Name you need to know: Afton Williamson, 31
The Ohio native studied fine arts at Eastern Michigan University and earned a masters from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. And she did it her way. Now, you know her as the lead on the VH1 music series The Breaks, which breaks down the world of ‘90s rap in New York City. The actress, who was once an understudy for Kerry Washington on Broadway, talks to Yahoo Style about what success means to her and why she loves short hair.
Like her character, she’s going for broke when it comes to her career, stopping at (almost) nothing to succeed. “Whatever it takes to make it, I completely relate to that. I can relate to her tenacity as a woman to be taken seriously. You always have to work hard. Being a black woman, I have had to work triple-hard to make sure I am taken seriously. My life has prepped me.”
She went into acting with her eyes wide open. “You can never be prepped for this industry. You’re going into an industry that neither wants you nor needs you. You always have to be ready. My journey as a woman and a black woman, it’s built a type of thick skin for me. It’s never not hard.”
She’s color-blind when she reads a script and it served her well. “Most of the roles I’ve booked were not written for black women. I go in there and I’m going to give you what you don’t know you want. I enjoy those nameless, faceless roles. That shows that there’s imagination there.”
Going from Toledo to Tinseltown was – well – a change, as in big. Make that huge. “No one believed I could do this. I came from Toledo, and was raised by a single mom who was always working. I saw something bigger. I saw my mom’s dreams not realized. She instilled hard work in me. Hollywood is Hollywood. That’s not our everyday. When you have the whole world saying no to you, I got my confidence from that. I was always the only black woman in the theater. I always looked at the end game. I never looked at the short term. I make sure I do my work.
She takes care of herself, because that’s part of being an actress. “You make sure your nails are always done. You’re a chameleon. They have to imagine you as whatever character. When I get done filming, I get to wear pink nail polish. I’ll wear crazy toenail polish if no one can see them. With my hair, I just wanted to change up my look. I love short hair. It’s so easy. This summer was the best summer. I’ve had short hair when I was in high school.”
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