It’s 4:00 P.M. on a Tuesday and even with her punchy yellow power suit and megawatt smile, La La Anthony is tired. “Today was a crazy day. It started at like 5:00 in the morning and I’ve just been in interviews all day, but definitely good stuff,” she tells me. “This is our last one of the day. That’s why everybody’s…” A member of La La’s 10-person entourage finishes her sentence: “Sorry, we have no energy.”
On the one hand, I completely understand. I’d just finished gulping down a triple espresso at my desk in hopes of masking my own end of day exhaustion. Then again, I can only imagine what it’s like to multitask raising an 11-year-old son, playing Lakeisha Grant on the hit TV series Power, partnering with Lysol for their #OneLessSickDay campaign, launching a new capsule collection with Ashley Stewart and a size-inclusive denim line with Lord & Taylor, co-running a cosmetics company, writing two bestselling books, adapting them into films and TV shows, and producing a ton of other projects.
If you’ve been following La La’s career, as many 20- and 30-somethings have, then you know this isn’t a sprint, but a 23-year-long marathon. The 39-year-old Brooklyn native kickstarted her multimedia moguldom at 16 as the co-host of a popular Atlanta radio show — while attending high school — and cemented her place in media and entertainment as one of the most notable MTV VJs back in the TRL days. The fact that two of those acronyms might actually go over some young readers heads’ proves just how long La La’s been in the game.
“It’s just all about the multi-hyphenate now,” she explains. “No one’s just doing one thing. Even working actors have businesses and are entrepreneurs. That’s just the wave now.” It’s a wave that La La spotted decades before her peers, allowing her more time to hang ten, wipe out, repeat, and improve. And so that’s why on a jampacked Tuesday, a tired La La is giving as much warmth and attention to her last interview as she would her first. Exhaustion doesn’t stand a chance. Who wouldn’t kill for a triple shot of that?
I imagine you’re often asked how you prioritize motherhood with your busy work schedule and your current projects. Fathers aren’t often questioned about their approach to fatherhood or parenthood, whereas mothers are always asked about finding a work-life balance. How do you feel about that sort of gap?
I have thought about that in the past. For me, I just do what I need to do to make sure Kiyan is taken care of. I just know that’s my responsibility, whether people ask me about it or not. He’s my first priority. He comes before anything. I would quit any job to make sure he’s okay. He comes before everything. I just find the balance by having a great family, and Melo’s great at stepping in and being there and taking care of him if I’m at work and doing different things. We’ve found the perfect balance. I think that’s also why I’ve only had one kid, because I give so much to Kiyan. I just don’t know how I would do it with another kid.
Speaking of Kiyan, you recently partnered up with Lysol to raise awareness about cold and flu prevention in the classroom. Talk about what that mission means to you.
As a mom, I know how important it is for my son Kiyan to stay healthy so he doesn’t miss school days. And for me to make sure I’m healthy. The #OneLessSickDay program just really promotes reducing the amount of sick days every year by making sure your kids are healthy. Kids get sick at home, then they bring it to school so it starts at home with washing hands and using the Lysol disinfectant spray. In the bathroom, kitchen, the video game controllers, everything. I’m crazy like that. What’s really great is Lysol is gonna give thermometers to 10,000 schools, these Kessler thermometers. They are there for early detection for cold and flu symptoms. It should really help reduce the amount of sick days that kids have.
You’re very open on social media with your family, your friendships, and your career. How do you navigate that being such a major celebrity?
My mom always says, “You can’t pick or choose when you want this life.” If you have this life, good or bad comes with it. I can’t say, “Oh, I want all the good things that come with it but I don’t want the bad things.” You gotta take it all, and the bad things are the criticism on social media. Everyone thinking they know your life or having something to say. “If I was her, I would be doing this,” or, “She doesn’t look good today,” or whatever. That comes with it. You just have to develop a really strong backbone and spine to not let that bother you or let that make you look at yourself any differently. I have great family and friends who constantly uplift me and make me feel good about myself. So I don’t really get caught up into that because I know that it comes with the territory.
Earlier today you posted on Instagram about your first NAACP Image Award. Congratulations!
Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you so much.
In the caption, you talk about the importance of believing in yourself to achieve your dreams. Is there any advice you’d give to people on the path to believing in themselves?
First you gotta know what your passion is. What do you wake up every day and want to do and love to do? ‘Cause then, you’re gonna put your all into it. Then [it’s about] figuring out the plan of action to get to whatever your passion is. For me, in the beginning, it was radio. So I started interning at a radio station. I always figured out a way to get involved in what it was I wanted to do and to stand out. Find your passion, then put your plan together and go after that passion.
What did your plan look like once you got in the door at MTV?
I think for me it was just, I always wanted to be me. I knew that if I wasn’t me, I wouldn’t be able to keep it up long enough. I think people respected that and thought She seems really cool. She seems down to earth. She seems like somebody I can talk to. That’s really helped me in everything that I’ve done: when I was on the radio; when I was a VJ; and now with my acting and writing books. It’s just important to be who you are and I think people see that and respect that. It makes people wanna hear my opinion on things and what I have to say.
Okay so on the topic of passion, LaKeisha had an *interesting* relationship with Tommy last season. If you were in love with someone like Tommy, what would you do?
Run the other way so I don’t get killed. But yeah, it’s interesting. And it’s also fun to be in an interracial relationship on TV. I think it’s great to have that. But Tommy is so dysfunctional and our relationship is so dysfunctional. It gets even more dysfunctional this season. You know girls love bad boys and so does Lakeisha and she gets herself in a lot of trouble by following behind a bad boy.
That’s a little teaser for Season Six?
Yes. For sure, for sure.
What advice would you have for people who are fellow multi-hyphenates like you, pursuing different passions?
I just feel like so many people see you do one thing and they feel like that’s all you can do. It’s always just do this and stay in your lane. I promise you, when I was on the radio, they told me, “You’ll never be on TV.” When I was on TV as a VJ: “You’ll never be an actress.” When I was an actress: “You’ll never be a producer.” You kind of gotta go with [your passion] and not allow people to put you in a “one box” mentality.
Do you do anything for your mental wellness?
I pray. That’s definitely what I do, at night and in the mornings. I’m definitely trying to get more into meditating a couple minutes out of the day. I’ve been trying that lately, just to center myself, because I do work really hard and I’m with Kiyan all the time. I just feel like I’m getting pulled 100 different ways. It’s nice to find some time where you can just be still for a second. I’m learning to do that. I haven’t gotten that good at it yet, but I’m working on it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Follow the #OneLessSickDay campaign on Instagram and catch the final season of Power this coming summer.