Laiona Michelle writes and stars in new Nina Simone play, ‘Little Girl Blue’

JORDANNAH ELIZABETH | 1/24/2019, midnight
The award-winning actress, singer and writer Laiona Michelle, who has appeared in popular TV shows such as “The Blacklist” (2013) ...
Laiona Michelle giving a performance in rehearsal Photo courtesy of Laiona Michelle

Then, Brandeis University was looking for a Black male to complete their graduate class, and [Dr. Stewart] slipped them a tape of me [laughs]. So, they saw this Black girl and gave me a full scholarship. It was incredible, but I’ll say that I always wanted to do incredible work. I knew that. At Brandeis, I was like their leading lady, playing all types of roles that were colorblind, which was very rewarding for me. But when I got to New York, I found out that wasn’t the case. There were categories that I had to be placed in. It was very disappointing, but I stood firm and decided that I only wanted to work in workshops and new plays. I did a ton of new plays and I found that in doing new plays, I was attracted to working closely with the writers and helped develop my roles. I think it’s important that we write our own stories because nobody can tell it better.

I found that I was in a position where there were white men writing for Black women, and so I’ve grown to learn that we need to write for ourselves and that’s happening. There’s so much room at the table now where that is happening, and through years and years of complaining and standing on the sidelines, I was encouraged by my manager, who said, “Why don’t you write your own thing.” So, I started to take myself seriously as a writer. I’m really excited. “Little Girl Blue” is so important, and I felt a responsibility for telling Nina’s story.

AmNews: Why Nina?

Michelle: I grew up with Nina. Even when I didn’t understand her as a young person, I was attracted to her. I could hear the message inside the music, and as I’ve grown up, I realized that there’s so much story there. She was [also] telling my story and so many women of color’s story. I think Nina is timeless. During her time, she took so many blows. She really wasn’t heard. She was labeled as being the “angry Black woman,” and I wanted to quiet those voices around her because her anger was necessary. I think now, everyone is angry. We live in a world where there is so much anger, and everyone wants to listen. We are leaning toward everyone’s message