The First Lady of Turks & Caicos will hold court—literally. LisaRaye McCoy-Misick will testify today in the British government inquiry of her estranged husband, Premier of Turks and Caicos Michael Misick, who is facing allegations of governmental corruption. Misick has dismissed the allegations, maintaining that they were invented by his political opponents. As she prepares to take the stand, the Chi-town beauty speaks to ESSENCE.com about the women of Turks and Caicos who denounce her but support her husband, whether their marriage was a fraud and why she still loves the country.
ESSENCE.COM: As you prepare to appear in court today in connection to the British government's inquiry into allegations of corruption by your estranged husband, do you ever ask yourself, "How did I get here?"
LISARAYE McCoy-MISICK: There are still two sides to that. The first is, when I first got with Michael, I had never been instrumental in a movement and I was encouraged and wanted to be a part of what he was trying to do with the country. I was a fan of his. I'm listening and looking and at the same time all of these other things are unfolding in front of my eyes. So now, the second part is that I've been sucked in and things have come in between us and upset my life. But then I'm thinking, Wait a minute! There's another side to this story. As much as I want to be neutral, I don't want to be in trouble. It's a shame he's going through this.
ESSENCE.COM: It's interesting that, after all you two have been through, you show compassion for him. Has your husband ever acknowledged or commended you on your role and contributions to the country as First Lady?
LISARAYE: The one thing he said during his inquisition was my wife has increased tourism a significant amount. When he said that, it made me soften a bit. Again, I'm a people-person and I used those skills to embrace the people of the country. I'd walk on the beach and walk up to people and ask them how they liked the island and they'd speak freely to me, not knowing who I was until after I'd walked away and someone else told them. That's how I chose to operate and connect with everyone. However, there are so many politics. I was often told not to speak to the opposing party, and I thought it strange because, in American politics, whether you're a Democrat or Republican, it doesn't mean you don't communicate with the other side. In fact, it's often encouraged, so you get to know what you're competition is thinking. So that was hard for me because I am outgoing.
ESSENCE.COM: Despite your support and role as the First Lady of Turks and Caicos, many of the islanders criticized you for being paid as the face of the island's ad campaigns. Do you think they made an informed assessment?
LISARAYE: Yes, I was the face of the campaign, but I was also the ad director and worked long and hard on the ad. Was I compensated? Yes. But it was for the work I did to market and come up with an ad campaign and not what an actress or model would have been paid. I did my research; I picked up ads and photos from different magazines that promoted tourism for all the other Caribbean islands like Barbados, St. Marks, St. Croix and so on. I said, let's see what they are selling.
ESSENCE.COM: Your decision to speak to the Turks and Caicos press was denounced by the leader of the country's Progressive National Party and the women of Turks and Caicos who support the Premier. How did that make you feel?
LISARAYE: They support him, so I can't really be mad at that because it's a form of loyalty to their own kind. Were my feelings hurt? Absolutely. I couldn't help but think what world and what society are you trying to be a part of? We're not back in the slave days where you agree with everything your leader says. Considering his conduct and behavior, you have the nerve to fight a fight you don't have to fight. He has bigger fish to fry like allegations of governmental corruption. He's already lost his family and now he's fighting for his power and position.
ESSENCE.COM: In the court of public opinion, people believe you tried to gain sympathy for what they felt wasn't a domestic violence incident. Do you think you should have handled it differently?
LISARAYE: There are so many women who are in a position and they don't want to say anything because they are either afraid or thinking, If I do this I'm going to look like a fool and won't even file a claim when they should. Many women on that island encouraged me and said, "You stand tall; you help represent. Don't be intimidated." I felt like this is a movement and all of this is happening for a reason. I'm supposed to be here to shed light because I am the one factor that makes this story international news. Believe me, when he crosses those waters, he's known as LisaRaye's husband not the Premier of Turks and Caicos.
ESSENCE.COM: With all that you've endured, how do you feel about the people of Turks and Caicos?
LISARAYE: I could have kept the little Caribbean country to myself, but I was so eager to share it and let everyone know about how beautiful it is and I still will. I will continue to promote it because I have nothing bad to say about the island or the people. There are some people who love me and some people who don't. I have a dual citizenship so it is my country too, whether they think so or not.
ESSENCE.COM: There were some suggestive magazine photos that resurfaced which gave the country more ammunition to declare that you weren't fit to be a First Lady. Did your husband ever defend you?
LISARAYE: I'm the First Lady and I knew that I could no longer do those kinds of photo shoots. They were old photographs from a few years ago and I'm an actress, so I know why that magazine chose to run them again. Still, I felt like when Michael asked me if I posed for that magazine he could have shown a bit more support and spoken on my behalf and said, "My wife would not do this." When he questioned me, I said, "Are you serious? Might this be the same series of the photos and posters you framed and proudly said, 'This is my wife?'" To not ask me as your wife before questioning me accusingly of something like that really hurt. Then people want to say no other First Lady would do this. Well, neither did I because it was done years ago, and quite frankly, the other First Ladies couldn't pull that off if they wanted to.
ESSENCE.COM: Many have speculated about his interest in you as a wife both personally and professionally. In other words, your Hollywood connections would have proven beneficial to him. Do you agree?
LISARAYE: I started the island's first film festival and used my relationships to help produce and improve the music festival by bringing people I knew to the island. I was also able to cut the budget. It's funny because all of a sudden he became Hollywood, and I'm thinking, Hold up! Do you want to be the Premier or what? And wait a minute we don't have to entertain everyone, every second. You are married and the president of this country. Then I
have to ask, "What's going on?"
ESSENCE.COM: So do you believe you two shared a true partnership both personally and professionally?
LISARAYE: Again, I think I could have spoken up more. A lot of times I would ask what can or what am I supposed to do. Many times I was there to support him, which I was happy to do, but I always felt I could do more. I want to be beside my man, not behind him, when we're building as mates. It should not only be about the money or building for the allure. If all he wanted to do was reel me in for some type of partnership or agreement then he could have been honest and said that and we could have possibly worked something out. But don't try to mess up my life and get me more involved in things I don't have anything to do with. It's just not fair. I did what I came to do and did it very well. I brought people to the island. I made the country money by bringing the celebs, creating the movie theater (LRaye Theater) and aiding in the music festival and I launched your ad campaign. Don't spin my life around and leave me like, "I'm done." At least return me the way I was before you met me. I'm not asking you for half of your fortune, because we've only been married for three years, but [acknowledge that] I also invested in this country.
ESSENCE.COM: Speaking of family, how has your daughter, Kaienja "Kai" Pace, been holding up?
LISARAYE: My daughter is unfocused now. She was attending the University of Buckingham. She is back here in California and trying to find her way. That's incredibly courageous of her and I'm disappointed in the lack of a responsibility on his part as a stepfather. My daughter spent her first six months before she started school with Michael while I worked in California. I was trying to help them establish a bond and promote family with him and it wasn't easy. No one should be subjected to this when your intention was always to do well. This fairy tale has turned into a nightmare.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you still love him?
ESSENCE.COM: Would you ever consider working things out with him?
LISARAYE: Hell no! The love I have for him is based on the time we spent together. The start of our relationship was phenomenal and when we came together it was something special. He embraced my family and I knew he cared about me. I feel like he's been caught up and I'm not mad. I'm just disappointed and hurt about how he's handled things between a husband and wife so publicly. Also, the way he chose to have his behavior bestowed upon the whole country was distasteful to me and unfair to our image as well as our legacy. But you know what? I will survive.