It’s a glorious life for Yvette Nicole Brown. A life in which she is covered in flowers, but not the ones that Hollywood deems estimable. No, it’s a life wherein the kindness that Yvette dispenses returns to her tenfold and mirrors the reputation she has solemnly built.
For decades, the comedic actress has embodied iconic characters who remind you of your inner conscience. From “Sherri” on Girlfriends, “Helen” on Drake & Josh, and most recently “Judge Harper” in A Black Lady Sketch Show’s famous ‘Courtroom Kiki’ sketches, which garnered her first Emmy nomination, Yvette’s learned the transient nature of the business and to never base her worth off of it.
Despite her entertaining persona and distinctive voice, Yvette refuses to stick to merely being the ‘funny girl’ on TV. Her voice has echoed on the protest lines of social movements, the hosting panels of culturally reflective talk shows, and now through the lens of a director for a new health-focused initiative on BETher. The young woman who once got her first role without a credit nor agent is happy to be the wave that pushes Hollywood in a fresh direction.
Her Agenda recently got a chance to speak with Yvette about the ‘Fuck-It 50s,’ her upcoming directorial project, The Party, for Bether, and what she misses about the journey to success.
Her Agenda: You are usually in front of the camera, but just directed the short film The Party which is a part of The Waiting Room and will air on BETher. Acting requires performers to learn lines, but what was your process for preparing to direct?
Yvette Nicole Brown: The best thing about directing is that most of the prep happens way before you get on set. It’s really about making sure that you talk to all of the department heads and make sure everybody’s on the same page about what you’re looking for. Then once you get on set, it’s all about celebrating the artistry of all of the other people whether they’re actors or people putting up the lights or cables. Your job as a director is to celebrate, encourage, and support each of them as they do their best work in their part of the project. That was easy for me because I celebrate people all of the time anyway. We had a good time! Megamind, which is the company that produced these films along with Bether, their CEO Tressa Smallwood is collaborative and fun and hired a crew who was also collaborative and fun. So, we had a good time in Maryland shooting these films.
Her Agenda: You are known for being funny, but your short film highlights the disparities that Black women face in health care. Were you ever afraid that people wouldn’t take you seriously as a director or covering a topic so serious?
Yvette Nicole Brown: No, because I’m not a stand-up, I’m just a comedic actress. And, I’m not known for being out in comedy clubs and whatnot. I’m an activist and I fight the good fight on Twitter and have always done that in the world. People know me in a lot of different ways besides the funny girl on sitcoms. I also host and walk the protest lines. This is the thing, even if you’re funny, breast cancer affects us all. So at a certain point whoever you are, you should use your voice to talk about topics that matter. My film is about breast cancer awareness, but the BETher initiative talks about mental health, domestic violence, and all of the things that affect Black women told from a Black women’s perspective. Whether you’re funny, serious, nice, or mean, all of these topics can affect you.
Her Agenda: You have contributed so much to acting, and I feel like you don’t get enough flowers. With a career as long as yours, and embodying iconic characters, how do you measure your success?
Yvette Nicole Brown: My goal in life, ever since I was born, was just to be a decent human being and to love people. It’s never been about people seeing anything beyond ‘Yvette’s nice.’ Flowers for me are when someone goes, ‘Wow, you’re a nice person,’ and the rest is just gravy. We are here to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We are supposed to use our platform for good, speak up, and fight for the people who can’t speak up and fight for themselves. So, if you are doing those things every single day, you are a success. It has nothing to do with entertainment, nothing to do with hosting or anything that is forward-facing. In that realm, I think I am covered in flowers.
I no longer entertain relationships that aren’t fruitful. I’ve let some quote-unquote friendships go and some relationships go because if you are not meeting me in the same heart space, we can’t travel together anymore. And, that’s how being 50 has changed me.
Her Agenda: I recently read Will Smith’s interview in GQ Magazine in which he spoke about the ‘Fuck It 50s’ and how he doesn’t care anymore. Since you just turned 50, which is such a blessing, have you also noticed a shift in how you view the world and yourself?
Yvette Nicole Brown: Absolutely! And it happens the moment that you click into 50. I’ve been 50 for about two months now and I really don’t care about anything in regards to what people think of me nor expect of me. I also recently lost my mother who was the only person on the planet who could check me, so I am officially uncheckable. Now, thankfully, I am also a kind person so I’m not running in the streets just treating people horribly. But, I no longer entertain relationships that aren’t fruitful. I’ve let some quote-unquote friendships go and some relationships go because if you are not meeting me in the same heart space, we can’t travel together anymore. And, that’s how being 50 has changed me. Before 50, I would work with people a little more but now it’s ‘no, we are not going to work. We’re both grown so you either get right or get gone.’ That’s 50 and I love it.
The beginning of your career is when you meet those good friends that will walk with you through your career. The beginning of your career is when you really figure out what it’s about and who you are.
Her Agenda: When it comes to a career in entertainment, I know it’s often a long journey to success. And, considering that you’ve been acting for decades and are now Emmy nominated, is there anything about the journey that you miss or wish you could experience again?
Yvette Nicole Brown: There is a quote from the Bible that says ‘Do not despise small beginnings.’ And, we spend the beginning of our careers wishing we were somewhere else, right? But, the beginning of your career is when you meet those good friends that will walk with you through your career. The beginning of your career is when you really figure out what it’s about and who you are. I miss those days when I had the time to go have dinner with a friend. I miss those days when I was in a place that didn’t have as much furniture or as many things, but I could dream a bit more about what is possible. I miss the days of grinding, and I’m not saying that I want to go back to my struggle, because I struggled. Coming up, I was sleeping on floors and wasn’t eating, there was a lot of struggle to get to where I am and I don’t want to go back to that. But, I do miss the time of hoping, praying, and trusting that God was going to do something great, and seeing it come to fruition, and being on that journey. I do miss that, but it’s the beautiful part of this career.
I hope everyone, wherever they are in life, celebrates and enjoys where they are and cherishes the people who are on the ride with them.
Her Agenda: What is a motto that you live by?
Yvette Nicole Brown: Be kind, it’s simple. Everybody is going through something. Everybody. Even the people who you see on TV and think they have everything together, they don’t. Everybody is struggling with something, sad about something, hoping for something. No matter how you think or feel or envision their life, remember that everybody is going through something. The haves and the have nots. So, just move through life as an asset, not a liability, and be decent and kind to everybody that you meet. Be kind!