LaLa Milan Has Got the Secret Sauce to Success
The ‘Boomerang’ actor and comedian talks about knowing your worth.
LaLa Milan Has Got the Secret Sauce to Success
The ‘Boomerang’ actor and comedian talks about knowing your worth.
While we may have met LaLa Milan back in 2015 from her social media fame, the comedian has evolved and created a brand far beyond her online presence. A businesswoman and actor, Milan has been featured as a series regular on Lena Waithe‘s BET show Boomerang, and has guest-starred in the HBO series A Black Lady Sketch Show and Claws on TNT. Aside from being a hoot on screen, the Charleston, South Carolina native has dipped her toes into the entrepreneurial pool with the creation of The Salon podcast and her fitness platform Fit Girl Bod.
“I get a lot of rest. I travel. I talk to my friends. I have a therapist. And I exercise. Those are the main things that keep me afloat. And I pray. I’m very, very prayed up. I pray every morning that I get up, and every night before I go to sleep, and anytime I feel like something’s getting shaken up,” Lala Milan told us how she maintains balance and mental wellness throughout her entrepreneurial endeavors. “I say that to say, I just maintain balance with everything. If something is negative and I feel like it’s interfering with my life, whether it be a boyfriend, a friend, anything, I cut the situation off. The only people I can’t cut off is family, so I go ahead and take a break from them — three days if they’re getting on my nerves too much.”
Fresh off of traveling and cozy in her own home, Milan spoke to HYPEBAE about her mental and professional glow-up, what she’s learned during her journey as an entrepreneur, and how social media can interfere with your self-love and wellness journey.
Since you rose to social media fame, how have you used your digital empire to break into a multitude of subdivisions in entertainment?
The familiarity that I’ve built from social media platforms, and not having a closed mouth, are what allowed me to break into the industries that I wanted to enter. As far as TV, anytime I see one of my favorite producers or directors, I research behind the scenes. I know who each and every one of them are and who I would love to work with. When I see them, I’m not shy and I go speak to them. Thankfully, they recognize who I am, or if they don’t, somebody in their camp will know. I’d speak to them and then they’d give me opportunities to try out things, like with Lena Waithe and Niecy Nash. The amazing team behind me presents what I’ve built to people who may not know who I am, and that allows me the opportunity to audition for certain things.
On the modeling front, I made that happen myself. I actually had a friend curate a team for me and we take fire pictures. I go ahead and just put it out there. If they ain’t going to hire me for it, I’m going to create it myself. In health, I created that myself along with an amazing trainer [named] Rauve Suave. I got him to start training me so I can start seeing results. Now I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s a blessing long story short — it’s continuously being active, being involved and always producing, no matter what.
How would you say you’ve evolved since a lot of us first met you in 2015 when you went viral?
In many ways that are visible. I had to glow up. I started caring about my appearance — I always used to assume that because I’m a comedian, I could do whatever. I was always just a “be comfortable” type of girl, but I’m grown. Let me start carrying myself as such while still being comfortable. So there’s the physical part. I’ve also become mentally elevated as far as being aware of the effects that this lifestyle can have on me, and protecting myself from it. I see a lot of people rise up, fall down and lose their minds behind it. They’re going crazy, scrambling for what’s next. I’ve learned how to maintain my career and always create something to stay ahead instead of falling behind, which is a blessing.
Business-wise, I’ve evolved very strategically. You never know what’s coming next with me, and I think that’s always a good thing. I always have another egg in the basket that’s just waiting to be brought to the forefront. Something that I haven’t touched on yet is my Spanish, and it’s been years since I spoke Spanish. I’m thinking next, “Let me stop playing with these people and start giving them something in Spanish real quick so I could tap a whole ‘nother audience.” I’ve evolved in so many ways that have been keeping me afloat, and I’m extremely happy about that. I don’t think I have enough time to tell you how much I’ve evolved, but that’s it in a nutshell.
What are some tips and tricks about business and entrepreneurship you know now that you wish you learned earlier?
The number one thing that I always say to people who actually have a physical product, or are selling themselves as a product, is to not underestimate yourself or charge less than what you feel you deserve. At the end of the day, people will always eventually realize your value. They may not want to pay it right then and there, but start off with your price at what you think you deserve so you can always go higher. I say that because so many times I would take a low rate just to get something.
I realized that in this industry, your rate circulates. Everybody knows each other. If you tell somebody, “It’s only going to be $500 USD,” and they go like, “Use LaLa, she only charged $500 USD,” it’s going to spread fast. It’s one of those scenarios where you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Set your price at what you feel you deserve, and do not ever underestimate yourself or doubt yourself. Somebody’s going to step up to the plate and realize what you see.
People underestimate themselves too much, especially us being Black and specifically Black women. Men ain’t taking less than what they feel like they’re worth. As Black women, we all feel we got to take whatever we can because they already don’t want to work with us. No, we are the tokens. Everybody is copying us. They might not say it. Something else I would say is, share with your peers how much you make. Why? Because you’ll be surprised to know how many of your peers are making more than you or less than you. If we all are aware of how much people are getting paid, we could come to the forefront and say, “No, I’m not taking less than this,” and it forces their hands at paying us.
What inspired The Salon podcast, and what’s some of the initial feedback that you received?
The Salon was inspired by the fact that I’m a licensed cosmetologist, and I enjoy being at the hair salon. The salon is very much a place for Black women. It’s nostalgic. You go in there and you know you’re about to have a good conversation or a good therapy session. You’re going to leave feeling physically and mentally good. You’re going to feel stimulated in the scalp, with that peppermint oil. You’re going to feel stimulated mentally by good conversations. I created [the podcast] as a space where we could speak comfortably on whatever you had going on. We can go back and forth. What conversation we’re going to have depends on whoever is up in there, just like at the salon.
