We waited for the news all weekend and boy was it worth the wait.

When ESSENCE spoke to actress and singer Danielle Brooks on Friday about her beauty routines and upcoming projects, she teased that she had a very big announcement about her next role, but wouldn’t reveal the news just yet.

So it was much to our delight when we saw on Instagram that the Orange Is the New Black star announced that her next role would be as a mom.

“So elated to finally share this news with you all. I’m happily pregnant!” she said in the post.

On Friday she was tight-lipped about the big news, but quite open about how she’s been getting her pre-baby glow on, and her former roles, both as Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson on OITNB, and her most recent project as Beatrice in Shakespeare in the Park’s Much Ado About Nothing that included an all-Black cast.

“It’s amazing. I’m a thick, dark-skinned woman with natural hair playing this desirable woman, the lead,” she said.

If you’d asked her a year ago if the industry was moving in this direction she might have told you not fast enough. But after nearly eight years in the business, she’s learned that it takes time to make significant changes. And she feels like so many opportunities have been available to her, even as a melanin-rich woman with curves and kinky curls. Part of that could likely be attributed to Brooks’ ability to connect with people and make you feel as though you’ve known her all your life, in addition to her stellar performances in Master of None and Broadway’s The Color Purple.

In the meantime, Beatrice was an exciting role for her, though one that took its toll on her body and skin. With Shakespeare in the Park being, well, in the park, Brooks had to withstand the elements. Most days it was too hot, too cold or just raining. And if you know anything about performing on Broadway and other live shows, the nights are long and simple beauty routines are a must. Enter the Olay Challenge.

“For me to say this as a Black woman, you might think I’m crazy,” she joked. “But I agreed to use only this Olay Moisture body wash with no lotion or anything for two weeks. But it’s really good and I’m loving it.”

We laughed and we also scoffed. A Black woman hitting the streets sans moisturizer? It sounded preposterous.

But Brooks said that not only did the product work for her, but her mom also joined her in the challenge and saw the difference in the health of her skin, too. If her shoulders got as smooth as they look in her Instagram videos using only this product, then count us in. The body wash, formulated with shea butter and blue lotus, is made to moisturize as you wash so that you can skip the lotion if you want. For a performer with long days, cutting down your getting-ready time is priceless. Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s actually only $5.

Brooks is used to being pared down for the small screen. In her role as Taystee, she plays in inmate at Litchfield women’s prison, so there’s no glitz or glam there, just oversize overalls and unstyled hair. According to the A-list actress, it ironically made the characters more appealing, and made the workday easier.

“It was freeing!” said the 29-year old South Carolina native. “It was great to be in and out of the makeup chair in five minutes. Plus, people love the characters for their stories and who they are, not what they look like.”

She’s ready to trade in her overalls and wouldn’t mind a little glamor in her next acting gig, however. She references characters like Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope on Scandal and Niecy Nash’s Desna Simms on Claws, cheerfully speaking about their style as something she looked forward to.

“The show is great, but you remember Olivia Pope’s fashion,” she said. “With Niecy, you’re looking to see what she’s going to have on, and of course what her nails look like.”

And Brooks is a girl’s girl with a down-to-earth spirit and a beauty routine to match. She’s like that girl next door who did your cornrows on the stoop and taught you how to get your baby hair just right. Some of her hair go-tos include EZ Edges for edge control, and she swears by Alikay Naturals’ Lemongrass Leave In Conditioner, like many of us. So we’re beyond excited for the new role that she’s embarking on, and we’re looking forward to being envious when her gorgeous chocolate-colored skin gets that ultimate natural glow. She’s sure to look quite tasty as her mommy bump grows.


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