From Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Pretty Little Liars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries, and most recently Ava DuVernay's critically acclaimed drama series Queen Sugar actress Bianca Lawson still reigns supreme. The transition from child star to finding success into adulthood comes with ebbs and flows. Yet, the Los Angeles native has mastered the power of the pivot with pioneering force, relentless determination, and an unshakeable work ethic.
I had a chance to speak with the actress about the most impactful lessons she's learned with being in the industry at such an early age, how showing up for yourself is the ultimate form of self-care and self-love, and the beauty of extending grace. Let's just say after chatting with the 41-year-old; it's evident she is #BlackGirlMagic personified and the epitome of why Beverly Bond coined the phrase "Black Girls Rock!"
Dontaira Terrell: What would you say is the biggest misconception(s) about being a successful Black woman who knows what she wants for herself in this journey of life?
Bianca Lawson: One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to always be so together and always know what you're doing. Most of the time, I don't know how I'm going to do whatever I'm setting out to accomplish, but I'm going to at least try it and take the first step. You don't always have the answers, and you don't always feel invincible.
There's a misconception that you have to do it all. Be the wife, mother, and CEO, but we all need help because no one does anything alone. What everyone wants is different because not everyone wants the same thing. It's about really owning and leaning into what you want and how you define success because success is different for everyone.
DT: What has been the most impactful lesson being in this industry has taught you?
BL: To define who you are. You can't let other people do that, or everyone's going to have their projections or assumptions about the things they feel you should do or moves you should make. Although everyone's going to have their opinions, you are in control of your destiny. It's important to turn off the noise and not allow yourself to get pulled this way and that way.
Also, being honest and asking yourself, 'Do I really want to do this for me? Or do I feel obligated because someone else wants me to do it, and it helps them too?' It's okay if that's the case. But I think we always think, 'Oh, if I miss this one opportunity, it's never going to happen.' I've learned, you're always going to get more opportunities as long as you stay on course. I can hold onto things far too long, and I have to ask myself, 'Do you need to let go?' Because you can get so caught up in a past perceived loss that you aren't aware of.
DT: Can you explain what it means to be kind and extend grace to yourself?
BL: For me, I can be hard on myself. On the other hand, I am so empathetic and compassionate for other people, but it's a different story when it comes to myself. I'm learning to talk to myself in the way I would, for someone that I love. But at a certain point, I have to be selfish and take care of myself. I think we can be our own worst critics, our own worst enemies. We can extend grace to other people's missteps or fumbles but not to ourselves. So I think having that self-compassion and saying I need to do this thing to have some life force because it makes me feel good, and my bandwidth is at 30 percent right now. It can't just be about me giving all of the time because I need to put things back into my own box.
DT: Do you have a daily affirmation(s) that you tell yourself?
BL: "I love you, Bianca."
"Today is a new day, and every day is a new beginning."
"I can do hard things."
DT: In what ways have you given yourself permission to grow personally and professionally within this last year?
BL: I can be careful, cautious, and private. But I'm going to be 42-years-old this month, and I think it's time to take the brakes off and allow myself to be messy and imperfect. Sometimes, we often think, 'Oh, when this thing happens, then my life begins. Or when I achieve this goal.' but life is short, and you don't know how much time you have and can't, live it [life] for your mom, your boyfriend, or what your quote-unquote brand is.
You have to take the brakes off and live your life. I've always been so work-focused, and I'm really going to try and be better by having fun and investing in a personal life, which I never really do. I used to be one of those people who felt guilty for doing things purely for myself. However, this past year I've learned to allow myself to say no unless it is something I'm excited about that sparks some kind of joy. I'm allowing myself to be open to all different possibilities of what I want to do personally and in terms of work-projects, passions, and hobbies. I'm making it a point to truly live and not just live for my job.
DT: I think that's a great revelation, and I'm excited for you in this next chapter. So what is happiness to you?
BL: That's a very, very good question. For me, happiness is a personal sense of freedom. When you're living your life on your own terms, and you're following your joy or what's interesting and exciting to you without needing permission or validation. It's about being truly authentic to what your heart and soul wants, even if it may not make sense on the surface to other people.
I also think being able to take risks because I believe there's nothing worse than regret. Having great people around you and giving yourself that freedom of knowing that you can change your mind. You can begin again and shift course, but allow yourself that sense of openness and freedom to not have that inner critic or police in your mind.
DT: In these times, what advice can you offer to women who are getting up and looking at themselves in the mirror every morning to conquer the day?
BL: I would say to thank God and don't be hard on yourself. You can do this, and you can get through this because there is always a gift and a miracle somewhere. You never know where it's going to come from, but I think they always come because I genuinely believe in the power of beliefs. If you believe everything is horrible, it's horrible, but if you believe there is a light somewhere at the end of the tunnel, a blessing can come at any moment in any form.