Ciera Payton is killing the game, one fashion design at a time. But even though she only PLAYS a fashion designer on TV, this standout beauty has quite a few IRL tips and tricks up her sleeve.

Who is Ciera Payton?

Ciera Payton is a multi-talented actress, educator, writer, and speaker. She is known for her role as Lilly Winthrop on the hit TV series “The Oval.” Aside from that, you may have seen her as the star of the 2020 Wendy Williams biopic. Or perhaps you recognize her as Officer Martine Kent from the popular soap show “Days of Our Lives.”

No matter where you’ve seen her, Ciera Payton is everywhere — and for good reason. She boasts an impressive acting portfolio, from theater to television. And judging by her momentum, she has no plans of stopping.

Her Philanthropic Work

Even though Payton is a superstar actress, she uses her platform to elevate others. She founded a non-profit called The Michael’s Daughter Foundation, which works to support communities impacted by incarceration by providing “free and low-cost arts programs to youth and families in underserved communities.”

Not to mention, she started the lifestyle website In The Trive where she shares helpful tips, tricks, and stories about beauty and wellness. With a mission to “create a safe space of joy and authenticity,” the website builds community through education and empowerment.

An Exclusive Interview

Not only is Ciera Payton a beauty, but she has also proven to be a beast when it comes to going after what she wants. Whether starring in her own one-woman stageplay or founding a non-profit, Ciera Payton is not one to let anything stand in her way.

Read more about her journey in this exclusive interview with ‘The Oval’ actress, Ciera Payton:

Brittni Williams: So, Lilly Winthrop plays a fashion designer on “The Oval.” As a fashionista, yourself, what have been your favorite looks from the show?


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Ciera Payton: Okay, so I have three. There was one outfit that I wore that fans were going crazy about. Lilly was wearing this white suit. It was like a cape blazer with kind of cropped tapered pants. And people went insane over it, DMing me left and right like, ‘Where’d you get that from?’ And it was so funny because I was like, ‘I think I’m going to gatekeep this a little bit.’

I ended up buying it myself and I love it. I haven’t had a chance to really rock it out anywhere, but I got it in both black and white. It was funny because the wardrobe designer — her name is Raiyonda Vereen — she’ll present all these different beautiful outfits and stuff. But when it came to that one, there was a jumpsuit she was going to put me in [instead.] And I was like, ‘No, you got to put me in this white suit. Like, I think this is the perfect suit for Lilly to wear to go to the White House.’ And you know, she was kind of disappointed, but she was like, ‘Alright, let’s just go with it.’ And I’m so happy she did because so many people loved it.

And then I think just from season one, right out the gate, she put me in a red, kind of flowy, mini dress, which at first I kind of was like, ‘I don’t know, the girl is going to the airport. She’s traveling across country. I don’t know if she would wear a red mini dress, you know?’ And she was like, ‘Trust me.’ And I was like, ‘Alright.’ So she put me in it. And I was like, ‘Okay’ you know, I liked it. And then when I saw it on screen, I was like, ‘Man, it’s a really beautiful dress.’ I really loved it.

Still from BET's "The Oval" episode 401.
Photo Credit: Charles Bergmann/BET/Tyler Vision, LLC

And I think that what I’m wearing right now in season four — I guess from episodes one to maybe about seven or eight — I’m wearing this all black, kind of faux leather thing with faux leather black pants, boots. And then I had a leather jacket over it, but it was like this tan, cream, and black leather jacket. It was beautiful. I just felt super stealth and just ready to come and not play.

BW: What is your latest beauty or fashion obsession?


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CP: For fashion, like I said, colors. Colors, colors, colors for me right now. Again, cream colors, earth tones. I’m loving cream, tan, camel, and hunter green. I just think that those are such beautiful colors to wear for the current fall season. I see that we’re still doing the traditional black and white color scheme for winter and fall, but I think if you incorporate some of those warmer colors, it just changes the whole wardrobe, the whole vibe.

And then for beauty, for some reason I am on this carrot kick, so I got some carrot oil. It’s like cold-pressed, carrot seed oil. And I’ve been putting it on my face and on my body every day. And it’s like kind of crazy. I can see it’s doing something really cool to my skin. I’m like, ‘Oh, okay!’ It’s keeping my skin really moisturized.

When I was reading up on the benefits of carrots, there’s a lot of vitamin K and vitamin A, which help prevent wrinkles but also keep your face moisturized and all that type of stuff, so I’ve just been on this carrot kick for a while and I love it. And also I’ve been drinking a lot of carrot juice which helps grow your hair. I mix it with turmeric and literally I never have long nails, but they have just been growing like crazy.


