La La Anthony is a TV personality, New York Times best-selling author, and actress who rose to prominence as an MTV VJ on TRL. She currently stars as LaKeisha Grant on Starz's Power. Here, she gets candid about the advantages—and disadvantages—of being a female entrepreneur, and why she leans on her friends for advice during tough times.
Growing up, I was always a tomboy. I wore sweatpants and Jordans. "Girly" things never appealed to me—I still don't know how to cook, to this day. I was the girl that hung out with all the boys. They would come to me and ask me for advice on everything from music to clothes to dealing with women. I was always treated like one of them. I still am in a lot of ways. Being around guys all the time definitely informed my taste in music. I became obsessed with hip-hop. I remember sitting in my room all day long playing albums, memorizing lyrics, and rapping. I was the girl who knew about every rapper and every rap song in the history of rap: Nas, Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown, Jay-Z, all of them.
I never thought a career in music was even possible until I got an internship with Hot 97 in Atlanta. I was 16 years old at the time and you had to be 18 to work there, so I lied about my age. But I was very knowledgeable about music. At that time, Ludacris was on the radio—he was known as Chris Lova Lova then. Eventually, I became part of his show. That's pretty much how my career started.
The music industry was and is completely male-dominated, especially in hip-hop. I felt like I had to prove myself 10 times more. I was always about my grind and my job and never made it about looks or anything else. I was just like, "I'm gonna prove to you people that I know what I'm talking about and I'm good at what I'm doing, so you take me seriously." That's always how it's been for me.
There have definitely been some setbacks. Men were always very loose about what they said, especially when it came to looks. I had to constantly remind people that I was there to work, [that it was] not about how tight my jeans are. I remember trying to join a conversation about music once and being talked over like I don't know what I'm talking about. But I always tried to express my knowledge and make sure my voice was heard.
It's important to always stand your ground and make it known that you're not going to tolerate disrespect. There's a classy way to check people. I'm always very assertive when I talk. I'm not a rude person, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to let someone know that what they're saying is not okay. As a woman, I've never allowed myself to change my self-esteem or my confidence and back down to somebody else, even though sometimes it may be easier. And as I grew up, I realized that I didn’t need to be “one of the boys” in order to be successful; I could stand alongside them as a powerful woman and surround myself with other badass women who understood my experiences the way that men never could.
I've always admired my friends, whether it's Ciara, Serena Williams or Kelly Rowland or Kim Kardashian. My circle is full of amazing trailblazers who do amazing things. Or someone like Oprah, who proved to people that it's okay to do more than one thing. Now, I act, I produce, I write books, I have a clothing line and a makeup line. You can do it all. Never let anyone put you in a box—I've watched all these women break down all kinds of barriers and continue to do so. That's how we grow and move forward.
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Power to me is being in control of your life, being in control of your decisions, and not allowing anyone else to knock you off your block or sway your morals and values and how you feel. It's about doing what you want to do and trying to make yourself happy. Today, in the age of social media, where everyone wants to have complete access to your life, you want to give them access. But at the same time, it's still your life and it's okay to have some things that are off limits, especially when there's a child involved—which for me, is my 10-year-old son [with Carmelo Anthony], Kiyan. I need to keep some things to myself.
I've worked really hard to get where I'm at. I wasn't born into this life—I didn't have any family in the business to help me along—I trailed this path on my own with the help of amazing people along the way. And I'm continuing to grow in the things I love and find new passions. I feel like I'm just getting started.
—As told to Claire Stern.