Celebrity Fit and Soul: Rochelle Aytes on season two of Mistresses, success and staying grounded.
Television used to be sacred ground that rarely included strong character based African American actresses, but the climate for seeing women of color on TV is changing. Keri Washington is no longer the only starlet representing the immense female African American talent pool making breakthroughs in a competitive business. On the cusp of Mistresses season two, Rochelle Aytes, makes her mark and presence undoubtedly know.
The strikingly beautiful actress plays the only character on the show that is not a mistress. Her character, April, a widow and single mother, discovers her deceased husband had a secret child with his mistress. Aytes was attracted to the role because of April’s strength and multi-dimensional characteristics.
Strength is an attribute that I immediately sensed Atyes has a profound understanding of. When asked why she thinks she is successful in a very competitive business, she notes with certainty that hard work, determination, and a thick-skin, combined with a pure calling to be a performer have been the ingredients that have propelled her success.
Aytes got her first break when she was cast as a reporter in the Wayan brother’s comedy, White Chicks. “That was the beginning because I had never done anything before that except one scene in Sex and the City and a bunch of commercials,” she humbly notes, “then I shot right up to a 30 million dollar budget movie.” She goes on to describe her surprise that she beat out many actresses she had watched on television for years. It was in this unexpected moment of victory that a light went on revealing the possibility that even she, who constantly second guesses her abilities, must have that special something.
Tyler Perry also caught on to Aytes special something when he cast her opposite Blair Underwood as a battered wife in Madea’s Family Reunion. She then went on to play Pebbles in Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story. Aytes described the pressure she felt in playing Pebbles. “I absolutely felt more pressure because I was playing a real person. I wanted it to be as honest as possible. I watched lots of interviews with Pebbles and studied her behavior and mannerisms.”
As we continued to speak, I realized how extremely hard Aytes had worked to consistently book roles. With the constant pressures of being in the entertainment industry, I asked her how she maintains her spiritual and emotional health. God and prayer have been a very instrumental part of Atyes life. She lowered her voice as she discussed her realization that life is bigger then her and how she stays humble. “I make sure to stay grateful and thankful for what I have. I am always appreciative of what I have because it could be taken away at any moment.”
As Aytes described her humble beginnings in more detail I began to understand where the grace she carries comes from. Besides giving gratitude, she purposefully stays connected to her humble Harlem roots. “I go home often and spend time with friends I grew up with, people that know exactly who I am. I stay at my parents simple two bedroom apartment and take the train.” She notes that in Los Angeles it can be easy to get caught up in the glamour of it all but that making a point to be, “…”regular” helps keep her grounded”.
I delve deeper with Aytes on her career experiences inquiring if being an African- American actress has its restrictions in the roles available to her. After a long sigh she admits it is a bit more limiting. Though, she adds, she has been the lucky one to often play the one black role on a white show. In spite of these challenges, she feels TV is expanding and giving black actresses more of an opportunity to showcase their talent.
As the sunset and our interview winds down, I ask Aytes what is next for someone with such a successful career and if she has any one special in her life right now. She giggles as she describes the difficulties in finding the right man now that she is ready for marriage and looking for a serious commitment. She lights up as she expresses her hopes for a family and to one day produce a feature film.
As I head home on the busy 405, I reflect on our meeting and come to the conclusion that Rochelle Aytes is more than a graceful beauty, she is a women of strength with a humble spirit who will continue to find success.
By Naja Hill, For more entertainment updates follow Naja on Twitter@najahill
Rochelle’s Beauty Secret Box
Hair: Wen Hair Care by Chaz Dean.
Secret weapon: Applying coconut or olive oil on the ends of her hair to prevent splitting.
Skin: Natural face serum called Face 4 Humanity
Body: Bath Bar lotions and body scrubs; a product you can create your own scent with oils of your choice.
Favorites Side Box
Favorite Color: Red
Favorite Food: Pasta
Favorite Hangout: The Grove outdoor shopping mall in La
What you find sexy: A man’s eyes