Interview with CIERA PAYTON | I Emanate Outside, That Which I Choose To Radiate From Inside
Sometimes we live our lives and behave based on what we think other peoples’ expectations are. We do a lot to please them, seeking their approval and by doing that we are simply giving away our own power. On the other hand, pushing against anything or anyone is also not a good idea as it doesn’t bring the desired results, which in essence is for the simple reason to feel good.
Embracing the whole of who we are, owning every emotion we feel within ourselves and re-direct our attention towards things that feel best, is where our true power comes from. Feeling love can only emanate love. Feeling compassion is seeing others in their fullest potential of well-being. Looking forward to things that feel good, is the best contribution to ourselves, hence our beautiful Planet.
Allowing others to be is honoring everyone’s choice no matter how different we might think or be from each other. And it comes first from allowing ourselves to align with God/Source, meaning connect to the energy of love and well-being that is always present within. The variety of thinking between all of us is an opportunity to clarify our preferences. It’s like the dance of diverse energies that create our own, personal worlds. What we all do have in common, is that we all want to love and feel the love.
Dr. Wayne Dyer cited in one of his books the phrase of Swami Muktananda, who said: “Feeling good is feeling God. Feeling God is feeling good.” Whatever we give to ourselves, it is what we give to others.
Artist Ciera Payton, who can be seen as Lyli on the BET’s Tyler Perry series The Oval, says: “If you are radiating inwardly, then you are sure to shine on the outside.”
This interview with Ciera will inspire you to reflect on your life’s journey, as she shares her own. You will also discover her experience of working with Tyler Perry, and the one-woman show she has written, Michael’s Daughter.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Ciera Payton?
I’m a woman, artist, teacher, and student of life. I’ve been on TV and in films, I’ve written my own one-woman show titled Michael’s Daughter which led to me opening my non-profit foundation, The Michael’s Daughter Foundation. I enjoy all the beauty that life has to offer and I’m a proud New Orleans native. In general, I’d say that I’m a being having an amazing human experience!
- How did growing up in such a vibrant city as New Orleans influenced your sense of artistic expression?
I think there’s a pulse in New Orleans that just can’t be ignored. It’s magical, alluring, indulging and fun, with a hint of danger to it. All of those things influenced me to test my limits of daring to be bold enough to pursue a career in acting. New Orleanians know how to make it and make something out of nothing. We are resilient people; a city often that is forgotten and misunderstood, but who knows how to celebrate life no matter what. That’s what I learned from my hometown and I try to take that spirit with me wherever I go.
- Auditioning is part of an actor’s practice, which often comes with the opposite result of what the talent desires. How has the process of auditioning expanded your awareness and contributes to your personal growth?
I know a lot of actors who don’t like the audition process. I used to be one of them. It was oftentimes discouraging. But I realized that I was going about it the wrong way. I had to shift my mindset around it and go in with joy and appreciation for it, especially on those days that I would have two or three auditions. I would say to myself, “This is the only time I can play three different characters in one day so have fun and enjoy it.”
The process itself has helped me to be less result-oriented and more process-oriented. For me, that’s a huge challenge; I always prefer the outcome rather than the process. But auditioning has helped me to slow down and enjoy the revving up to prepare for getting into a role. I try to use that experience in my day to day life. Slow down and enjoy the process, to me, is truly the key to success.
- On Tyler Perry’s drama series The Oval, you portray Lily Winthrop, the personal fashion designer of the First Lady and wife to the Chief of Staff. How would you describe your emotional journey during the process of becoming your character?
It was a very emotional journey for me because as Lilly’s character was evolving and growing, so was I. This role came to me as I was shifting in my womanhood and career. I’ve had moments where I was afraid to honor and live in my strength and power and often times I didn’t know how strong I was and what my femininity was all about. Portraying Lilly helped to open up my strength and honor the power within me. It was scary because I think that as we transition into adulthood there’s no more hand-holding or blatant guidance, you have to trust yourself and your gut. You are your own guidance system. Lilly taught me to trust and let go of my fears and for that, I’m forever grateful.
- How have the dynamics of the relationship between Lily and her husband, Donald Winthrop, evolved after she gets involved within the presidential family life?
I think tremendously. I imagine that prior to them working for the White House and First Family, their lives were a little bit private and quiet. Now it’s on a national and global scale which makes the stakes even higher for both of them. It’s a crazy and wild ride for sure!
- What is the most important relationship one could have with?
I think the most important relationship one could have is with your true self. That person inside of you is being guided by a high power and spending time to get to know that person is key! Now more than ever is the perfect time to get quiet and go inside yourself. That’s where God speaks to me and if I’m quiet enough, I can listen and learn some things.
- How would you describe the connection between Lily and the First Lady?
I think their relationship is strictly professional. However, it does evolve in a dynamic way later in the season, which viewers will have to tune in to find out how!
- What is Lily’s core role within the context of The Oval narrative, what does she represents?
She represents the audience and the only person who is outside of this world of secrets, conspiracy, lies, and drama! She’s discovering things as the audience discovers them. She’s a set of eyes for the audience and is adapting every step of the way. In a moral sense, she represents a person who can make it despite the fact that they came from nothing. She also represents the person show didn’t know how strong they were until they were faced with an impossible obstacle and must get through it. She’s the strength and empathy of the show.
