has led a long and diverse career in show business. She got her start modeling, then segued into acting, has recorded music, become a businesswoman and, most recently, became a First Lady. Really. LisaRaye can currently be seen on The CW show All of Us
, which is executive produced by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. LisaRaye was kind enough to stop by and talk with us recently about All of Us
and an upcoming talent pageant that she is putting on.
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So, you're talking to us from Prague, is that correct?
LisaRaye McCoy: Yes.
What are you doing in Prague right now?
I'm actually accompanying my husband. My husband is on business.
For those of us who don't know, can you tell us how you first got involved in show business? I know you started modeling prior to acting, but was acting something you always wanted to get into?
Oh, no, not at all. Actually, it was because one of one of my friends called me up for an audition which was on an independent film and said maybe you should go out for this small, small role as a secretary which was only three lines. And I said "sure I can do that.” You know, I had been modeling in Chicago and stuff like that, all eyes on me thing, and I was kind of gearing towards maybe commercials because I had done posters and endorsements and hair shows and stuff like that. I want more of that kind of feel. So, I went in to audition for the hmmm.... the name of the movie was called Reasons. To make a long story short, I walked in to audition for the secretary role, and I came out to read for the lead and got it. Got that, the director was Monte Wells, which was at the time Spike Lee's executive producer and he urged me to come to California. I didn't really know that I had IT, you know... basically he saw IT in me so I just kind of believed him and said, you know, I can do this and it was fun doing the movie, I kind of caught the bug as I was doing the movie.
You've done so many things in your career...your filmography is pretty long. Was there a point looking back where you thought, “Hey, I made it?” What do you think your break through was?
Well. First I thought it was the Player's Club. Because, of course, you know, coming out of California among all of the beautiful people that are trying to be actors and actresses and to land a film as a leading role that you're in a film with Ice Cube, Jamie Foxx and Bernie Mac.., that's pretty much all of our first films that we did. And you know, I was just like “Oh my god!” I mean, this is my first big break and I'm breaking out like this... This is alright.
Most actors are focused on just acting, but you've done modeling, you're acting, you're recording music, and on top of that, you're a business woman. Is it difficult juggling all those?
It is difficult juggling all those things because like right now, while I'm doing my show, I'm filming my show, well, not particularly right now, but during the months that I'm filming it's really hard because I'm on the set all the time and every day so it takes me away from the day to day grind of doing my projects that I do and my business stuff. You know, even interviews, me trying to schedule an interview around that time is even tricky because my time isn't my own and we don't have a set time to break. I'm always running up here, running up and hurry up, and hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait and that's the name of the game. You're always running around, you know?
You star on the CW comedy “All of Us”.. How did you get involved in that show and for people who don't know, can you tell us all just a little bit about the show?
Absolutely,...absolutely. It is executive produced by the dynamic duo Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. It's loosely based on their life with respect of bringing family together from the previous to present and the future and that's what their life has been about with Will's son from his first marriage and with Jada and their kids making that work and I think it's a great story line because in this day and age in our generation there are so many single parents whether they are mothers or fathers but that is the life that we live more and more in, everyone needs help and they say it takes two to raise a child and it still does and so you can't get away with that and this baby momma drama and baby daddy drama this show shows you how to be able to deal with the pain or deal with a situation in a comedic type of way that's real. So, for me, I've been a parent for 15 years. The pain and the script were so real to me that I was able to bring a lot of my past life and past experience to the role.
All of Us, at this point, has yet to be renewed for next season. Do you have any new information about that? Do you have a feeling of whether it will get picked up or not?
Oh, we never know, every year, we are in limbo. I have to try to find out if I have a job again or if I have to start hitting the pavement. Do I get an agent or whatever, you know? However, I'm at a crossroads right now. I'm a newlywed, I just got married, I'm a First Lady, my daughter is graduating this year from school. I have so many projects I'm doing, so I'm kinda torn. If it comes back, wonderful, if it doesn't fine... I'm there with it.
