Phylicia Rashad is an icon to women around the world. Note that I just say “women,” not African American women or black women…The Cosby Show reached into households of every creed, and inspired people all around the world to laugh and love. It’s been almost twenty years since the show’s been off the air (how’s that for making ya feel old?). In her post-Cosby career, Phylicia Rashad returned to her first love – the theater. She turned in brilliant performances on stage and screen in A Raisin in the Sun, then made her directorial debut with a production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. Now she returns to the big screen as Ella McKnight, Common’s mother in the romantic comedy Just Wright.

When I was offered the opportunity to interview Mrs. Rashad, I literally squealed with excitement. I have held a longstanding admiration for both Phylicia and her sister Debbie Allen — confident, intelligent, beautiful, classy, talented women that they are. I didn’t get a one-on-one with Phylicia (it was a group interview, on the phone as she spent time at her mother’s house in South Carolina). Nevertheless, I was able to ask her some Afrobella-pertinent questions, and here’s what she had to say.

On the late, legendary Lena Horne: Now she was…she was an amazing human being. She was as fiery as she was beautiful. Mmm hmm. And that fire – that was a fire of intellect. A very keen intellect. She thought deeply about everything she did, and she felt deeply about everything she did. She was a person who was very loyal and devoted in her friendships. And she loved her family deeply. She was a woman who endured more than we’ll ever know – oh yes. More than we’ll ever know… And I considered myself very privileged to have met her, and to have spent time just talking with her.

On beauty advice for women who want to look as timelessly gorgeous as she does:

Sleep is your best friend, and water. Sleep and water are your best friends. I’m not a social drinker, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. And products – I use Sphatika. Sphatika is a line of beauty products that’s all natural and it has an essence of quartz crystal in it. The products are amazing, very good for all types of skin. Very good for sensitive skin. And most effective, it’s just so natural the skin loves it. Just absorbs it. Sphatika. Google it. It’s a Sanskrit word that means “crystal.”

On Michelle Obama:

I think that Michelle Obama is a fascinating human being. She is one of the most developed human beings I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. She is so completely comfortable in her skin. She has no hidden agenda, she’s not trying to prove any points. It’s wonderful to be in her presence…I think there are a great number of people who look at her with appreciation and respect and gratitude. I think she represents our country very well. I think she represents women of our country very, very well, because she is really what the American woman is about. The American woman IS intelligent, the American woman IS about personal development, intellectual integrity and the American woman IS mother. She is wife. She is woman. And that’s who she is. And she is that so…naturally. It’s just who she is. And if you ever have occasion to be in her presence, you know it immediately. Mmm hmmm.

On her fashion inspirations:

I look at the way a garment makes me feel. When I say the way it makes me feel, I mean…the way the fabrics make me feel. The way the cut of a garment makes me feel. Do I feel comfortable, first of all. I’m big on comfort. It’s not about being pinched up and pulled together and feeling like a trussed up turkey. Oh no, that will never do. I like garments that are extremely feminine, I like feminine clothing. And I like things that just grab me and say ooh, take me…I don’t go shopping every month. Sometimes I don’t shop for a whole year, because I have so many lovely things that I can interchange. I like to create a look. I like to create an outfit. I like to take something from here, over there and back yonder and put it together, and people say – where did you get that? Who are you wearing? I like to do that. I think it’s fun.

On hip hop:

Oh, I like ’em. I like – well. I’ll put it this way. I don’t like crass language. That really doesn’t move me at all. It says to me that someone doesn’t understand the power of the spoken word or the written word. It says to me that someone is without poetry. And I think that if those people who engage in that and think of that as the real expression, should go back and listen to some blues. Cause there’s real poetry there. My baby done left me and it’s minus 9 degrees outside. There are ways to say things that are just really really real. But I like the rhythms. And earlier hip hop I really liked alot. Remember that film Brown Sugar? Aw, baby now see I liked that. I liked that it had some musicality in it. Now all this bangin’ and clangin’, because the people have taken music education out of the school system – but you see still the creative spirit, it finds its way out in other ways. We really have to offer our young people musical instruction. Because all that bangin’ and clangin’ just says to me that music was taken out of the school system when these people were coming through. That’s all it says – it doesn’t say they’re not good people, it doesn’t say that these aren’t intelligent people – it just says that this was just not afforded to them.

On what attracted her to this role: The script was well written, I thought the concept was just great, and it was just so much fun! For the past few years I’ve been working in very dramatic productions on the stage, and this was an opportunity to lighten up again and I liked that.

On Just Wright: This is a romance film. And everybody’s gonna enjoy it. It is so good, it is so human, and so universal in its feelings. It really is… This was a great film to be a part of. The energy that was on the set transfers onto the screen. The chemistry of all the people who worked on this transfers to the screen. It is thoroughly enjoyable, and you can take anybody in your family to see it.

I was so honored to speak with Mrs. Rashad, and I wish her and this film all the best! Just Wright opens on May 14.


