Despite the temperature hitting the 80s in downtown L.A., the inside of The MacArther is a stark contrast to what's going on beyond the double doors. A massive Christmas tree stands in the center of the lobby flanked with Christmas decorations and cameramen and crew members move back and forth throughout the movie set.
I'm led up the grand staircase and dropped off at the make-up station where Andra Fuller, all smiles, is being made camera-ready. “Sorry about that, they told me I was supposed to go on at 3:30, but they needed me on set at 2:30," he says, hinting at the spontaneity that comes with being an actor.
I follow him across the room and behind a curtained area that serves as his dressing room, where he slides into a suit jacket, transforming from Andra to Edmund, his character in the upcoming TV One film, You Can't Fight Christmas. “I've always been a character," he tells me. And for some reason, I believe him.
Courtesy of Andra Fuller
Growing up in Houston, Texas as the youngest of three to a single-mom, Andra naturally gravitated towards being the center of attention. Friday nights turned into family gatherings where adults played rounds of pitty pat, while the kids became a source of entertainment. Andra, in particular, had a knack for impersonating Michael Jackson and some of his favorite comedians of the 90s.
“Do you remember this?" He says turning towards me and contorting his lips to expose his teeth. “Heeeeyyyyyy. For real though? I'll rock your world."
“Ah, Jamie Foxx," I chuckle, thinking about the actor and comedian and not the character.
“My name is Wanda, not Jamie," Andra corrects me, still in the tone of one of In Living Color's most memorable characters, and then returns to being Andra. “That was my go-to."
Though he would one day grace the stage of the Apollo, it was sports that kept him off the streets of his Acres Home community. In school, he was the class clown—he was smart but chose to focus more on the game than the classroom. But near perfect SAT scores and impressive stats on the field as an All-American athlete had Ivy League colleges calling. Following a coach from Notre Dame, he chose to stay in his home state and go to Baylor University, where he'd spend the next four years as a starter and business management major.
“Andra? Waiting for your downstairs," a voice calls from the other side of the curtain. I follow Andra into the middle of the room as he adjusts his tie in front of a full-length mirror and back down the grand staircases where he was shooting his next scene.
Andra Fuller as Fish in "Black Jesus."Courtesy Black Jesus
“He just walked in and didn't even say hey," jokes co-star Brely Evans. We're lounging on the steps with Richard Gantt (The Game) as Andra walks towards us after wrapping up his walk-by scene. He trades jokes with his cast members, assuring them that he spoke and that they were too busy ignoring him before we head back upstairs where he changes for his next scene.
“I've never done a Christmas movie," he says when I ask him what drew him to the script. “Hopefully if it's good enough, which it definitely has the potential, hopefully it will be one of those Christmas classics."
He pops a chocolate-covered raisin in his mouth and tells me about Edmund, a multi-dimensional character that he plays two ways—one where he's a buttoned up professional reviving his grandfather's hotel business and dodging marriage proposals from his assistant—played by Persia White—who he describes as “compatible on paper but no chemistry off the page." The other side of Edmund is down-to-earth and jovial, but only when he's with the hotel's Christmas decorator played by Evans.
“Most of the roles I go out for and book are leading man roles," he says. “Now the term leading man doesn't always mean you're the [main] guy, leading man most often refers to a look. I want those roles that aren't necessarily leading man."
In other words, he doesn't just want to be eye candy nor soul food, he wants to be respected for his talent. We got a little taste of that in L.A. Complex, where he played a famous rapper struggling with his sexuality. And again in his role as Fish in Black Jesus, an ex-con and one of the followers of Black Jesus in the controversial comedic series.
Andra seemingly gravitates towards complex characters that are often battling with some part of their identity, but by no means is he struggling with his own. He credits getting his start late in the game to giving him time to find himself without getting caught up by the distractions that often come with the Hollywood lifestyle.
“I didn't get into acting until I was 28, so I was already a grown ass man with real life responsibilities, and I was comfortable in my skin. I knew exactly who I was. I had already went to school and gotten three degrees, I was a schoolteacher—I had already lived."
Courtesy of Andra Fuller
After graduating college, Andra was teaching kids during the week and on weekends he would drive back home to Houston to take the stage as a stand-up comedian. “The goal was always to have that springboard me into acting because when I lFGooked at all of my peers, the ones that I looked up to at the time, Martin Lawrence and Bernie Mac and almost every actor that I looked up to besides Denzel Washington and Will Smith, pretty much all of them had a stand-up comedy background. So if it was a good way for them to blow up into acting, then I'm going to take these same damn steps."