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And then I do love Lashify lashes. Those are like my beauty obsessions right now. And then lip-wise, I do love this brand called Sunnies Face. And she has this lipstick called “Baked” which again, I’m about the warm colors right now. It’s a beautiful Terracotta color. I’m wearing it right now. It’s so pretty. I also put Charlotte Tilbury’s “Peachy Plump” on top of it. It’s like a lip gloss. I love it. I’m obsessed.

BW: I love how you incorporate a little bit of your own personal style into the character. Very cool.

CP: Raiyonda has been really great in allowing me to  voice my opinion on things and collaborate together to create some of these looks. But she picks them all out and we get into the dressing room. And we go back and forth on what feels right, what looks good, what works for the scene, and then everybody signs off on it and then I put it on.

BW: So, many of your fans know you for your role on “The Oval,” but you actually have a really impressive list of acting credits. What would you say has been your favorite character to play to date and why?

CP: You know, I would say my very first role was my favorite. So 2006 was my very first, I would say, professional acting role. Prior to that, I did like a PBS special talking about the Louisiana Purchase, and that was my first time on TV, but this right here was my very first movie.

It was called “Flight of Fury,” and it was a movie that starred Steven Seagal. And for me, it was a role that I loved playing, but also career-wise and on a spiritual level, it was everything that I needed to really find empowerment for myself.

So, you know, this was in 2006. I’m from New Orleans; 2005, Hurricane Katrina had hit. And shortly after that, I just was questioning if I even wanted to be an actor, because I had experienced Hurricane Katrina. My family and I, we lost our home. My grandmother had passed away during it, so I was just kind of in a soul-searching type of place.

So I went back home to New Orleans, and I was considering going to medical school, or just finding something else to do where I felt I could be of service to the world. And I don’t know why at that time I didn’t think being an actor had anything to do with contributing anything to the world, but I’ve learned over the years that it does. When you’re being a representative of people’s stories, there are a lot of things that you can do to impact the world.

So I go back home to New Orleans, and I’m just hanging out with my older brother. And I keep getting this phone call from this agent that I knew. And she wanted me to audition for this movie for Steven Seagal. And long story short, I ended up going to the audition reluctantly, and I was very resistant, because I was like, ‘I think I’m not going to do this, I think I want to go and be a doctor.’

But I ended up auditioning for the movie, and I get the role. And the role was all about being a strong woman, using her strength. I mean, she was an undercover CIA agent. So, you know, I get flown out to Romania, never been to Europe ever. I’m there for six to eight weeks. And, it was just really a test for me, but also strengthening for me as well, which I felt like was a blessing from God to be like, ‘Look, this is what I set you out here to do, and you’re going to play this role that’s going to challenge you on so many different levels, but you’re going to get through it.’

And so I did. And you know, it’s funny, I look back on it, because it was my first acting role. I was super green, I didn’t know left from right. But I look back at the younger Ciera, and I’m like, ‘You know, you stuck in there, you did that. And you really stepped into your strength.’


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And it was just everything that I needed at that time, especially after coming out of Hurricane Katrina and all the things that had happened during that time. So I would say that was my favorite role. My very first role as Jessica in the movie “Flight of Fury” playing opposite Steven Seagal.

BW: Such a cool story! And especially working alongside a legend like Steven Seagal as part of your first ever acting role is amazing.


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CP: You know, I still look back on it, and I’m so grateful to God for that. It was an action role, and during that time, and even now, I mean, Black women weren’t really doing action roles or anything. And so for that to be my first role to work with an action star, like Steven Seagal, it was nothing but God, and such a big blessing.

BW: You mentioned being a Black woman in Hollywood. Regarding that, how do you maintain your sense of self and identity in an industry that’s often about conforming to certain standards?


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CP: I think the big key for me personally, is to really try to guide and teach and allow other people to understand that in this business there’s no one cookie cutter way to be Black or to define our Blackness, to define being a Black woman.

It’s definitely a challenge because there are so many standards that have been put in place for what we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to look like, what we’re supposed to act like. And for me, I just feel like we’re not a monolith. We’re all different. Regardless of our skin color, we, as Black women, like different things. We do different things, you know, we’re not all one in the same.

And so, for me, maintaining my self identity is just understanding that, but also maintaining my faith and my patience. Because when I get those ‘No’s’, and I have gotten so many ‘No’s’, where I’m like, ‘Wait, God, do you want me to do this, Lord?’ But I just remind myself that the right thing is for me. I feel like my testimony throughout my whole career is just having faith and just knowing that things are working out for me for the good.

