Making 'Power' Moves: Life According To La La Anthony

In an xoExclusive, we spoke with La La to find out the baton of wisdom she would like to pass on to other boss ladies.

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Breaking in to the entertainment world often comes down to possessing a winning combination of sheer luck and good timing. Very few people remain in the industry long enough to become household names. While only the ones who are skilled at their craft and have the right amount of hustle, are the ones that keep us talking and watching.

La La Anthony is one of those talents who cannot be ignored. You may have started following her career years ago when she was the host of MTV's TRL, or perhaps caught on to her in recent years as she added being a New York Times best-selling author to her stacked resume. Yet the title today that keeps her name buzzing is Actress. Leave it to invested fans on social media and you'd think her name is really LaKeisha – a role she played on the hit show Power for six seasons.

Photo Credit: Robert Ector

Now, let's add that up. Television personality, New York Times best-selling author, actress, producer and businesswoman. Yes, girl. Ms. Anthony is a boss with plenty of businesses under her belt, including her own collection, the La La Anthony Collection at Foot Locker.

Recently, we spoke with La La to find out why her hustle won't stop and the baton of wisdom she would like to pass on to other boss ladies.

Don’t let the money make you.

"I'll never take a job based on money. I've always made decisions about my career based on what I want to do, what I love to do - even if it wasn't paying a certain amount of money. If it was me following my passion and dreams, I was willing to do it for free. I was willing to take a pay cut of whatever it cost me, so it was always about the passion and the drive. It was never about just chasing a dollar bill. Sometimes I feel like chasing money leads you to nowhere. Make decisions based on your passion, your heart and what you want to do."

Forget fake it ‘til you make it.

"Confidence is all about inner work. It's all about self-work, believing in yourself and having high self-esteem. You no longer need to be validated by what people say about you in the outside world. I think when you get to that place, people can feel it. When a person's confident, when they walk into a room, people treat them differently. You approach them differently. So, I think it all starts with inner work to include that confidence in all aspects of your life - your career, your personal life, with family - it all starts with you. It's a job that is never done. Every day you have to work on yourself and remind yourself how great you are. We have to learn how to be our own cheerleaders and not to rely on anyone else."

Photo Credit: Robert Ector

"Confidence is all about inner work. It's all about self-work, believing in yourself and having high self-esteem. You no longer need to be validated by what people say about you in the outside world. I think when you get to that place, people can feel it."

Tune out the noise of doubters.

"There's nothing you can do that everyone's going to like or agree with. Nothing you can wear, there's nothing you can say and there's no amount of education that everyone is going to agree on. It's just impossible. It's the world that we live in, the world of social media. A place where everyone feels like they can have a comment and opinion on every single thing that you do. I just have to learn to be comfortable with me, be happy with me. As long as I'm secure in that, none of that other stuff really matters. All of the positive energy is amazing, but for every positive there's going to be a negative. You just have to learn that it all comes with the territory."

Grind ‘til you own it.

"My story for Power is that at the time of casting and auditioning, I was pretty relentless in asking for an audition and wanting to go in there and show the room that I can play this character. Why I'm the right choice for this, and I didn't let up until I was able to get into the room and get that opportunity. But you know, when you get into that room and get that opportunity, you have to seize the moment. It's one thing to get an opportunity and then drop the ball because it might not come around more than one time. I was blessed enough to be able to seize the opportunity. I don't think any of us can do it alone. There is not a single person in their career that's successful that did it on their own without help along the way or advice along the way or a helping hand along the way. You can't be afraid to ask for these things but when you do get them, you also have to be prepared for that moment that you've been asking for."

Courtesy of STARZ

"There is not a single person in their career that's successful that did it on their own without help along the way or advice along the way or a helping hand along the way. You can't be afraid to ask for these things but when you do get them, you also have to be prepared for that moment that you've been asking for."

Stay grounded in faith.

"My faith is extremely strong. I rely on my faith and God in everything that I do and in every decision that I make. Everything starts and ends there for me. So that's what keeps me going. I know that whatever is meant for me is meant to be. My plan is already destined and I'm just trying to follow it. My faith leads me to make all these decisions and to feel comfortable in whatever stage my life is in at that moment because I know everything is playing out exactly the way it's supposed to. I think there is a lot of comfort in knowing that."

For more of La La, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image by Robert Ector; images courtesy of La La Anthony

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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