La La is back as Lakeisha on season four of the hit show Power, and we chatted it up with the Puerto Rican powerhouse on that and more. Below, catch La La speaking candidly about her relationship with Carmelo Anthony, raising her only son and the challenges she faces as an Afro-Latina in Hollywood.
You’ve been killing it lately with Power, The New Edition Story, and other projects, but do you have challenges being cast as a Latina?
So many challenges! I definitely don't feel like I'm what Hollywood thinks of when they think of a Latina actress at all. They are imagining a different look, a different vibe. People still tell me, 'You speak Spanish? You're Spanish? You're Puerto Rican?' They can't wrap their minds around it. I actually speak Spanish fluently. The industry just hasn’t been thinking outside the box when it comes to Latina women. We come in all colors. My grandfather was extremely dark and from Puerto Rico, but his brother had blond hair and blue eyes. There are so many different shades, and I think Hollywood has yet to realize that. It is challenging, but all I can continue to do is try out for the roles and show them, 'Hey, we come in all shades and with all hair textures and all colors and all everything!''
You’ve had such a diverse career. What drew you to acting?
I've always wanted to do it. When I moved to Los Angeles to be on the radio, there was an acting school on every corner. You can't be in L.A. and not be into acting. I started getting into it then, but then I booked my MTV job and was struggling. I had to make money. You can have a passion for something, but you still have to pay the bills. Once I got in the position where I could actually make some money from acting and survive from it, that's when I was like, OK, I'm ready to take this leap, because acting is not easy. I have a joke: once you wrap one job, you're unemployed again. It's the truth.
Every celeb has to deal with people prying into their personal life. How do you protect yourself when everyone's talking or speculating about your relationship?
I have a very strong faith in God, and I have a strong family base. I'm human, so obviously I hear things. You want to say, 'No, that's not true' or 'If you really got to know me, you would know I'm not this or that,' but you realize you can't do that, so my thing is, as long as my core—my family and my friends—know who I am as a person and what's going on, that's what's important to me. I've been good so far, but I can’t act like I don't hear it or that I don't care. Everyone cares. It affects everyone, but it's how you deal with it. I try not to give it too much energy because then I feel like I'm giving it power. Only I know what's going on in my relationship and my life.
How do you protect your son and raise him while in the limelight?
My son, Kiyan, has a sensitive side, but he doesn't show it often. One thing about Kiyan that's similar to his dad is that they're very quiet and [keep] to themselves. So if I ask him, 'What are you thinking,' he’ll say, 'No, I'm fine, I'm fine.' It takes a lot to get it out of them. You just have to pull a little bit, because he's not the kid that's going to tell you everything, but that's OK. I know how to deal with my kid. I'm very forthcoming, I'm really expressive. I just try to teach him, 'Come on, you can talk to me. I'm your best friend. Tell me what's going on.' With Kiyan, I don't want a one-word answer. I don’t want: 'How was school?' 'Good.' 'How was your day?' 'Good.' 'How do you feel?' 'Good.' No, we need to have conversations. Give me more than that. So I push him.
In The Love Playbook, you said you would never date an athlete. Why was that one of your “nevers?”
It's just the stigma and stereotype around athletes being on the road and the women, and I wouldn't say it's false because for the majority of them that is what it is. You have a few that are faithful and great, amazing partners, but for the majority of them, that's what that lifestyle is about. It's easy access everywhere you go. So I didn’t want to be a part of that. I didn’t want to be in that world. When I met Mel, he was only 19 years old. We just became the best of friends first, and I think that in any relationship, having a friendship first is important, because that's what gets you through the difficult times. What gets us through everything, even what’s currently going on, is that we're rooted in our friendship, so we're able to talk to each other as friends, which a lot of people don't know how to do. So because I've established that friendship with him first, it killed my 'I would never thing'—maybe this one time.
What attracted you to Carmelo at first?
It was definitely his personality, his quiet demeanor, because I'm so outgoing and so nonstop. With him, it was a calming spirit that is very humble and kind-hearted and that I needed to balance out my all-over-the place crazy sometimes, so it worked. Opposites attract, and we are definitely opposites.
Also in The Love Playbook, when it comes to infidelity, you advise women that if they want to stay, that's ok, and they have to figure their relationship out, and if they decide to go, make their leaving mean something. Would your advice still be the same today?
100 percent. I would say when it's all said and done, you have to live with your decision. I was recently completely alone in my house, which doesn't happen often, and in those moments you realize that the decisions you make are for you because you don't have people around to help you deal with the pain, or deal with whatever. I realize that I'm not in this alone because I have a great support system, but you are alone in your decision, because you have to live with it and there's nothing anyone can do about that.
Who do you confide in the most?
My mom, because she provides me with common sense. A lot of people don't have common sense, which is so crazy. I call my mom with the craziest issues, even work stuff. She's not in the industry, but in two seconds she's like, 'Well, isn't it the same as this?' You're just like, 'I never thought of it that way,' but it's so real.
How do you deal with trolls and online haters?
You have to realize that none of these people pay your bills, take care of your kid, or affect your life in any way other than typing something on a computer. When I put it in that perspective, it takes their power away. What's the value in it? What's the value in worrying about someone that I don't even know that's behind the computer and is probably miserable in their own life? I know what's going on, so I try not to let that happen. I'm also trying to do a better job at being alone. I was a person, even growing up, who had a lot of activity, with people in and out, so I was never good at being alone. To be clear, when I say alone, I don't mean not in a relationship. I just mean alone moments. You can be in a relationship and have your alone time.