Everyone has his or her time and our third digital cover star is currently having hers. The Grenada-raised Amanda Seales has something that many people in entertainment strive for—longevity. If you happened to turn on your TV or computer in the past few months, you would have seen Seales making waves at Katy Perry’s live stream dinner party. Or as Tiffany DuBois, the bougie friend of Issa Dee (played by Issa Rae) who keeps it real on HBO’s ‘Insecure’. The multi-talented comedian is fearlessly challenging thought and giving her audience laughs in one dose.
Outside of her time on screen with Issa Rae, Seales began hosting her own series ‘Greatest Ever’ with TruTV. And to help push the awareness of smoking addiction, Amanda kicked off an anti-smoking campaign with Truth.
Her success is nothing new for the self-aware child star. Amanda’s earlier credits include starring in Nickleodeon’s ‘My Brother And Me’ which aired in the 90’s.
With this current flow, or as Seales puts it, momentum, the LA-based actress is “Heating Up”. CH caught up with Seales in June of 2017, as temperatures started rising for the star.
CH: One thing anyone who’s been following you knows that Amanda can be vocal on a number of topics. If there was one message someone should take away from Amanda Seales, what would it be?
AS: I’ve always been a ‘what you see is what you get’ person. I really do believe that’s the best policy. It comes from a place of living my own truth. It’s honestly difficult to sum it up in one message. It’s almost like, the message is that there is a message. [Laughs] Because I don’t think that’s every body’s goal but that is an integral part of what I do. Anything I say, there’s a message behind it. I’m never saying nothing [sic] just to say it. It drives my mother crazy. The message is that there’s a message.
CH: A lot of people may remember you back in 2008 on VH1’s Best Week Ever; did you see yourself in this position you’re in now?
AS: Hell nah, I was rapping. At a certain point I knew I would end up in stand-up. I just didn’t know how it was going to happen but I knew it was calling me. I also knew if I was ever going to be taken seriously as someone who uses humor to create change, I would need to be a stand-up comedian. I would need to not only be a stand-up comedian, but a good one. It wouldn’t be enough to just be a funny actress, or what I see on Instagram, a lot of “public figure” mentions [in people’s bios]. What is a public figure?
CH: Do you think the early Internet boom took away from your early career status…with the Internet being a big influencer on who we consider famous?
AS: I think it hindered it because I really didn’t understand the Internet. I was behind the curve on that. There was stuff that I was doing back then that if I would have kept on doing it, it would have expedited everything. I just didn’t recognize the true value of it. I let it go…It was also overwhelming on how much was happening on the Internet. For a time, it stunted my growth because I just couldn’t figure out how to fit in there and I was no longer fitting into the spaces that I was in on television. I had to figure that out. One day in 2008, Quest Love texted me and said, “You need to get on Twitter”. I was like WTF is a Twitter? I sent Quest like two tweets, and I didn’t tweet again until another year [later]. And then in 2013, I sat down with myself and said, “If you’re going to advance, you’re going to have to understand this digital thing in a whole other way”. The reason why it was hard for me is because I’m not a narcissist. And so much of it requires a certain level of narcissism. For instance my Instagram stories, the only reason I keep doing them is because people keep telling me how much they’re receiving from them. If that wasn’t happening I wouldn’t be able to keep doing them. At a certain point, the self-serving of it would be too much.
“Stay tune and rise with me, I’m probably going to fuck up sometimes but know that I’m doing my best!” – A.S.
CH: Speaking of the Internet, you had a viral moment this year involving Caitlyn Jenner. Did you foresee the direction of where the conversation eventually went?
AS: I’m never pre-meditated. I just knew that I wasn’t going to go in there and let shit fly. So whatever came up, I was ready to be myself. Which is somebody who is a truth teller. I think that some people in the situation wouldn’t feel they could have been themselves because of the room, but I was like, “Nah B”. [Lauhgs] My opinion was different than theirs because I live a different experience, and that was exactly what I said.
CH: Following the moment, did you and Caitlyn hash out your differences? Or have a following conversation to smooth it over?
