Is there a special someone in your life right now?
Let’s say I’m happy. I can tell you I’m happy.
Q: You always look stunning. How would you describe your style?
Comfortable, sexy yet very simple. I don’t like a lot of jewelry, I want to be able to put on what I’m putting on and be able to walk out the door and feel great in my clothes. I don’t like a lot of fuss, that’s very important to me.
Mika: Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?
I love Rachel Roy, and Tracey Ross is amazing; those are my girls, I just think they’re great. They are women of color and they get it, they’re doing it and I support them. There are tons of others, but what I love about those two are they’ve got pieces I can throw on with my jeans or I can also walk the red carpet.
Q: Who are some of your favorite fashion stylists?
Estee and Christina are my girls; they’ve been working with me for the last year and they’re really great. Estee and I have been friends for a long time, but outside of that they have a sort of classic, feminine approach to styling. There is always something unique about their styling.
Q: What are some of your 2007 fall/winter fashion ‘must haves’?
Ah . . . what must I have? I can always use fabulous boots, bags and cashmere.
Q: Your hair always looks beautiful and healthy. What sort of hair care regimen do you have?
You know this is the first time in my life that I’ve been wearing a weave. It’s great because my hair is being protected. When you’re on a show you want to protect your own hair and I can go to the gym and worry about having to get my hair done, it’s kind of just ‘wash & wear’. On my off time I’ll probably take it out and do what Nia does—switch it up.
Q: What’s in your Clutch? What products don’t you leave home without?
I don’t leave home without my Chanel glaze lip gloss, my IF perfume and my NARS orgasm blush.
Q: What music is in heavy rotation on your iPod?
Oh my God, I am madly in love with Common’s new album. I just think it’s brilliant. I love him as an artist because to me he personifies an underdog. He’s had so many years of success, but I feel like he is about to just blow up big. You know it’s not how long it takes, it’s the journey that makes this—what we do as artists is so interesting and I think it’s just amazing. I think great things are going to happen for him.
Michelle N’degocello’s old album Plantation Lullabies. Jill Scott; I had my son to that album. I think it’s the second album, so I’ll always have a connection to her. She was in the delivery room with us and she doesn’t even know it. And of course any Miles Davis is always nice to have around.
Q: Are you reading any good books right now?
I’ve been reading a lot of Obama stuff lately. So as the campaign progresses, I’m there and I understand his history and who he is as a man and his life experiences.
Q: Is there anything you’d like Clutch readers to know about Nia Long?
I appreciate the years of love and support. There are going to be some new things coming down the pipeline shortly. I have some surprises.
Clutch: Great! You are an inspiration to us all. Continue doing what you’re doing!
I love it. Thank you so much!