When I started out in theater at age 19, the world was an amazing place for a young showgirl! I had danced all my life, so my 5-foot 4-inch frame was one big muscle. I looked very “exotic” and not “all American.” I was even told by agents, “We don’t quite know where to put you.” But I landed my first Broadway role just a year out of high school.
I learned the ins and outs of the business and finally had my big break as a leading lady on Broadway in Smokey Joe’s Café. That performance earned me a Tony Award nomination!
I had some amazing roles after that — including spending about seven years on and off doing Chicago — but as the years went by, the jobs became fewer and farther between. It was quite devastating, and I had to try to “reinvent” myself. When your life has been all about your looks and physical beauty, it’s hard to make the transition. Everything becomes a personal comment on you as an actress and a woman. My life, dreams, and goals changed. Not to mention my body! I had to ask myself some very hard questions and make a shift.
I have come out on the other side stronger, better, and more focused than ever. I have discovered the importance of the universe, friends, family, and pets. I’m happy.
In 2006, along with my second husband at the time, I opened BBraxton, a men’s grooming parlor in Harlem. We closed it three years later, but I reopened it in 2011 — after we’d gotten a divorce — and I made it another three years with that business before closing a second time. It had become too hard to keep it going while also trying to keep my theater career, too.
But at this point I am both too old and too young. I am between a rock and a hard place. I am now 61, but I don’t look 61. So when I am sent to audition for a part in my age range, I don’t look like they need me to look. But if you sit me next to a 40-year-old, I can only kinda sorta pass.
But this is not my sob story! I get tired of hearing the boohoo stories of women over 50! What I try to always keep in mind is that act 1 is done! Act 2 is new!
But that’s not to say that I am unsympathetic!
The last few years of my 50s were not good years for me. I was devastated when my husband told me he wanted a divorce. I thought I would never get through the nauseous feeling of “what do I do now that I’m not going to have that happily-ever-after marriage?” And I grew tired of seeing that sad look on people’s faces when I told them, “Well, yes, I’m going through my second divorce, and, no, I don’t have children.”
But I have come out on the other side stronger, better, and more focused than ever. I have discovered the importance of the universe, friends, family, and pets. I’m happy — and I still look damn good!
I do not have all the answers, but at least I’m open to — whatever! I realize I can still make a difference. I’m still figuring things out, and it’s not easy. I take it one nanosecond at a time and try to keep one foot in front of the other.