Laya DeLeon Hayes is a game-changer young actress many of us know due to her role in The Equalizer and, more recently, for being the lead in the widely acclaimed film The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster.
For her, now, the conversation is different! Representation matters more than ever before, and it is like a cultural necessity of advocating for who we are and those things that define us. So stay tuned for the new season of The Equalizer, take some friend to watch the thrilling and genre-defying The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, and do not miss this exclusive interview for Vanity Teen in which we talked about her journey in the entertainment industry so far, her career, upcoming projects, and more.
Now, the conversation is different!
JV: What would you like to share about your origins and the support of your family when you decided to pursue a career in acting?
LDLH: I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am Filipino and Black. From a very young age, my family was insistent that I celebrate both of my cultures, so I would spend many summers with my Filipino family in the South. I was raised in Texas, which is where I caught the acting bug. From what I know, I am the first in my family to have an interest in the arts but certainly not the first with a performance background. My parents were athletes. My dad was a football player, and my mom was a figure skater, but they never were allowed to really take it seriously as a career.
Anything I had an interest in growing up, my parents were always the most supportive. No matter if it was gymnastics, cheerleading, or dancing, they were always down for anything I wanted to do. When I took an interest in acting, they were no different.
I was very serious about it, even at the age of 8. I did school plays, theatre programs, and lots of talent shows. My parents wanted to give me the opportunity to follow my dreams and show me what I was capable of if I just believed in myself. We ended up moving to LA after two years of training, and the rest is history!
JV: You began acting at a young age. So, how have you experienced changes toward plural representation in film and media?
LDLH: I started professionally acting in 2013. I was obviously very young at that time, but truthfully I don’t even remember representation being a part of the conversation at that point. I became more aware of the impact we can have as actors after seeing the response with my first voice-over role-playing Doc McStuffins.
In the last decade, we’ve seen people finally begin to recognize the extreme lack of diversity, representation, and opportunity for people of color.
Now, the conversation is different! As an actor, there’s more to consider when auditioning or taking on roles, and even with this film, I’m not sure if ten years ago, we would’ve even been given the opportunity to make something original that pertains to our truth and our voice. The world has changed so much in recent years, and it’s very important to see our stories being told and our people represented in a positive light. Hopefully, we can continue to evolve and show the diversity of all our beautiful cultures.
JV: Yes,Voicing is also part of your job. So, do you consider it much different from your other acting roles in which people actually see your face and body?
LDLH: I would say voice-over is a bit different from acting onscreen. For starters, there is no camera, so it allows you to be as crazy or expressive as you need to be, which translates into your voice. Sometimes you have to overcompensate with a physical performance or be more expressive so that your emotions translate through a microphone. It’s also a much more isolated process, in my experience, you’re not always working with other actors. Sometimes it’s just you and a director, which is much different from on-camera acting, as chemistry plays such a big part with your co-stars.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
JV: The Equalizer got to be a lifetime experience. How do you approach this project and the reception the show has among fans?
LDLH: The Equalizer really is and has been such a special experience! It was my first series regular role at the time. I started the show when I was 15 and have used it as an opportunity to learn from a great cast and crew who have been doing this much longer than me. To work with Lorraine Toussaint and Queen Latifah has truly been dreamlike.
I’m inspired by everyone who works on our show, and for fans to love it as much as we do has just been the cherry on top. I love going to Twitter every time a new episode comes on and seeing how invested people are in the storylines. It brings me a lot of joy!
JV: Nowadays, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is defying genres and showing new ways to embrace classics. What can you tell us about this film?
LDLH: The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is a reimagining of the classic tale of Frankenstein directed by Bomani J. Story. It follows a 17-year-old science prodigy named “Vicaria” (played by me) who believes she can cure death. After experiencing a lot of death within her community, most recently the death of her brother Chris, she decides to take matters into her own hands and bring the dead back to life. Within that, we focus a lot on social issues surrounding the black community while showing our
humanity and beauty as well. We’re taking a tale that many are familiar with and adding a very modern twist that I can’t wait for people to see.
JV: We know prizes do not define who we are. However, how do you feel when you realize you won a BAFTA?
LDLH: It truly felt surreal. I couldn’t believe it. That whole trip was a dream. It was my family’s first time in Europe, and I was just very happy to be there. I had no speech prepared, and then they called my name! I was in a complete state of shock. To have that moment with my God of War cast and my parents in the audience was so special. It’s a nice reminder of all the hard work that goes into getting to that point.
I was truly on cloud nine.
There aren’t enough words to describe it!
A young Black and Filipino woman
JV: Why do you never miss an opportunity to advocate for diversity and equality?
LDLH: I find it important because not advocating for it would be like I’m not advocating for everything that makes me who I am. As a young black and Filipino woman in an industry dominated by people who don’t look like me, it feels like a necessity to voice the things I truly believe in. It’s the only way our stories will be told authentically and the only way we can get in the room to be decision-makers.
I also feel very lucky to have a platform and a responsibility to use it!
JV: What other projects do you have on the go?
LDLH: The next thing coming will be season 4 of The Equalizer, which will hopefully be coming out in the Fall, along with a new project I can’t talk about yet. In the meantime, people should go see our movie in theaters so we can reach even more people.
JV: Which words do you have for those who celebrate who they are, where they come from, and like you, find themselves inspired to stand up for equality?
LDLH: I would say to keep doing what you’re doing. There are going to be plenty of people who come along on your path to tell you who you are, what you can or can’t do, and will try to put you into a box. Please, don’t give it the time of day! Focus on you! Your thoughts, goals, and what you believe in, and keep striving every day to grow upon that.
JV: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?
LDLH: Follow me on my Instagram, which is @layadeleonhayes, and go see “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster in theaters right now. Support independent features and black art in every way, shape, and form! We are also on streaming services!
Before we go
Talking to Laya DeLeon Hayes was such a pleasure! She is part of this generation of young and talented artists who make us feel alright by knowing part of the present and most of the future is in their hands.
If you have not seen it yet, we invite you to revive the experience many lived back in the 1900’s century when Mary Shelly published Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, only this time through this film experience called The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster.
Finally, let us never forget to promote equal opportunities for everyone and celebrate our cultures and diversities. Let us be part of the change! Let us spread the word, and let others be part of the conversation!