Tatyana Ali began performing and acting at the tender age of four. So many remember her during Fresh Prince of Bel-Air days when she played the character Ashley Banks, but at 32, she has created her own identity. After earning a degree from Harvard University, giving back to several communities and acting as a role model for students across the country, Tatyana has resurfaced as the star of the Martin Lawrence-directed show Love That Girl.
VV caught up with star (who, by the way, loves Christian Dior) for a little girl talk as she dished about her skin care regimen, her workout routine and being back in the studio! –Krystal Holmes
In Love that Girl, you play Tyana Jones. Are you anything like that character in reality?
No [laughs]. Sometimes I kind of wish I was. Me personally, I’m a lot more reserved than Tyana. The funniest thing about Tyana is that she loves to compete with people, but me, I pretty much just compete with myself. What I do love about her and what she has actually taught me is she’s just completely fearless. She acts and then thinks afterwards. I’m totally the opposite; I think for a long time, then I make my decision, then I act. There’s something about how spontaneous she is that I really love and she’s not afraid to fall and make a mistake which I think is really admirable.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the show, what would you tell them about it?
It’s a coming-of-age story about a young woman in her late 20s. She’s trying to find out love, trying to balance her family, trying to live her best life and she makes a lot of mistakes along the way.
When you made an appearance on Pastport, you explored your Panamanian roots. Did you learn anything about your heritage as a woman?
That whole trip was incredible. I learned a lot about my culture, about my family, about my personal identity. Here, growing up my mother speaks Spanish as a first language.
Do you speak Spanish fluently?
I speak a fair amount. I read it and write it. My dad doesn’t speak Spanish, so it wasn’t until my grandma started living with us that we had it in the house, but I understand it a lot. Being in Panama, oh my goodness! The Black people there speak Spanish everywhere. There was this one moment when these women in this town called Portobelo, which is the oldest town of the original Panamanian ports, were singing this beautiful song with African rhythms in Spanish, welcoming me and my sister back home. The song was basically saying, ‘ You’ve been gone for so long, we are so happy to see you back home, welcome, welcome.’ It was like a celebration song, and I was so emotional because it really did feel like I came back home.
I’m happy you enjoyed it.
Yeah, this was a totally different experience. I got to know the country for myself, have my own memories about it and then my mom and my dad flew out towards the end of the trip. It was just fantastic.
Do you think you will go back and visit more frequently now?
Yeah, I’ll go back to visit when I get a chance. I would love to get a place there that I can go visit whenever I wanted to, just get on a plane.
Are you back in the studio?
I’m in the studio playing with sounds and working with a couple of people. I’m trying to just treat it real sort of organically. I want to really contribute something different to what’s going on in music, like something really personal. There’s so many stories that I will tell.
Does it feel any different now that you are older being in the studio as opposed to when you were younger?
It feels totally different. I feel more free because it’s not my first time. Because I am older, I kind of feel like that’s where I’m at in my life right now, where I can do whatever I want. It’s a lot more fun, and I am kind of fearless in there now which is completely different from when I was younger. Back then, if you were an actor wanting to be a singer people were like, That’s wack. And because I was younger, I was worried about that. This time I could care less, and it doesn’t even matter because actors sing and singers act.