It seemed as if Power Book III: Raising Kanan, starring Patina Miller, Mekai Curtis, and Hailey Kilgore, couldn’t get any better after season one came to a close in September 2021. But viewers were in for a special treat when new cast members LeToya Luckett, Omar Dorsey, and Paulina Singer were announced for the second season. Since then, Luckett has raised eyebrows and shaken the heads of many viewers in her role as Kenya Pierce, a devout Christian mother who has been estranged from her teenage daughter, Jukebox, played by Kilgore. Pierce and Jukebox reconnect early on in the season when Jukebox decides to track her mother down and locates her in a Harlem church. From then on, Jukebox strives to hide her queer sexuality from her religious mother while Kenya struggles with easing her rigid religious beliefs and accepting her daughter for who she really is.
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Luckett shares how she was able to connect with Kenya’s character through her own personal experiences, her favorite 90s beauty trends that she just can’t part with, as well as how she’s become a trendsetter in her own right over the years.
HelloBeautiful: In Raising Kanan you play an estranged mother, Kenya, who has recently reconnected with her daughter Jukebox. I was curious to know how you were able to tap into that emotion as an actress but I learned that you actually endured similar challenges in your childhood relationship with your father. How was it, now, stepping into this estranged parent role with Kenya’s character?
Letoya Luckett: I was definitely able to relate — as far as knowing what that voice feels like. I still had contact with my dad [growing up]. It was like he was still present in some ways, but not totally gone like Kenya was from Jukebox. But in not having that real deep connection, I understood how intentional Kenya needed to be in order to regain the trust of her daughter — she needed to do whatever she possibly could. I also understood the grace that was necessary for that.
I think one of my biggest challenges with playing Kenya was trying to get some understanding of why she made some of the decisions that she did as a mother. I know that it must have been very difficult but I also understand how complex it is, being a parent and juggling a career — I deal with that, literally, every single day. I think Kenya’s intention was that when she got to L.A. she would be able to provide a better life for her daughter and, unfortunately, she just got caught up and wasn’t about to turn around and come back from that. She knows that she’ll never get that time back but she’s just trying to gain Juke’s trust. And there’s so much grace, understanding, vulnerability, and accountability that has to go into that. And I think that has all been present in my relationship with my dad.
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HB: Was there anything that you realized or learned about parenting while portraying Kenya’s character?
LL: There were a few things. I think realizing that our kids are human beings in their own right. And they’re going to have their own thoughts and they’re going to make their own decisions. Yes, we are here to steer them [as parents], but at the same time, we have to let them be who they are. And I feel like I was blessed to have a mom that allowed me to be a singer and go off and pursue my career at 12 years old, despite what she felt a 12-year-old should be doing at that age.
As parents, we’re watching our children, seeing their personalities develop and we really just get a front-row seat in watching them come into the person that God has created them to be. And in this role, I think that’s one thing that Kenya struggles with — finding her place in Juke’s life. But also realizing that in the time she’s been away, Juke has been developing and becoming her own person. Watching their relationship has kind of taught me what to do and what not to do.
HB: Of course, Raising Kanan takes place in the early ’90s which has left us with a slew of style and beauty trends that we still turn back to today. What are your favorite beauty trends from the 90s that you still find yourself reaching for today?
LL: First of all, shout out to Patina Miller who is killing it! Every episode — I mean, do we see these looks? I feel like the 90s are just known for everyone being okay with rocking who they naturally were and what they naturally looked like. It just seemed as if people were a little bit more confident in their own skin — wearing minimal makeup and out-of-the-box hairstyles. People were just being creative with what they had.
And I’m not saying that we’ve lost that at all, but I felt like back then there was just so much fun in it. We didn’t care about people’s opinions in the way we do now. So I strive to carry that confidence in the way I dress myself these days. I still love the doorknocker earrings, the pressing curls — all of that.
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HB: When we think of style or trendsetters, the first thing that comes to mind is fashion. But you’ve been such a trendsetter with your hair — we love your blonde waves, short cuts, and braids. How were you able to initially embrace change with your hair and be so fearless to take on so many bold and beautiful styles?
LL: I’ve just been going for it. In my teenage years, I was so insecure about my forehead and my hair. So I would wear bangs and hair on my face all the time. And now I’m just going for it. I don’t care what color, what cut, if it’s off my face or if it’s bangs — I just want to have fun. I want the freedom that I took away from myself in my teenage years.
HB: You’ve said that your role as Kenya “stretched you as an actress” — especially having to learn how to cover your southern accent and speak with a New York one. What’s next from here? What are your dream roles and who are your dream co-stars?
LL: I want to continue to be stretched. There’s so much beauty in telling someone else’s story and being so far removed from your own. Someone just told me, ‘Every time we see you on the screen now, we know you’re going to shake things up because for some reason you’re always playing a villain,’ and ‘All bets are off when Toya’s on the screen.’ And I want to continue that excitement. I want viewers to never know what to expect when they see me in these characters.
I feel like I’m growing as an actress. I’m allowing myself to be more vulnerable with these characters. And I have so much experience to pull from on a personal level that I’m allowing that to shine through. So I definitely want more of that. As for dream co-stars, give me all the greats — Samuel L. Jackson, Tracee Ellis Ross… I would love to even star in a comedy one day, as well.
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How LeToya Luckett Tapped Into Her Polarizing ‘Raising Kanan’ Character was originally published on hellobeautiful.com
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