Bree says:
May 13, 2010, 7:39 am
Thank you for this article, I love Ms. Rashad. She's a fabulous American Icon.
Remnants says:
May 13, 2010, 7:55 am
I loove Phylicia Rashad! It will be nice to see her on the big screen. Glad you were able to interview her & share with us.
Dasheen Magazine says:
May 13, 2010, 8:08 am
This was a gem of an interview Bella! Very cool indeed is Ms. Rashad. Can't wait to check out 'Just Wright' with the hubby and friends.
Carol says:
May 13, 2010, 9:10 am
Afrobella, this is an amazing interview. Ms. Rashad is amazing. I think you said it best that she crossed the barriers as someone everyone can love. More importantly, she has managed to really be true to her self, her love of her craft and truly continue to be a woman of all colors and ages to look up to. What an amazing woman.
BlackBetty says:
May 13, 2010, 9:31 am
Fabulous article Bella. I can't wait to see the movie and what's next for Ms. Rashad.
1969 says:
May 13, 2010, 9:37 am
I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Rashad at our Sorority Regional Conference last year in New York. She is a gracious and lovely woman. The epitome of class and timeless elegance. Great interview Bella.
musicandwine says:
May 13, 2010, 9:38 am
ms. rashad's thoughts on music education, oddly enough, mirror rick james' opinions, ironic!
Erica Freeman says:
May 13, 2010, 10:08 am
I absolutely love Phylicia Rashad. She is a mother in my head and I love her for being the epitomy of a working mom on TV and breaking barriers for African American women in theater. She is a phenomenal woman and I thank you Bella for this interview.
Alisha says:
May 13, 2010, 11:37 am
Loved it! I should've added more pics to mine. I see we used a similar format. She was absolutely amazing. Last night I stayed up watching some of my favorite Cosby Show scenes on Youtube.
pets says:
May 13, 2010, 11:46 am
Have always liked seeing her and her sister - they seem to be onscreen just what they are offscreen. Congrats on another good post and to "meeting" Ms. Rashad.
Nia says:
May 13, 2010, 12:04 pm
Thank you for another great post. I am in awe/luv w/Ms Rashad! Reading this post-I could actually hear her voice speak to us. She is full of wisdom and confidence...I met her mom years ago. The Allen women all have a sense of elegance and intelligence. ...PS. She and the other cast carried PDiddy in Raisn in the SUn. He can not act!! Yet, she never said, "Get this boy off stage and bring in a real actor." Now, thats class.:)
Victoria says:
May 13, 2010, 12:18 pm
Amazing interview! Thank you for sharing it with us!
Cocoa Fly says:
May 13, 2010, 3:55 pm
Great interview! It's funny you asked her about our First Lady, and in a way Mrs. Obama reminds me of Claire Huxtable.
warrior11209 says:
May 13, 2010, 4:36 pm
Great interview! I absolutely love Ms Rashad.
Melanie C. says:
May 13, 2010, 4:53 pm
Mrs. Rashad epitomizes what I and many of my friends aspire to be. Beautiful, intelligent, elegant, inspired, radiant, classy, and timeless. LOVE her!!!
julia says:
May 13, 2010, 4:59 pm
I love her. Love, love, love. You know her and her sister Debbie are fluent in Spanish because her mother moved them from Texas to Mexico for a time so they could experience a bit of life with out the the rampant racism of the time? love, she is an amazing woman and has always been an inspiration of mine.
Charrise says:
May 13, 2010, 9:36 pm
I literally made a shreek when I saw that pic with Michelle Obama, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Mrs. Rashad! I would have died that moment if I was in that room! I wanna be just like her one day! Sucha icon, such beauty, such class! Thanks Afrobella!
Little Miss V says:
May 16, 2010, 9:27 am
I love Phylicia! I was blessed to have met her a few months ago when she was in cat on a hot tin roof and she was soo lovely and friendly. She's absolutely stunning in real life. An incredible woman!
Robin says:
May 17, 2010, 11:47 am
Thanks Bella!! I've always loved her. She reminds me of my mom.
Dee Dee says:
May 18, 2010, 10:53 am
I absolutely love Phylicia Rashad and always have. (As well as sis Debbie Allen) Everyone always said my Mom looked like Phylicia & she really did. She has a beautiful spirit.
Tiara says:
May 19, 2010, 10:14 am
I love this woman thanks for the interview would love to see her do more movies or another T.V show
Jazz says:
May 20, 2010, 11:01 pm
Her smugness annoys me.
Mariah says:
November 2, 2010, 11:11 pm
I absolutely LOVE to hear Ms. Phylicia Rashad speak. I can just sit and watch her interviews all day. She has such beauty, grace, elegance, intelligence, class etc. I Love her. Great interview!
FanofTheCosbyShow says:
November 10, 2010, 11:51 am
I loved Ms. Rashad on The Cosby Show. She was the best t.v. mom out there. She did it all, (Clair), from being a wife to a mother of five to being a mother-in-law of Elvin & Martin grandmother of twins Winnie & Nelson and step-grandmother of one, Olivia. A successful lawyer. Her and Dr. Cosby, made a great television couple out there for eight seasons as Dr. Heathcliff "Cliff Huxtable & Clair Olivia Hanks Huxtable. Even, after the show ended, they also made a great television couple on Cosby in the late 90`s as Lucus & Ruth. I was so glad to see them back on a television series, Cosby. So, thank you Ms. Rashad for all that you do as a wonderful actress and a rolemodel for young women out there that looks up to her.
tom says:
June 29, 2011, 10:22 am
The Cosby Show was my fav show as I grew up in the 80's...Finally a comedy sitcom that didn't portray the parents to look stupid and dumb and kids spoiled and sarcastic...Ms Rashad always fascinated and impressed me with her talent, charm and breath-taking beauty.