Tyler Perry is cranking out films like a widget factory these days. Next up: Madea’s Big Happy Family (hits theaters nationwide April 22.) As usual, the film mogul has pulled together an ensemble cast comprised of favorites from a long list of Hollywood’s underappreciated black actors. But this time around, he’s tapped a few that aren’t part of his usual “go-to crew,” including elusive-of-late actress Lauren London. She’s playing the role of “Renee” in the film, a drop-dead gorgeous femme fatale who dreams of a lavish lifestyle with her boyfriend, Byron (Bow Wow) amid challenges.
Rolling out saw London’s re-emergence (after giving birth in ‘09) and her involvement in the production as an opportunity to invite her to grace one of our covers. She accepted, but with very specific ideas of the image she wanted to portray. It was her desire to emulate the style of Janis Gaye, wife of the late soul legend Marvin Gaye.
With the help of her team, London ended up with four looks that hearkened back to Gaye’s high-fashion ‘70s style. During the Los Angeles shoot, as she posed in fur, bell bottoms, shimmery dresses, platform shoes, big floppy brimmed hats and such, a star was born — or reborn. I peeked in to watch her being styled (couldn’t help myself) in a shiny, silver short dress with a plunging neckline in front of a vanity mirror that could pass for something from that period. She glanced over and asked, “Have you ever seen A Star Is Born, starring Barbara Streisand, or Mahogany?” Admittedly, I hadn’t taken the time to watch all of the former, but I was very familiar with the latter. I nodded “yes,” and she flashed that beautiful smile. She knew I had grasped her intentions for the shoot.
Lauren London’s name, undoubtedly, evokes admiration — and maybe even a little jealousy — from women and some serious fantasizing from men, which is to be expected. She’s a natural beauty.
But that aside, the versatile actress has unintentionally earned the reputation of being somewhat of a mystery during her nine-year stint in the public eye, especially within the last several months. Whereas her performances in films such as ATL and This Christmas have been truthful and convincing, off camera there’s not much insight into what lies beneath the beauty and those deep-set dimples. She recently put the cherry atop her mystique by giving birth to the child of Wayne Carter, aka Lil Wayne.
Lil Wayne is obviously a rolling stone, having recently fathered children with a few women (singer Nivea, London, and an unknown) in a concentrated period, which has heightened the curiosity of London’s fans. Whether she accepts it or not, her aura is that of a “good girl,” which likely comes along with the package when your dimple-enhanced smile illuminates any room you enter.
But, she got down with Lil Wayne?
The Cash Money rapper’s perceived sex, drugs and alcohol lifestyle — not to mention his brushes with the law — seems incongruent with London’s reputation as a by-default saint. Was it a classic case of good girl smitten with bad boy? Could’ve been… but her fans may never get a solid answer to that question, because her level of respect for her child’s father, and her vow to keep their connection private is virtually impenetrable (we tried). Left unanswered, the mystery begs the question, “Is there more to good-girl London than meets the eye?”
Based on her roles as New New in ATL and Melanie in This Christmas, we’ve developed a perception of London as an innocent young girl, albeit a seductively attractive one. She was like that perfect, angelic, faculties-seizing high school crush for me. But that’s her persona only in movies. The actress can certainly slay you with her aesthetics, but she has a real life, with real issues — and she lives it on purpose. She was clear on this point during the cover shoot:
“I know that I don’t really give a lot, so people don’t really know how to perceive me,” she acknowledged. “There’s not enough out there to really know who I am. I’ve heard that people think I’m [a] goody two-shoes, the girl around the way, which is fine because those are pieces of me that are true, but I’m human and [she cranked her attitude up a few notches] I’m not going to pretend to be anything else other than that.”
During the interview, London did lower her fortified walls just enough for us to see how amazing and real she is beyond her looks. She’s not just getting by on pretty. In fact, she doesn’t even acknowledge her upper hand in the looks department and came off intermittently shy.
“I don’t even think I’m all that cute,” she said when asked about her beauty secrets. “But I maintain a clean face and make sure I have a mani and pedi once a week. I think it’s important for women to take care of their nails, hair, skin and feet. That’s it. I keep it natural and simple … but when I get some sun, I’m all ready. That [tan] would be a beauty secret if I had one.”
While on set, London presented herself as a grounded and calculated woman who marches to the beat of her own drum. She was very direct not only in communicating that she purposely keeps a lid on her personal life, but also her career is very important to her, and giving birth to her child was no mistake — although some of those in the court of public opinion couldn’t handle it.
“I love the art of acting, so whether I do it on film with a million people seeing me or I do it in front of 20 people in a class showcasing my art, I am going to act whether anyone sees it or everyone sees it.”
“I had a pregnancy that wasn’t private … A lot of people had their opinions about it. They were surprised that I came up pregnant, which was a surprise to me, because I’m a woman and women get pregnant and Lauren comes first before the actress, so having my son was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said.
I believed every word.
She just has that honest face.
In fact, the thespian attributes her acting success, thus far, to the fact that she “hasn’t learned how to lie yet.” She’s not only an actress, though. As previously mentioned, she’s a new mother, she’s a friend, a daughter, a Christian, and simply a human being — all roles in which she expects success and takes pride.
“I’m a great mother because of my intentions on being a great mother, I’m a good friend because I’m loyal, I’m a good daughter because I’ve hopefully made my mother proud, I’m a great human being because I accept that there’s a spiritual being underneath it all,” she said. “I’ve always been a woman of faith.”
That faith has kept her grounded, to the point where she even remembers “the little people” she’s encountered along her journey. Ro’s videographer was stunned by her memory of an encounter they had years ago as part of another press event.
But during her “role call,” there was one role that she left out. We know she’s not married, which was the source of the judgment, but what about a boyfriend or otherwise serious relationship? It’s pretty safe to say it’s not Lil Wayne, since his cavorting is swiftly becoming legend. But she mentioned no one. So, is it another classic case of the prettiest girl remaining single because most assume she’s taken already? The only insight she offered was this:
“I’m 26 years old,” she said. “Does any 26-year-old woman have relationships figured out? If so, I want to meet her. I’m still trying to figure mine out.” [Editor’s note: There are plenty out there willing to help you with that, Lauren.]
Along with the fact that London doesn’t do many interviews — this being her first solo cover — it appeared that she had backed away from Hollywood during her pregnancy. But she hasn’t gone away and she intends to continue to evolve as a person and perfect her craft.
“I think evolution is a natural thing. I was 21 when I came into the industry and now, I’m 26. So, my style is gonna change. My hair hasn’t changed, but my outlook on clothes, movies [and] interviews that I do are gonna be different from when I first came out. I didn’t put too much thought into [makes air quotes with her fingers] coming back. I just love what I do,” she said.
London actually laughed about the perception that she was MIA, quipping, “It was only nine months! I haven’t gone anywhere, and I haven’t yet reached where I’m going to be. I’ve just been living and being me as an artist and a person and a woman. Life has its ups and downs, so I’ll continue to do this [motions as if riding waves] and grow. And thankfully, I love that the people are growing with me and love watching me, so I’ve been blessed.”
And what keeps her strong on her walk of faith and womanhood? “The serenity prayer,” she said. “God grant me the strength to accept … That’s a prayer that’s actually in my car. I say it every day.”
As Janis Gaye did with Marvin, Lauren London has reached another level of notoriety due to her connection to Lil Wayne. As did Janis, she has had to draw on her strength to maintain her independence apart from a complicated entertainer, and she’s doing it successfully. She has her own mind, she’s a serious “artist” with a growing résumé, and yes, she’s a proud mother, too.
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