The entire production team was very intentional about not only researching the plausibility of the film’s plotline but also ensuring they paid homage to the surroundings of Harlem. As someone who grew up in Harlem, what does it mean to be a part of a project that highlights your community?
It meant the world to me. One of the major pluses of the project… When I saw the synopsis and the fact it would be filmed in Harlem, I was like, “Oh yeah, this is mine.” It felt amazing to go back home to a warm and genuine welcome and be able to be back for this project. And it was also fascinating to see how much the neighborhood had changed over the years because I’ve had a salon out there and have always been back and forth. But still, to be there on set and see how the art department could completely dress up a building to look like how we used to look in the ’90s and ’00s, that shit felt good. Living a little bit in how it used to be like [and seeing] it again before it changed for a little bit was special.
We can only imagine how special that was, especially considering how much generification has changed so many boroughs in New York. One of the other things that’s beautiful about this film is that, in addition to honoring how the city used to look, it feels like the costumes, hair, and makeup reflect the community. What was it like to work with the costume and makeup departments for this film? Was it a collaborative effort?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Everything was a collaborative effort. And I think that that’s what made it dope. … Some of us came from different eras, and some of us came from different places, but we all came together to, you know, make that happen and create Inez.
We’ll finish with one more question. Obviously, you’ve spent your career being a multi-hyphenate creative—from working in music to fashion to films. Now that this film has come out, how do you hope to continue to push yourself forward, and how do you hope people perceive this project through the wider lens of your career?
I hope to push myself by remaining a student—always being willing to learn and take in new things and, most importantly, taking accountability for my continued growth. I think that’s the most important thing because I still have much more work to do. A Thousand and One is my first big film where I’ve been able to show people what I can do. It’s already been an incredible learning experience to be able to go back and watch myself and be like, “Okay, wow, this was really dope” or “This is how I want to improve my craft.”
I’m always working on how to be a better version of myself, whether as a singer, an actress, a mom, a wife, or who I am as a person in general. And hopefully, that’s what reads through my portrayal of Inez as well. Look where her character came from: She was a young 22-year-old scamming girl to where she ends up at the end of the film. In that role and in my life, it’s all about evolving. And I hope people take away from this project and my career in general that change is essential. We’re all still learning, and it’s important that we take accountability for our life and become okay with that evolution. We’re in charge of our own stories.