*Pam Grier, the original Foxy Brown, is a name that echoes through the annals of Hollywood history. With her undeniable beauty, fierce determination, and groundbreaking performances, Grier carved a path for herself as an icon, a pioneer, and a symbol of empowerment for women everywhere. Her new movie “Cinnamon” with Daymon Wayans drops on Tubi tonight. It is a thriller tinged with a little comedy in which two young lovers’ lives go horribly wrong after a botched robbery.
Pam sits down with iHeart radio and EURweb Spotlight host Jazmyn ‘Jaz’ Summers for an inspiring conversation about the film, past loves, overcoming cancer, childhood abuse, and her stellar career.
IN, “CINNAMON” YOU PLAY A COLDHEARTED GANG LEADER WHO DON’T PLAY. SHE DEMANDS LOYALTY AND RESPECT AND HAS NO PROBLEMS STABBING SOMEBODY WHO CROSSES HER. WHAT DID YOU DRAW ON TO PLAY HER?
Family members. Come on. Now, when there’s a wedding reception … when you come in with your auntie and your grandmama and everybody is going to be the first one to die to get the centerpiece. You might get stabbed for it. So that’s our culture of laughter and humor. But my character is sight impaired and disabled. She has issues that she demands respect for and probably has some anger about missing a lot of what she could have had. And so when she’s disrespected, you’re going to get the anger, you’re going to get how she feels about life. But she has her way and she is very forceful and courageous about it.
YOU PLAYED HER WITHOUT ALMOST ANY DIALOG. YOU DID IT WITH YOUR WALK, THE WAY YOU RAISED YOUR DARK-TINTED SHADES UP. YOU DEFINITELY SCARED ME. WAS IT HARD TO DO WITHOUT SPEAKING?
She scared me too. I had nightmares. I couldn’t see the movie again because it caused me to have anxiety. It was challenging. I have been a director of a therapeutic riding program where I work with people who are sight impaired, speech impaired, differently abled who can’t walk or ride a bike, and I could feel how they’re frustrated when they can’t succeed, in a movement of getting on the horse for example. I focused on building their confidence every day and letting them know that they are not less of a human being. Matter of fact, they are more because when you lose a part of your body, another part takes over. It’s so true. And sometimes they’re frustrated because they feel invisible. My character fought to be visible but yes she was angry.
YOUR ROLES AS FOXY BROWN AND COFFY ARE GROUNDBREAKING AND GAVE US ALL PERMISSION TO BE SEXY BADASSES. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT BEING THAT INSPIRATIONAL PIONEER FOR WOMEN?
I did nudity in Coffy and Foxy Brown to help create the audience and to make people accept seeing women in power, with martial arts and guns, I wanted to make people start seeing women of color, because we weren’t the epitome of sexual attraction for the male audience, in movies, magazines, anything. They remember my nipples. But I can see what they’re saying. Here you have a sister, a beautiful woman, expressing her sexuality and intelligence. I’m still amazed by all of these incredible women who are now doing action films, who aren’t afraid of guns and won’t stick their heads in the sand. I feel great that Foxy Brown helped other women express themselves and be strong, and fearless. I’m really pleased with that.
IN YOUR BOOK “FOXY: MY LIFE IN THREE ACTS” YOU COURAGEOUSLY TALK ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD ABUSE
I was sexually attacked four times in my life as a child in kindergarten and then first grade and then in college and by a family member. These experiences made me realize the suppression and patriarchal entitlement that women often face. I was tired of seeing my family members and peers being subjected to such treatment. The trauma I experienced led to a stutter, but I found the courage to speak out and share my story. I wanted to heal and empower others to do the same. At my book signings, not just women, but men also came. Young boys. They spoke intimately of their attacks and equated their healing with mine. Opening up about my trauma was a part of my healing process. and I wanted to contribute to breaking the silence surrounding sexual assault.
Q: YOU’VE HAD SOME FAMOUS LOVES KAREEM ABDUL JABBAR, RICHARD PRYOR, FREDDIE PRINZE. WERE ANY OF THEM THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE?
Nothing lasts forever. Today my dates are like seasonal dates. 90 days and then the next three months are just for me. With Kareem, I didn’t have long enough time to process being a Muslim woman. He didn’t give me enough time. But I knew that I couldn’t make him as happy as Islam had made him. And so I relinquished the relationship, I let him go and I was happy for it. And then with Freddy Prinze, he wanted me to bear children and be home. I called him when he was going through a tough time and he said, “‘I’m so depressed. I have nobody to talk to. I have no friends. I have a gun. And I feel I’m gonna do something, Mommy.’ That is what he called me. It hurts deeply to this day that he committed suicide.
WHAT ABOUT RICHARD PRYOR?
Richard also grew up in an environment where men ruled. And a lot of cultures don’t listen to women. No matter what you do, No matter how brilliant you are, how much money you have, there’s going to be some type of subjective, not resistance, but they don’t listen. They think they’re always better, whatever it is, culturally or whatever. I thought we would be a filmmaking couple, but he had to adjust and process his past with drugs and alcohol.
IS IT TRUE HE PUT COCAINE ON HIS PENIS?
I do believe so to sustain an erection. I never saw it, but there were results and scientific residue from the examinations. They found cocaine in my vagina. I knew he spoke about it. I don’t think I would’ve accepted something like that in my body because I knew that health is important. When you’re doing a film, you have to be 100% healthy. You’re working 15-hour days. You can’t come to work drunk or have a hangover or whatever. The side effects of indulgences were unacceptable. Because I’m a leader. When I’m in a film if I work 150 people work. If I don’t show up, everyone gets fired. So if I get sick from partying and not taking care of myself, I get fired. 150 people will be fired.
YOU CAUGHT STAGE FOUR CERVICAL CANCER WHICH IS PRACTICALLY A DEATH SENTENCE. YOUR BOYFRIEND AT THE TIME LEFT YOU. HOW DID YOU BATTLE THAT ALONE?
I didn’t depend on anyone else to heal. You come into the world by yourself and you leave by yourself. And so I knew, okay, I’ve got to be strong. I’ve got to basically write it down, figure it out, and go to all the Chinese medicine doctors and therapy that I could.
I had harvested my eggs after my cancer treatment, but I couldn’t find the right partner that I wanted at the time. And I think your eggs are only viable for so long. But I’m comfortable with what life has given me. And I learned to respect it and I take care of and love many other people’s children.
He is. Well, if you don’t rehearse hard, you don’t get to work with him. You rehearse for weeks. Sam Jackson, Michael Keaton, everyone rehearses with him so he can hear your beats and figure everything out and rehash things often. But he is one of the great young filmmakers who literally transcends old school, new school, and after-school.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I have several films, including “Pet Cemetery” and a film based on a French novel. And I’ve got a series called “Them” on Amazon, “Bob’s Burgers” where I’m in animation. The list is long, and I love it. I really enjoy having a career of creativity and passing it on and I hope to continue to inspire young women and men.
You can catch the full conversation in the video immediately above. Please don’t forget to subscribe to Jazmyn Summers’ youtube. Interview/article by Jazmyn Summers. Follow her @jaztalk1 on Instagram and Facebook. She is no longer using Twitter due to the increased racism on the site which she believes is a result of Elon Musk’s policies.
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