Chantel Riley Believes Your Words Have Power

Photographed by Danielle Kosann

Chantel Riley, star of the Suits spin-off Pearson (Season Finale airing tonight), talks Jamaican food, Viola Davis, and her love of Marvel movies…

From start to finish what would be your ideal food day?

My ideal food day would be:

Breakfast – Mom’s Ackee and Saltfish with fried dumplin (it’s a Jamaican dish).

Lunch – Dad’s veggie soup

Snack – Puff Puff (Nigerian pastry)

Dinner – Escovitch fish with rice and peas, bammy and fried plantain (Also Jamaican)

Dessert – Warm Apple Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream.

How do you practice beauty from the inside out?

I am a strong believer in the idea that your words have power. I take time to pray and meditate. It allows me to focus on the good things God has blessed me with. It forces me to practice gratefulness. I believe seeing the beauty in your present self is a great way to manifest how it affects you and others outwardly.

What are your morning and nightly beauty routines?

For both in the morning and night I try to follow the “10 Step Korean Beauty Routine. Although sometimes I get lazy and skip a bunch of steps, I make sure to at least cleanse, tone, apply essence, eye cream and then face cream with sunscreen.

What were you always insecure about growing up, and how did you overcome it?

As I entered into my teenage years and entered puberty, I began to develop cellulite. I used to be very embarassed to wear shorts or bathing suits etc. It had been my most hated part of my body for a long time. I have just not too long ago, learned to embrace every inch of my skin and that even even though I may not be as smooth as I want, that it doesnt take away from the person that I am.

How do you always start your day?

In the morning when I wake up, I usually take some time to look out the window and thank God for another day. Prayer is a big part of my life as it helps center me. I then brush my teeth, wash my face and prepare to go to the gym. After my workout I have a smoothie and get the work day started.

What movie had the biggest effect on you and why? 

The movie that had the biggest effect on me would be Marvel films. Ever since I was a kid, I was interested in comics and anime. The Marvel Universe has always been my favorite. I remember always wanting to be a super hero. I dreamed of which “mutant” I would want to be if I could and be a part of the X – Men to help save lives. That dream still stays with me. Now that I’m an actor, I continue to dream and hope for the opportunity to play a character in Marvel Franchise.

Who would you like to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?

It is a dream of mine to work with Viola Davis for acting and Solange for music. Both women have such an incredible presence and intellect for their craft. I would settle to just be in the room and watch them work!

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received? The best?

The best advice I got was from my mentor Olunike Adeliyi. She introduced me to the acting world and convinced me to go an open casting call that would change my life. That call was for Disney’s The Lion King. Thanks to her help, my first gig was playing Nala.

The worst advice I ever received was to go back to working my 9-5 job after my run on The Lion King in Hamburg, Germany. Glad to say I DID NOT listen!

Is there an issue right now you’re most passionate about? What is it and why?

There a are plenty of issues that I am passionate about. From police brutality to womens rights to education for children in low income communities in Nigeria ( In which I partnered with The Khan Foundation to help build schools) But one that I discuss a lot with my peers would be be diversity behind the scenes.

I’m glad that productions are stepping up and beginning to be more inclusive to people of colour in front of the camera but there is still much to be done behind it. On most shows I work on the majority of crew are white males. In the hair and makeup trailers, they are white females. As a woman of colour with brown skin and naturally kinky curly hair, its disappointing to walk onto a set with the angst as to whether or not someone knows how to style my crown, or if I need to walk with my personal makeup bag. More inclusion needs to be done.

If you could host a dinner party with any five people living or dead, who would be there and why?

My dinner party would include Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, my Grandma, Michelle Obama and Issa Rae.

These are all people either I admired growing up or wanted to meet now in my adult years.

I’ve always loved Michael Jackson’s music. He was a true performer that I could watch for hours. Whitney Houston to me, has one of the best voices ever. I used to dream of watching them live, so having a private performance would be so fulfilling!

My Grandma was the glue that kept us together. I miss her so much. I would do anything to see her again. I could tell her for her sacrifice, introduce her to jer great grandkids and just lay next to her like I used to while watcing Figure Skating. She loved it!

Michelle Obama is so powerful, confident and sure of herself. I would ask her to take me under her wing.

Issae Rae is that best friend you wish you had. All that she has accomplished is not only impressive, it’s everything The Culture needed for TV. I would also ask her to put me in one of her projects!

If you could put a quote on a tee shirt to sum up your current mood and mode, what would it be?

“Something good is about to happen”

– God

Chantiel Riley, photographed at The Jane Hotel in New York, NY

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