May 02, 2013
By Chelsea Battle
LAWT Contributing Writer
Those who know and love Kellita Smith as “Wanda Mac”, the hot wife who performed alongside the late Bernie Mac on Fox’s The Bernie Mac Show, will be happy to learn that the star is maintaining her staying power—both on and behind the screen. For starters she is producing quality media, with a new movie and radio show in the works. On screen she can be seen starring as the First Lady in BET’s newly acquired television series, The First Family. On the grassroots level, her advocacy against domestic violence is also noteworthy.
“I came from a single parent home and I definitely was exposed to violence,” Smith reveals solemnly. “I just recently did a PSA [Public Service Announcement] for One Billion Women Rising. As women we are beautiful in so many different ways. Part of what I was able to do with this campaign was to really reveal a little bit about myself, because sometimes a lot of the roles I play allow me to be sophisticated or allow me to seem polished and refined. I’m playing roles where the marriages work. The truth of the matter is that I really come from the opposite.”
Smith’s work with One Billion Women Rising, a women’s advocacy organization that focuses on domestic violence and rape, is of considerable importance to her for more reasons than one. The California native, who was raised in Oakland’s inner city, openly reveals that she fell victim to domestic violence and molestation well beyond her adolescence, up until she was 24 years old.
“I grew up without a father around pimps and hoes, dope dealers and athletes, so my self-image was being destroyed,” reveals Smith. “And if you never address the shame that is created from molestation, then as a woman it’s hard for you to realize your true value.”
Smith credits acting with saving her life. Given that actors are constantly required to delve deep into the emotional realm, running away from ones own emotions is virtually impossible. Thus Smith believes that her personal tragedies are essentially her gifts that help to create more depth within her craft.
Most recently her gift for acting has been put to use in the family-friendly television series, The First Family. Co-starring alongside Christopher Duncan [The Jamie Foxx Show], who plays President Johnson, Smith plays First Lady Katherine Johnson. Given the green light to develop 104 episodes, the show follows an African American first family through their day-to-day routines as they navigate life in the White House. Other cast members include Jackee Harry, Gladys Knight, and Marla Gibbs.
“It’s a comedy but we also have to honor the fact that we do have a Black family in the White House, so it’s not corny. It’s representing them, but at the same time it’s giving you a little bit of art and also giving you jokes,” Smith shares.
The humble yet ever provocative Smith also has a slew of behind the scenes projects in the works. Her reserved, albeit outspoken, charm has enabled her to create her own radio talk show called “Let’s Get Naked.” Soon to be online, the streamed show will feature Smith and three others as they discuss sex, love, relationships, and everything in between. She is also producing what promises to be an exciting film, a work based on the story of a childhood friend she grew up with who was the youngest drug kingpin in Oakland.
“I think that where you’re from is very essential to who you have an opportunity to become,” Smith reflects. “Growing up in the inner city there were a lot of choices that did take me down a lot of different roads, which is actually a good thing because you’re able to see that you can make better choices.”
Smith’s current offerings stand as evidence that she is indeed making good choices. In parting she leaves us with a quote from the 19th century theater director Constantin Stanislavski: “Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art,” which she interprets as, “Don’t get caught up in rewards that art can give you; love the fact that you are a creator and that you are brilliant.”