christina elmore

Christina Elmore on Realistic Self-Care and Black Maternal Health

Plus, she discusses her roles in Insecure and Twenties.

If you're a fan of HBO's Insecure, you’ve been quietly rooting for Issa and Lawrence season after season—five, to be exact. Then, Condola Hayes (played by Christina Elmore) entered the picture in season three. For those who haven't watched the past few seasons, here's the TLDR on Condola. Condola was introduced to viewers through Tiffany, one of Issa's best friends, and later helped Issa coordinate an event. Amidst that time, Condola and Lawrence meet, date briefly, and conceive a child. In season five, we get to watch Condola and Lawrence's trying co-parenting journey unfold.

It’s not every day you get to chat with the actress playing the character who became a hurdle for one of the most-talked-about television couples and inspired countless memes in the process. So, when the opportunity came, I jumped at the chance to sit down with Elmore over Zoom. Her career is on a meteoric rise as she currently plays two wildly discussed characters on two shows (both created by Black women, might I add): Condola on Insecure and Marie on BET’s Twenties

Needless to say, there was a lot to discuss. Ahead, we chat about her artistry, realistic self-care, and how she created a safe space for herself on her journey to motherhood. 

christina elmore

christina elmore

How are you? 

I’m doing great. I have two little ones, and we hadn’t traveled at all with them because of the pandemic. It’s been like two years since we’ve been here [at my mother-in-law’s home]. 

You’re on two amazing shows, HBO’s Insecure and BET’s Twenties. I love that both characters are showcasing womanhood on two different spectrums. What is it like tapping into these two different characters?

I feel blessed to be on two shows created by Black women for Black people. Insecure has paved the way for a show like Twenties. And Twenties is showcasing a person we don’t ever get to see on TV—a regular woman living the fullness of her life with her two best friends. I feel blessed to play these Black women on TV. Playing them simultaneously has been fun because they feel like extensions of me at different times in my life.

Marie was me when I was in my twenties. I felt like I needed to go to the right college and graduate school. Then, I would need to find the right guy, get married, have a baby at this age, have 2.5 kids, and buy a house. I have the worst career to try to make that path happen. I don’t have any control over my work. Yet, I’m still a person who thinks if I just do everything right, it’ll all work out perfectly like Marie.

Condola is more of who I have become once I realized it doesn’t work out that way. Mature women have to sort of go with the flow and recognize they can control only what they can control. She and I are also on similar paths in that I was a second-time mom as she was becoming a first-time mom. I had given birth six weeks before we started shooting this season. She had a little extra belly weight. I had a little belly weight. My boobs were sore. Her boobs were sore. We were both tired. That journey matched, and I’d never worked on anything where I was so closely aligned with the character. I feel very blessed that I wasn’t doing it alone or without my partner. Single moms deserve all the flowers. But I just feel grateful both of these women are on TV. They feel so specific and similar to women I know. 

christina elmore

christina elmore

Marie is a Black TV executive. She’s having to steer the conversation and rebut the monolith points of view when talking to her colleagues about what Black people want to see on television. Why do you think it’s so important to have a show like Twenties on the air? 

You’re talking about something Lena [Waithe] wanted to lean into this season. What I like about the conversation that’s happening on Twenties right now is that it’s happening on a network where both things are showcased. BET is Tyler Perry’s home right now, too. It’s also one of Lena Waithe’s creative homes right now, and they make very different content for different audiences. I just love that both can be and be celebrated. Tyler Perry makes art millions of people love and feel seen by. They see their grandmama and mama [in these shows] and feel at home.

Lena makes a lot of art that [allows] you to interrogate some themes and ideas you might not see. You get to think about some things in ways you hadn’t thought about before. You get to see people’s lives you have not experienced. I love that there’s tension in the show and on the network, so it does feel kind of meta. For me, playing the mouthpiece of one side has been pretty cool because I’ve had to interrogate my own ideas of what art is valid and what is not. [I’ve] concluded that if you make it and people consume it, it’s valid. 

Right. Somebody sees themself in the work. 

And not everyone is going to see themselves in every work. We’re not a monolith. How amazing is it that there’s finally more TV that looks like us that we can see ourselves in? 

I also want to discuss motherhood. I read you chose an all-Black care team for the birth of your second child. Why was that important to you, and how did you come to that decision?

