This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of ESSENCE Magazine.
In some way Naturi Naughton knew she’d be in power—pun intended. Her success might seem like kismet, but the actress has worked hard to fine-tune her craft.
“I’ve always wanted to be a multitalented triple threat,” says the East Orange, New Jersey, native. “When I was a little girl, I said I wanted to be like Whitney Houston: a singer, an actress. I wanted to be able to dance. I studied dance, piano, and voice. The fact that I’ve gotten a chance to do all of my passions is such a blessing.”
Passion is a key element in what Naughton brings to her dramatic role as Tasha St. Patrick in the Starz hit series POWER. As the sometimes reluctant, sometimes ride-or-die TV wife of Ghost—played by leading man Omari Hardwick—the petite 34-year-old actress stands firmly on her own.
It’s no surprise that Naughton connects with the unbreakable spirit of the no-nonsense Mrs. St. Patrick and the highs and lows of her fictional persona. “Tasha is such a warrior; she’s a survivor—not only [with] losing her marriage but also with her children. I don’t know how much more Tasha can take, but I admire her strength,” says the star.
Of course, there was life for Naughton before playing Tasha and stacking up acting credits on IMDB. Back in 1999, she performed as one-third of the platinum-selling girl group 3LW. A few years after she left the group, her showbiz evolution really began: She scored her first Broadway role as Little Inez in the Tony Award-winning musical Hairspray. Her big break was still to follow: She won the coveted role of Lil’ Kim in 2009’s Notorious and delivered a critically acclaimed performance. With each project, Naughton pinpoints a new artistic goal and pursues it with full force.
“A lot of people once knew me as just the girl from 3LW, then I had to reinvent that,” she says. “For a long time people called me Lil’ Kim as I would walk down the street. Even now people call me Tasha—and they genuinely are committed. I just feel really fortunate that [unique Black female] characters are making an imprint within the culture.”
As Tasha, Naughton delivers her most memorable and mature character performance to date. “Playing this role just gives me the confidence to be a woman. It’s the first role that has given me the chance to explore motherhood even before I was a mom,” she explains.
Last July the actress welcomed her first child, Zuri. Around the time Naughton learned that she was expecting a daughter, Tasha had to face the unexpected, violent death of her own girl child, Raina, in the season four finale. Naughton admits that the experience was somewhat traumatic, yet it taught her a lesson in triumphing over adversity and about the powerful emotions of the maternal bond.
“Life is really interesting in so many different ways,” she says. “As an artist, I was creating this emotionally devastating situation with losing a daughter, but at the same time that I was shooting the scenes about the death of Raina, I was pulling from the fact that I was carrying a life. Choosing to have my beautiful daughter Zuri was the best decision I could have ever made. Not for my career but for me as a human. I’m a better woman; I’m a better person because of her.”
As for what she’ll do next, Naughton is open to the possibilities. Perhaps she’ll return to Broadway, she says, and there might even be an album on the way. But ultimately, the actress wants to step behind the camera and see what it has to offer.
“One thing I would love to do is direct,” she says. “I’ve been taking classes and studying directing. I want to produce and direct my own film. There are so many uplifting, powerful stories within our culture that I want to tell.”
And much like the little girl who once knew her own power, grown woman Naughton finishes her thought with a declaration: “I will someday.”