sanaa Hollywood’s next big star is finally set to leap from the black romantic comedy circuit to the big-budget blockbuster film world. But she is still reppin’ for all the hardworking chicks, bookish girls, around-the-way tomboys, bohemians and every other honey you know. Kenya Hunt catches up with the actress.
A few things about Sanna Lathan: She’s smart, cool as a fan and a lot like you. An honest woman who doesn’t mince words, the actress comes off as if she would actually let you if the hip-huggers you’re rocking are showing a panty line or if your man seems as if he’s playing you–just because she cares. “ I’m a real girl’s girl. I’m not in competition with anybody but myself, truly,” she tells me. Lathan’s mantrais immediately evident when I meet her at Norwood Elementary School in Los Angeles to volunteer for her favorite charity, Peace Games. Wearing silky cargo pants, a tank top and a ponytail high atop her head, she greets me as if we’ve known each other for years and have had far more girls tlaks just the brief cell phone chat an hour before. I especially appreciate how she makes direct eye contact without chopping that catty once-over that a lot of women do–you know, the kind that makes you wonder if they’re making some silent judgement about you just because your jeans are Levis’s instead of 7 for All Mankind. Lathan’s also a good hype man. When talking about her circle of friends–this includes two actresses, a schoolteacher and a single mom with an office job–you’d think she was MTV fanatic describing an encounter with Destiny’s Child. She’s that enthusiastic about them. “I have the best girlfriends in the world,” she says. “I love them so much. We really, truly support each other and we laugh a lot. We do all the stuff girls do without all the drama.” Maybe that’s why her film roles resonates so well with everyday black chicks, because she is a genuine one despite being a “movie star.” While other Hollywood actresses ooze inaccessibility, Lathan is affable, easygoing chick you’d want have in your sorority, book club or Sunday night Sex and the City gathering. And as much as we poke fun at the corny cookiecutter formula that the black romantic comedy (BRC) has become, we give Lathan props for helping to define a film genre centered around black characters we all can relate to.
photography :: sacha kindreal
busy in some steamy scenes with Denzel. “I was nervous at all times. You know this is Denzel coming off his Oscar win, one of the greatest actors of all time,” she admits.But enough about love scenes and Denzel, as far as Lathan’s concerned that was ages ago. “Love and Basketball, that was a lifetime ago, even Brown Sugar. When I finished a movie it’s over me,” she explains. We Listen to R.Kelly And Coldplay The child of divorced parents, Lathan spent half her childhood with her mother in New York City and the other in Los Angeles with her dad, director Stan Lathan. She remembers watching her mom’s Broadway performances and spending time with actress Stephanie Mills who would look after her while mother rehearsed. A self-proclaimed bookworm, Lathan divided her high school years between Beverly Hills High School and a public school in New York. “ I went to private white schools most of my life. Then I went to New York, and they were like, ‘Oooh, why she talk like that? Who does she think she is?’ she remembers. Despite haters, Lathan says that her time in New York “ was the best thing that has happened to me. It’s so great for a young person to be able to experience all of it. It’s so stimulating for any young person.” As a result of her eclectic childhood, Lathan has distinct artsy side. She’ll talk about her hair extensions (“I have a great woman in New York who does the best weave ever in life”) and then reflect on how life is like a kaleidoscope in the next breath. She gets down with smooth R&B like R.Kelly and Thicke but loves Coldplay too. “I feel like I’m always three steps ahead of how everybody perceives me,” Lathan tells me. We Like To Feel Beautiful When I selected our table on the restaurant’s outdoor patio off Santa Monica Boulevard, I didn’t account for the amount of fans who would recognize my lunch date. Just as Lathan and I are finishing out soup and salad, a group of women interrupt our chat for autographs (this is about the third time this happens). To these ladies, Lathan is a struggling single mother in Disappearing Acts with a full booty that their husbands love so much. “He has the biggest crush on you,” say one of them abouht husband. “It’s very flattering being a celebrity,” admits Lathan. “It’s really good for ego, but you have to keep it in check and know that it’s not about you. It’s like any guy having those low self-esteem days and you’ve got a man being like you’re beautiful it picks you up.” Lathan knows all about those insecure days. She gained