I made that decision years ago when I first started dating my husband. I made him sit down and watch this movie called The Business of Being Born that Ricki Lake had made. It’s about how especially in New York in 2007 and 2008, there were the highest rates of c-sections. [There were] so many convenient c-sections happening and doctors scheduling them so they could go golfing. Women weren’t having births in the way they wanted to. I’m grateful c-sections exist. I’m grateful for Western medicine. I’m grateful for all of it, but I also know that my body was made to do this.

I knew from jump I wanted to have an out-of-hospital natural birth when I had kids. I didn’t know whether that would be a home birth or birth center birth. With my first baby, I had him at a birth center with some wonderful midwives who happened to be white. It was a fine experience. But, through that experience, I realized I would drive from my neighborhood in South LA to Silverlake to go to the birth center. Then, when I would go to the pediatrician that we picked, they were far. Then, when I would go to "mommy and me class," it was in Santa Monica. It was with all white women. All these natural mom things I was doing were always with white women. I thought, Why am I always the only Black person in the room? Why is my child the only Black person in the room? This isn’t right.

At first, I thought maybe it didn't exist for us, and I had to leave my area to find it. But that was my bad because I just had not sought it out. I didn’t realize there were Black midwives in South L.A. delivering babies. I didn't realize there are Black mothers in South L.A. getting together. I didn't realize there were amazing Black pediatricians in my area. I just had to do more work to find them. With my second child, I decided I wanted it to be different. I happened to find out I was pregnant on the day Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. That was sort of the start of what all know to be a racial reckoning in this country, and nothing was new, but it did have a different urgency for me.

christina elmore

christina elmore

I completely understand. 

I was mourning and in grief, but also celebrating this new life. I knew I needed to start doing what I’ve talked about doing. I went to find Black midwives because I wanted to be surrounded by them. I wanted to sidestep all of the health disparities you were talking about—like doctors not believing us when we're in pain and forcing interventions on because they think we don't have a birth plan—and find some Black women who see me, know me, will care for me, and hear me. I found the most incredible midwives down the street from me. [But], there was no birth center with midwives, so I thought I would have to have a home birth. Then my midwife opened a birth center during my pregnancy, and I was the first person to give birth there. 

I love that we’re reimagining the narrative around childbirth for Black women. 

For so long, we weren’t allowed in hospitals. We couldn’t get in if we wanted to. It was community midwives and aunties who were helping us. So, I love that we’re going back to that. You can have a baby anywhere you want to. But, I love that Black women are getting to make their own choices. Whatever that choice looks like for you, I just hope you get to consciously make it and not just do it because your insurance said you had to. I hope you get to make the right choice for yourself, your family, and your body.

On Twenties, there’s a lot of talk about self-care. The characters often say, "Black people deserve…" I love the way it’s integrated into the dialogue. Do you find that the conversation around self-care helps moms? Do you feel like you’re able to have time for yourself?

I’m glad you’re asking that because there’s this whole idea of Instagram self-care versus doing things that actually care for yourself. So there’s this idea like, I need to spend hours in the bathtub for self-care. Some of that is just unattainable. If you have kids, it’s just not going to happen. I think it is important new moms think about ways to care for themselves as they care for their children. But, I also think that there’s just a time in life where your self-care rituals are going to look a lot different than they did before you had kids or when your kids are older.

I don’t know when the last time I got to pee by myself without someone knocking on the door, so that’s not my self-care. Part of my self-care is that my kids go to bed at 7 o’clock. That is a hard and fast rule in my house. I need a few hours in the evenings to be an adult by myself and think about my life. Sometimes self-care looks like paying bills, cleaning up the kitchen, putting away all the toys, or calling people back. It doesn’t look like polishing my nails much or hanging out with the girls as much as I would love to, but I am able to incorporate a cup of tea while I do the other things I gotta do. I also think self-care is caring for myself while I’m caring for others. Devoting yourself to helping others is also a form of self-care. Sometimes you need to serve others, and it’s not going to serve you, and that’s okay. 

A few of my friends have had babies in the last year. I’ve thought a lot about Condola’s friend group even though we see her family is there. How can we support our mom friends better?

I think that’s such a good question. If you are asking that question, then you’re probably doing it right. I always send Uber Eats gift cards. I used to make meals and I was like, People don’t like everything you like, so I always send Postmates or UberEats. I also tell them I’m coming to their door to drop off diapers, and then I’m out. If they want some visiting time with you, they will tell you. If you have a close friend willing to let you into their messy home, I’m sure she’d love somebody to clean her kitchen or fold her laundry.

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