La La Anthony swears it’s a coincidence that power is both the subject of her forthcoming book, The Power Playbook, and her new television show, Power, which also stars 50 Cent.
“It was a coincidence!” she says, laughing. “You know, I just found that so funny. One day, I was like, I’m on a show called Power and I’m writing a book called The Power Playbook! How insane is that? Definitely a coincidence.”
Here it should probably be noted that during our 27-minute interview, Anthony said the full title of her new book seven times (and said the full name of her last book, New York Times-best-selling The Love Playbook, three times). You or I might get tired after once or twice, and say “the book,” or “this one,” or some other shorthand. For Anthony, it was The Power Playbook every single time. (The Power Playbook: Rules For Independence, Money and Success is out in May, by the way.) So you’ll forgive me if I took her promises about branding accidents with a grain of salt.
Then again, one of the sections in Anthony’s new book is “The Power of Your Brand,” which is something La La (or Alani, or just La to friends) understands very well. That makes sense, as her career– first a radio host, then an MTV veejay, a highly in-demand reality show reunion special host, a reality star, actress, and best-selling author–demands intense personal branding mojo.
Still, in many ways The Power Playbook, is underwhelming. It’s full of awkward constructions, like this one on her husband, the NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony: “He is naturally incredibly athletic and specifically talented at basketball since before he can remember.” The very first chapter begins with a completely invented Einstein quote, “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” To be fair, while it is verifiably not something ever said publicly by Albert Einstein, nor does it even really sound like something he might have possibly said, it is often erroneously attributed to him. To be even more fair, I don’t literally know every single thing Einstein ever said. Maybe he made lots of sports metaphors when he was unwinding after a hard day of nuclear and/or astrophysics. It’s impossible to know.
And in any case, you know what La would say about this kind of petty backbiting? It’s not power. In fact, she did say it (unlike the above quote, which, again, was neither said by her during our interview, nor by Albert Einstein at any point in his life). “It’s not powerful to beat others up,” she tells me. “It’s not powerful to take away someone else’s self-esteem because you’re dealing with your own issues in your own self.”
You know what? She’s right. She’s actually right about a lot of stuff. In fact, The Power Playbook is full of surprisingly good advice about how to conduct your career, how to carry yourself, and how to feel good about your life. I don’t know why I found that surprising. La La Anthony grew up in a single-parent household in Atlanta, occasionally sleeping in her relatives’ living rooms. She never attended college. She managed to turn an unpaid internship at a local radio station into cohosting a popular show with fellow-DJ Chris Bridges (later Ludacris), then a gig as an MTV veejay, then various jobs hosting reality show reunions, then her own reality show, and now a burgeoning career as a serious actress.
So when La drops science, we should listen to her as surely as we should listen to old Uncle Albert. If it’s good enough for to get her a speaking gig at the White House, after all, it’s probably good enough for us. Here then are three of La’s best pieces of career and branding advice:
La has had something like five different careers in her short life. And people have been predicting their demise of her since its very beginning.
“I’ve always not been afraid to try something new,” she says. “When I was on the radio, people said that was all it was gonna be. I’m always trying to defy the odds, and when I do it, I always prepare myself.”
Still, she admits, change is scary. “When you find the most successful people–and a lot of them are friends of mine–nobody says it was easy. It was uncomfortable. Kevin Hart said that after Soul Plane his career tanked and no one would even answer his phone calls and he had to live check to check.”
In the book, she also talks about Mark Wahlberg (formerly Marky Mark, he of the Funky Bunch), and her friend Gigi, whom La writes was “known as one of the best strippers in the game,” but transformed herself into the owner of her own pole-dancing aerobics studio.
As La writes, “It is so powerful to be able to change your life and change your future.”
A lot of us have a vision of the person we want to be–for me, it’s 1993 Harry Connick Jr.–but what we forget is that there are a lot of steps between there and here. And some of them, honestly, make you look pretty dumb.
Like, say, hosting the Flavor of Love reunion show, which La proudly trots out as one of her big breaks (admittedly, she has had several “big breaks”). For those who do not remember Flavor of Love, it was a “dating” show wherein Public Enemy’s hypeman Flava Flav (he of the famously be-clocked neckline), allowed several surgically enhanced women to compete for his amour. The reunion shows existed then, as now, mostly for contestants to get in screaming matches with each other, and, if at all possible, to brawl.
“Sometimes I look back, like, wow, that was some crazy stuff happening,” La says.“But from back then, looking at where I was in my career and how popular those things were–I mean, this was back when Flava Flav was on TV and the numbers he was getting were unheard of for reality TV. So, back then, you know, it made sense. Would it make sense now? Probably not. Some things that make sense now won’t make sense later, and vice versa.”
As it turned out, it was good for her career to host those shows. It helped her get to where she wanted to go. So, you know, maybe doing something lightly degrading isn’t always a bad idea, if you can see it leading to something better.
When you hear that the title of this book is The Power Playbook, you might think it had been written by Frank Underwood. However, there’s nothing in The Power Playbook about crushing your enemies or lying or deception. When La talks about power, she means a kind of inner power. Really, most of the book is taken up with tips about how to feel good about yourself and set yourself up to succeed in whatever you do. There are chapters on dressing for success (“Make sure you’re appropriate”), on gratitude, and persistence. During our interview, she seemed genuinely concerned with letting me know that power isn’t how much money you make or what you own. “I felt myself feeling powerful way before I had any materialistic things,” she says.
“What makes people powerful is finding your inner power,” she continues, “because so many people out there give themselves every reason in the world why they can’t do something. And so it’s based on why you can do it, and that you have this inner power within you that can take you to the next level. It’s all about finding it.”
And that gets a lot easier–once you know where to look. Hey, that sounds a little like something Einstein might have said.