Naturi Naughton is no stranger to the small screen, nor to the real-life territory tread in her latest hit primetime drama, Queens.
Queens tells the story of sisterhood and division among a 90’s hip hop girl-group, reuniting in the modern-day to reclaim their collective glory, and inadvertently, their individual power.
Naughton’s character in particular, Jill (Da Thrill) has had to reclaim her voice and walk in her truth when confronted with the friendships of her past and the realities of her future. A devoted wife and mother, devout Catholic and active church member, Jill has been hiding a secret same-sex affair. In the show’s second episode, she finally revealed the truth (at the top of her lungs, no less) and now must come to terms with how to reshape her life around the reality she’s been hiding.
Though it isn’t exactly Naughton’s own story, the theme of self-discovery being stifled through your career in the public eye is one she identifies with directly.
“I’ve been in situations where, being in a girl group in the 90’s, early 2000’s, I have been told how to dress, how to talk, how to act, and it didn’t really ring true to me,” Naughton said of her time as a singer in the group 3LW. “You’re being conditioned to represent what other people say you are, but you’re not really discovering who you really are.”
“That process is sometimes debilitating in finding yourself, so I definitely connected to that,” she explained.
Though Naughton says that female artists have obviously made a lot of strides in their autonomy in recent years, she notices that labels are still boxing women into certain roles, styles, and sounds while chasing album sales and streaming dollars.
“Women in hip hop have really taken over the genre,” she said noting that she’s a big fan of Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and artists that paved the way for them all like Lil’ Kim. “And people like Eve, for example, she paved the way in a lot of ways – I can’t believe I’m on a show with Eve and Brandy – but I do believe the industry has a lot of work to do. It has a lot to do with imaging and how we project women.”
“We even do it to ourselves,” Naughton went on. “Thinking that the only way we can be loved or liked or get the audience is if we oversexualize our female entertainers. I think that’s somewhere we have to figure out what happened to the Lauren Hills and the Erykah Badus and the people who could be dope as hell, but still be classy and still be strong and represent the motherland and Black women in a way that doesn’t mean you have to assimilate to another culture.”
Naughton also noted that she connected to her character Jill’s devout Christian faith. Having grown up in the church herself, she respects and honors Jill’s dedication to her faith and her church family, and understands all too well the pressures of perception that can come with balancing faith and lifestyle.
“I wanted to make sure that it didn’t compromise her faith, just because she’s going with her struggle with her sexuality,” Naughton said. “All those complexities really represent what happens in real life and in the real world. As long as we tell the truth, and try to make it relatable, I’ve done my job.”
Queens airs Tuesdays at 10 pm EST on ABC.