Lathan steps out of the BRC circuit for her next film, Out of Time , in which she stars as a married woan having an affair with a police chief played by Denzel Washington. Like her previous work, Lathan’s latest flick expand Hollywood’s portrayals of black women, proving to mainstream audiences that we are more than the smack-talking mommas (Baby boy), trifling groupies ( He Got Game) and loud-mouthed gangsta-boos (B.A.P.S.) that most movies make us out to be. To hear Lathan tell it, we’re much more complex. We may be Do-Gooders, But Don’t Get It Twisted, We’re Scandalous Too. All right kids today we’re going to learn how to work as a team, Lathan says with wide eyes and a big smile to a classroom full of chatty, mostly Mexican fourth- and fifth-grade kids. She’s here to teach the inner-city students how to resolve conflicts so that they can help, make their community safe, but all they seem to want hear about is Blade, a gory vampire flick she was in five years ago with Wesley Snipes. “ Was that actually blood? Did you see any dead people?” a feisty student asks without raising his hand. Lathan is clearly aware of her postion as a role model. “Nowadays on TV it’s like they ban nudity and they ban sex, but you can see somebody blow someone’s head off. I don’t know he numbers, but it’s like the rate of childon-child violence, especially wit kids of color, is staggering,” she says later over lunch at an Italian bistro in West Hollywood. Although Lathan works for the movie industry, which influences kids, she has an even bigger bone to pick with pop culture at large. “It’s like if you were to be on another planet and look at culture and our music and our videos, you would truly believe that men and women are completely not equal. You’d think that a woman’s role is about jiggling her tits and ass around one guy. You know what I mean; it’s all about the guy.” Granted, Lathan’s not anitsexy, she just thinks that the woman’s got to get hers. “ I’m very comfortable in myself as a woman, in my sensuality, with my body,’ she explains. The actress attributes this to growing up with her Broadway-dancer mother, Eleanor McCoy, who often walked around the house naked, “So it’s like I’m very free that way. I have no shame in my sexuality. I just have a healthy mind-set about it, so I don’t need to flaunt it. To me when someone does that too much it says that you think that’s all you have to offer. Lathan takes being sexual to whole new level in Out of time. “ [My character] is very sensual. She’s one of those women who knows her power with men. I’ve always admired those who are just in their bodies and know how to work it,” she says. She also gets 78
Despite the public scrutiny, Lathan admits that her relationship was no more difficult than any other. “I have a quote that I always remember and it’s that ‘People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime,’ and we had a wonderful season together. And that just how I look at it,” she says with the resolve of someone who’s worked through things. Even though the couple has called it quits, Lathan hasn’t completely closed herself off to rekindling the flames-in a movie, that is. “Who knows if we’ll ever work together again, it’s a small world,” she adds. Regardless of whom Epps is seeing (rumors have linked him to Keisha from R&B group Total), Lathan’s not tripping off being single. “There’s a lot of eligible, young, fascinating black men out there. Let’s just put it this way, I’m not scared. But I also don’t discriminate when it comes to dating. I do prefer chocolate, but I’m open,” she says with a wink. “I definitely look at the world through rose-colored glasses. I truly look for the best in people and I see that,” she tells me as we leave the restaurant and head to the parking lot. With such a refreshingly simple outlook on love and life, I have the feeling people think the same way about her. H
20 pounds for Disappearing Acts. “It was after, that I realized society’s image of beauty is getting thinner by the minute. I felt that it affected my selfesteem. You know, I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to go to events for like a year,” she recalls. Lathan who has since lost weight, thinks she is “ by no means thin, but I like the weight that I’m at right now.” We Don’t Have to Be In a Relationship to be Happy It’s been quite some time since Lathan’s very public on-again, off-again relationship with Omar Epps ended. The two were like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton of black Hollywood with real-life love fueling their on-screen relationships. Needless to say, their split sparked lots of rumors and straight-up gossip about what really went down between the two. But Lathan refuses to but into what others think of her. “With this business, people love to talk. There are so many rumors circulating at all times that can really just mess with your head. You know if somebody hears something on the radio in New York City, they’re gonna take it as fact and will argue the point with you, saying, ‘No, it is true,’ “ she complains as out waiter refills her coffee.
“I have a quote that I always remember and it’s that ‘People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime,’ and we had a wonderful season together.”