Loni Love speaks frankly. Whether she’s revealing her experiences and advice in her new memoir, I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To, sharing her views as a cohost on the groundbreaking show The Real (all hosts are women of color), or doing a stand-up set, you know where she’s coming from.
Raised as a latchkey kid in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, she pushed through being hungry (“free lunch was usually the most nutritious meal of my day,” she writes) and being kicked out of her mother’s apartment and sleeping in her car as a teen. With encouragement from a Black engineer at the assembly line where she worked, Love earned an engineering degree (with a scholarship, OK?) at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. She went on to move to Los Angeles, endured criticism and rejection and carved out a career as an actress, comedienne and an Emmy- and two-time NAACP Award-winning host.
I think flaws are actually things that are given to you to make you stand out.
While Love is known for her humor — one life lesson she writes is “whatever you do, don’t date men who sleep in bunk beds, especially if you got bad knees” — she got serious with us. (This interview has been edited for length.)
Have a look. Then, sign up to hear even more about her life and advice, when Love joins Sisters for a special live Facebook event on Wednesday, October 21, at 6 p.m. ET.
First, what do you want Black women to know, and women in general, about embracing flaws? Are they really flaws?
I think flaws are actually things that are given to you to make you stand out. There are things in your life that, yes, you should change, but there are certain things that you can’t change. Or there are things that you have to deal with you shouldn’t be ashamed by. And the one thing about me is: I’ve always been a big girl. I’m not going to look like everybody else. Sometimes in society, they try to make you conform and be a certain type of person. And so once I realized who I was as a person, and who I was as a woman, it actually started making me stand out, and I was more comfortable and more relatable to everybody.
In your book, you talk about some hard parts of your background. How do you go from that to where you are now?
I think everybody has a story. The reason why I wrote this book was to share my story and also to show that every woman of color, or every Black person, every person is not the same. I think that we assume that all Black people grew up a certain type of way, and they didn’t. Some people grew up with money. Some people grew up with [a] humble beginning.
Do you feel like we don’t talk enough about what we’ve overcome and what we’ve succeeded at? And that we should be willing to talk about ourselves more?
Yeah. I think we should be allowed to, and I think we should listen. A lot of [people] don’t listen. And that’s why you see the issues that you see with, especially dealing with Black women and how people feel that Black women are unprotected, and they’re not valued, because we [are] just not listening to them.
These are heavy times. How do you balance that with being able to have joy?
A lot of times, we get so overwhelmed. Then we see this bad news, and we’re not having balance. We have to make sure that we plan to have escape in a sense. So we turn the televisions off. Get in touch with family. Then come back and fight another day.
You’re literally on TV for a living. Do you turn it off sometimes?
Yeah. I have to. Especially now, because I’m saying things that upset people, you know what I mean? I have a viewpoint that everybody doesn’t agree with. [People will] attack you personally and attack your intelligence. I will cut off the comments, I will shut it down, I will go take a walk, I will spend time with my partner. And I encourage that of all women, especially Black women, we don’t have to keep taking all the burdens. Take some time out for yourself.
I love that we can talk about this. So what are your upcoming goals?
Well, when you read my book, I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To, you know all I’ve ever wanted to do was to be an entertainer. And right now we need as many entertainers and comedians as possible. Especially with this year; it’s been a horrible year. I’m just trying to finish off the year by educating people and helping to inspire people. But, also, the pandemic made me look at my life and evaluate, was I happy with it? I realized that my life is not bad, and I’m still blessed and fortunate. And I just want women to understand […] you can be whatever. You want to be that wife, you want to be that mother, then do it. You want to be the career person, then do it.
As we close here, can you talk about the role of faith in your life?
Well, faith without works is dead. I’ve studied different religions. In the book, I talked about how my babysitter was religious, and she was the person that actually gave me religion. That guided me, although I wasn’t traditional. God has revealed Himself to me, many times. There is no way you can go from the projects, living through the crack era, not getting shot, not getting abused. And then become an engineer — with no money, get a college degree. Then go to Hollywood, not knowing anybody, not having a friend or [anybody] even knowing your name, to now being on television and being an Emmy Award-winning host. That has to be a higher power, because it was not just me. And I will always say that. That’s really what this book is about. And that’s about faith.