And also setting standards as well. You know, they have their standards, and I have my standards as well. And it’s hard sometimes, because I want to do every project and work on everything and be seen on TV and film all the time. I think every actor wants that. But I have to kind of take steps back sometimes and be like, ‘Hmm, is this the best light for me?’ And also for the young people that are watching, ‘Is this the best representation for them?’


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So saying ‘No,’ sometimes is the hardest thing for me to do because it’s always wrapped up in fear of if I’m going to work again or whatever. But again, it’s about having faith in God and just knowing that, ‘Hey, I’ve set this bar. I’ve set this standard, and I’m going to try my best to really honor that and honor the path that I feel like I’m on.’

BW: I love that. You are such an inspiring person with an even more inspiring story, which you presented to the city of Los Angeles. What was that experience like?


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CP: Yeah, so Michael’s Daughter. I mean, I have to say, it was just incredible. I was just kind of pitter-pattering away at the computer, you know, trying to write my story, but also write and honor my father’s story and my family’s story.

And so I created this one-woman play. It was about 90 minutes long. And I don’t know, I felt empowered and inspired to do it. And other people recognized it, so I got invited to do it for Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, and also for the city of Los Angeles, and that was just incredible.

And what I created out of that was a non-profit organization called The Michael’s Daughter Foundation. And the whole basis of the story for me at that time, was just trying to figure out and navigate life as a young Black woman who was pursuing acting, while having this challenging relationship with my father’s incarceration.

And when I did this play, I found out that a lot of people in our communities — not that I didn’t know, obviously — but a lot of people are impacted by mass incarceration in this country. And a lot of people know of, or have a loved one behind bars.

And so, when I created the non-profit, the city of Los Angeles recognized the work and gave me a big plaque and award and everything. It was awesome. It was cool. And anytime you get the opportunity to really share your story and share it from a healing perspective, and from a place of triumph, it’s always just really liberating and very empowering.


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And so my mission for having a non-profit that does that type of work is to allow young people who have similar situations to experience that sense of accomplishment through telling their story and telling it from a healed perspective and from an elevated mindset perspective.

BW: Your foundation has really helped a lot of people and you’ve changed a lot of lives throughout the country.

Do you keep in touch with any of the families that you’ve helped through your foundation?


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CP: Yeah, I do. Actually. Some of my former students, they text me, they reach out to me on social media. One of my students is a firefighter. He got married last year, and just had his first baby. And he called me the day that his baby was born and he was just so excited. And sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, they think to reach out to me.’ They become extended family to me.

And then I also have another former student of mine who let me know she’s going to nursing school now. And so, a lot of them keep me up on their life events and what they’re doing. And some of them I reach out to have them come back and shared their stories to some of the [newer] students and be a part of what we’re doing as an organization. So yeah, I do. I keep up with them.

BW: As someone who helps so many people, who would you say is your biggest source of support?

A candid picture of Ciera Payton and her partner.
Photo Credit: Ciera Payton

CP: Oh man, I have to give my hat’s off right now to my man, my sweetheart. God bless him because he has seen me at my lowest, at my highest. He’s always there to be a shoulder to lean on, and is just my biggest supporter.

And then, I have some really great friends like my friend Phyllis Bancroft, she’s an amazing filmmaker. And my really good friend Que Dong. He’s a fashion photographer, based out of New York, and he’s worked with Shea Moisture, and all these amazing companies. He’s so talented. And it doesn’t matter what time of the night or morning, if I call him he answers the phone and is there to preach to me and we do our “New Orleans-isms.”

And of course, I have my family as well — my big supporters.

BW: Love it. And finally, as you may already know, soft life is trending. As an expert on beauty and wellness. What tips can you give our readers for how to live a softer life?

Actress Ciera Payton
Photo Credit: Skyloft Studio

CP: Soft life is all about having a peaceful life, peaceful mindset, an elevated mindset. And what I mean by that is to really tune in and pay attention to what you’re feeding your mind on a daily basis. You know, what you’re listening to, even our personal thoughts, but from that all the way up into the type of media you’re consuming. Just be present, be at peace, really just love on yourself. Be in tune with who you are and what your message is on a daily basis.

And also, outside of yourself and your mindset, I think soft life is just really about embracing the comfort, ease, and joy of just being feminine. So I like to add little things around my home that just bring little sparks of light, little sparks of joy.


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For example, I have this Neroli blossom diffuser by Makana and I just love the way it smells when I go into my office. And then also, I keep candles on my candle warmers — people use them for coffee mugs as well to keep their coffee warm — but my fiance and I, we just have them all throughout the house and put candles on them and they just scent up the whole place.

And then the last thing I would say is incorporating earth tones throughout your home, your wardrobe, and your makeup. I’m all about creams, tans, and browns — just stuff to keep you grounded, stuff to keep you at peace.