Welcome to Byrdie's new series, Next Gen, where we profile Gen Z celebrities, influencers, and entrepreneurs. As a collective, members of Gen Z are dynamic trendsetters and culture shifters. And when it comes to beauty and wellness, they have ushered more creativity, inclusivity, and transparency into the industry. In this column, we're stepping into the minds of some of the most notable Gen Z'ers to learn more about how they are redefining beauty, the products they swear by, and their plans for the future.
This year, you'll be hearing a lot about Kaci Walfall as the 17-year-old actress is starring in The CW's highly-anticipated show Naomi. Executive produced by Ava DuVernay and showrunner Jill Blankenship, the DC Comics-based series follows confident, Superman-obsessed teen Naomi McDuffie. After a mysterious sighting of the iconic superhero in her hometown, McDuffie embarks on a journey to uncover the truth and discovers her own unique abilities in the process.
For Walfall, this role is a dream come true. "As I kept reading the email about Naomi, it just kept getting better and better," she says. "There was the opportunity to work with Ava DuVernay and play the lead. I also loved reading Naomi's character description—she was so confident, charismatic, and smart." Ahead, Walfall discusses her experience on the show, being Gen Z in Hollywood, and her beauty essentials. Keep scrolling to read everything she had to say.
Before we dive into the show, I'd love to know more about your passion for acting. When did you know you wanted to become an actress?
My parents are very into sports—we're a basketball family. When I was young, I tried many different sports. But it just wasn't my thing. My mom loves to tell this story about when I was on a soccer field and started singing a song. Once they realized sports weren't for me, my mom put me in an acting class at about seven. From there, I did a showcase, and I got an agent. Acting became my sport in my family. While my brother played basketball, I would go to an audition. I gained a strong passion for acting when I was about 14.
How has being a part of this show shaped you as an actress?
I've learned a lot. Even when it's a scene that's not super emotional, I'm challenged in the best way. I have great creatives around me, so I've learned about speech, physicality, and how to transform my Kaci subconscious into Naomi's. I learned something new every day, whether from the actors or the crew.
Do you have a favorite memory from the season?
When we shot the pilot, it was freezing in Atlanta. One day, we shot a scene with all the younger cast members like Daniel Puig, Camila Moreno, Mary-Charles Jones, Will Meyers, and Aiden Gemme. We were all drinking hot chocolate and running across the street in the scene. Our pilot director, Amanda Marsalis, called us the Scooby Gang. She'd yell, "Action, Scooby Gang." And it was so great. People still call us that when we're all together.
If you had to describe how viewers will feel at the end of this season in three words, what would they be?
Oh, that's a good question. They'll feel surprised, compelled, and intrigued.
You've been able to work closely with Ava DuVernay. Has she shared any advice with you about navigating the industry?
Miss Ava always tells me to trust myself, be comfortable, and tell the truth. That's what I always try to do with my work so the audience will feel it. Your best work comes out when you feel it, and you're in the character's subconscious.
What do you appreciate most about being a part of the next generation of talent in Young Hollywood?
It's great to be 17 and be in this space. I'm so excited for my Gen Z peers and I because Naomi reaches a Gen Z audience. I think narratives are changing within Hollywood, and that's also exciting for my generation.
Your character rocks box braids in the show. What are some of your favorite products to use to help maintain your hair while it's in braids?
Listen, I've been obsessed with box braids since the ninth grade. Braids are so cool because you can do so many versatile styles with them, which we really explore in the show. I love Eco Styler Gel. I always tie my hair down at night and apply the One by Wankaya 15 Blend Hair Growth Oil ($20).
What are some of your favorite makeup and skincare products you use?
I had a little bit of acne when we were starting the show. So, I discovered new products through our makeup department head, Geno Freeman. I love the Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($30)—it works so great for my skin. I also love playing with makeup. For Naomi's effortless look for the show, I often like brushing my brows with the spoolie and applying a little bit of gloss before going on set.
How do you like to spend your day when you're not working? What do you do for self-care?
I love to take naps. I also like to read, which is partially why I'm an actor. I like to call my friends, shop, do my makeup, or go to the gym.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2021? What are you excited about for 2022?
I'm proud of how much I grew as a person and an actor in 2021. The person I was in 2020 would not believe the things I'm doing now. In 2022, I graduate high school and turn 18. I'm just hoping for nothing but positive things for everyone in 2022.