After a lavish island wedding, actress and First Lady of Turks and Caicos LisaRaye McCoy-Misick was struck with a cold reality: her fairy-tale life with husband Premier Michael Misick was just that—a fairy tale. Last year, the couple brought charges against one another in what was allegedly a domestic violence incident that occurred at their home. As the First Lady prepares for her pending divorce, her estranged husband deals with allegations of governmental corruption. Misick has dismissed the allegations, maintaining that they were invented by his political opponents. LisaRaye opens up to ESSENCE.com about the failure of their marriage, her previous fear of becoming a First Lady, and why she's no opportunist.
ESSENCE.COM: Nice to hear from you. You've laid low since all the hoopla surrounding your marriage to Turks and Caicos Premier Michael Misick. How have you been holding up?
LISARAYE McCOY-MISICK: Why is it that people don't embrace one another when we're going through a tough time? Some of the things I read about me were so wrong and hurtful, but I am fine. It's okay to move forward because things happen. Does it hurt? Yes. Am I disappointed? Incredibly. But this too shall pass.
ESSENCE.COM: Is it difficult to go through rough times publicly, especially with a spouse.
LISARAYE: Yes. There is a law in Turks and Caicos that you must remain married for three years before you begin any kind of divorce proceedings. If you want to get a divorce before that you have to be able to prove certain things that will grant you the right to do so.
ESSENCE.COM: What evidence did you provide that helped you in your case?
LISARAYE: I can't be specific right now. I will say that there are things that happen within a marriage which can disrespect the union and actions can be taken against those things. As an actress, I have put myself out there as an independent Black woman, a single mom, a go-getter, a hustler who isn't afraid to survive. If you get with a man who goes against who you are or what you believe in, people who know you begin to say, "Hey, that's not the LisaRaye I know." As his wife, my name has been associated with things that I have nothing to do with, and I have to fight to clear my name.
ESSENCE.COM: When you say you have to "fight for your name" are you referring to the British investigation into the government of Turks and Caicos and its leader, your estranged husband?
LISARAYE: Yes. I have been summoned to the hearing for questioning from the commission regarding the corruption inquiry into my husband's government.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you believe your husband is innocent or guilty of those allegations?
LISARAYE: That's not for me to decide.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you think that you and your husband could have avoided such a public war?
LISARAYE: Honestly, I hoped our divorce could be amicable. I'm saying to him, "Let's get it over with so we can move on with our lives. It's not fair to keep me involved in all this mess that I know nothing about... I'm human and enough is enough." I'm going through some things, but I've been quiet and haven't spoken to my country. I was trying to bow out gracefully, but after a while the Southside [of Chicago] had to come forward and finally say, "Hold on! Wait a minute!"
ESSENCE.COM: Many balked at your whirlwind romance and marriage and accused you of being an opportunist. How do you feel about that assessment of your character?
LISARAYE: First of all, I'm a fan of love and partnership. I would say this to my critics: If a man comes to you there obviously has to be a connection. I had a man who's smart and powerful and who I fell in love with. He's embracing my family. Add the fact that I have an opportunity to bring tourism to his country and be involved in something historical. Who in the hell would say no? But what scared me was the idea of being First Lady?
ESSENCE.COM: What frightened you about assuming that role?
LISARAYE: I knew nothing about being a First Lady or politics. I'm thinking, What am I going to have to change? I'm on a successful sitcom, my daughter is in high school and I'm the breadwinner. What am I going to do? Then Prince Charming comes my way and I'm saying, "God, did You send this man to me to take me away like Calgon?"
ESSENCE.COM: Was it difficult making the transition from Hollywood to a small island?
LISARAYE: I have a responsibility to LisaRaye the actress, the host, the motivating speaker, the mother, the model. That woman is still me. However, I understood that I had taken on this other responsibility to the countrymen and women of Turks and Caicos. I stepped into this position as the country's First Lady, and I will admit I was scared, because I'm an American girl, a city girl who is used to the lights, camera, and action. I knew nothing about being a politician's wife or First Lady. In Hollywood, we don't sell sugar and coffee; we sell the sand, the sea and the stars. Everything in Turks and Caicos is different—culturally, geographically and even the style of dress. It wasn't easy leaving my family and friends behind to come to a country where I know no one except my husband. There was no protocol person or committee to teach me what my role should be nor did anyone tell me, "This is what we expect of you."
ESSENCE.COM: In retrospect, do you think you sacrificed too much as the First Lady of Turks and Caicos?
LISARAYE: I feel like I gave up too much of myself and compromised a bit too much. I felt like I wasn't involved enough. I went to the country and wanted to handle those things that I knew, like helping to increase tourism, because I know a lot of people, creating the film festival—those kinds of things. Perhaps I could have been more proactive, more vocal or maybe I should have had him talk to me more about his political stand. A lot of times I was learning about my husband's political stance while I'm sitting in an audience listening with everyone else.
ESSENCE.COM: Bloggers have often said that you're too "ghetto" to be a First Lady. How does that make you feel?
LISARAYE: I am not and never grew up in the ghetto. People need to get it right. I grew up on the Southside of Chicago. What people don't realize is that my father was a multimillionaire who owned 12 hotels, motels, a steel mill, a radio station, a club, nursing home, and a law office. So I think it's safe to say I'm a little above middle class and I'm a daddy's girl. I make no apologies for loving the finer things in life or the men I choose to date. I don't feel bad about the person I am. Now, I do have an edge, rawness and realness, and I can tell you I'm going to keep that. I'm one of those women who's not to be messed with. I'm very opinionated and boisterous at times. I'm also kind and humble. I know when to fold and when to hold and that's important. If my edge scares you, then you have a choice to remove yourself. Other than that, I'm very approachable, and when people meet me they always say, "You are so down to earth and nothing like I thought you were."
ESSENCE.COM: Some people will wonder why you chose to speak out now.
LISARAYE: I could have talked a long time ago and been pouring salt on my husband, but that's not my style. He has enough he's dealing with. I was trying to bow out gracefully, but I couldn't take it any more. I want to let my people who care about me know what's going on. I have never been that type of celebrity where folks are following me and care what's going on in my personal life. Again, I'm doing fine and I'm going to get through this.