This article first appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of NewBeauty. Click here to subscribe.
When Angela Bassett arrives to our cover shoot, she
does the unthinkable: she shows up early.
There are no airs—she got ready at-home with her
loyal glam squad—there are no requests, besides a
black coffee, and there is, thankfully, no drama, even
though the rest of us are scrambling to finish prep.
“I’m ready when you are,” the 61-year-old says, taking a deep, almost meditative-like breath as she steps in front of the camera, bringing that same energy
she projects on the big screen to a still photo shoot.
To say she is busy is an understatement: Besides being a mom to 13-year-old
twins Bronwyn and Slater with husband Courtney B. Vance, there’s tomorrow’s
flight to Berlin to start filming Gunpowder Milkshake, a female-driven action
film Bassett says will be “strong and powerful for women.” There was also last
weekend’s talk as a spokesperson for the American Heart Association.
Soon, there will be her sort of start-of-fall, back-to-the-grind regular gig of Fox’s 9-1-1, what she refers to as “a
feature film every week.” And then there is her first Netflix film, Otherhood, featuring Felicity Huffman and Patricia Arquette, available now.
“Which child am I most passionate about work-wise?
All of them. But this one [Otherhood] is special because it
hits on my mother’s birthday and we filmed it in New
York—is there anything better?
“But you never know…” she trails. “Of course, you do
this kind of work and you hope that there is an audience
of people—hopefully a diverse audience who’ll get a
chance to see you, who’ll come to know you and appreciate your work and become fans and all of that, but you
never know who will like it or how it will turn out.”
A surprising admission for one of Hollywood’s most
celebrated actresses, maybe, but Bassett readily admits
she feels as if she’s continually striving to grow and get
herself out there when it comes to her career.
“Of course, when they say, ‘I wrote this for you,’ it’s such
a tremendous boost to anyone’s confidence, but it’s all
about faith—you don’t know if a project will fly or if it
will fail. You always go into it with the highest of hopes
and expectations, but you never know what is going to
capture the hearts. You want to go in with the greatest of
intentions and come away with great experiences and
wonderful relationships made. So you say ‘yes.’ It’s important to say ‘yes.’”
NEWBEAUTY: ALWAYS SAYING “YES” AT
WORK CAN BE EXHAUSTING…
ANGELA BASSETT: But you kept thinking, ‘Are we working? Can we call this
work? By what other names can we call this but joy?’
Otherhood was a great experience and it’s about being
a mother. It is about that stage after motherhood. You
grow them up, you nurture them, and then at some point,
you have to gently transform and take your hands off of
them. You have to allow your babies to go.
NB: YOUR “BABIES” JUST TURNED
INTO TEENAGERS. THAT
HAS TO BE A BIG CHANGE.
AB: Talk about transformation! They are in those stages—they are still a little bit innocent, but you can also see
that they are teenagers. It’s that time that they are very concerned about what their friends think, and not so
much about what you think. You get some nos, you get
some yeses, and all you can hope for is that that early
work you put in will circle back around.
NB: THEY HAVE TO THINK YOU’RE
A LITTLE BIT COOL…
AB: Well, I just surprised my son by flying him to Napa Valley
for his first Logic concert. We told him, “We’re going
away. We’re going to Northern California. Here’s your
Logic T-shirt.” He loves this guy so intensely, so I wanted
to surprise him and rock his world—I wanted to let him
know who’s boss. Yes, it’s still his mama! It was his first
concert. We’ll never, ever forget it. It was such a new experience for him. He even got to meet him and hang out.
Because he’s only 13, he had no idea what the world even
looked like after ten o’clock at night!
NB: THAT’S EXCITING!
AB: It was. His sister, his twin, was part of the conspiracy. She
helped me out and told me, “I don’t have to go. I’m really
happy for him. But what are we going to do, mom?” So
I’m planning her surprise now. I think I’m going to have
a friend bring her to Paris for a weekend while I’m
in Europe. Bring her girlfriends and her over for a Friday-Saturday-Sunday and come back Monday to school like,
“I went to Paris for the weekend.”
NB: HOW DO YOU KEEP SANE
WHEN YOU ARE WORKING
AND TRAVELING SO MUCH?
AB: Between all that, it’s a lot! It’s time to go to work so I can
rest! I have to get on that 10–12 hour flight where no one
can get me. To be honest, a good deal of work feels like
relaxation to me; it feels a little bit like a vacation when
I’m away filming. Take going to Berlin. I joke to everyone,
“Well, the only thing that I have to worry about when
I’m there is work, eating right and getting to the gym.”
And I’ll leave all my major responsibilities to fall on my
husband at home! [laughs]
But I do try to relax. If I’m home, I’ll text the masseuse.
I need her to get in there with the deep tissue and get rid of the knots and release the muscles. I try to get away—I went to the Golden Door last year in November just to
think about nothing and I enjoyed all the rejuvenation
that brought. Staying “prayed up” is also important to
me. Being in touch with my spiritual side helps me keep
the stress out. It helps you remember that there is
something bigger than you and it’s not all about you—
there’s a force that has you in the palm of his hands.
What else do I do? Spending time with friends is always
good because it’s the time to relax, appreciate one another and build each other up. It’s a bit of a support network.
And I think I’m a physical type that needs to work out.
When I don’t, I feel it.
NB: IT MUST BE WORKING. YOU
LOOK AMAZING. CARE TO
SHARE ANY OF YOUR SECRETS?
AB: I’m pretty passionate about keeping up with the skin
care, especially being in front of the camera and on the
stage. It’s important. When I’m not on stage or on camera, I’m pretty sans makeup—I think it’s good to keep a
clear, clean fresh palette. I am a potions and lotions girl,
so if you make me promises, I’ll give you a shot. I do really
like the iS Clinical serums. I always come back around
to them and they work really well for me. I also find good aestheticians everywhere, and then I have my dermatologist Dr. Pearl Grimes here in LA.
NB: IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DO
BEAUTY-WISE THAT WE MIGHT
BE SURPRISED TO HEAR?
AB: I know lashes are no surprise! Botox is no surprise! I’m a
big supporter of being natural, but I’ve done it twice. Just
a little bit, not too much—I still need to express myself.
What else? I’ve tried Ultherapy, too.
NB: YOU ARE CLOSE WITH YOUR
GLAM SQUAD. DO THEY EVER
TEACH YOU ANY TRICKS?
AB: We’ve been together a number of years. I trust them so
much. Usually, I sit in their chairs, close my eyes and Zen
out, or I think about the work I have to do. I so trust their
creativity and their gift. Their absolute gift! I can just relax and try to prepare what I have to do. We all have gifts.
We all have something to offer. And it’s great when you
find those whose work you admire and trust, and whose
personalities you enjoy.
NB: YOU’VE ALSO BEEN OFFERING
YOUR TIME TO THE AMERICAN
HEART AND THE AMERICAN
WHAT MADE YOU SAY “YES”
TO THOSE CAUSES?
AB: My mother passed away from cardiovascular disease,
and she also had type-2 diabetes. I came into partnership with the two agencies to really get an awareness
out there in the public space, and to maybe change the
perception of those who are managing these situations.
Sometimes you get such a heavy diagnosis, it’s overwhelming. Sometimes you just shut down and it drives
you to do things that aren’t helpful and beneficial—it
drives you in the direction you don’t want to go. Sometimes, if we can just change our perspective about something, we can turn it around for good. It’s a tribute to my
mom, but I hope it will help a lot of people.