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FEATURES Apr 29 2013 7:03PM
photo by Anthony Mongiello

Exclusive Interview with Mad Mens Teyonah Parris

by Shanika Hillocks

Transitioning Movement had the opportunity to chat with actress Teyonah Parris, who is making waves in the acting world being a part of AMC’s hit series, Mad Men among other roles. We spoke a bit about her journey to stardom, her current roles in Hollywood, and of course her natural hair regimen. Check out the exclusive interview below:

TM: Growing up, you were involved in a multitude of extracurricular activities. How did you know that acting was what you wanted to pursue?

TP: Since a child, I’ve always been on stage. In 3rd grade, I participated in a pageant and was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up.  I responded: “I want to dress up, stay pretty and get paid to do it.” Aside from that, I was active in organized activities, one being drama club. I had always done it and loved it.

TM: Your bio expresses that you thrived on being unique and never adhering to stereotypes growing up. How do you sustain this currently, and what advice would you offer to young women today?

TP: As a child, I was teased a lot. Being the middle child, only girl in my family and not having a lot of money, I received hand-me-downs from my brothers. With those hand-me-downs, I made and created my own style. Being from South Carolina, doing something as small as putting a flower in your hair is seen as different, so for choosing to be unlike the rest, I was teased by my classmates. Back then, my parents were a huge support and influence and I was fortunate because they accepted me, for me. To young women, I would say stand behind what you want to do and who you are. Do not fall victim to what or who people want you to be.

TM: As an actress with natural hair, what is your daily hair regimen or go-to product between shooting, auditions and on-set?

TP: My staple, at the moment, is extra virgin coconut oil. My hair responds to it well whether I deep condition with it, or do a quick moisturizer for when I wear a wig cap.

TM: Have you always worn your hair natural? If not, what made you decide to transition and what is it like to have natural hair working in Hollywood?

TP: I have not always worn my hair natural and made the transition in February 2010. Having natural hair working in Hollywood and even in our African American community is a learning process. Not everyone knows how to care or treat natural hair, so I come to the table prepared. I come on set with this knowledge, while also teaching the stylists methods of natural hair care. Also, I meet them half way by keeping my hair in protective styles, or wearing sew-ins and weaves that can be styled and managed with heat without affecting my natural hair.

TM: What were some of your favorite past roles or projects? Anything exciting in the works?

TP: My favorite character that I have played to date is Celiméne from "The Misanthrope" written by Moliére. It was my favorite because I played her in my last year of school at Julliard and the character was fun and flirty, yet classical. It was definitely the culmination of all 3.5 years of training and I enjoyed having felt succeeded with my classmates. The most exciting thing for me at this moment is the vacation time I will be getting in London in a few weeks.

TM: Everyone has been raving about the fabulous pompadour you rocked at the SAG Awards. Tell me about that red carpet look.

TP: The pompadour was a personal choice. Stylist Felicia Leatherwood was able to execute the vision I wanted: fierce, yet polished. That look truly made me feel confident and beautiful.

TM: What advice do you have for women of color pursuing an acting career that are hesitant to wear their natural hair for auditions, roles etc.?

TP: The bottom line is you have to be comfortable with who you are. Without that confidence, you won’t book a gig. It’s also important to keep in mind that not every character isn’t someone who wears or has natural hair, so being flexible is something that helps. Our bodies are our instrument. Start there.


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