Words like “old” and Nia Long don’t belong in the same sentence, but “spicy” – that’s more like it. The beloved actress has given us classic roles since the 90s and now that she is 50, she’s serving the girls in a new way – she’s the latest addition to Old Spice’s “Men Have Skin Too” campaign. Nia will appear alongside Old Spice global brand ambassador Deon Cole and his commercial wife Gabrielle Dennis in their new “Letting Go” spot. Nia brings life to the sexy therapist, who helps Cole and Dennis work through their marital problems (Gabby steals all Deon’s Old Spice Fiji Hand and Body Lotion).
The gig is one Nia couldn’t predict even if the signs were in the air. During our quick catch-up, the Black beauty symbol reveals she and her son had coincidentally talked about Old Spice days before she was called to join the project.
“My older son bought some before the commercial,” she revealed. “It just goes to show you the marketing genius behind the product is really great. And then you get the great product. Cause if I told my son go buy some Old Spice and he hadn’t seen those commercials, he probably would have pushed back, but he bought it because of the commercials and then likes the product. So yeah, I was like, ‘Wow.’ I called them and I go, ‘Guess what? I’m going to do an old spice commercial.’ He’s like, ‘Shut up. We were just talking about that.’ I was like, ‘I know it’s crazy.'”
While Nia’s therapist is entertaining to watch, there’s some seriousness to the role that normalizes seeing Black people going to therapy.
“I think is genius that they show a Black couple with a Black therapist in therapy and that is important and necessary. I do believe that, you know, in our community, in the black community, mental health, there’s a little bit of a stigma attached to it. And we need to erase that stigma because your personal hygiene is as equally important, if not more as your mental health. And so we have to do these check-ins with ourselves. And I think it’s just a genius way to remind people that there are some people that you may recognize and may know and may love that are actually showing you that therapy is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. And it can be actually going as therapy is like going for a good workout. You know, how do you feel after a workout? You just feel really the stress has gone.”
We transition from Old Spice to my favorite part of the interview when Nia engages my curiosity on her most classic characters. Who is the most stylish I probe?
“I would say Jordan from The Best Man” she quickly responded. “Her wardrobe was super cute.” I follow-up with, “Who had the best hair?”
Her answer, “Out of all the characters that I’ve played. I mean, Jordan might be winning there as well.” I quickly remind her about her bomb a** short cut in Friday. To which she delightfully added, “Same hair though. Kind of…maybe…I think that’s a tie. It’s a tie. I mean, I think the short hair era of Nia Long was good. I often think about cutting my hair again and then I’m like, ‘No, it’s too much work.’ But yes, I do love the short hair thing.”
Earlier this year, we put together a gallery of Black actresses who rocked the hell out of short cuts ad Nia was top of the list. “Especially because no one else was really doing it. I mean, Halle did it too, and then Jada did it. We were like the Three Amigos with short hair. So that was cool,” she added. She let me in on the fragrance that makes her feel the sexiest: “If” And you’ll never catch her in a dirty pair of sneakers because she keeps a fresh pair of Uptowns (I’m from NY) in her closet. “My Air Force Ones – they’re just so comfortable and they go with everything.”
We end our conversation discussing what it means to “have it all” and what it’s like to wake up on an average day and be trending for no apparent reason other than it being a “Nia Long Appreciation Day.”
“Honestly when I hear about, or like someone will call me and go, ‘You know, you’re trending right now.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh God, what did I do?’ It’s a negative thing. And then when you find out that it’s just love. It’s like, I just, I just love, I just love, I don’t even want to call them fans because that feels like they’re separate from me. You know? I love my community. I love my supporters. I love the people who remind others of the, of the catalog of work, who, I mean, they remind me sometimes I’m like, oh my gosh, I totally forgot about that. You know, you, when I started in this industry, I did not start this. I did not start this business with the expectation of being a star or the desire of being a star. I started this business because I truly love the art of acting.”
She added, “The sweetest part of all of that is knowing that I actually touched other people by doing it my own way. I didn’t sell myself short or acquiesce to something that I wasn’t comfortable with or, you know, take a shortcut with hoping for big wins that I’m just living and working and not doing, not sacrificing one for the other. I can say I’ve raised my children. I can say I’m in a relationship that doesn’t feel like a Hollywood situation or a Hollywood. Um, you know, that we’re real people. We have arguments, we laugh, we go on walks. We go to the grocery store, we go to the movies. Like we have a very normal life and I never wanted to sacrifice my life. Um, I mean my, my career for my life or my life for my career, because it’s two very different things and both are really important to me.”
As for having it all, women everywhere agree you can but it’ll never be at the same time.
“I think you can have it all, but it’s just never at the same time, And in those moments where I do have it all – where my family is straight, my relationship is in a good place, my kids are good and I’m working. It actually makes me nervous. Something’s going to give up. And that’s sad because we shouldn’t feel that way, but oh my God, Black women are conditioned to waiting for something bad to happen because we there’s been a lot of trauma. We’ve been through a lot and, and, having a lot requires a lot. So sometimes I just have to go into my room and close the door and tell everyone to leave me alone, because I know in my heart that I need a minute to take care of myself and that’s okay.”