Newly engaged and acting in so many projects, actor Laura Harrier has a lot to reflect on. She’s equally driven to be honest about the issues she and all of us face, especially in light of her platform and the responsibilities that attend it. (“I have always been ambitious and driven.”) In conversation with journalist Lola Ogunnaike for Cosmopolitan’s Mental Health issue (Issue 6) cover story, Laura goes deep, opening up about her fiancé, mental health, reality TV as self-care, her rage about Roe and more. Plus, in an episode of Cosmopolitan’s “The Breakdown Breakdown” video series, Laura relived the biggest highlights of her career, from spilling the tea on everything from her first movie—which just so happened to be the major marvel hit Spider-Man: Homecoming—to starring in the award-winning film BlacKkKlansman, and everything in between.
On whether colorism is still an issue in Hollywood: “Some of the most successful actresses of color tend to be on the lighter side and that’s definitely not okay. There are so many facets to the Black experience. There are so many ways that Black people look, and only having one narrow view is something that I think is ultimately putting everybody at a disadvantage—we’re only shortchanging ourselves when we don’t show a diverse range of stories and a diverse range of people onscreen. I do think it’s something that’s slowly starting to change, but even when we were doing Spider-Man, I would get called ‘Zendaya’ all the time. People wouldn’t even take the time to differentiate us…. It got to the point where we would joke about it a lot. What else are you going to do but laugh because it’s so completely ridiculous.
On how she balances staying informed with knowing when to turn it all off and mentally escape: “It’s so important to know what’s happening in the world and to be active and to use your voice for the greater good and for causes that you believe in. But sometimes doing that can really take a toll. Sometimes I have to not read the news, not check my New York Times app, turn off Instagram because these are really tough times that we’re living in. And it’s easy to get so caught up in the collective anxiety of the world that you can forget that you also need to protect yourself and protect your own wellness. I don’t think that you can make a change and help other people if you’re not taking care of yourself.”
On the strategies she turns to for taking care of herself: “I’ve learned tools through therapy. I really am a big advocate for therapy and for mental health care, especially in the Black community. That’s something that’s really improved my life and really helped me in significant ways, especially with dealing with my anxiety and panic attacks.”
On the notion historically that Black people don’t go to therapy, and whether she is noticing a shift in the Black community when it comes to taking care of one’s mental health as you would your physical health: “I love that you said that. I definitely believe that mental health care should be prioritized just as much as physical health. There’s been such a long history of ignoring mental health problems, of saying, ‘Oh, just suck it up” or “I’m a strong Black woman. That doesn’t happen to me.’ All of these tropes that we’ve been taught over generations, when actually, I think given generational trauma, of course there are a lot of mental health issues within the Black community.”
On what self-care remedies are in her own mental health tool kit: “I try to meditate. I can’t say that I’m the best with my track record of doing it every day, but I try to at least do some deep breathing. I noticed I literally forget to breathe, which sounds wild, but sometimes I’m like, ‘Wait, I haven’t taken a real breath all day,’ and just taking 30 seconds to sit and do deep belly breathing is a game changer. Also, I think it’s so common to talk only about self-care as meditation, yoga, and working out, which are all important, but sometimes self-care is having a glass of wine with your best friend and laughing and watching sh*tty reality TV. Watching The Bachelor and drinking wine with my girls is awesome. Sometimes that’s the self-care that you need.”
On whether she worries about backlash for speaking candidly about hot-button issues: “I would say that I’m not coming at these topics as an actress. I’m coming at these topics as Laura, as a woman of reproductive age who’s affected by Roe v. Wade. I’m affected by Black Lives Matter issues because I’m a Black person in America, because that’s my family, because that’s my little brother walking down the street that I worry about. It’s not because of my job that I care about these issues. It’s because of my humanity that I do. To people who would say that, I would encourage them to look at their own humanity and ask themselves, ‘Why do I not care more?’ I don’t really worry about backlash because if I don’t get a job because I believe that women should have access to abortion, then that’s not a job that I want.”
Cosmopolitan’s Issue 6: The Mental Health Issue hits newsstands nationwide on October 4.
[Photo Credit: Danny Kasirye for Cosmopolitan Magazine]
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