With nothing to lose, he packed his bags and moved to East Harlem where he dabbled in theater and modeling while juggling a full-time job as a personal trainer making only $15,000 a year. Taking funds from his steady paycheck, he would ride down Broadway to Chinatown, purchase knock-off designer purses and throwback jerseys, and fly back to his hometown to sell them at market value. “New York taught me how to have thicker skin. It taught me how to grind, and it taught me ambition. It taught me that you had to have a job, a career, and a side hustle."
While he was making rounds doing comedy in New York, his acting career was at a standstill. Taking the advice of casting agents, he relocated to Los Angeles where he worked two full-time jobs as a manager at Equinox by day and a manager at CVS by night, all while picking up co-star roles on shows such as Prison Break, iCarly and Secret Life of the AmericanTeenager.
“There weren't ever any moments of doubt per se, but definitely frustrating moments because acting is a cycle. When you move to L.A., they send you on these auditions, but you can't book shit because you won't have any credits. So they'll be like, 'Oh you're good, but you don't have any credits.' But you can't get any credits because you won't give me a job, so then you start your way from the bottom."
Courtesy of Andra Fuller
His big break came when he booked his first major role with L.A. Complex as Kaldrick King, which earned him a nomination for the Canadian Screen Awards and put him on the radar as he went up for leading roles against more seasoned actors like Larenz Tate and Omari Hardwick. He eventually landed the role of Jayson on Black&SexyTV's online series Roomieloverfriends, which is currently being developed into a film by co-creators Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch.
“The Jayson character needed to be an every day guy's guy, but up for the challenge of dealing with someone who was as high strung as the character of his roomieloverfriend, Tamiko," says Perrier. “It was very hard casting this role. No one was coming in with all of those qualities plus that unknowable 'x' factor thing until Andra showed up. He actually crashed the audition. He was next door at a casting for another project and stuck his head in our door and said, 'Hey, can I read for this too?' Then he came in and nailed it. It was one of those great moments that we couldn't have planned, and that very assertiveness was just perfect for the character as well. We knew we had our guy."
Not bad considering that he had no prior training as an actor.
“My philosophy on acting for me is that it has to feel organic. I don't take classes and all of that stuff. I tried it before. I did three months and I was like I can't do this. It wasn't beneficial for my acting style because for me to act organically, I have to become that character."
Instead, he pulls from life experiences to help develop his characters. In real life, he's been the star athlete playing on television with over 100,000 fans screaming his name. But he's also been the child raised in a house with no electricity, surviving off of ramen noodles, relying on groceries from the church, or stashing away school lunch meals to save for a rainy day.
“What I don't necessarily gain from acting classes, I have 30 plus years in life experiences. I've been in some shitty, shitty dark situations. I've been on some super mountaintop highs, so when I'm acting and I'm in a role, I draw from anywhere in that apex, that mountain high to that deep ocean dirty low. So there aren't many roles that I can't connect with because acting is all about finding a way to connect to a role."
“What I don't necessarily gain from acting classes I have 30 plus years in life experiences."
While his journey has taken longer than some, Andra has no regrets. Not being a child actor has saved him from falling victim to the mental and emotional struggle that sometimes accompany those who've gotten their start earlier in the game.
“If you look at the amount of formal education that I had people would be like what the hell are you doing acting? That's a waste of your degrees.
If I had stayed on the career path that I was on and I was still living in Texas, I would have a 6,000 square foot home, big back yard, front yard, in a gated community. Some might view it as a mistake, but it's a good mistake because ever since I've been doing this, I've not had a day where I hated work.
This isn't even work, man. I get paid to pretend to be other people. How cool is that?"
Perhaps getting his start later in the game has also brought about a sense of humility. Though he's now able to afford the lifestyle of the rich and famous, he prides himself on staying grounded and not being lured by life's luxuries. He still lives in the same Hollywood apartment that he started in years prior. He still does pick-up games at 24-Hour Fitness instead of Equinox, and he still grinds to make a name for himself in the industry.
Success for him doesn't look like driving a Maserati in Beverly Hills, it looks like telling the untold stories, like the Black Wall Street script he's currently shopping around, having a large enough platform to be able to speak on issues without recourse, and leaving behind a legacy of being a genuine person in an industry of shifting values. For that, he's willing to make the necessary sacrifices and do things a little unconventionally, because without risk, there's no reward.
All Images Courtesy of Andra Fuller
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
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