• Fri. Dec 3rd, 2021

Same Ol’Penny Proud, Grown A** Kyla Pratt

Kyla Pratt for RoyalTee Magazine

Ms. Kyla Pratt has evolved from childhood to adulthood and whether you’re in Hollywood or in an office, the business of adulting is universal across the spectrum! Most of us are at an age where we have it all together but are still trying to figure it out all at the same time. I mean, make it make sense! Perhaps that relatability was another reason why I felt so at ease when I logged into my Zoom account back in March to talk to her. (Side note: the ‘teenage spirit animal’ comment made her laugh. But I was serious!)

“My daughter uses this account for school,” she says when her oldest daughter’s name popped up in the corner of the Zoom screen. Of course, outside of being an actress, Kyla is the mother of two daughters, Liyah and Lyric, who is already following in mama’s footsteps and booking commercials.  

The pandemic uprooted everyone’s lives and Kyla’s was no exception. While we were all the way live here in Florida, Los Angeles and other cities across the country were like the final two hours before the purge began.

“It’s been intense, it’s been a journey,” she says when I asked her how she was bouncing back.

On the personal end, the kids were home- enough said if you’re a parent reading this.

“And then they’re like, ‘hey, so your kids are going to be at home all day, every day.’ I’m like, ‘wait, so I can’t work, and now my kids are going to be at home all day, every day.’ That means I’ve got to cook and clean while people are here. And I’ve got to do this, and I’ve got to do that,” she jokingly recalls over Zoom.

But as a girl-mom, being at home with her daughters gave her much-appreciated family time.

She added, “I kind of flipped the script. Had to put myself in the position of realizing we’re all happy, we’re healthy.

We’re getting time together that we normally wouldn’t get. How this country works, how our lives work, usually everybody’s working, working, working, and sometimes you don’t get that time that you can’t get back and my kids are young. Pretty soon, they’re not going to want to hang out with me.”

But on the professional end, work continued.

When the lockdown happened, Kyla was in the middle of working on her newest TV show, Fox’s Call Me Kat (which eventually picked up a season two, two months later after this interview, yay!), that had to be put on the back burner. But she was fortunate to still stay #OnTheGo, working on a Lifetime Christmas movie last summer in Canada and of course, recording The Proud Family reboot, which premieres in February 2022 on Disney+. 

“That was hard because we announced it [Proud Family] and the pandemic happened,” she says. “The shutdown happened, and then suddenly, he [the director] was like, ‘oh, we’re going to try to record from home’ and I’m like, ‘record from home?’ Like first of all, I’m loud, my kids are loud. How are we going to do this? They’re in school at home.”

As the world tries to evolve again and get back to normal, safety and social distance are still two things we both can relate to.

“I know that there are places in the world that are open like crazy. They’re starting to open things up back here in L.A., and it’s a little scary,” she confessed during our interview.  “I like distance anyway; I don’t really like people being that close to me. I have a t-shirt that actually says, ‘if you’re if you read this, you’re too close, back up.’  

Note that was a shirt she said she purchased six years ago. So, the idea of having her own bubble and social distancing are not new terms to her.

Fast-forward three months later to a hot June Saturday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, Kyla walks onto the cover shoot in gray yoga pants and an off-the-shoulder black shirt. Fortunately for us, she kept her ‘you’re too close, back up’ t-shirt at home and we kept our masks on. Ironically it’s the same week the state of California opened back up.

Throughout our shoot, I kept our conversation we had a few months back on my mind; those transparent moments, the vulnerability, the evolving. The mom hat, work hat and value of self-care. And those small reminders from our bodies that we are not 19 years old anymore. Everything from our turn-up to the food we eat must be taken in strides.

Posting a crazy picture on your social media every once in a while is OK. And being reminded how quickly a frown can be turned upside down with a new hairdo or nail set is refreshing.  The fact that we are both fellow members of the Beyhive and Beyoncé may slightly have influenced our cover shoot is a minor disclaimer. Three words from a Bey song: six-inch heels.

But here’s the tea to remember: Penny Proud may be a teenager, but Ms. Kyla Pratt is a grown-ass Royal Woman who understands her assignment.

On being a working mom

I think that’s interesting, what you said about working on a Proud Family and voicing it from home. How is it balancing motherhood and balancing your career while at being at home full time?

 As women, we don’t realize all we have to do. Like for a woman who’s not even in the industry, how she must balance it all, you know?

I’ve always wanted to be a mother. And I was like, ‘how would I be able to do it all?’ And I think when I first started having my babies, I was like, ‘how am I going to do this?’ Like, I still want to, pursue my career dreams and what I love to do,. But I also want to be their mom. So, it’s all about finding balance and understanding when you can do something and when you can’t. I’ll take jobs that are out of town, and I’ll be like, ‘well, I’ve got to be off on a certain day because it’s my baby’s birthday.’ ‘Oh, can you reschedule?’ No, because she’s only going to be this age once. It’s just trying to find the right balance.

It’s difficult. I think I’ve got a good hang of it. But I want women to also know that I’m with you. This is not easy. But I also feel like I don’t need to just have one or the other. I can do both. And I’m tired as hell, but I could do both.