AS: I mean listen, when people feel they have been handed their ass to them, they will often attempt to smooth that over just to make themselves feel better. The reality is still the reality. I never attacked her. I never attacked this woman. I told her about my experience. I know that my point after that whole situation was not about making Caitlyn Jenner understand, but more that it empowered other women and men. And as far as black folks continue to say, “Yes, thank you for giving us a voice and now I can become a voice myself”.
CH: With all this current momentum, will we be seeing a comedy special or tour soon for Amanda?
AS: My priority right now is selling the Smart, Funny, And Black live show and getting that to the masses. That is my first and foremost priority—bringing that to television or to a digital space where people can consume it in large quantity. That is my number one goal. Of course I do have some dates coming up. A special is not something I have right now on the agenda because I need it to be done in a special way. I can see that happening at the end of 2018. But I say that knowing that I didn’t expect the Caitlyn thing to happen last week, so I don’t know what’s coming. [Laughs] I would put a book out first.
CH: If you were to shoot your special, would you take it back home to Grenada? We would assume that’s where you’d decide to film your special [because of] the meaning.
AS: In a perfect world, I would shoot it somewhere in New York, LA, and Orlando; the three places I grew up in the States.
CH: Ok nice, kind of like what we’ve seen before, like Chris Rock with his specials.
AS: Yeah but they do it in a way to get the different vibe of the audiences in those places. The reason I would do it like that is because there are different stories that I have related to those places. Of course now that we’ve said it someone is going to drop this idea, but remember where you read it first! [Laughs]
CH: Why don’t you think we see a female version of Kevin Hart? As far as a black woman superstar comedian?
AS: I think it’s the same way why it has taken so long to get black women’s voices in the media spaces in general. We’ve been relegated to this black woman stereotype, to the mammy stereotype, or this vixen stereotype. None of those stereotypes speak to wit and humor. We’re just now getting a shot of going beyond those barriers. I think it’s just been a failure on the parts of many to even bring women into the fold. Also with black comedy there was a style that came so prevalent; Def Comedy Jam was a huge turning point. It was similar to what happened in Hip-Hop. It was so rooted in a certain style of masculinity. The only way you can embody that was taking on some of those masculine elements. A lot of the women that came out of that world have a little bit of that. You look at the Sommore’s or Monique’s. Once gangster rap took hold, women had to take hold of what the dudes were doing. As we’ve seen the black comedy world broaden out, we’re now seeing other examples of women comedians start to happen. And much more organic examples start to happen. Not feeling that we have to embody that masculinity in order to be considered to be funny.
CH: A big conversation in comedy in these recent years has been on Bill Cosby. I know that you’ve expressed your thoughts on his sexual assault allegation cases. With you being a woman and comedian, does it change how you view him?
AS: He’s a rapist. He’s a funny dude. He’s a classic comedian, but he’s a rapist. Myles Davis is a legendary Jazz musician who was a notorious abuser. Mike Vick was an incredible player who was really f*cking some dogs up. You don’t get a pass. There’s no pass. You not being a rapist doesn’t make you less funny. At the end of the day this is a man who has exemplified his arrogance in so many ways. He has literally stated that, “I purposely drugged and gave it to women”. And people are still saying, “Man they trying to bring this brotha down!” Of course they’re trying to bring this brohta down but this brotha gave them the tools to do it. Motherf*ckers get money and think they’re not a n*gga no more.
CH: Bill Maher and Kathy Griffin both had some recent controversies. How do you view them, are they one in the same?
AS: One side is you broke the law and the other side is you’re just a shitty person. You’re not supposed to talk about killing the president. As a comic, I felt that it was less of a joke than a move to be shocking. I don’t give a f*ck about Trump but I give a f*ck about a joke being funny. I just didn’t get the joke. Every comedian will tell you, your joke is only as offensive as it is funny. If your joke is more offensive than it is funny, you just made a bad statement.
CH: Your background is tied to the country of Grenada, where does this strong pride come from?
