story / Gina Tron
photos / Nikko La Mere
makeup / Loftjet
hair / Sienree @ Celestine Agency
styling / Sara Paulsen
Movie watchers fell in love with Kiersey Clemons as Diggy in Dope, the award-winning 2015 film about three so-called nerds growing up in the hood who inadvertently become drug dealers. She also played Bianca on the television series Transparent, as well as Lucy on the CBS’ show Extant. This year, she will star in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and earlier in her career she portrayed Kira Starr on Disney Channel’s Austin and Ally.
“I think I always knew I wanted to be an actor,” Clemons says, adding that if acting didn’t work out, she knew she would do something else in the arts, like music or writing. “When you tap into the creative side of yourself you don’t feel limited.”
While growing up, she shares she was inspired by actors that looked like her. “Nowadays, we see a lot more black actors obviously, but back then we didn’t really have many. I really enjoyed watching The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I used to watch Cinderella, the version with Brandy and Whitney Houston, on repeat all the time. I was like, I can be Cinderella!”
Clemons adds that even though there are now more prominent black roles available, there is still a long way to go. She muses that whenever a film has a cast full of black actors, despite the plot and theme it is almost always still considered an “urban” film: “It’s like, what? It’s not urban! It’s a normal rom-com but with black actors. People will say it’s urban or a black movie and along with that comes the stereotypes of those films. We’ve made a lot of progress but there’s still more to be made.”
In addition to racial diversity, Clemons is also concerned with sexism. The actress was featured in Lady Gaga’s music video “Til It Happens To You,” which tackled the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. “All we can do is encourage the discussion,” she says of the issue. “If more fathers and mothers took on the conversation with their children about that, maybe it would decrease the percentage of assaults.”
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She adds that, unfortunately, she doesn’t have all the answers and often faces dilemmas on the issue herself. “It’s difficult because I have a 17-year-old sister. Right now, everyone is saying to stop telling our daughters and younger women to change how they dress, and instead teach our men and our boys how to treat women and how not to rape. But, even though we say that, it’s really hard as someone who has a little sister, because I know that there are men who don’t know how to control themselves.”
Clemons admits she has caught herself telling her sister to cover up, or to make sure she doesn’t put herself in a bad situation. “And then I realize, oh my God, I’m going against everything that I stand for. What am I doing? Being a woman, I just naturally want to protect my sister, so I’ll say things I shouldn’t say. At the end of the day, all I can really encourage is for everyone to just follow their gut and be as cautious as they can because as much as we want to encourage people to be like us and have the same values, it’s not always that easy.”
Sexual assault is not the only violation that the actress says affects girls. Right now, young women, actresses in particular, have to deal with their phones possibly getting hacked, and their nude photos broadcasted on the Internet. Jennifer Lawrence is just one actress that has fallen victim to this trend.
“I’ve definitely had people try to hack me,” Clemons reveals. “People have tried to hack into my email, my phone. It’s crazy to know that somebody could be reading my text messages or looking at my photos.”
She believes that one of the reasons women are targeted in these hacks is because, generally speaking, women may send more nude pictures than men—and they may be photos that the public is simply more interested in seeing.
“I just feel like that happens to us because we are are possibly more likely to send them. I send naked pictures to my friends! It’s rare that a guy has a photo released. And I don’t think if it was, that anyone would be in a rush to go see it. We are not that eager to see your dick when it’s soft. It’s not that exciting!”
When it comes to acting, Clemons maintains that her empathetic nature has played a key role. “Even if I’m playing someone who I don’t agree with in a political or religious standpoint, I can always find a way to understand where they are coming from and it makes me love and embrace whoever I’m playing.”
However, this positive attitude took the actress some time to develop, and she reveals she went through an angry phase where she was annoyed by shallow or thoughtless people. Now she tries to roll her new mindset over into her personal life: “I feel like everyone is trying their best. We’re all here trying to be the best people that we can be in our own circumstances, and not everyone was raised with great values or morals or love.”
In addition to upcoming acting projects, Clemons says she is working on writing a television series, adding that writing a show is something she had wanted to do for along time. She gushes, “The next time you see me on TV, hopefully it’s my show. I have a lot of TV opportunities coming in and they just weren’t exactly what I wanted to sign my life away to. So I said, forget it—I’m going to do my own thing.”
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