Malinda Williams: This Woman’s Worth, Pt 1

Malinda Williams might not play the lead role in a film or series, but she plays the role you remember the most. With notable projects like The Wood, her role as Bird on the TV series Soul Food, and her cameo as the “Mallory” to Young Buck’s “Mickey” in his video for “Shorty Wanna Ride,” Malinda Williams is indeed a diversified actor. Her role as Maya in the Valentine’s Day release of Daddy’s Little Girls places Malinda as a character she knows well: an everyday working mother.

In the world of entertainment, it’s no easy task to maintain a relationship without the media hovering like vultures until it’s ended. Formerly married to Mekhi Phifer, Malinda shares a son with Mekhi, but her focus is less on the idiosyncrasies of their splitting and more on being a good mom. A rumored relationship with Hip-Hop legend D-Nice doesn’t hurt either.

As Malinda begins the next phase of her career, she elaborates on her additional title of entrepreneur. With an established lingerie line Modern Goddess, Malinda continues into both book and screen writing. So how does this mother with the youthful glow manage to balance her time and still stay fly? A healthy attitude, awareness of everything from music to politics, and lots and lots of water…. Alternatives: You are quoted as having said, “I just want to portray African-American women accurately, because that is all I represent; not necessarily positively or negatively, just correctly." How would you define correctly?

Malinda Williams: Well, to me, correctly is defined as, “show [African-American women] as we are and don’t show just one side of us.” I think over the years in our work in entertainment we tend to get portrayed in a negative way. We tend to get objectified a lot through music, through videos, and even in film. When I say “correctly” I mean that’s not just who we are. Yes, we are sexual beings, but we’re also mothers, and we’re also sisters, and we’re also daughters, and we’re also entrepreneurs. We’re lawyers and we’re doctors, and I just want everyone to see the full gamut of who we are.

Everybody has someone in their families who has faults and that’s not necessarily the most positive thing but there’re still positive aspects in someone who falters in their life. Show us how we got to that fault, and then show us how we can overcome those faults. Don’t just show us those faults.

AHHA: You mentioned music as one aspect of entertainment where women have been objectified. Do you feel that women in the music industry have evolved or devolved over the years?

Malinda: Well, see it’s interesting and it’s tough to say because it really definitely is more so a man’s world when it comes to the entertainment business itself. Particularly with the music industry, when I was growing up, we had Whitney Houston, we had Queen Latifah, and we had MC Lyte. We had these really, and as I said, not necessarily positive but correct female role models. They helped to create a balance to the objectification of women. There were also these strong positive role models.

I don’t necessarily think that we as women have as strong a hold in the entertainment industry as we once did. I hope that that’s turning around. I see people like, definitely one of my idols right now, Queen Latifah who is turning the entertainment industry on its ear. I think with that, with her being out there and being multi-faceted. She’s a Cover Girl, she’s a hostess, she’s still making albums, and she’s an actress. With that I think she’s helping to turn that around.

AHHA: You were previously married to Mekhi Phifer. What was it like in a marriage between two actors? You see it all the time, but very rarely do the marriages last.

Malinda: I think it’s indicative of society today, but not limited to the entertainment industry. Certainly the entertainment industry presents its own challenges in relationships, but I think we live in a world today where unfortunately marriages and relationships aren’t seen as sacred as they used to be. My parents have been together for 45 years or so; my grandparents had been married for 70 years.

I always say, “If you got together before 1985, you’re safe.” Past 1985, something happened that changed and marriage isn’t as sacred, relationships come and go, people sort of enter into these limited relationships. I don’t want to necessarily blame [my divorce] on the industry; I really don’t. Two [married] doctors could have the same problems in society as two actors.

AHHA: Rumor has it, you and D-Nice are an item…

Malinda: Rumor has it…

AHHA: Well if it’s true, you two make an adorable couple.

Malinda: [giggles] Thank you.

AHHA: Have you learned any DJ’ing skills from him?

Malinda: [laughs] You know what? I have. I’ve been to his parties and he’s definitely an amazing DJ. I certainly couldn’t begin to do what he does. I think what he has is a gift. Musically, he’s definitely gifted. Even before he did this, he was an artist and a producer, so he has that ear for what people like to listen to and what really gets the party going. When I attend one of his parties, I attend as a partygoer and let loose and have fun like everybody else. I don’t really get into too much spinning with him…although that would be kinda hot! [laughs]

AHHA: Yeah I’m on D-Nice’s mailing list and his playlists are crazy. What about you? What music are you currently feeling?

Malinda: I just was thinking yesterday – I was listening to Lenny Kravitz, and it’s kind of old, but I was listening to 5 and thinking I need to re-download that because I can’t find it. Also, obviously I’m loving Jim Jones right now.

AHHA: You were in Young Buck’s video for “Shorty Wanna Ride.” How was that?

Malinda: That was probably one of the funnest times I have ever had on a set. It was interesting because I was a fan of G-Unit and was a fan of Fif, and I was definitely a fan of Buck. When they asked me to do the video, I was like, “Oh absolutely” and Natural Born Killers was one of my favorite films. When I heard that it was a play on that film, I was like, “Oh definitely. I want to do this.”

When I got to the set, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had never really done a rap video like that. But when I got there I was pleasantly surprised at how professional they were and how they treated me with the utmost respect, and we just had a blast making that video. The director was just like, “Do what you do, have a good time and let it all hang out.” I was like, “Cool!”

AHHA: It sounds like a lot of fun, would you do a music video again?

Malinda: It was so much fun. I would definitely do another video. For me, it’s all about the content. I don’t want to be that girl at the bar and the dude comes up with champagne. I’d like it to have a storyline and for me to actually outline a role and portray a character in the video. But I would definitely do that again. I had too much fun not to.

AHHA: Which do you prefer for yourself: film or television?

Malinda: Right now, I think I prefer television. I really don’t have a preference one way or the other because film allows you a little more freedom in that there’s more takes and more time to do a scene, whereas television moves very quickly. However, with film, you are portraying a character over a time period of an hour and a half. Whereas on TV, depending on how long the series lasts, you can portray a role over a period of five, six, or seven years. You get to really develop the character. I think right now I really want to develop another character.

AHHA: Was it hard for you to escape the role of Bird after so long?

Malinda: It wasn’t really difficult, and I still haven’t escaped it. It’s not something I’m trying to escape. Bird is definitely a character that Number One, is very close to my heart. A lot of women and men relate to her. She was a lot of people’s girlfriends, and a lot of people’s wives, and a lot of people’s sisters. I definitely have an affinity for that character.

It’s great that the show is in syndication because I think she’s one of those timeless girls. It’s because when you were growing up and when you finally realized that you were a grown woman, you still had to go through the growing pains, and you still had a child but you’re still somewhat of a child yourself and you have to learn how to grow up. I think that’s who Bird was, and I think that’s why she really touched people’s hearts in that kind of way. I’m not really trying to escape her; I mean I love her. [laughs]