You've just mentioned that you're the First Lady. You're actually the First Lady of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Can you explain how that happened? Do you have any sort of royal duties?
It's a part of the commonwealth, so marrying my husband has made me the First Lady of the country because he is the premier which is the chief minister which is equivalent to us, the President. So, you know, learning about the country, learning about the culture, you know, learning about the parliament, the direction of the country is very new to me and education is for me as well. It's a different system, they use the British system and of course, I'm American, so they do a lot of that... I call it going to court! It's parliament, going to parliament they still wear those George Washington wigs that they used to wear back in the day. When I walked into that, I felt like I was walking into a bit of historical venue, I was like wow, look at this. I felt like I was a kid learning something very, very new. But yes, I accompany him on a lot of business trips; we actually had a dinner with Queen Elizabeth a couple of months ago at Buckingham Palace. He speaks in
government conferences in Dubai. I go to swearing ins, ribbon cutting ceremonies, I do it all. I do everything that a wife and a First Lady would do as well.
I know you also have a beauty pageant coming up as well. Would you like to talk about that a little bit?
Actually, not a beauty pageant and I don't want it to be confused with a beauty pageant because I believe that beauty is within, especially when you are dealing with young women and ladies. My pageant is a talent pageant, it's called the Radiant Jewel Pageant and radiant is not spelled the normal way, it's spelled like my name Rayediant Jewel and that I think that everything radiates, a jewel just... just... we're all diamonds in the rough and we all can use a little polishing up to shine, to illuminate, to radiate. So, for me, it's like American Idol meets the Gong Show, it's a cross between all of that. It's solely based on education and fun, fun and talent and I look for the mold that’s fun, different, unique, unusual talent. So, traditional talent, so if you sing, you need to add a little twist, something different than just your singing, maybe do a little skit with it, or stomp with it or whatever you use, even pantomime or whatever, but something different that would entertain the audience as well.
They go through a process like a real beauty pageant, but I don't have swimwear and all that stuff you know. We have categories like evening wear and question and answer, events where they have 10 minutes to grab as many garments as they can to make an outfit and then its based on originality, and how you put it together and it's all about fun. A lot of people ask me why don't you do a big national pageant, and I just want to bring notoriety to all the states because if I do one big national pageant then it's going to take me a while to get around to all of the states and then the girls wouldn't have grown from year to year so I'm going around bringing awareness to each one.
My first one is in North Carolina. This year I go to Chicago, Miami, Houston, Atlanta and North Carolina. So, with those on the radar for just this year it gives me an opportunity to see some of the things that need to be changed. One of the big points that I really love about the pageant is that I'm giving scholarship money away for college and I know right now they are thinking that "I'm not thinking about college", but the parents are. When the parents know this kid has some type of talent they want to urge them to get into this pageant because it's fun, but when they get there they get something out of it because I also give them cash, shopping sprees, other prizes. We go out to the city twice, first for the audition process and the second time I come for the weekend of the pageant, but two days before the pageant I rent this big mansion, almost like the Surreal World where we have this big pizza pajama party.
I'm the only person who's hosting it, it's just us and the , it's our girl time, so we play name that tune, charades, pictionary, have dance contests, story telling, it's just to keep them in the vibe of feeling like the benefit I have from being on TV, coming off of that TV into their living rooms and into their life makes them already feel like, "Oh man, she's offering us a part of her," and that's exactly what I want them to get out of it. I want the whole experience to be fun. We have a lot of categories. We have a category that I made up called SOS, called Satisfy our Sponsors. What that does is...our headline sponsors go in, and they have to pick us a particular product and do a 30 second commercial on stage, it can be serious, funny, cheerful, it can be whatever they want it to be. The judging is just purely on how they collaborate together, how they united and how the sisterhood combined their talent.
(Visit LisaRaye's Rayediant Jewels Website)
(Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl)
(Image Courtesy of The CW)