At what age did you know you wanted to be an actress?
HA! After almost 30 years in the business, the truth is I’m still not sure if I WANT to be an actress--but I am and will always be an actress. I don’t know if it makes sense, but it’s the truth. It’s a vital part of how I express myself creatively, but it is only ONE part. Perhaps the part most people know best.
What was your first role and what was your most memorable role?
After my first audition, I got my first role. I played Theo’s girlfriend, Tanya on The Cosby Show. I met Malcolm Jamal Warner at a party and he suggested I audition for the part. It wasn’t something I really wanted to do at the time, but The Cosby Show was the biggest show in the world and I was a very shy girl from the Bronx. I was a little reluctant at first and then I got a call from the casting director asking me to come to the studio to audition. I read the part how I thought it should have been read with absolutely no preparation, and no fear because I wasn’t attached to the outcome. I ended up getting the part.
How has Orange Is The New Black changed your life?
Well, it’s hard to walk down the street these days and not get at least one person who doesn’t recognize me or think I went to high school with them, Lol! It’s nice to be known for my work, but I am still really a very introverted person.
In addition to being an actor, you are also an author, a screenwriter and you’re in the hair care business. How do you balance you career?
Balance is the ever-present work. I have easily worked day into night, into day again and again and again. I’m learning to work smarter and not harder-- dividing the labor with my family has been super helpful. I also make sure I start my day with a healthy breakfast, as I am vegan now--it helps me think, feel and perform better. I exercise and pray before I do ANYTHING. I used to be that person as soon as I woke up, I’d go for my emails. That’s not sustainable and I have learned that I had to stop and start a new, healthier way to begin my day.
Each of our subscribers will receive a copy of "I Found God in My Hair", what inspired you to write this book?
I learned that hair is much more than the stuff that’s on top of our heads -- it’s sacred matter and has much to teach us. It’s the only part of our bodies we can cut, color and ornament at will. Every ancient culture in the history of the world has lore surrounding hair and spirituality, from Samson and Delilah and the Bible, to the ancient Indians, who believe our hair is really an antenna to connect to our divine source. The book is a collection of spiritual principles I learned from my hair like patience, resilience, etc. I applied these principals to my everyday life as an actress. I also share some of the behind-the-scenes hair stories from some of the shows I have been on over the years, like True Blood, ER, NYPD Blue 24 and a bunch of others. I also didn’t like what relaxers were doing to my hair. I was tired of the dryness and hair breakage, but mostly, I just wanted to be ME.
How long did your transition take?
I figured the quicker I cut off all my hair, the quicker my real hair would grow in. I didn’t transition, I did the big-chop, which was immediate and it felt good.
Briefly tell us about HAIRiette. What was your inspiration behind the brand?
I wanted to create a brand that was character and story-driven. It just seemed right to me, especially because I am an actress. Also, I thought I had a different voice and perspective to add to the natural hair community. HAIRiette is a hair care brand as well as the name of a character who is relatable and accessible. She is also resourceful, creative and a giver who tries to see the best in others. She’s every woman! She’s you and she’s me.
What advice can you give to women who multi-task?
This is hard. I recently had a thought that I might actually have ADD (attention deficit disorder) because its difficult for me to focus on just one thing and I tend to get tired or bored quickly when I am not mentally stimulated. I feel alive when all pistons are firing. But I know the importance of focusing on one thing at a time. It’s really the only way to be effective and make a good job great. I also see great value in doing absolutely, positively nothing sometimes.
When you’re not working how do you relax?
I like to go for walks with my Labrador, Macarena. She’s 12 now and has arthritis, so the walks aren’t as long. I also enjoy spending time with her, going to the movies and reading novels preferably.
What items are apart of your ultimate beauty arsenal – those must-have items that you can’t live without?
I love coconut oil! I use it on my skin/body and even for cooking! Shea butter is also a great must-have. I can’t live without my mascara, eyeliner and lip gloss. I don’t wear too much makeup, just a few items to make my look a bit more pulled together. Because I’m an actress, I don’t really like to wear makeup when I’m not working.
What’s next for Tanya Wright?
SO. MANY. THINGS. Stay tuned:) xo
To keep up with Tanya Wright and her next moves, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and HAIRiette