- When The Oval gets confirmed for its second season, generally speaking, what are your expectations about the direction of the show?
I think the show will be awesome and the plot will get thicker and juicier. I love Tyler’s imagination and it’s lots of fun for us actors to act out what he writes! For Lily, I’m looking forward to her learning the game of politics and mastering it. I think she’ll be even tougher and stronger in season two.
- It’s not the first time your work with the genius Tyler Perry. How has this experience fueled your personal and professional expansion, and what have you learned about yourself?
Working with Tyler Perry has been a dream! Being around greatness like that is just simply inspiring. He challenges me to be better and to do better, even without saying it. I have so many aspirations and dreams, and working with someone like him allows me to see that those things are all possible. But it doesn’t come without doing the work.
Tyler works so hard and it pays off. When I’m chipping away at things with the expectation to get results faster, that’s when I become more frustrated. Instead, I try to remind myself to have faith and allow things to take time. That time while I’m in the waiting period is when I truly allow myself to grow and expand. That’s what I’ve learned by just being in presence. He has been a force in this industry for years and he’s not stopping anytime soon.
Professionally, Tyler has given me my first series regular role on a TV series. I’ve been working towards that, wishing and praying for it for about ten years and he was the one to hire me in that position and for that, I will be forever grateful to him!
- You will appear on Blumhouse/Amazon studios, supernatural thriller Crones. What is the plot behind this film, and who you will be playing?
Oh, there’s so much I can’t say about the film yet! It’ll be released later this year and is an incredible thriller that will leave viewers fully entertained!
- What other exciting projects you are currently working on?
I’m in the midst of prepping for my annual summer camp/fall session with The Michael’s Daughter Foundation. I’m very excited about it!
- One of your other passions is belly dancing. How do you feel when the music blends with your body movement embracing in a dance of inner energies?
For a very long time, while growing up and even at times now, I have felt uncomfortable in my body. I was always taught that femininity is bad or dangerous. But while belly dancing I feel so feminine and my sensuality isn’t weaponized or oppressed. It’s celebrated and has oftentimes aided in my personal healing. I’ve cried during belly dancing classes before. They say creativity lies in your hips, and when in the past, I felt out of my body or uncomfortable, moving my hips created a release in me that was so healing. It may be hard for some to understand but for me, it’s a fun workout along with liberating and freeing my body.
- Another evidence of your creative expression is Sincerely Cosmetics; your own health-conscious cosmetic line. In addition to taking care of ourselves externally, how do you embrace your innate beauty and well-being when you want to reconnect with yourself?
I think you reflect what’s on the inside. If you are radiating inwardly, then you are sure to shine on the outside. Sincerely Cosmetics is an expression of that for me. I wanted to create a line of cosmetics that was stripped of harsh chemicals and ingredients. So whenever I would wear the lipsticks, I wouldn’t have the worry of toxic ingredients entering my body. Clean beauty is important to me and I’m constantly seeking ways to improve our cosmetics while giving the ultimate beauty benefits. There’ll be more to come from Sincerely Cosmetics later this year!
- The Michael’s Daughter Foundation is a non-profit organization that you manage, providing an annual media arts summer camp for youth impacted by incarceration in Panorama City, CA. What is your personal inspiration behind this humanitarian cause?
I wanted to create an organization that catered to youth and families dealing with the complexities of having a loved behind bars and/or impacted by substance abuse. This is something very dear to my heart as my father and some of my family members, who I grew up around, had battles with addiction, which landed them in jail. It was tough growing up and experiencing that. Thank God, I was introduced to the arts and had teachers who taught me how to channel my pain into my creativity rather than falling into the same lifestyle.
So as I started taking on teaching jobs while also writing and performing my one-woman show Michael’s Daughter, I knew there was a need for foundations such as The Michael’s Daughter Foundation. I wrote and performed a one-woman show titled Michael’s Daughter and each night I would meet people from all walks of life telling me how they related to my story. They were so touched and often times encouraged me to keep telling my story and make sure that youth get to see it and experience it.
When I performed the show in San Francisco a group of teenagers from an alternative high school got to watch it. It was one of these most impactful moments of my life. That’s when I decided to create this organization so that more arts programs and scholarships could be available to youth and families. It’s important to have that kind of resources out there so that all of our people can thrive and realize their best selves.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is The Essence of a Joyful Living. How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
On my desk, in my office, I have a framed statement that I wrote that simply says, “Live In Joy & Gratitude Daily”. It’s my personal reminder.
Joy throughout anything is key. Life just doesn’t work when you focus on or give energy to what’s not working or to the negative. I try to seek joy in every situation and experience. Of course, I’m not perfect at it. I have my moments, especially during this quarantine period, ha! But I counter it by doing the things that make me feel good; mediation, dancing, singing aloud, watching a good movie, or just by simply taking a nap. Finding joy in little things is what can you get through to the bigger things. So take a moment to just be in joy!
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement?
I love Abraham! And I fully stand by this statement. If you enjoy the process, find joy in the creation of the thing you want, then yea, you can do it all and have it all. And sometimes the “all” isn’t even where the joy lives, it’s oftentimes in the journey, which makes all of those desires just come naturally. That’s my take on that phrase and thank you for reminding me of it.