Tasha Smith tells it like it is. The former comedian turned actress has no qualms about living her life fearlessly. Her fiery roles in Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married" and "Daddy's Little Girls" have put her on Tinseltown's radar. In her most recent role in "The Longshots," Smith introduces a softer side as a struggling single mom raising her daughter. ESSENCE.com chatted with Smith about playing sisters with attitude, coaching Creflo Dollar, and butt injections for strippers.
ESSENCE.COM: In your latest film "The Longshots," starring Ice Cube and Keke Palmer, your role is not as aggressive as past characters. How did the role challenge you as an actress?
TASHA SMITH: Well, I was able to do something different. I often play stronger and extremely vocal characters. I love opinionated women and Claire wasn't necessarily that woman. Some of the other female characters I've played in the past would be upset that Claire chose not to speak up on certain things. Instead, as a single mom, she tries to support and inspire her daughter (Keke Palmer) to the best of her ability to follow her dreams with the help of Ice Cube, who plays Keke's uncle.
ESSENCE.COM: So your character was nonconfrontational. Do you ever worry about being typecast?
SMITH: I don't feel like I get typecast because I know my voice is distinct and I can communicate in a specific way. For example, when you think of Will Smith, he's always saving the world because something about him is heroic. I love the fact that I can be a voice that Black women identify with. I'm drawn to characters that empower women.
ESSENCE.COM: And we love you for bringing those so-called "too strong" Black women to the big screen. Speaking of strong women, what are your thoughts about Michelle Obama?
SMITH: Are you kidding me? She's awesome, dynamic! When we look at what is happening in this country and how powerful Michelle is, c'mon! We have to start inspiring the First Lady within all of us and just representing ourselves as women and respect and influence others as positively as we can.
ESSENCE.COM: Absolutely, and I think you've done that by sharing your testimony about your past as a former stripper. How else are you encouraging young sisters?
SMITH: I am working on finding ways to have an open conversation and be a better influence through the media to affect change. As young actors, we don't mentorship within our industry. A lot of the young women are not being mentored and they see us (actors) and think we are so perfect, like we don't have any issues because we're in movies.
ESSENCE.COM: Sounds like a master plan. How would you suggest your peers in the industry accomplish this?
SMITH: We can utilize our lives by having dialogue with those sisters who are growing up and need to know we aren't much different from them, and help them figure out how they can excel, no matter what industry they are in. I believe we all can help one another do better so we can all be our absolute best. And the only way to accomplish that is by allowing change within ourselves.
ESSENCE.COM: Well, you're definitely an inspiration. What is your next project?
SMITH: A movie called "Pastor Brown." It's about a young girl (played by Salli Richardson) who returns home because her pastor-father is dying and he wants her to take over the church, but the congregation is up and arms because she's a stripper. So it's really about her transformation.
ESSENCE.COM: Storylines of redemption are always great. What is your role and who are some of your costars?
SMITH: I play Angelique, who is married to Ernie Hudson. I'm younger than him and I'm one of the women who help raise up the church. Nicole Ari Parker and Salli Richardson, Michael Beach and Creflo Dollar [costar].
ESSENCE.COM: Great cast. How was it working with Creflo?
SMITH: Awesome! I was Creflo's acting coach for a couple of days. Although his role isn't that big, I struck a friendship with him and his wife and they are very dear to me. I've always read a lot of his books and plan on visiting him and his wife at their home soon.
ESSENCE.COM: You've been very open about your past as a stripper. Did Salli Richardson consult with you about her character at all?
SMITH: Yes, I did work with Salli on some things, but trust me, the stripping stuff is not what she needed help with! (Laughs) I need to stop but I'm telling the truth! She didn't need any help with that.
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs) What kind of feedback have you received since revealing your past?
SMITH: Nothing but positive [feedback]. It has truly been a blessing. I always joke that when I was stripping, it was a different ball game even down to how the female strippers look nowadays.
ESSENCE.COM: How so?
SMITH: Back in the day, strippers didn't have big butts like they do now. It seems like all the strippers are shaped the same with very heavy bottoms. Someone informed me that they get booty injections.
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs) Say what? No, like steroids?
SMITH: Well it's more like collagen for the booty. I'm not kidding, that's what they were telling me. Everyone has the same butt. They look like cartoon booties.
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs) Ohmigoodness! I don't even want to know what the side effects might be...
SMITH: (Laughs) I have no idea, but that's what I was told!
ESSENCE.COM: So, Ms. Tasha, when we last spoke you talked about your divorce. Are you still living single?
SMITH: Pretty much I'm still single and very open and available. I'm living my life and I'm not out on a hunt. I believe if I keep working on me and stay focused, eventually it will happen. I think some women get distracted because they are so caught up in that prowl for a mate. I think it's so tacky when I hear women say, "I need a sponsor!" Focus on your life and your purpose. I'm not trying to run and chase a man as much as I am trying to chase after my destiny.
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Credit: Derek Blanks/www.dblanks.com