A Conversation With Larenz Tate On Not Believing Your Own Hype
Have you ever had an exceptional winning season? Like, you're killing things professionally and suddenly everybody is taking note and taking interest in you. They're telling you you're going to be the next Oprah, Michelle Obama, Issa Rae -- you name it, and, initially, the comparisons seem ridiculous, but after a while, you start to believe the hype, maybe just a little bit.
It's hard in the era of social media fame to not get caught up in the praise that comes with publicly sharing your accomplishments or, hell, a selfie. But if there's one lesson Larenz Tate can teach you about handling the attention, it's don't believe your own hype. Larenz, who's thrived in Hollywood for more than three decades, dropped this nugget during his episode of "Uncensored" which aired on TV One Sunday night and when I had a chance to interview him, I had to know how a man who's been acting since the age of 10 (and who has women constantly talking about what a beautiful specimen is) doesn't believe his own hype.
"Listen, don't get caught up in that man," he told me. "It’s one thing to be confident and to understand and place value on yourself and what you’re capable of doing and who you are, but when you get caught up into all the things that people are saying, then you get caught up in that moment and that moment becomes your everyday life. Those people who said you were whatever -- that was in the moment. They believe it in the moment."
It says a lot about Larenz that he developed that mindset on the heels of the success of "Menace II Society," his first feature film which he starred in at just 17. Talking to him, I imagine that's why he's had such longevity. Not only does he not believe the hype when it's in his favor, but he also doesn't dwell on the lulls that come with being an entertainer and working in a fickle industry that's often feast or famine.
"I am in it for the marathon. I’m in it for the long haul," he explained when it comes to having a somewhat inconsistent time on the big and small screen. "I get a chance to go along the path that I am and I'm able to stop and smell the flowers and the roses and continue to move on."
Funny enough, in the way I wondered how Larenz hasn't gotten caught up, some of his boys have thought the same. “I've got friends who always say, 'Man, you hate being a celebrity!'” Larenz said laughing as he explained he never became an actor to be famous. It's clear being motivated by more than the superficial perks of life in the spotlight is what has allowed him to keep perspective when coming off of such an admiral role like Darius Lovehall in "Love Jones," for instance, or Congressman Tate in "Power."
"I always felt that celebrity and fame, it comes with something. It comes with a talent. It comes with a job or a profession, or it comes with a skill. It comes with something, right? That’s what it was for me and that’s what it still is. Whereas today you don’t have to have a skill. You don’t have to have a profession. You don’t have to necessarily have expertise in any one way or another. You don't have to be gifted or talented in any capacity. You don't have to have whatever, as long as you're pushing whatever is in the moment at the time, and I see a lot of moments happening," he said. "Unfortunately, those moments are what they are. That's why they are called moments. That's what it is. It’s a moment. And people don’t understand that's what it is."
Larenz's words made me think about my experiences interviewing celebrities over the past eight years. You have these moments of conversing with famous individuals only a select few people in the world will ever have access to and, at times, really connecting in a meaningful way that stays with you. For the celebrity, though, often that connection ends with the interview. They don't share it, retweet it, follow up with praise about how well you conveyed their words or shared their story. Your interaction was a moment and they move on. Then there's the reaction you get when you share your work with your network of followers and friends. Sometimes people are happier that you landed a particular interview than you are and they hype you up so much you feel like you're sitting on top of the world. Other times they really don't give a damn about who you talk to and it shows. The admiration fluctuates, it's the confidence you have in yourself and your work that has to remain steady.
I never got into media to talk to famous people -- or to try to be one myself. I wanted to make women feel more seen and less alone in their experiences. I wanted to stand out for my hard work, which is partly why I've started asking deeper questions when I do get the chance to talk to a celebrity these days. Yes, it's cool to be able to say I interviewed Tracee Ellis Ross, but it's even doper to share the meaningful exchange we had. Unfortunately, the way social media goes, doing the work doesn't always draw a following, but like Larenz, it has allowed me to follow my own path and not worry about the one others are forging.
As he said, "I am seeing a lot of people going fast, moving fast, going nowhere, but it's fine. You know, I'm not knocking it. It is what it is...You know, do what you got to do. Who am I to make that assessment or judgment or opinion? I just feel like, for me, it needs to be tied to something."
For me too. Check out our interview below.