Lawrence H. Robinson is having a moment. Like, a really good moment.
And I'm not just saying that because he recently made his well-received debut on the new BET hit seriesSistas. Nor am I saying that because he's got a new movie slated to come out around Christmas time that promises to be equal parts feel-good and funny. No, the moment Lawrence is having is one of those rare moments, where your dream slowly but surely starts turning into your reality. It's a little after 5pm when our call connects and the Philly native is in good spirits. He's inviting and easy during our conversation. (Easy on the eyes too, am I right ladies?) But as he begins to recount his journey to me in our half-hour chat, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Lawrence is a man full of persistence and perseverance. He doesn't believe in giving up. And while humble beginnings working at the airport and going to community college may have been enough to deter any other person from pursuing their heart's desire, for Lawrence, it only fanned the flame for him to keep going. And that's exactly what he did. "I've always known I wanted to do something in entertainment, ever since I was a kid," he tells xoNecole. "I just didn't know what my path was going to be."
"I didn't have a bunch of money growing up. I wasn't the smartest kid growing up but I've always been super hardworking. And if I could look back, I would just say my drive is the same. That never changed."
So how did he go from handling bags to securing bags with BET & Tyler Perry? xoNecole recently got the chance to chat with the Sistas star to find out.
xoNecole: Describe your character Chris [in ‘Sistas’].
Lawrence H. Robinson: Chris is in his early thirties and had a rough childhood growing up. He was raised by his aunt, but she passed away when he was 16. So from 16 on, he got caught up in the streets and eventually went to jail for attempted murder. After he got out, he opened his own business doing construction and now he has a million dollars in his bank account. He's a solid, good brother dating an older woman who's being played by the legend, Shari Belafonte. And he's basically getting introduced to Zach, who's played by Devale Ellis, to try to get him on the right track.
Did you always know acting and modeling was going to be in your future or was this something you kind of stumbled upon?
You know, I was actually like Zach [in the show], Devale Ellis' character--I worked at the airport for six years. I was just a hard-working dude from Philly who was just a baggage handler, but I always wanted more. So in the midst of that, I took acting as an elective because I really wanted to do it. Then I took Tasha Smith's workshop in 2011, moved to New York in 2012, and then I booked my first commercial with Diddy for Macy's. I made a lot of money and I thought that was going to be my way in. I ended up getting fired from my job on purpose so I could pursue acting full-time and I went on that. So I've always been into acting but modeling and acting go hand in hand for me.
I was still modeling like for Macy's and Pepsi, a lot of the commercial stuff. I wanted to be an editorial model but I guess I had a more commercial look. But fast forward to now, I'm in LA and still chasing it, doing the modeling and the social media stuff--that's always going to be there but my passion was always TV and film. I'm just grateful for Tyler Perry for giving me my first character.
What have you learned about yourself thus far throughout your journey?
I've definitely learned that I'm resilient. And that I don't believe in the word 'no'. The word 'no' doesnt doesnt scare me, I'm not afraid of it. It makes me want to keep going until I get [a] 'yes'. Some people are really intimidated by that word. And I love when people underestimate me, I love that. I've always been one of those people that you may see me on social media flexing and working that market but I've always [been] in the background taking acting classes. So I knew when it was time for me to hop on-screen, I knew that I was going to be invested and my character was going to make an impression because I've always been willing to do the work.
Let’s switch it up a bit and talk relationships now. How are you handling dating during quarantine? Are you doing the whole Zoom dates and...
I actually haven't been on Zoom but I've had a couple Facetime calls. It was random though! I've just been watching shows and I'll go through my DMs sometimes and if I see something that catches my attention-- then we'll have a conversation. So it's just been a lot of casual conversations and a few 'Facetime dates', but for the most part I've just been dating myself. And really trying to figure out what I want for my life. Now that I'm entering my dream world and my dream is becoming my work--I have to figure out what's next? You know: do I want to get married? Do I want to have another kid? Do I want another serious relationship? I've just been questioning myself and having some conversations internally.
Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson
"Now that I'm entering my dream world and my dream is becoming my work--I have to figure out what's next? You know: do I want to get married? Do I want to have another kid? Do I want another serious relationship? I've just been questioning myself and having some conversations internally."
