Marsai Martin knows exactly who she is. Though her dewy skin, bright smile, and deep dimples give away her sparkling youth, Marsai’s spirit isn’t bogged down with the uncertainty of teenhood. The 18-year-old carries a sense of self many people don’t embody until at least the third decade of their lives. The black-ish alum certainly hasn’t had the typical upbringing, but her parents, Joshua and Carol Martin, have always been loving anchors for her —her bridges to normalcy. Marsai’s confidence is why she has no problem taking up space.
Marsai’s eight-year stint on black-ish came to a close earlier this year. However, the Genius Entertainment Productions Founder has yet to slow down. You don’t become the youngest person to ever produce a movie by being complacent. Her latest film, Fantasy Football, where she stars alongside Omari Hardwick, Kelly Rowland, and Rome Flynn, will debut on Paramount+ on November 25. The film was initially written as a father/son story. However, things changed when Marsai joined the project as an executive producer and star.
Marsai Martin Stars In Fantasy Football
In Fantasy Football, Marsai portrays Callie, a 16-year-old avid gamer who discovers she can control her football star father’s (Hardwick) on-the-field game with her magical copy of Madden NFL 23. The movie is the perfect family flick for the holidays, with a handful of jaw-dropping cameos sprinkled throughout.
“This cast, I would never expect them to all be together creating one project,” Marsai explains. “It feels very fan fiction. Fantasy Football is super action-packed with so many beautiful set pieces. It’s a movie where you’re always wondering what’s next. You see two worlds collide in a space where it just brings out chaos. And I think that’s pretty dope.”
Marsai adores video games like her character Callie, though she wouldn’t want to become an NFL star in a Madden game if given a choice. “I’m a big Grand Theft Auto fan, so I would probably say anybody from GTA,” she quips. “Recently, they’ve been doing things online, and one of my friends, Anderson Paak, was in the game. I was like, ‘How do you do that? That’s so cool!'”
As she plans for the future, Marsai remembers seeing women like Keke Palmer and Raven-Symoné successfully transition and thrive from their roles as child stars into adult powerhouses in Hollywood. In addition to her tight-knit family, women like Tracee Ellis Ross, Regina Hall, and Kelly Rowland, who portrays her on-screen mom, Keisha, in Fantasy Football, have profoundly influenced her.
The Little actress has stepped into a new phase of her already expansive career, she’s been purposeful in ensuring that all aspects of her life are aligned — including her financial literacy. “I learned that finances are crazy, and I need to get that on lock and make sure there’s a plan for everything,” Marsai reflects. “The very first thing I did [after turning 18] was to meet with my accountants and the people who run those types of things. I told them my plan, dreams, goals, and stuff, and they said, ‘OK, so this is what’s going on; this is what you have.’ Talks about money feel stressful for many people and can overwhelm people, but I believe that’s a topic to welcome into your life. No one should be afraid of talking about it, especially since it makes the world go round.”
Months after her 18th birthday, Marsai still dreams of her magical Shrek-themed 18th birthday party. It was a plush soiree that celebrated everyone she loves and cherishes. “That whole weekend was so different, not because of the party itself but because my whole family was there,” she remembers. “It felt like Thanksgiving or a family reunion where you haven’t seen anybody in years. This was a monumental moment for many people because they watched me grow. Whether you’ve seen me on the TV screen or even being very close to my family, I think that’s what made me so happy. It was fun; it was just a good time. I had to cancel all my meetings that next week because I was just on a high of excitement. It was a perfect start to going into this new chapter.”
Not allowing others to define her and keep her pigeonholed is something that Marsai’s family has instilled in her from the beginning. After recently walking in Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Showcase Vol. 4, the NAACP Image Award Winner advocated for herself when some fans tried to call her out for wearing a colorful, leopard catsuit that they deemed “too sexy.”
Rowland’s mentorship has shown Marsai what it means to challenge yourself while remaining true to who you are. “I’m already a nice person; I would say,” she giggles. “But, she is just so down to earth and nice to everybody. It’s just the sweetest thing. She has this power where she can check somebody very graciously to where people aren’t feeling some type of way after the end of a conversation. It’s just something about her energy; it’s like a ray of sunshine. Kelly always challenges herself. She has been getting into the acting business for quite a while, and she’s booked and busy. I applaud her for that. She is super hard working and gracious to herself and others.”
“I have an amazing support system and an amazing family,” she reflects on growing up in the public eye. “I don’t think there are instructions on how to do it right. I’m just here doing what I love until that gets old or until I’m not having fun anymore. At the end of the day, I can’t care about what anybody else thinks or how anybody else feels about my life. I gotta keep moving and learn to navigate in my own way. Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody has great days, so I keep that in mind.”
Marsai is very clear about how she wants to be perceived. She and stylist Bryon Javar have worked together to create incredible looks that have graced red carpets, galas, and awards shows. Currently, the BET Award winner only has one fashion rule — comfortability. “Being comfortable is pretty relative,” she explains. “You could be comfortable with sweats but also feel confident in whatever you’re wearing. I think that’s very important. If I don’t feel confident in something, I feel stiff; then I feel like I can’t wear it. I like when my décolleté is out; the sleeveless type of vibe.”
Home For The Holidays
When styling her hair, the multi-hyphenate entertainer gravitates toward braids. “Individual braids,” she says. “Because I don’t have to put heat on it. I don’t gotta wash it that much, and it could still look nice. You just gotta lay those edges down when they get old, but that’s not an issue.”
Though Marsai is in the middle of a whirlwind of press for Fantasy Football, with a slate of new projects coming down the pipeline in the new year, she’s looking forward to shedding the makeup and couture to cozy up with her family for the holidays. She already has candied yams and macaroni and cheese on her mind, two dishes that she doesn’t play about. “I don’t do Thanksgiving at any other place but mine,” she laughs. “I like to know who cooked what, and I want to see who cooked it.”
MORE FROM OUR HOLIDAY ISSUE: