Though her mother always supported her ambitions, the rest of Lorraine Toussaint’s Caribbean-American family and community in Brooklyn where she was raised, did not see the value in acting. “We Caribbeans want our children to excel academically and we’re very clear about what that looks like and it’s sure not anything to do with art. That perception still exists in the Caribbean. We don’t necessarily value art as a life purpose and certainly not a career. I beg to differ. I remember my aunt saying ‘you must create something to fall back on’. It’s ridiculous. You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” the Trinidad-born actress told the AFRO. “I thought if I create something to fall back on, I will fall back. No, I will not create anything to fall back on. I am an actor.” She went on to study at the famous High School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan and then on to Juilliard like her “Orange Is The New Black” co-stars, Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley.
Toussaint, whose acting idol is stage and screen actress Diahann Carroll, manages to imbue all her characters with a patina of staunch dignity. Of Carroll she says, “She paved the way for so many of us that we literally sit at her feet. And I don’t mean figuratively.” Though she had appeared in a slew of projects prior, Toussaint first came to the public’s attention as the lead actress along with Annie Potts in the critically acclaimed and woefully underappreciated drama “Any Day Now” which ran on Lifetime from 1998 to 2002. Since then, she has appeared in such fare as “Being Mary Jane,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The Fosters,” “Black-ish,” the aforementioned “Orange Is The New Black,” and “Selma,” her second film with Ava DuVernay.
She currently co-stars in “Rosewood” on Fox as Donna Rosewood, the mother of Morris Chestnut’s character as well as co-owner of his private pathology practice in Miami. She describes Chestnut as “kind and generous.” With tongue in cheek she says, “He’s, you know, really hard on the eye but I manage somehow, I manage”.
Toussaint is also an activist writer and a blogger. Her lifestyle blog everdaylovelybylorraine.com is chock full of gorgeous pictures and the sage advice of a favorite auntie. She says that she started it because, “I believe in humanity. I believe in us. I believe in the good that is inherent in us no matter what and my job is to live it starting right where I am and so I made a commitment to lovely inside and out. In my thoughts, in my words.”
Her blog covers everything from parenting, intimate relationships, entertaining, cooking, and decorating to spirituality, and social criticism. It is for the woman who believes in enjoying life to its fullest and staying woke while doing so. She pulls absolutely no punches with her observations on politics and society such as a recent post on feminism. She explains, “My fear is that like the suffragette movement, I don’t want my White sisters to make the same mistakes and assumptions. This is a time in history when everyone has to come to the table. When you consciously invite us you may be surprised at how far along we are within our community in terms of female empowerment.”
Her social commentary is published in The Huffington Post as well. One of her most recent essays is “Black Pu–y Matters”, a title completely at odds with her rarefied public persona. The overall message of the essay is the need to acknowledge Black feminism as part of the larger feminist movement. The use of that particularly vulgar utterance in the title and throughout the essay was an effort to reclaim it from what it turned into during the most recent presidential election.
“I loathe the word but one of the reasons that I talk about it and I mention it so many times in that blog is because the word has become so normalized that awful man brought it to the forefront in a way that makes me cringe and then it has been accepted and picked up by the new women’s movement in a way that is shallow. If we’re going to reclaim that word and reclaim the power inherent in that p—y baby it can’t be shallow. It can’t be superficial and it can’t be a fad,” she said.
Rosewood airs on Fox Fridays at 8 p.m. EST