paula and countess

Hollywood Divas stars Countess Vaughn and Paula Jai Parker talk about their personal struggles with homelessness and self-esteem.

Sylvia Obell
Oct, 08, 2014

TV One’s newest reality show, Hollywood Divas, follows actresseses Golden Brooks (Girlfriends), Countess Vaughn (The Parkers), Paula Jai Parker (Hustle & Flow), Elise Neal (The Hughleys), and reality star Lisa Wu (Real Housewives of Atlanta) on their respective journeys in Tinseltown.

On the show (premiering tonight) Parker and Vaughn delve deep into their personal lives by sharing their struggles with homelessness, body image, and trying to get back into spotlight. They both sat down with ESSENCE.com to talk more about their decision to keep it real on national television.

ESSENCE.com: Paula, you and your family were homeless and living in a hotel when the show began filming. What made you want to share that experience on television?
Paula Jai Parker: I think this is my testimony. We ended up that way because we invested our money in making a movie we were making and didn’t have enough to pay our rent. I look at some of the clips, and I'm like, gosh, that used to be us. But this show gave me an opportunity to get us out of that situation.

ESSENCE.com: Making movies and creating art can be a risky business, has it always placed a strain on your financial stability?
Parker: I’ve definitely been living a bohemian lifestyle because my husband and I are actors. But we have a baby now. I can't be living a bohemian lifestyle with a five-year old.  As parents, we have to make wise choices.

ESSENCE.com: So you and your family are in a good place now?
Parker: Yes, I don't want anyone to worry.  That feels like that was a million years ago now. We have a new house; my son loves his room. I'm just so thankful because this opportunity happened for my family.

ESSENCE.com: Countess, you’ve said you stepped out of the spotlight for your children. What made you decide to return?
Countess Vaughn: My kids are older now and they're in school so I can focus more on me. Plus, acting is just something that I love to do.

ESSENCE.com: You also decided to make some major adjustments for your return to the spotlight. Your first scene on the show is of you at a liposuction consultation. What made you decide to undergo the procedure?
Vaughn: I believe that a lot of actors and actresses get lipo and then say that they've worked and did it the right way. I just keep it real. I know what Hollywood wants to see. Different projects were coming up and I needed a quick fix.

ESSENCE.com: Keeping it real is right! You even let the cameras film you in your underwear, pre-surgery.
Vaughn: I've always been like that. Take me...
Parker: As I am.
Vaughn: Exactly. I grew up in the business and you have to have tough skin. There are some things that get at me, but ultimately, you have to have tough skin.

ESSENCE.com: Were you always like that or is it something you had to grow into?
Vaughn: You’ll hear more about this in one of the episodes during a therapy session but I used to look at myself in a negative light because of fellow actors that had something to say about me. It hasn't been an easy situation.  I had to really figure out what was right for me and just be comfortable in it.

Hollywood Divas premieres Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 10 p.m. ET on TV One.