Art imitates life for Naturi Naughton.
The 37-year-old actress made her debut in the limelight as a third party for R&B pop group 3LW at the age of 15. Alongside Adrienne Bailon Houghton (current co-host of “The Real”) and Kiely Williams, the trio released a myriad of hits, including “Playas Gon ‘Play”, “No More (Baby Ima Do Right ) “and” Feelin ‘You, “starring juggernaut producer-rapper Jermaine Dupri.
âThe music business can be fishy – and my teenage experience wasn’t a good one,â she told The Post while promoting âQueens,â her new hit ABC show on a ’90s girl group reunion. âThat pain, that hurt – that trauma is still there. “
After 3LW’s tumultuous breakup in 2007, Naughton put the drama behind her and in the years that followed focused on pumping up the big screen playing Grammy-nominated rapper Lil Kim in “Notorious,” the 2008 biopic. of Biggie’s âThe Notorious BIGâ Smalls, and a six-year run as the wife of a drug lord gangster in the Starz drama âPowerâ opposite Omari Hardwick.
Now, after more than 20 years in the business, Naughton’s career has come full circle. Currently, the native stars of Decatur, Georgia, in “Queens” as Jill aka “Da Thrill”, an original member of a girl group called the Nasty Bitches, formed with her friends from high school. Seems familiar? After years of separation, the group reunites in their forties to assert their boast and regain their fame.
Naughton’s teammates in executive producer Zahir McGhee’s new drama (“Scandal”) are rapper Eve (Brianna aka Professor Sex), award-winning R&B singer Brandy Norwood (Naomi aka Xplicit Lyrics) and Nadine Velazquez (Valeria aka Butter Pecan) .
Naughton sat down with The Post to set the record straight by waking up the “bad bitch” inside and considering her traumatic past in the “shady” music industry.
How important is it to be one of the four women of color running a prime-time TV show?
It’s exciting to be on network television. ABC [has] always been a progressive network that shows diversity in a truly exciting way. I was literally obsessed with “Scandal”, and Kerry Washington is a friend of mine. I look at her and Viola [Davis]. I think television is evolving in a way where women have voices and women of color are put on a platform to express those voices.
What was the best part about working with your co-stars?
Honestly, the friendships, the brotherhood. I grew up with an older brother. I didn’t have any sisters growing up. And these women feel like the sisters I’ve always wanted. We talk about everything, we Kiki. You don’t often get a chance to do a show where you want to talk to them after you’re done. And it brings me joy because it doesn’t go like that all the time.
The first single released for ‘Queens’ is called ‘Nasty Girls’. How did you unleash your inner mean girl to prepare for this role?
Oh, she was already inside, waiting to come. Obviously I played villainous characters aka Little Kim. She’s a bad girl all day, every day. But I wanted Jill to feel hardcore, but she’s also very theatrical. She’s exciting. You never know if she’s gonna do something crazy on her knees. We shot this video in Florida on a yacht. It was a hundred degrees. It was hard work, but it was so much fun for me as an artist. Going back to some of those ’90s and 2000s themes, I was transported to my own life.
As the only cast member once in a girl group, has this show inspired you to reunite with 3LW or focus on your own music career?
I would focus on my own musical career. It’s no shade, I’ve grown so much since I was a teenager. But I use my actual experiences to help inform my character Jill. I really feel like my experience with 3LW has had its ups and downs. It wasn’t the best situation for me so I don’t think I would be inspired to go back. However, I am inspired to tap into some of these experiences and remember how I went through them. The music industry can be fishy and my experience as a teenager was not good. So I’m just trying to be honest with myself and say, âOh, wow, that pain, that hurt, that trauma is still there. Now I just have to dig deep and use it for Jill and “Queens”. I am grateful to have had my experience. It helped me to be a better actress.
Did “Queens” inspire you to release music as Naturi?
It’s actually something I’m working on. Before “Queens” I was in the studio with a great producer to record a solo project. I have some really amazing songs that I’m happy to bring to the world. I’m fortunate enough to reintroduce this side of myself to an audience that might not even remember that I was a singer to begin with because I mainly focused on my acting career. The last time people really saw me in this space was almost 20 years ago.
Yesour character lives a double life. She is married to a man, but in love with a woman. How do you think your character will resonate with the LGBTQ community?
Hope people really connect with this because we’re trying to show the truth, but in a non-stereotypical way. Jill definitely leads a double life and she’s having a hard time figuring out which side of the coin she wants to be on. But once she decides, I hope it will allow so many people in the LGBTQ community to say to themselves, “Maybe now is the time for me to be true, to be honest. [and] be real with myself, whatever that may be. This character is so complex that I hope he inspires people to say, don’t box me in and make my sexuality define me as a whole. Hope this inspires a lot of people.
Your character’s nickname is “Da Thrill”. What has been the biggest thrill of your career so far?
The biggest thrill of my career has been playing the role of Lil Kim in “Notorious”. My very first role was literally doing a nude scene and trying to rap when I’ve never done that in my life, with pastries on my nipples like, what more do you need? I was so nervous when I got this role because I didn’t even know if I could do it. I wasn’t sure if I believed in myself or felt sexy enough or confident because I was dating a young girl. And when you go from a young girl to a woman, it can be a little scary sometimes. So it was a thrill. And I would also say that leaving the company, going to college in New Jersey and choosing to take a break from the craziness really changed me because it let me know that I am human first. I am a woman above all.
Your first line on the pilot is “forgive me, father for I have sinned”. What do you think is the biggest sin committed by women when it comes to their careers?
The greatest sin we all commit is to apologize for yourselves, like shrinking, trying to be small when you are really big, trying to diminish who you are, making them men feel better when you are. this girl. I think we have to stop apologizing for our voices, our opinions. We need to make sure that we own our bodies, that we own our stories, and that we empower other women. But I think it’s a big sin. Sometimes it’s because there are other women in power who want you to shrink so they won’t be intimidated by you. It’s a struggle to be a woman in the industry, but above all to be a black woman who isn’t always celebrated or welcomed. We should just say, ‘I will stand in this room in my glory and wonder.’ Embrace who you are and don’t apologize for it.
As your character Jill decides that she wants to divorce her husband in real life, you have revealed that you got engaged last Christmas without revealing her identity. Why was it important for you to keep his identity a secret?
I am private. I have never married before. I have never been engaged. But I learned some valuable lessons because I became a single mom pretty quickly and had to really understand this new existence of being a single mom. And once I found a man who really kissed me and didn’t make me shrink or make me feel small, I wanted to protect him as much as he protects me. Industry can be vicious. Social media can be vicious. People are not always happy for you, my girl.
What advice can you give us to girls who are still looking for the love of our life?
I was actually in a whole prayer group praying for my husband. Real conversation. You have to be ready. A lot of people say, âWell, I need some company. I want a man that I want to love. But like, are you ready to receive this because sometimes we reject goodness in our lives. Really, I just decided I wanted to be ready.
Why should viewers watch your new show?
Watch “Queens” if you believe in true brotherhood between women of color in a celebrated way, it’s funny, dramatic, honest, organic and pure. Please come check out the fashion, hair, makeup because we are killing. OKAY! If people want to escape the crazy world we live in right now, I hope they will make “Queens” number one because we are working to give you the best of ourselves.