LisaRaye: "I Like Being Thick, Especially In The Summertime"

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LisaRaye is the ultimate survivor.  After a lavish wedding to Michael Misick (then Chief Minister of Turks & Caicos) in 2006, LisaRaye was sitting pretty as his First Lady.  Then news came of her husband’s infidelity and LisaRaye very public divorce put her  in the eye of the media storm. A lesser woman would have crumbled under the pressure, but the outspoken actress has come out swinging.  With two successful shows under her belt–TV One’s “The Real McCoy” and VH1 newbie drama “Single Ladies”–LisaRaye is out to prove you can’t keep a good woman down.

The Urban Daily spoke with LisaRaye  about her role on “Single Ladies,” working with her sexy co-star D.B. Woodside, and should women marry for love or money.

TUD: Congratulations on the success of Single Ladies!   Why do you think the show has resonated with the female audience?

LisaRaye: I think it’s because it’s something new and fresh.  There’s nothing else like this on TV right now—it’s not a white show, it’s not a black show.  It’s very universal,  it’s showing all age groups, and different ethnicities.  It’s very sexy and bold.  We’re talking about current issues that everyone can relate to.

Your character Keisha is a former video model.  How much did you draw from your own personal experiences in creating the character?

Just like Keisha, I started my career modeling in my hometown of Chicago and graduated to doing music videos in Los Angeles.  Back then you did videos in the hope that the director would eventually direct films.  So you would try to get those auditions with them.  It was definitely a grind and a hustle, but then I made it into movies and doing a sitcom. Now I’m back doing a scripted series, and I also have a reality show “The Real McCoy” on TV One.

As close as Keisha is to myself, I actually identify with the other two characters (Val and April).  Keisha is looking for love, but there’s this wall she’s put up.  I’m looking for love but unlike Keisha,  I’m a little too old to play those games.

Speaking of playing games, your character and Malcolm (D.B. Woodside) are engaged in an intense power play.  In the first episode, Keisha finally gave in and slept with Malcolm, but then he didn’t call her back.  Have you ever experienced that?

Absolutely.  I’ve experienced that a couple of times.  You think everything is going well, then something changes and you don’t know what the hell is going on.  It makes you analyze yourself and ask “Did I do something wrong?”  It makes you second  guess yourself, which isn’t healthy.

So what’s your cut off time? How long do you wait for a guy to call back before you give him his walking papers?

One week.  There’s nothing going in your life that bad that you can’t pick up the phone.  To me, that’s called respect and consideration—if you don’t have those two things, then we have nothing in common.  I’ll just send you a thank you card for letting me know who you are so I won’t waste my time.

You and D.B. Woodside have some steamy on screen chemistry.  What’s it like working with him?

It’s very easy.  When it comes to our scenes, there’s just a flow to it.  Also, D.B. is  easy on the eyes, I have no complaints (laughs).  Let’s just say I’m living vicariously through Keisha and that’s my final answer!

There’s a fly in the ointment since Keisha stole the jewelry Malcolm designed  for Cam’ron’s video shoot  How will this impact their relationship once Malcolm finds out?

Well sometimes in life you do things you don’t mean to do.  There are repercussions, but you learn from your mistakes and experiences.  When I talk to kids in high school and colleges, I encourage them to make mistakes because it builds character.  Keisha feels she has her own reasons for doing things.  They used my likeness in this video and didn’t pay Keisha what she was worth so she feels like “I’m going to take it from this end over here.”

Your rival on the show is Jasmine (played by Kim Porter).  Tell us about working with her.

Kim was on the set for about two days, and when you’re shooting guerilla style, 15 hours a day, there’s not a lot of time to get together for rehearsal.  Fortunately I knew Kim before this project, so we already had a relationship and chemistry.

Out of the three friends, Keisha’s views on men seem to be very practical.  She believes in marrying for security.  Do you think women should marry for love or practicality?

I think both.  I think marriage is love and commitment, but also a business.  When I say it’s a business I mean you have to get very deep and involved in his history and find out his outlook on how he’s going to take care of his family. How are we going to run the household?  Who brings the most money in? Who’s going to pay what? What are you bringing to the table? How do we protect what we have?

I know my worth.  I’m an international woman, a former first lady. I’m accomplished.  So I want someone equally yoked with me, I want him to bring something to the table so that we can be that much more powerful together.  So I’m not looking for the average Joe.

One of the story lines has April (Charity Shea) having an affair with a high powered official.  Having gone through a very public divorce with your ex-husband Michael Misick, what was it like seeing that play out on the show?

Couples who are in the public eye face a lot of pressure.  You try to have a normal life, but you have to be careful what you do.  Like I told my husband at the time, “Be respectful.  Whatever you’re going to do, do it on the other island, not over here.  Don’t let me find out.” But it blew up in his face because not only did I find out, his country found out and  his people wondered if they could trust him.

Whatever you want your marriage to be, you have to be truthful.  There are a lot of open relationships, a triangle relationship where the wife may let the man bring in somebody else.  If you’re going to change the rules of the game, you have to let the players know.

There have been articles written questioning the negative images of women on television.  How do you feel “Single Ladies” will bring balance to how black women are depicted?

There hasn’t been a lot of work for African-American actresses lately.  I think VH1 has given myself  and Stacey Dash an incredible opportunity and I’m eager to prove those people wrong.  I think we’ve been representing very well for the 40+ aged women, that we still look good and that we’re still relevant.

In Hollywood, there seems to be an unwritten law that actresses have to be extremely thin in order to succeed in the business.  How have you been able to resist the temptation to conform, and foster positive body images for both yourself and your daughter Kai?

You have to use your own discretion on how you want to look.  We look in the magazines and in the movies and women look like a size zero.  In the two-hour premiere of “Single Ladies” I was thicker. I actually like being thicker, especially in the summertime when I’m not working.  Women like myself, Beyonce and J-Lo are known for having a nice backside– a curvaceous body shows that we’re not afraid of looking womanly.  The more we embrace ourselves, the better people can relate to us because they look like us and want to see more of that.  My daughter is a size 12 and I enjoy that she embraces her own beauty.  We’re not all meant to be the same.  Stacey Dash is a size 2, I’m a size 6-7 and I may go up to a size 8, who knows? When we see a variety of body sizes on TV that’s letting the audience know that it’s o.k.

Follow Lisa Raye on Twitter: @TheRealLRaye

“Single Ladies” airs Monday nights on VH1 10P.M/9c.

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