Every so often, there is a famous woman that somehow finds a way to bring out the celeb stalker in me. I check for her on the blogs and follow all her social media accounts. She’s one of those girls who, in my mind, is my best friend and we go shopping together and talk about boys and argue over who wore the cutest brunch outfit.
It’s harmless, y’all, I swear! Just a little girl crush.
While aimlessly channel surfing on a rainy Monday night, I was taken aback by the gorgeous, glowing skin and doll-like features of Antoinette Robertson. A cast member on the CW’s hit show Hart of Dixie, she plays Lynly, a charming young Southern belle. My latest girl crush is a young star on the rise and I am so honored she decided to sit with me for a little dishing.
EBONY: Your life is so crazy right now, but it’s a good crazy.
Antoinette Robertson: You know my life is super exciting [right now]. In regard to the show, I actually did a self-taped submission, and of course you hope that there’s a chance that you’ll get it. But for them to book me, and then say, “Hey! You have to move to L.A in 24 hours” was crazy. But you know, earlier this year, I did a role on ABC’s Zero Hour and that was my like my first recurring guest star on a big primetime show. So for them to take a chance on me was insane. It’s a very interesting business, especially for women of color, and I feel like to have a blessing like this role is just a dream come true and I just cant wait to see what’s next.
EBONY: I felt a sense of relief to see another brown girl on a hit TV show.
AR: The fact that they could’ve gone so many different ways with this role. But for me to be a dark-skinned girl at that and it not be an issue of any kind was amazing. I can’t tell you how many roles I missed out on because they were like “Ehh, maybe we should go with a lighter hue or someone who looked of mixed ethnicity.”
EBONY: Have you experienced a producer to actually say that to you they’re going to go with somebody lighter?
AR: People would never come outright and say,“We’re going with someone lighter.” They would say, “You’re beautiful for a dark-skinned girl.” I just never really understood why I couldn’t just be beautiful and dark skinned as opposed to saying it as if the majority of dark-skinned women are not beautiful. That was more my issue when I was modeling with a couple clients to be perfectly honest.
EBONY: It’s so shocking that people still say that nowadays. I can’t remember when I was told that directly but I do remember someone saying, “You’re a pretty brown girl.” It does stick out because you’re like why can’t I just be a pretty girl? So, I definitely get that. Just the notion of it is just awkward.
AR: It’s definitely a weird experience coming from people within my race and people outside of my race as well. I don’t understand the statement. On a whole, I just feel like it represents ignorance to the greatest degree. There are individuals that believe this is a compliment and I have moments where of course I feel some type of way about it but I also have moments where I feel like I don’t need to address it because it’ll just become something more than it needs to be. Your ignorance is yours. I’m blessed and I’m highly favored. I don’t have time to sit down and explain to you why that’s not a compliment. I’m gonna pray for you and you’ll figure it out. But, I’m not going to let you steal my joy. I’ll just say thank you and keep it moving.
EBONY: What’s your background?
AR: I was born in New York but I was raised between West Palm Beach and Jamaica. I went to Stonybrook University and I have a degree in Chemistry. But when I decided to focus on acting, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to portray educated, beautiful Black women and not stereotypes and I felt like for a very long time, I was passing a lot of scripts that either wanted me naked or they wanted me portray a stereotype. So, when I got Zero Hour, I was playing a 17-year old virgin who became the next vessel for the second coming of Christ. I was a South African orphan who was 17 and bringing about this holy vessel if that were possible. Now, I’m playing a sassy Southern-belle who might be 25 and she might have moments where she’s a little scandalous, but her heart is in the right place. I gravitated to both of these parts because it’s completely different and I wanted to stretch my muscles. I figured, if I try everything that interests me, then eventually I’ll figure out exactly what I want to hone in on
EBONY: I know you began as a model, but when it came to acting—what was your training?
AR: I’m a little ‘type A’ when it comes to working on my craft. I might not wake up every morning and do vocal warm-ups, but I do work with a vocal coach, and I work on movement by working out so I can keep my body in shape. Originally I studied with a woman named Nina Morano. But I eventually sought out William Esper himself because I wanted to learn from the master. Studying under him for two years was one of the best experiences of my life. Since that, I’ve become a bit of a thrill seeker: I do a lot of stuff that scares the crap out of me because for a very long time, I was afraid to do anything that scared me.
EBONY: Why do you feel you grew up trained to be afraid of life?
AR: I grew up in a household that was very safe. I’m Caribbean, so, everything is very safe. You go to church on Sunday and you don’t jump out of planes and you don’t ski at 50 mph and you don’t zipline. There are things that you just don’t do because they’re not safe. I felt like as I was approaching my late 20’s, I said “You know what? I need to start doing things that make me feel alive.” It doesn’t matter what they are, but I need to take chances because I’ll never know if I love them or not if I never takes these risks.
EBONY: What was one of the first risks you took when entering the acting business?
AR: I decided to take a chance to perform at an Off-Broadway play and there were hundreds of other people. I felt like I was terrified to audition for that play, and I forced myself to do it anyway. We’re narcissistic and we’re never sure if we’re good enough. I remember thinking “I don’t think I can do it” and then I booked it. I don’t know if I’ve done enough. I think it was just a matter of forcing myself to take a chance and to feel the fear and push through anyway and see what happens. That in and of itself has been the biggest education that I’ve had when it came to working on my craft.
EBONY: The last thing I put in my vision board on Tuesday was “take risks.” You’ve had experience and you’ve been in the industry for a minute, it’s just good to know that people in that industry are still human and still have fears.
AR: The biggest thing that I’ve realized about myself is that I’m flawed. I’m a work in progress and I’m trying to get it together just like everyone else. I make horrible mistakes. For such a long time I did everything that was expected of me. I got a degree in Chemistry, knowing very well but was not my passion. It’s not what made me happy. I knew that if I continued along this path, I would keep doing things to people please and I was going to end up being miserable. There are so many people that get stuck in this world and they forget what makes them happy.
EBONY: It sounds like you decided to change your life and you did, for the better.
AR: I had a moment when I lived in New York and I was so depressed. I couldn’t understand it. Living in New York, it was cold and people were just living to survive. It was depressing. I know a lot of people who passed away really young who were unhappy and I’m like tomorrow is promised to no one. At the end of the day, if you are so blessed to have another day on this Earth, then you should be doing something you love.
EBONY: You’re inspiring. Your spirit is felt. And you’re encouraging other young Black girls, and girls of color through your words.
AR: I just always felt like I wanted to do things that made me feel comfortable in my own skin. But it’s been this wild journey to it. This what was happening for a long time: if you had a little bit of a booty or hips, they wanted you to go to King magazine. I got to a point where I would tuck my hips under and you wouldn’t see my butt. I would do cardio like nobody’s business so I would have as little curves as possible to minimize what seemed like unavoidable objectification. And as Black women we are worth more than our figures.
EBONY: What do you love most about your character, Lynly?
AR: I just love the way she’s being portrayed. All of us—every woman that you know has different sides to them. They have that sweet innocent side and then they have that, “I’m a cat and I’m going to pounce on you” side. Everyone has different sides so being able to see the innocence in her and to see that she can also be a sexual being without being objectified is why I really gravitated to the role. At the end of the day, none of us are just one thing. But I’m blessed beyond measure and I really hope readers will at least tune into the show to support. It’s one thing that really helps keep Black actors and actresses on the small and big screen.
-Melanie Yvette Martin