AS: My mother is from Grenada. I grew up with just my mother. We grew up around a lot of West Indians. My experience in America has been two-fold, growing up with one side as a black American, then the other side as a West Indian. I was very immersed in Grenada at a very early age. My mother had me on a plane to Grenada before I was one year old. Grenada is a huge part of me. Being a black American in this country, you can feel conflict calling somewhere home that doesn’t call you its own. So being able to call Grenada home, I feel very lucky. My family, and my name. To be able to go back to this place that’s full of black people, there’s something so empowering with that. Being able to go home to a place that calls you it’s own—It brings a certain level of validity to who you are as a person. I have citizenship in Grenada. Some people say, “You’re fake Grenadian” and I’m like, “You can call me whatever you want, I know who I am.” Malcolm X’s mother is from Grenada. There are so many actors, performers and athletes from Grenada. We are a small island of big talent. Grenada survived a revolution. It’s a jewel.
CH: One of your talents outside of comedy is painting. How did you get into painting?
AS: I started painting when I was 15. I spent the night at a friend’s house and she forgot she had to go to work. Her job was an assistant to a painting teacher. So I ended up going with her to work and the teacher was like, “Well we have extra canvases, if you feel like painting, feel free”. I painted something that day, and that was it. I started coming back every week. And I love my mother for the fact that she never stood in my way with things I wanted to do. I’ve heard so many parents say they don’t want to take their kids to certain classes because they have to get up early. What if my mom said, “I don’t feel like taking you all the way to Winter Park to take art classes”. A whole wing of my personality wouldn’t have existed. As we do this interview, I’m sitting in this apartment surrounded by my artwork. That artwork gives me strength and inspiration. A lot of folks don’t understand how much they are needed in encouraging their kid to do everything. Kids need to try everything.
CH: Music, what is Amanda listening to when she’s driving to shoot ‘Insecure’
AS: LE$ (Houston rapper), Midnight Club.
CH: Music on a drive before a date?
AS: I’m playing something in my grown and sexy age. I’m listening to some RnB compilation involving Jodeci. I’m listening to KING.
CH: What are you listening to when you’re creating?
AS: Jazz, because the lyrics of songs can f*ck with my wording. I have to hear something instrumental. So either classical or Jazz. And when I’m going through a break-up, I’m playing Salsa. Because it’s up-tempo, and so it keeps you uplifted. Every song is like some tragic love shit but because I don’t speak Spanish I don’t know what they’re saying.
CH: Do you create for a message or to express?
AS: I create for all reasons. Sometimes the message is the venting. My second one-woman show I created, Death Of A Diva…I had to find the message because it originally came out of a place which was how I was reacting to my life. I couldn’t get work because people were only concerned about reality TV stars. That was the emphasis to creating the show. Then I figured out the bigger message outside of myself. Sometimes I like to know what the message is but then I have to figure out how it connects to me.
CH: One thing you’re not afraid of is talking about relationships and your own. Some people aren’t running to the alter these days, but is marriage something you would want for yourself?
AS: I would like to build a life with somebody who has decided they want to build a life with me. Whether we call that marriage or not, is another thing. It’s not a bottom line like other people who feel they have not accomplished a true relationship until they’ve been married. I don’t feel that way. I have come to understand that I’m a special kind of person. Some people may not understand me and that’s what makes this road longer. It’s been this way for my career so it doesn’t surprise me that it’s been that way romantically. But in the same way that I found a space, a niche for myself, I’m going to find a man that’s going to like that too. Some people think I’m lonely or I don’t have men hollering. It’s just that I know at this age in my life, I know what’s going to make sense. There’ve been dudes that it doesn’t work out because they’re whack dudes. There have been dudes that it didn’t work out because we were incompatible. Those dudes end up becoming friends. People get it twisted that me expressing how I want to be treated as a woman is me bashing men. Only men that believe that are men who are probably mistreating women. The reason I talk like that is because I’m not bitter, I’m whole. I want people to find love, especially in the black community. I would love us to come together because there has been so much to keep us apart. We have to mend that. At the very beginning of this interview, you asked, what my message is? Amongst the fact that my message is that there is a message, it is always striving for excellence and bettering yourself.
Interview By Jon Williams
Photos By Brandon Bacquie.