Reality-show personality Miss Lawrence has built a diverse career in acting, singing and activism.
Growing up in Atlanta, Lawrence pursued hairstyling, which led to owning salons where celebrities such as Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta ( RHOA ), Jennifer Holiday and Ciara frequented. After several cameos on RHOA, Lawrence joined fellow hairstylist Derek J and New York fashion expert Bevy Smith to host Bravo's Fashion Queens, where the trio reviewed red carpets and fashion trends for three seasons.
Lawrence ( who goes by he or she ) caught the eye of openly gay director Lee Daniels and was cast on his projects Empire, Star and the upcoming film The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
He has a new song called "Say Her Name," which combines vocals and attitude to create an anthem celebrating all types of women. On the phone, she talked about the song, activism and much more in the following interview:
Windy City Times: Where did the name "Miss Lawrence" come from?
Miss Lawrence: It started a long time ago when I was in the beauty industry. Growing up in the South, I have always been extremely in tune and comfortable with the woman that lives in me. I always kept close with my masculine side, as well. I think that is where the breakdown of gender nonconforming takes place in me.
I found a lot of space and freedom in the beauty industry to self explore. I didn't start calling myself Miss Lawrence; instead, it was clients and peers in the beauty industry who started calling me that when they recognized I was very feminine. Once I got on Real Housewives of Atlanta through one of my clients, they called me Miss Lawrenceand I was known for it even more. I live for it!
WCT: With you being gender nonconforming, what pronouns do you prefer?
ML: I don't have a preference. He or she is fine.
WCT: Talk about your new music.
ML: "Say Her Name" is me getting back into singing, which I had buried for a while. This time I was coming back as an independent artist. I wanted this project to be authentic. As I mentioned before, I am in tune with my femininity. As a gay, gender nonconforming individual, I have to honor the culture of women. The culture of women is every type of women, I am referring to straight women, gay women and trans women. It is your mother, daughter and sister. It is also a man who understands the role of women in this world and how important it is. No culture can exist without a woman.
That is how I came up with the song and lyrics for "Say Her Name.' I wrote it about a year and a half ago. I had recorded and finished it, but was sitting on it. I couldn't figure out the right time to put it out. I was inspired when the quarantine started and data reports were stating that countries led by women had fewer virus cases than the majority. I also paid attention to my mayor here in Atlanta and the mayor in New Orleans, who are both women, and went into action. That really spoke to me. I watched the interviews on TV with female nurses who are on the frontlines of the hospitals. I thought, "This is the time for this song."
I knew it was a feel good song that celebrates women's culture. I've gotten tons of support and feedback so far.
WCT: "Respect a queen" is a line from it. I heard influences of ballroom culture and disco throughout the single.
ML: It is definitely an homage to disco. One of the forefathers/mothers is Sylvester, who is an influence on the song in terms of sound structure.
I have been part of the ballroom community for so long. Ballroom is part of my fabric, in particularly women that lead ballroom. I made sure to recognize that in the video.
WCT: Do you have more music coming out?
ML: I did a dance version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me." I plan on releasing that next. I have another original piece that I wrote, but I haven't recorded it yet. The response from "Say Her Name" has inspired me to put more music.
WCT: How did you begin working with Lee Daniels?
ML: I met Lee years ago at a restaurant in Los Angeles. He came up to my table and said he was a fan of Fashion Queens.
One day I was in Bevy Smith's dressing room and doing an improvisation of Cookie Lyon and she recorded it. She sent it to Lee and when he heard I could sing, he wanted a recording of my voice. I went to my hotel that night and recorded Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel ( Mighty Real )."
Fast forward to when I was speaking on a panel about dismantling homophobia in New York at a National Action Network event. Lee was being honored at the gala that night. He came up and said he had a part for me on the second season, first episode of Empire. I wound up singing Sylvester's song live during the taping because I was a walk on guest and not an official cast member that would record in the studio. I performed it many times from all different angles. It went really well.
Lee later reached out with a permanent role on Star for me.
WCT: You have worked with Lee again on the movie The United States vs. Billie Holiday. When is that going to be released?
ML: I don't know, honey. Miss Corona has messed everything up!
WCT: How is your relationship with The Real Housewives of Atlanta, currently? Did you hear about Kandi Burruss winning The Masked Singer?
ML: My friends on The Housewives are the same friends I have had forever before the show came about. That is Sheree Whitfield, Kenya Moore and Marlo Hampton. I talk to them, but not as often, because we are all busy.
I am not surprised that Kandi won. She's a very determined individual and a huge congratulations goes out to her.
WCT: What do you think about combining your activism with fashion and create clothing that can build in a camera and record the injustices today?
ML: I think there needs to be more innovative ways to capturing injustices. Fashion has come a long way. If we get a fierce eyewear designer to place a camera in the lens or a line of scarves or ties that have cameras built in, I am here for it!
What has sparked the outrage is the footage of George Floyd and we need to not get quiet again. We have to keep going this time until laws, legislation and the actual justice system is reconfigured. We, as a people, need to have that system changed.
First, we need to figure out the caveats that keep us oppressed with racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism or gender equality. All of it is a problem right now. We cannot be distracted by pop culture stuff and continue to raise our voices. We need to become familiar with our state branches of government and get out to vote after we know who we are voting for. Don't vote off of hearsay and not just get rid of Trump, but know why we need to get rid of Trump.
We need to call things out and know what laws and clauses are in place that are designed to work against us. For example, down here in Georgia I didn't know about a citizen's arrest clause. I wasn't enlightened on the stand-your-ground law until inflammatory situations arose. We have to go back and question our education system and what is taught in schools.
Many people don't know about the gay/trans panic legal defense clause that there is, that says someone's gender identity is to blame for defending a violent reaction, including murder. I can't help but think about what happened to Tony McDade, who was just murdered by a police officer. He was misgendered even in his death.
WCT: Are you working with any organizations about this?
ML: I am on the LGBT Advisory Board for the city and outside of that, I am a mother of The House of Balanciaga. Mentorship is extremely important to me and I have many gay children there. I define chosen family by love, opposed to family by blood, because there's a huge difference. Change has to take place on the ground with outreach and leadership.
Learn more about Lawrence at MissLawrence.com .