‘OITNB’ Star Samira Wiley Like You’ve Never Seen Her Before!
The petite actress plays fan favorite, Poussey Washington, who is just as well known for her signature cut. In an interview with beauty site MimiChatter, Wiley touches on everything from being ready to change her hair, how her style has evolved, coming out to her parents about her sexuality and the pressures of Hollywood beauty.
Wiley cut her hair into a teeny weeny afro (TWA) right before she began studying at Juilliard.
“I’ve had my hair short for a really long time—it’s been nine years,” said Wiley.
“Before I cut it, I had long hair that was everything from permed to straight. I remember when I got into Juilliard—which was just crazy to me, that I would be studying at a school like that—the choice to cut all my hair off was really symbolic for me. It felt like I was making the choice to have a new beginning. It’s the same really for a lot of African American girls at that age—you see a trend of them going back to their natural hair—that was definitely what I was chasing at that time. And I didn’t really go back [to long hair] because it felt so good.”
Little did Wiley know, that haircut was going to be central to her character.
However, is ready for a change in the hair department which is what she plans to do when “Orange Is the New Black,” comes to an end.
“I am looking forward to whenever the show comes to a close—whenever that is—to be able to have another one of those new beginnings. I’m looking forward to growing my hair, and doing different things with it.”
Wiley was able to try new things with her hair during the MIMI photo shoot where she wore different colored wigs that were styled into choppy bobs and lobs.
She gives credit to her mother and older sister for her beauty evolution as they introduced her to different body and hair oils and inspire her to switch up her look.
“My mom is super fabulous, and I remember her telling me at 13, ‘You can start wearing makeup now,'” recalls Wiley.
“And the funny thing is, I didn’t take her up on it!”
Wiley has great skin and she credits that to not wearing makeup every day and letting her skin breathe.
“To be honest, whenever I go to shoots or I’m on set, it really makes makeup special and allows me to have so much more fun with it—I don’t wear it on an everyday basis, because I like my skin to breathe.”
Wiley grew up in Washington, D.C. and both her mother and father are Baptist preachers. Many would think this would be cause for disaster when you’re someone struggling with your sexuality and have to come out to your parents. Thankfully, this was never Wiley’s experience.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear what you hear about so many people in the [LGBT] community—you know, everything from parents telling their children that they are going to hell, to parents literally denying who their child is. I honestly feel like that is worse [than non-acceptance], because you have gone through so much at that point to accept yourself in society, and you muster the courage to be able to come out to your parents, and it’s completely denied.”
She takes her responsibility as a public figure in the LGBT community very seriously and according to cast mate and friend, Dascha Polanco, Wiley is “very accepting of everyone.”
“I think that what comes along with my visibility is a responsibility, and I don’t take that lightly. I want to make sure that any young person or anyone really who is looking up to me—who sees a glimpse of who I am as a person—that they see no shame, that they see pride, and that I’m truly unabashed about the person that I am.”
Wiley is currently in a relationship with “Orange Is the New Black” writer, Lauren Morelli. They keep their relationship private aside from a couple Instagram selfies. Wiley does have to deal with the stereotypes people put on lesbian relationships such as the labels “lipstick” or “tomboy,” but she doesn’t let it affect her.
“I don’t really have a word for myself, or a category that I put myself in. I don’t think about it too much, I just wear what feels good. If I can look in the mirror with whatever I have on, if it makes me stand a certain way, if it makes me smile, then I don’t care whether it’s from this end of the spectrum or the other end. I remember this belief: That Sunday is for God, and that you wear your best for God, your most glamorous dresses on Easter Sunday, and feeling like a million bucks. And growing up and learning more about myself, I feel like life is all about finding the middle, so I have gone back and forth to different styles, from girly to dressing completely like—as we would say in society and for lack of better words—like a “boy.'”
Wiley stands at 5′ 3″ and is a size 0, but her petite frame hasn’t stopped her from being a victim to the Hollywood Photoshop game.
“I was at a photo shoot and one of the people who was helping me try on different clothes—I had an outfit on—and she goes, ‘Oh don’t worry, so-and-so is a whiz with Photoshop.’ She was referencing some part of my body and I couldn’t believe it!”
“It just made me more aware of Hollywood— Oh my God, how are these girls supposed to love themselves?” said Wiley.
How are they supposed to feel any pride or feel like they can even achieve anything that is put in front of them?”
Despite the issues Hollywood has with body image, Wiley loves herself and knows what makes her happy.
“I do love myself, and what we need to strive for is young people loving themselves [too]. Because you can’t move forward—you can’t have people love you, you can’t look at other people and accept them for who they are—unless you completely love yourself.”