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Naturi Naughton Responds To Kiely Williams Saying She Lied About 3LW Experiences: “I Lived My Truth And I’m Standing In That”

The Hollywood Reporter's 9th Annual Most Powerful People In Media

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My Black Is Beautiful has launched a new campaign to help change the way we look at the word “Black.” Instead of the usual Merriam-Webster definitions of “Black” as “dark,” “heavy,” “dirty,” “soiled,” “hostility” and a reference to dark magic,  #RedefineBlack is looking to make the definitions of the word more positive. In just a few days after launching the campaign, MBIB has succeeded in getting the definition changed on Dictionary.com so far.

This effort is something that has been applauded by many, including actress and singer Naturi Naughton. The 35-year-old has partnered with the platform to take this movement as far as possible in order to see a more accurate and positive representation of the word “Black” for herself, other Black people, and her daughter especially. We chatted with the Power star about the experiences she’s had where she was treated poorly because she was undeniably Black, and the ways in which she tries to uplift her daughter. We also talked about the final season of her hit Starz series (which premieres August 25), returning to music, and why she’s not letting anyone, including her former 3LW group members, keep her from standing in her truth.

MadameNoire: So My Black Is Beautiful is looking to redefine the way that we see the word “Black.” What made you want to be involved in trying to change, in particular the dictionary definition? Did being a new mom play a role? 

Naturi Naughton: Absolutely. I’ve always been a fan and passionate about My Black Is Beautiful. I’ve done a lot of stuff with them, I know what they’re about. But specifically with this campaign, Redefine Black, I wanted to be involved because I’m a Black woman, a Black actress, a Black mother, a Black daughter. I realized all of my life there has been a stigma surrounding the word Black. Now that I’m in this position where people really aspire to be like me or look up to me in the role of Power or anything that I’ve done, I said this is the time to join forces with this movement. We have to start changing the way we perceive the word. #RedefineBlack is doing that, and the movement itself is to help other young people say to themselves, well okay, Black doesn’t have to be ugly, it doesn’t have to be negative. The definition kind of can put these thoughts in our head, and I want to change that so people feel that, okay it can be beautiful, we are beautiful, we are positive and doing great things and positive and strong. To me, it represents who I am, and I wanted to be a part of this.

How do you reinforce that Black is beautiful as a mother to your daughter? There have been studies done with dolls where between a Black doll and a white doll, kids feel like it’s best to pick the white one. So it’s ingrained very early that Black isn’t the best thing. With that being said, how do you encourage your daughter, though she’s very young, in subtle ways even, to be proud of her Blackness? 

She’s talking now and walking and doing the most [laughs]. She’s approaching 2 and it’s a lot to handle. But the way that I reinforce is by leading by example. It’s important. Carrying myself well, speaking to her with love, reinforcing every morning. I do her hair, her hair is natural and pretty and curly, and so when she sees herself I say, “Look at that pretty girl, who’s that pretty girl? Who’s that beautiful girl?” She’s only 2, but she says, “It’s me, mommy.” Our hair is beautiful. The color of her skin, she’s a gorgeous chocolate drop. So my daughter has really reminded me of how important it is to reinforce that from a young age. I used to be a little girl and I didn’t always feel as confident. Thank God I had parents who said to me, “No, no, no, don’t let advertising, don’t let the TV, don’t let the dolls you see make you feel that you aren’t worthy of the same kind of love.” So that’s one way I’ve tried.

As you stated, you’ve been in situations in your career where being undeniably Black while others could pass has caused you to not be treated the best at times. How did you not let that change the way that you viewed your Blackness and your beauty?

It was hard. Girl, I’m not going to lie, it was hard to stay in a positive space. I’ve been in a girl group as you know, 3LW, and I felt like I wasn’t treated well in 3LW. I was not marketable or commercially beautiful in a lot of ways simply because I was a darker-skinned girl, which is a lie. But at that time, it’s hard as a teenager to decipher, is this really my identity? That’s why it’s so important to redefine us. To tell other people, your identity is not based on what other people say you are. It starts from within. I have a really strong relationship with God. I have a really strong relationship with my family, with my parents. Those things help me. I think after college, I started to really realize like, okay, I can’t care about what anyone else says. I’ve got to do me. Being Black is who I am. Being brown-skinned is who I am. My face, my full lips. Part of that start with one’s self. A person has to embrace their uniqueness.

The experiences you had in the group, you stood strong and said these things really happened to me. Though Adrienne apologized for any role she played in making you uncomfortable, Kiely still says what you claim to have happened isn’t true. Do you think you guys will ever be able to hash things out? 

She’s never reached out to me. That, her coming out I guess, was her just trying to cause — again, it’s so much. Unfortunately, we were a Black girl group. Why can’t we just get along? Why can’t we uplift each other? Why can’t we all be beautiful? Why can’t we say positive things? Unfortunately, that was my truth, and I can only tell the truth. Her saying what she says is of no consequence to me because I lived my truth and I’m standing in that.

Like you said, this is the final season of Power. You’ve played a very provocative character in Tasha. When I look at you, you seem so different. How has it been switching into, and tapping into that character for six seasons? 

I love playing this character. She’s a bada– [laughs]. She’s really strong and I’m so happy that Courtney Kemp, she’s a Black woman, our showrunner, writer of our show, gave me this opportunity to play this complex female Black character. I will miss her strength. I will miss her just being able to say what’s on her mind, her opinions. I will miss how opinionated she is. I have a lot of those qualities within me. I think that’s the reason why I got cast to play her. I’m not as crazy, I’m not a criminal and I didn’t marry a drug dealer [laughs], that’s the only thing. But I think playing this character has really elevated my life and opportunities. It’s been so much fun, six seasons of this character, but all of these characters have been written really well by an amazingly talented Black woman. So I’m proud that we’ve been able to go six seasons. I’m glad the audience rode with us the whole way.

What do you have coming up next? We’ve seen you on-camera, but do you think you’ll get back into music in any way? 

I am! I’m actually working on my album right now. There’s some stuff that I’ll probably be talking about more this summer, later in the summer. I have some really exciting things coming, including duets and music. I’m writing my own songs, working with a group of producers that are unbelievable. Music is my first love, I’m never going to lose it.

So you’re not nervous about coming back out on your own and doing the solo thing? 

Maybe a little anxious, but not nervous because I know that I can do it. I’ve done the work, and I’ve been in the business since I was 15, been on Broadway for three years in Hairspray, so to me it’s really just like coming back home.