If you’ve been operating under the impression that Niecy Nash is like one of your girlfriends, you are not alone. Whether she’s playing a goofball screw up cop in Reno, a sympathetic geriatric nurse at one of the saddest looking hospitals in Long Beach, or a talented nail tech caught up in the criminal activities of Palmetto’s underbelly, she still manages to come across as down to earth and fun-loving. So when she bossed up, got snatched, stayed snatched, and starting calling the shots in front of and behind the camera, not only were we not surprised, but we were proud.

“I love telling people what to do!” she jokingly yelled when asked about how she felt directing on her hit TNT Claws.

As someone who’s always been dubbed the mama (in High School her cheerleader sweater had the words ‘Big Momma’ stitched into it), it’s in her nature to nurture, and to call the shots. Her character Desna is similar, and when Niecy is out of character she does the same, opening up doors and providing opportunities for anyone willing to do the work. ESSENCE caught up with the busy boss at an intimate lunch just before Sunday night’s premiere of the third season of Claws. The witty actress was candid, sharing her thoughts on beauty, her character’s looks, being a boss in show biz, and everything in between.

On Desna’s hair:

“It was a conscious decision for me to have Desna’s hair just blown out in a natural state. When I went in and tested for that character, they had me in a super sharp bob with highlights in it. It was cute. It was brunch hair. [But] I kept looking at it and saying, ‘something feels so false about this.’ There was not a woman on television—not in mainstream television when we started three years ago—wearing natural hair.’”

and outfits…

“Right now, I’m in the lab, working on a line of shape wear. Because, there are certain tips and tricks that you can create under clothes. And, I just want to put it together so that if you want that, it’s available to you. But everything is so just incredibly tight. And I’m just like, oh my goodness. You can’t eat, you can’t drink, you can’t pee.”

On her character’s claws:

On Claws we do custom press-ons because we have to change them over so quickly. You probably hear on-set about thirty times a day, ‘Nail down! Nail down!’ And then sometimes I have gone all the way to two states, come back home, unpacked my luggage and found a nail that I thought was lost in my bra somewhere.

On her own claws:

I’m a coffin girl in my real life, but Desna is a stiletto girl. I do what I want to do when it comes to hands and feet. Occasionally I will let [my husband] choose what kind of girlfriend he wants to sleep with by hair.

With her “Claws” castmates Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

On her beauty must-haves:

“My must-have is lashes. Even if your face is not beat, you still could give them a little ‘heeeyyy.’ I want to be able to cool down the room when I walk in there. The way I was raised, when you wake up, you doll up. My mother would have on a full face of makeup, hair curled, and everything to cook breakfast.

On self care:

“I like to start with being quiet, because I talk for a living. I like stuff to come to me, because sometimes after I’m so relaxed, I don’t want to drive to anywhere. So I have someone come in every week to give me a massage, and I’ll self steam at home. I do my own facial care. And I am so quick to plan a vacation, to go somewhere and just sit down.”

On being a boss:

I am for the first time in my career, number one on a call sheet, which means you’re the lead of a show. To me being a leading lady or a boss means being somebody that people want to follow. I also think for me it’s not being selfish. I’ve never gotten a job and not gotten somebody else a job. If I’m eating, then somebody else I know is going to eat. My job is what I do, but my who is to be of service in the world, and you have to find those places where you are called to serve.

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