Yes, I love that you’re a Royal Woman who can do both. I can do the job, I can be a boss, and I can be a mom! Love it.

You can do it all. You shouldn’t have to choose. And then I also try to make sure that my kids know that they can talk to me. They know that they’re important, and my kids are now getting older to where they’re like, oh, ‘Mommy’s going to work?’ And I’m like, ‘yes, you keep asking for stuff. What you want me to do? Daddy can’t just do it. Your daddy works all the time, you didn’t ask him where he’s going. Dang!’ (Laughs)

You know, it’s just finding the balance and not getting overwhelmed too much. I’ve dealt with my fair share of anxiety. I’ve dealt with postpartum; I’ve dealt with a bunch of different things. And it’s best to just mentally keep yourself in a great place and understand that.

On Self-care 

And I’m so glad you brought up mental health. What do you do for self-care right now?

Self-care right now, for me, could be as simple as making sure I get enough sleep. It can be as simple as the food that I put in my body. Because when I was younger, it was kind of like, ‘oh, this makes me feel good. So, I’m going to eat this.’ And it’s like, no, no, don’t eat that because you got to feel good for a second and then right afterward, your body’s going to remind you that you’re not 19 anymore.

I had this whole schedule set up before everything shut down of dropping off kids at school and going to work out. Then when that happened, I was like, ‘wait, when am I going to work out? Am I really going to work out at home?’ Like, I know, I’m going to find every other thing to do. But no, that’s a part of self-care. I feel better when I work out. I feel mentally stronger when I feel physically stronger.

 Are you the type of woman that once you get your hair done or nails did, you feel like a new person?

 Oh, absolutely. I’ll be talking to people, and they’ll feel some type of way. And I’m like, ‘when’s the last time you got your hair done?’ ‘Oh, I haven’t got it done.’ So, I said, ‘that’s your problem. You need to go get your hair done.’

You know, it’s just finding the balance and not getting overwhelmed too much. I’ve dealt with my fair share of anxiety. I’ve dealt with postpartum; I’ve dealt with a bunch of different things. And it’s best to just mentally keep yourself in a great place and understand that.

And I’m so glad you brought up mental health. What do you do for self-care right now?

Self-care right now, for me, could be as simple as making sure I get enough sleep. It can be as simple as the food that I put in my body. Because when I was younger, it was kind of like, ‘oh, this makes me feel good. So, I’m going to eat this.’ And it’s like, no, no, don’t eat that because you got to feel good for a second and then right afterward, your body’s going to remind you that you’re not 19 anymore.

I had this whole schedule set up before everything shut down of dropping off kids at school and going to work out. Then when that happened, I was like, ‘wait, when am I going to work out? Am I really going to work out at home?’ Like, I know, I’m going to find every other thing to do. But no, that’s a part of self-care. I feel better when I work out. I feel mentally stronger when I feel physically stronger.

Returning to The Proud Family  

 It’s been years since you’ve played Penny Proud. You were a teenager when you played her and now, you’re a grown woman, playing a teenager. Do you feel a difference?

I feel like I walked into the booth and was back as a 14-year-old. Like, literally, if not better now, because I have more life experience. And I’m surer of myself. And I’m not doubting my voice all the time. At 14, I couldn’t stand my voice. I was like, ‘what? They want to hire me.’ Like, it’s so weird. And even now, I’ll hear my voice back and be like, ‘oh my gosh, that was me.’

I know I still sound the exact same and I’m surer about myself now. So going into that booth now, it’s like a walk in the park. It’s like, ‘oh, Penny is doing this today. What is Penny doing today? Oh, she’s screaming at the top of her lungs. Perfect.’ Just tell me what you want, and I got you.

What will be different about  Penny Proud this time around?

I feel like Penny is getting a fresh start because she’s still the same old Penny, but she’s learning brand new things. And she’s being reminded of things that she’s already learned. I feel like Penny, especially now, would be one of those people marching outside. She would be one of those people that’s speaking up for herself and the people around her that look like her and even people who don’t look like her.  I feel like Penny voices her opinions and she voices who she is and what she stands up for in such a way that I think everybody wishes that they could. And so that’s why it’s always been fun to be her and to yell out random things.

Yes. And one thing I really loved about The Proud Family was the topics that the show touched on like Kwanzaa, racism, discrimination, and feminism.

Oh, absolutely. Back in the day, literally, the Proud Family was something that,  taught me about so many things that I hadn’t learned about in school, or even at home. And I’d be like, ‘wait, what is this?’ And then you start the conversation at home.  Basically, we were that show that talks about things that people were like, ‘is that okay to talk about?’ We’re going to do the same thing. But the upgraded version. We’re going to go in.

This feature was originally published in our 2021 summer edition. 

Alexia McKay

A working journalist, entrepreneur and founder of RoyalTee Enterprises. Born and raised in Tampa, Fla. The vision of RoyalTee was inspired in 2015 by Alexia’s ambitions to return to her passion for creative writing and publishing and create a platform to showcase the excellence of minority women across the country through professional, personal and social ventures.