A creative means of expression in a fulfilling, freeing manner is a satisfying yet gratifying experience for oneself. In the case of actress and creative powerhouse Nzinga Imani, versatility amongst several creative mediums is not only her self-given “norm,” but it is her standard that she has upheld for quite some time now.
In a virtual conversation from her airy yet serenely decorated home, Nzinga Imani shared details with The Curvy Fashionista (TCF) about her multifaceted career, daily life routines, and future aspirations.
In Conversation with Nzinga Imani
TCF: Walk me through the mindset of Dawn. What has been your favorite thing about bringing her to life on “All the Queen’s Men?”
Nzinga Imani: “I would have to say that my favorite thing about Dawn was that she had that moment of freedom and just release. To me, she seems like a character who had a lot of stuff going on. She was in an unhappy marriage and finally out. At first, she’s a little timid, and she’s a little scared.
With the help of her friend, she just kind of lets it all go and just has a blast in that particular episode. I cannot wait to see where the story takes her. Hopefully, they’re (BET+) bringing her back, and I can’t wait to see what they do with her character!”
TCF: What are some standard structural concepts that you look to have in your clothing line, “Nimani?”
Nzinga Imani: “For me, it’s about things that can flatter different body types. I like items that have peplums. I like things that show off the assets that I know most plus-size women have, whether it be the chest area or accentuating the waist. I like things that are fun and not basic. I really want to push the idea of staying away from a whole bunch of black clothes or a bunch of clothes where you have to be super modest. I want the brand to represent me and the things that I like.
I know a lot of other girls who are like me who feel limited when we go into typical plus-size stores with what the options are. It’s always the same thing. The same patterns. The same florals. They’re everywhere. When you’re a younger plus-size girl, you’re not dressing like that, you know? Church isn’t every day of the week.
For the rest of the days of the week, you may want to be a little bit more fun, creative, and bold. For me, that’s what Nimani is all about. It’s about creating those pieces for when you want to be the center of attention. You can be that! There are clothes that fit you and your personality.”
TCF: You’re a woman who wears many creative hats. What was your inspiration behind becoming a beautician (an emphasis on makeup & natural hair in your case)?
Nzinga Imani: “Before I was a makeup artist or into doing hair, I was pretty much a tomboy. I could have never imagined that my life would take the turn it did in terms of fashion, makeup or hair. My upbringing instilled in me that if you need to do something, you need to learn how to do it. I was always an artist. When I was in school for theater, one of the curriculum requirements was to take a stage makeup class.
I got to the stage makeup class, and we were transforming people into older people and turning people into animals [with special fx makeup]. I realized that this is an art form, and this is fun. The course professor said, ‘you’re really good at this, and you should probably pursue this.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, okay. Whatever.’
However, I realized that those skills were necessary for many other things. If I wanted to be on camera and look my best, I had to learn how to do it for myself. Otherwise, I would have to either pay somebody else or entrust somebody else with creating the vision that I wanted, which is terrifying.
As a makeup artist, there are times when other makeup artists do my face. Sometimes I love it. Sometimes I want to go to the bathroom and cry. Sometimes I have gone into the bathroom and wiped my entire face off to start over.
I know and have taught myself how to fix these things and how to create the look that I want. So it was more about it being out of necessity for me to get into beauty and hair because I needed that to be taken seriously. unfortunately. With plus-size women, they’ll try to “ugly us up” a little bit, if you know what I’m saying. They won’t take the necessary care and time for us. So with that being said, if I wanted my beauty to be done right, I knew that I had to do it myself.”
TCF: “Curves” is a program that genuinely feels like it is revolutionary in the way that its storytelling is centered. How important was it to portray Maya and have more stories about curve/plus sized people told in mainstream media?
Nzinga Imani: “First of all, I love “Curves” I love having a group of three leads that are all plus-size women who all represent a different side of the coin, you know? Some plus-size women are timider and are more reserved with how they dress. Some women are like the Janae character exploring sexuality and living out that life.
My character Maya is in this artistic world where she’s a singer, and that is who I truly am as well. I could identify with her on so many levels. She’s desired by someone who plays professional ball (something I can also relate to), but they don’t want to take her out. They don’t know how people will perceive her.
They don’t know what kind of looks they’ll get. They’re in an environment where society constantly hounds them and tells them that their significant other has to look a particular way. They have to have this manufactured body and everything else. So even though they may be into you, they may have reservations about putting you in front of the masses.
Just to bring that to light and bring that to the attention of the masses and show that there’s a variety of sizes desired by a variety of men. We are wanted at the end of the day, so there’s no reason to sugarcoat it. I like that they bring that to the forefront because it’s like, “Oh, this guy’s totally into her!” Then, all of a sudden, it switches, and you’re like, “Oh, wait. Is he into her? What’s happening here?”
I know plenty of people who have had that experience in real life. To me, it was just about telling our true stories and getting that other side of the coin told. So often, we’re put in a pigeonhole where we’re the “funny friend,” and we’re the “undesirable friend.” It’s essential to see all three of those characters represented in one story because that’s the reality. Most of my friends are plus-size. I hang out with other plus-size girls, so this role truly resonates with my experience. I genuinely hope that BET+ picks up “Curves” for a full season.”
TCF: What are some of your favorite practices that implement joy and relaxation in your life?
Nzinga Imani: “I would say that my number one thing is music! I love all types of music, but I’m a theater kid. I listen to musicals and sing to the top of my lungs. It keeps me going whenever I don’t feel my best or need to stay awake while driving. Whatever the case may be. I know that if I’m singing some musicals, I’m going to find the energy I need. I’m going to get into all the characters, and that it’s going to keep me happy… Music is number one.
I do not consider myself a dancer, but I do dance. Movement, in general, can be so fun. If we can remove the stigma of it needing to look a certain way and just let the music do what it does. Move with it. React to it however you feel. I think the world would be a better place.”
TCF: Where do you see the multi-favored empire you’ve created in the next five years?
Nzinga Imani: “I intend to seek a global takeover. To be completely honest, I want to be a household name. I want to represent my community. I want to have my music out there. I want my clothing line to be huge. I want it to be in major stores, and I want to design more. I expect to be in major movies and television within the next five years. I see it so clearly. It needs to happen ASAP, but I feel like I’m definitely on the right path while working as hard as physically possible to get there.
I think if I maintain that and continue to do the work, then that’s what I think is in store. I believe that’s what I have to believe is in store in order to achieve it. I think that’s what keeps me motivated.”
TCF: What is your definition of “success” in your journey?
Nzinga Imani: “My definition of success would be happiness and generational wealth. I want my entire family to be good. I want to make sure my mother never has to work again. I want to make sure that my sisters and their children and hopefully one day my children are set and that they don’t go through the struggles that I went through growing up. I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am now, but it wasn’t always like this.
For me, it’s just like making sure that the next generation doesn’t have to go through what the last one did or what we did. We’re constantly growing and building and creating opportunities for more people like us.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Cover Details: Cover Model: Nzinga Imani. Photographer: Jeno Uche. Makeup:Made Amazing MUA. Set: Christian Omeshun