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Regina King is an acclaimed American actress and director who boasts a distinguished career marked by numerous accolades. Among her notable achievements are an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and four Primetime Emmy Awards. Recognized for her exceptional talent and impact, TIME Magazine honoured her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019. 

King has been unveiled as the April 2024 cover star of Harper’s Bazaar US, ‘The Possibility Issue’, and we couldn’t help immersing ourselves in her interview, especially given her extended hiatus from the public eye following a personal tragedy. 

Regina King – Conversations with Salamishah Tillet 

Regina King’s interview with Harper’s Bazaar delves into her profound journey through loss and motherhood, providing an intimate glimpse into her personal and professional life. The interview touches upon King’s portrayal of Shirley Chisholm in the film “Shirley,” directed by John Ridley, which explores the complexities of Chisholm’s historic political career and the challenges she faced as a Black woman in the public eye.

Regina King’s portrayal of Chisholm is the type of powerfully nuanced performance for which she has been routinely celebrated over the past decade, winning four Emmys and an Academy Award during that span. But it’s also a performance that King delivered at a profoundly devastating time in her own life. 

Regina King
“When it came time to photograph this very cover, King carefully selected a gown in her son Ian’s favorite color— orange—in honor of him. King in a Polo Ralph Lauren gown. Cartier High Jewelry earrings and Grain de Café bracelet (on left)

A month into filming Shirley in Cincinnati, on January 21, 2022, King revealed the shattering news that her son, Ian Alexander Jr., had passed away in Los Angeles. – Harper’s Bazaar

However, the interview takes a deeply personal turn as King opens up about the devastating loss of her son, Ian Alexander Jr., in January 2022. Ian, a talented DJ and musician known as Desduné, tragically died by suicide at the age of 26. King shares the profound impact of Ian’s passing on her life, revealing the complexities of grief and the ongoing process of healing.

“One of the things I’ve learned on this journey is that gratitude and sadness are not mutually exclusive; they’re always working at the same time…”

Regina King
Regina King 

“I feel like I am in a place now where my faith has really been challenged. I don’t know that I should say this, because I feel like it’s where I used to be, but that idea that what you put into it is what you get.” 

“When I look at all of the work and everything that we and Ian put into trying to move through the depression … I mean, he’s pure joy and pure light, but he was struggling so much. We knew. We knew what we were going through, but he never presented that way. That’s why I know that a smile doesn’t always mean happy. He would never not let whoever he was with feel like they were the most special person in the world. So for me, I’m like, ‘Man, he was putting a lot into things, a lot into people, a lot into this world, and yet it wasn’t translating back’…

“We always talk about spirit: They’re always with us in spirit. But his physical absence is so loud that it’s hard to sometimes tap into that spiritual connection.”  – Regina King

Love, Loss and Motherhood 

Throughout the interview, King reflects on her role as a mother and the profound influence Ian had on her career choices. She recalls moments of connection with her son, such as his reaction to the film “If Beale Street Could Talk,” where he felt seen and represented on screen. King’s dedication to projects that resonate with Ian’s identity speaks to the deep bond they shared and the lasting impact of his memory on her work.

When asked about why she gravitates to the kind of roles she usually portrays in films (black women who fight fearlessly for others and demand to be heard) she responds thus;

“Honestly, I haven’t thought about it that way. What I do know is that I do gravitate toward stories that are just interesting to me as an audience. … I’m always thinking, ‘Can I believe her, the character? Is she real to me? Can I root that character in truth?’ ”

Despite the immense grief she continues to navigate, King remains resilient and committed to her craft. She discusses her role as a director and producer, highlighting projects that hold personal significance and honour Ian’s legacy. King’s dedication to storytelling, coupled with her strength and vulnerability, exemplifies her remarkable resilience in the face of adversity.

Harper’s Bazaar

King hasn’t acted in anything since finishing Shirley and isn’t sure right now when she will again. She has been working on developing a couple of projects that were close to Ian’s heart, but beyond that, the field is, for the most part, wide open.

There is, though, A Man in Full, an upcoming six-part Netflix series King co-executive-produced with prestige-TV maestro David E. Kelley. Based on a 1998 novel by Tom Wolfe. – Harper’s Bazaar 

As the interview concludes, King reflects on the profound lessons she has learned through her journey of loss and motherhood. She acknowledges the enduring presence of gratitude amidst sadness and the importance of connection and support in navigating grief. Through her candid reflections, King offers a poignant reminder of the power of love and resilience in the face of life’s greatest challenges.

Legacy 

One of the few public appearances King has made since Ian’s death came this past January at the Governors Awards in L.A., where she presented her longtime friend Bassett—who many believe should have won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Tina Turner in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do With It—with an honorary Oscar. When King was asked to do it, the thought filled her with fear. But as she watched Bassett onstage accepting the award, King had a flash of insight. “I was thinking, ‘That’s what I want to do,’ ” she says. “ ‘I want to find the next role for Angela.’ ”

King admits that she’s been searching for her sense of purpose since Ian died. But then occasionally something will happen to remind her that it’s still very much there.

“Usually, with mothers, our kids are teaching us about ourselves, our abilities, things that we never thought we could do, things we never would’ve wanted to do that we do,” King says. “Ian taught me—and is still teaching me—so much.” – Harper’s Bazaar. 

Credit:

Excerpts from Regina King’s interview with Salamishah Tillet for Harper’s Bazaar 

Photography: Luis Alberto Rodriguez

Styling: Carlos Nazario

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