There were a lot of people who were like, “Thank you for creating this space. The conversations are so good. I’m always learning and you’re dropping gems. Guests are dropping gems.” You never know who’s going to be in there. Whether you want to be an actor and you want to hear from Lena Waithe, or if you want to be an entrepreneur and you want to hear from Supa Cent. I’ve had different people on the podcast who can speak on their journeys.
Most of the people who have been on my podcast, now that I’m thinking about it, have truly made something from nothing. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a reminder to myself as well to continuously keep going. The podcast allows me to be myself outside of what people typically know me as — a comedian, a skit creator, or a content creator. It allows me to have real conversations. They get to see a different side of me and see that LaLa is actually intellectual. That’s something important for a lot of people to see, because I’m not one-dimensional.
Why is it so important for us Black women to have these cultivated spaces, where we can have unfiltered discussions about how the struggle isn’t always beautiful?
A lot of the time, we are very hard on ourselves. We compare ourselves to what we see on social media, not realizing that somebody who we thought was a hard worker had it all handed to her, or not realizing that it didn’t come from hard work. A lot of things online make it look like it was overnight. Talking about it is basically like reading a book versus watching a movie. A conversation is going to be a book. You’re going to get all the details. We could talk about it. There are no limitations. We can talk about everything without having a time limit, versus a one-minute video or a picture.
With a picture, you’re going to assume. The movie ain’t giving all the details. Neither does social media. It’s important for us women to know everything that goes into it. The L’s that we had to take before we got the one W. They forget that you’ve made so much progress since you started. You got to give yourself credit for your small accomplishments before you could get mad about not making big ones. We’ve all been through that. It’s important for people to see the similarities in other people’s journeys in order to know that they should keep going. It’s very much possible.
You’ve said that one of your goals is to integrate your love of beauty and health into entertainment. Where did this love of integration come from?
Beauty is defined in so many ways. It’s important to touch on that for me — there are so many women who are my size, and I didn’t realize how much my size contributed to women not feeling beautiful. I had no idea. I created Fit Girl Bod, which is my weight gain page. So many women lack confidence because they’re small and they feel like they need to be bigger, they need to have huge breasts or big butts. Beauty comes from within and makeup is just a small additive to enhance what you already have. Them seeing me show that in an authentic way reminds them, “I can be confident. I can be beautiful.” Beauty stems from confidence.
It’s important to incorporate [mental health in what I do], because people are always taking in social media and not realizing how much it affects them. They stay on the blogs, the negative things and drama. It’s natural for people to do that. I incorporate small messages in there just to remind people that you’ve got to be good mentally in order for everything else to be good. If you’re not good mentally, you can physically get sick. If you’re not good mentally, you can honestly just be at your worst and not even be realizing why. You can slide into depression. You got to keep your mental [health] taken care of so everything else can flow greatly. I subconsciously slide that in there through jokes or messages, that way people can pick it up easier. That’s why I call my content “free medicinal laughter.” Laughing makes you feel good. It has a great effect on you, mentally.
For those who may not feel confident in their own bodies or may not feel like they have “the look,” what advice do you have for them?
Your heart is the most important thing, and we can’t see it. As long as you are active, your heart and your lungs are actively working. When you’re exercising them, you are good. It’s all about how you feel about yourself. Whether you are slim or you are big, you need to be active in some way, shape or form just to keep your heart pumping and your organs going.
When I started Fit Girl Bod, I decided to tap into my personal journey, which is gaining [weight]. I created that as a safe space, because I noticed when people say that they want to gain weight, everybody is like, “Girl, all you need to do is eat cornbread,” and that’s not realistic. I’m passionate about my journey just as well as you’re passionate about yours. I basically created that as a safe space for anybody. Not only do I do exercises on the page, not only do I talk about what I’m eating, but I also feed [them mentally]. I put up daily affirmations. I put up questions to spark something in them to make them think. I put reminders up there to let them know that you’re beautiful.
You’re going to release some feminine hygiene products this summer. What made you want to dive into this specific kind of healthcare products?
Because it’s taboo. Talking about vaginal issues is taboo and frowned upon. Just like gaining weight, I chose the two things that people are afraid to talk about. I chose [to branch out into] vaginal health because vaginal issues happen to everybody with a vagina, and that’s a lot of people. My audience is 75.6% women. For that, I’m going to talk about it, girl — whether your pH balance is off, whether you have an odor, whether you are sweating, whether you can’t figure out what is going on, whether you had sex and his semen interfered with your vaginal balance. Everything.
I don’t have a problem talking about it and being real about it. I did a promotion for a girl’s brand a long time ago. When I realized how much I sold for her and how passionate I was about it when talking about it, it sparked something in me. So I said, “You know what? I would be a fool not to capitalize on this, to be able to educate my following more about their bodies, and normalize these conversations.” Why is it that we can normalize so many other things that are seen as insane, but we can’t talk about a vagina stinking? Girl, please.
D’Shonda Brown is a freelance culture journalist, public speaker and mental health advocate based in Brooklyn, New York with a passion for mental health, social justice and uplifting the Black community through her writing. As a mental health advocate and suicide attempt survivor, in 2019, D’Shonda became Mental Health First Aid Certified for adults and children, and graduated from the Advocacy Ambassador Program by National Alliance on Mental Illness. D’Shonda is a proud Spelman College graduate and has interviewed notable names from Angela Rye and Soledad O’Brien to Chloe x Halle and Justine Skye.
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