Gotcha. So when it comes to red flags, what are some major ones you look for when it comes to dating?
It's definitely a red flag if you're not a kid person. Another one is if you don't believe in God. Everything I do is based on my faith. I respect everybody but I can't imagine having a conversation and going back to my faith and you don't believe in God. That's uncomfortable to me. Another one would also be lack of drive. You have to be clear about what you want in life and actively go towards it. You don't have to be an actress or in Hollywood--I would love to date somebody who's not doing exactly what I do. But you definitely need to be trying to work towards something and know who you are.
Understood. I know you have a little one, your son Aiden. Has fatherhood affected what you look for or what you’re attracted to when it comes to dating?
Absolutely. You have to be into kids and like kids. And you have to ask about my kid. You can't check on me and not check on Aiden. My son is the number 1 thing that makes me happy. So you need to know that my son is the highlight of my life and if you're not invested in that--you may as well go the other way.
Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson
"My son is the number 1 thing that makes me happy. So you need to know that my son is the highlight of my life and if you're not invested in that--you may as well go the other way."
Do you know your love language(s)?
I don't know for sure but I'm big on affirmations, for me and for her. I need to tell you I love you and I need her to tell me she loves me. I need all the compassionate words, the compliments, I need all that.
So when you’re in a relationship, how would you best like to be catered for by your partner?
I don't like to be catered to. I prefer to do all the catering. That's what I do. Besides the affirmations, that's all I need.
OK, well let’s flip it. How do you best cater to your partner?
By being there for her to provide whatever she needs so she knows 'I got you.' Any kind of support. No matter what. And that's honestly why when I was struggling as an actor, I wouldn't date. I won't date if I'm broke. Because if we're going to dinner or to the movies--I'm paying for it. I really don't like dating if I'm not financially stable. Luckily, I'm not in that position anymore, but I like to provide, be supportive. I like to encourage. I don't want her to have to look nowhere else.
Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson
"I won't date if I'm broke. Because if we're going to dinner or to the movies--I'm paying for it. I really don't like dating if I'm not financially stable. Luckily, I'm not in that position anymore, but I like to provide, be supportive. I like to encourage. I don't want her to have to look nowhere else."
Last thing before we wrap and this is a two-part question: What frustrates you the most and surprises you the most when it comes to finding love or about love in general?
Mmm. That's good. What frustrates me the most is not knowing when the right time for it is. I'm so focused right now and locked into my career and I feel like love can either help you or knock you off your track. And what surprises me the most is how it feels like fate. The perfect situation can really come your way out of nowhere one day and you weren't even looking for it. That's what I would say.
Season 1 of Sistas is available to stream on the BET Now app. And for more of Lawrence, connect with him on Instagram: @lawrencehrobinson.
Featured image courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
Issa Rae has built her career on being the awkward Black girl, leading her to notoriety and astronomical, lucrative deals. Years later, however, that narrative may be changing. The multifaceted actress first won our hearts years ago with her web series, The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, in 2011, and she further capitalized off the name with her autobiography. When she premiered her HBO (Max) series Insecurein 2016, it too had the same awkward Black girl theme as her character tried to navigate friends, family, and romantic relationships.
But it’s not just an on-screen persona; the Rap Sh!t executive producer has shared that she is the same way in real life and overall has inspired a category of Black women who, too, identify as the awkward Black girl. Last week, Issa joined Rap Sh!t co-stars KaMillion and Aida Osman on Sherri and revealed whether she still feels like the awkward Black girl.
“I do, but I feel more confident in that way. You know what’s deeply ironic is that Insecure, doing that made me more confident in myself and what I was doing ‘cause I would distance myself from the character like ‘girl, she is stupid,’” she joked. “I’ve come such a long way, you know, still making dumb decisions, but being able to do something like that and work with people I love and step back and say I did that has just instilled a newfound confidence. So, I’m awkwardly confident.”
As Issa’s empire continues to grow, we are sure to see her continue to grow personally and inspire a generation with her realness and relatability.
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Feature image by Emma McIntyre/WireImage for Parkwood