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Patina Miller: Standing On Business

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Patina Miller February HelloBeautiful Cover

Source: JD Barnes / for HelloBeautiful

Patina Miller, like her iron-willed Power Book III: Raising Kanan character Raquel Thomas, knows firsthand the enormous pressure of being a Black woman in a male-dominated industry. But contrary to her Power-verse character, Miller never considered walking away from the game.

Black women’s stories that show our nuance, grace and brilliance are being stripped away by stock-price-centered streaming services at alarming rates. The ambitious baddies on Rap Sh!T, the relatable buddies on Grand Crew, the delightful disruptors on Everything’s Trash, or the marginalized communities represented on Legendary – they’re all gone. Miller admits “it is a little bit scary” to be operating in a landscape where Black stories are being axed in every direction.

Miller understands the impact of seeing a powerful Black woman on screen because she knows what it feels like not to see it. She spent many years “looking on TV and not seeing women who look like me, a lot of women who look as chocolate as I look.”

Patina Miller February HelloBeautiful Cover

Source: JD Barnes / for HelloBeautiful

World-class training at Carnegie Mellon prepared Miller, as a teenager, for the toughest of roles. From there, she worked her way to the top of the call sheet with countless hours devoted to character development and vocal practice that took her from understudy to underworld boss. Before joining Raising Kanan, her breakout role as Deloris Van Cartier in the 2009 West End Sister Act garnered substantial praise. Her role in the 2011 Broadway production earned her a Tony Award nomination. She’d later win the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Pippin.

At 39 years young, the accomplished actress is always perfecting her craft. She softly laughed describing the technical training she underwent to prepare for her transition from Broadway to television. “I got sandbagged,” she revealed. The acting term describes the act of using sandbags to help actors hit their mark. ” While she described it as “embarrassing,” it helped Miller become the force she is today.

When the opportunity arose to play a gorgeous gangster with something to prove, she couldn’t resist. After all, it is something she’s had to deal with all of her life. “I’ve always tried to use that thing where people doubt me because people do,” she explained. “I’m a Black woman.”

Raising Raq

Patina Miller February HelloBeautiful Cover

Source: JD Barnes / for HelloBeautiful

Southside’s Raquel Thomas has the balls of Tony Montana and the polish of Selina Thomas. Her rich skin, barrel curls, snatched waist and scene-stealing monologues (“I own you, n*gga”) are gems she’s implanted in our minds. Patina Miller’s admiration for Raq lies in the Queen Pin’s unyielding authenticity. At the negotiating table, she feels no need to posture her foe her, often reminding them her choices are “not about you and your d*ck.”

“It’s important for women to see themselves as bosses, women to see themselves as beautiful,” she told HelloBeautiful. “Those things can coexist, and you can do both. Women do it all the time.”

Miller is fueled by fans who tune in to watch a Black woman “owning her blackness, owning her beauty and her sexuality” on Raising Kanan. “I get people in my DMs all the time, women who say, thank you for representing the chocolate girls.”

Raq has no trouble staring down leaders of the mob in a Medusa belt and roller set. She’s imperfect but dedicated to being the best mother she knows how to be – something that resonates with the mother of Emerson Harper, whom she gave birth to in 2017. “[Raq] is messy. She’s wrong. She’s real. But she’s also loving,” declared the veteran actress.

After a lifetime of being told she was “pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” Miller never underestimates her fans’ reaction to the roles she chooses. When her characters are chosen, it feels like they’re being chosen too.

There is no ambiguity about her on-screen appearance. “It means a lot to be in this place and to be able to be in all of my little chocolate glory and tell this story and inspire women and Black women to just be everything that people say that you can’t be.”

Screen Queens

Strong women have always motivated Miller. Before stardom, she thumbed through Octavia Butler and Maya Angelou at the local library. Raising Kanan itself is the product of a powerful woman as a spin-off of Power. Courtney Kemp sits at the helm of the Power-verse as an executive producer.

Patina Miller February HelloBeautiful Cover

Source: JD Barnes / for HelloBeautiful

“I’m trying to think about what stories I can tell. How can I move the needle in my way,” Miller continued. “I don’t necessarily want to tell the stories that have already been told; it’s time for us to sort of do different things.”

Economic concerns coupled with anti-DEI backlash are impacting artists’ goals. Issa Rae recently told Porter that it appeared our stories “are less of a priority.” The world knows how powerful Miller can be. She wants to use that to help the next generation of artists. It’s a mission that goes beyond whatever fire doubt lit in her belly as a child. “It’s not about proving anybody else wrong anymore because that’s their bad if they don’t get it,” said Miller.

She wants to create epic “fantastical dramas” and tender stories of “Black joy.” “The next 10, 20 years, I’d like to do that,” she said. Her vision is to create media where “the future and fantasy look like everybody and not just one group of people.”

“We all fantasize,” she declared assuredly.

Patina Miller looks to her peers’ track records for models of how to carve out a space for herself and other artists. “I so admire Uzo [Aduba], I admire so much Cynthia Erivo,” she said. “All these Black women who were taking it into their own hands and creating their content for me is inspiring, and it makes me want to do the same.”

She mentors young performers the way people like Billy Porter mentored her. “I’m very blessed early in my career to have these people in my life who weren’t my family; who saw my talent, who saw me, saw my hunger, saw my drive, and inspired me, and pushed me,” she said. “I love nothing more than offering advice to people when they ask me.”

The Next Chapter

Patina Miller February HelloBeautiful Cover

Source: JD Barnes / for HelloBeautiful

Now, Patina Miller is turning that energy towards learning what she can do to fight flattening depictions of Black women’s humanity. She expands ideas with her performances and wants to help others do the same. It doesn’t matter that it’s harder as the culture races backward. She still wants in.

“I’m always trying to find wisdom because I will always be that little girl starting; that person lives in me, and that’s why I still love it the way that I do,” she said.

“I was of that generation where there weren’t that many roles. And so for me, yes. I want to be a part of the conversation like my friends, who are producing and executive producing, being in charge, and making sure rooms look like what they’re supposed to look like and making sure that young actors get the opportunity.”

Patina Miller: Standing On Business  was originally published on hellobeautiful.com