Lexi Underwood is a voice Hollywood needs. The actress is destined to make a difference through her commitment to telling inclusive stories and sharp acting abilities. At 18-years-old, Underwood already has a resume that rivals those twice her age. To rattle off a few of her accolades: she's played Young Nala in The Lion King play, Pearl Warren in Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere, and Malia Obama in Showtime's new series The First Lady. If that wasn't impressive enough, Underwood launched her production company Ultimate Dreamer Productions at 15.
Every move the Gen Z powerhouse makes aligns with her larger goal of combining passion with purpose. "I think this is what I was put on this Earth to do," the actress tells me. Aside from her charisma, Underwood's self-awareness is what stands out most during our conversation. Her growing footprint in the industry could easily loop her into a constant cycle of asking herself, What's next? Instead, Underwood is intentional about grounding herself in the present moment and savoring each opportunity.
Ahead, the actress opens up about building her career during her teenage years, working alongside Viola Davis in The First Lady (a moment she manifested), and her must-have makeup products. Keep scrolling to get to know Lexi Underwood.
When did you first recognize you had a passion for performing?
Acting has always been a passion of mine. Growing up in DC, there weren't too many opportunities in the arts. I did whatever I could, like ballet, piano, and flute classes. Then, I took a leap of faith and started auditioning for roles. The first thing I booked was Lion King on Broadway. I found the casting call while searching for auditions in the DMV area. I just wanted to get my start in the industry in some way, shape, or form. I feel grateful to be in this space where it's all like coming together the way I think it's supposed to.
What’s it been like navigating the industry during your pre-teen and teenage years?
It's been really interesting. There have been a lot of ups and downs. I started so young, and there are times when I wish I would have given myself a little bit of time before moving to L.A. But with this industry, the biggest thing is to continue protecting your mental health and remember the bigger picture. I always have to remember god gave me this gift and put me in this space at this time in my life.
You've gotten to play some incredible young women in your career, like Malia Obama. What was it like trying to embody her spirit and tell her story?
Honestly, it was a little challenging. The beauty of Malia and Sasha is that they had a normal childhood and were protected from the media. But as an artist trying to embody her, it put me to the test since I couldn't talk to her. As soon as I found out I had booked the show, I started rereading Becoming and A Promised Land. I watched the Becoming documentary so many times before coming to the set.
I still have a folder of over 50 YouTube videos, and only one of them has Malia talking in it. I watched videos where she was in the background to pick up on her reactions and mannerisms. I also listened to Barack and Michelle to understand the type of parents they are and the energy they want to have in their household. Overall, it was such a beautiful process and experience. I already adored and respected the Obama family so much. But I gained so much more respect for them by being a part of telling their story.
Working with Viola Davis is something you spoke into existence. What was it like working with her? Did she share any advice?
She made me feel so comfortable in my skin as an artist. The biggest thing I learned from her is to not be timid and show up authentically. She taught me it's okay to use my voice. As Black women, these spaces don't usually reflect the world we live in. She also encouraged me to do what I feel is best for the story I'm telling and the character I'm playing. At the end of the day, we ultimately know our characters better than anybody else.
Are there any other actresses or actors you would love to work with?
I would love to work with Denzel Washington. I am also a big fan of Angelina Jolie and her work. It would be dope to create in the same space with her. I also love Halle Berry—she's a trailblazer. I think the stories she's telling right now, like Bruised are so important. It would be surreal to work with her.
In addition to building your acting career, you launched your production company Ultimate Dreamer Productions at 15. Why was it important to you to launch this initiative?
I'm dedicated to telling the stories that truly matter. My goal is to move this industry forward in terms of diversity and inclusivity with my production company. We say representation matters a lot. But often, the energy is still not adequately placed, especially when it comes to behind the camera. With whatever table I'm creating, I want to take an active role in telling in-depth, complex stories about Black and Brown people, specifically young girls and women. I'm so passionate about creating stories that have an impact and make people feel seen and heard.
You turn 19 this year. As you near the end of your teens and approach your 20s, what are you most excited about?
That's a great question that I don't have an answer to. I take it day by day. I haven't even fully wrapped my brain around the fact that I am turning 19, and I'll be 20 next year. There's so much solitude and peace in existing in the present moment. I have the mindset that whatever is going to happen, it's going to happen. I'm still trying to figure out who I am and the person I want to be. Ultimately, I know I want to continue to create a lane for myself in this industry. I do have big goals and big dreams. And prayerfully, I'll be able to achieve them within the next few years.
There's beauty in being open to the possibilities of life instead of always being so caught up in rigid goals.
Absolutely. I read a quote that said, "The past brings depression, and the future brings anxiety." So, to be at peace, you have to live in the present. I'm a Virgo, and we're consistently thinking about work and what we're lacking. Doing that creates unnecessary chaos in my life. I have to take a step back and let everything come together the way it's supposed to.
You serve looks on the red carpet all the time. What is your favorite way to express yourself through beauty? Is it through your hair, makeup, or nails?
It would definitely be makeup. When I was 11 years old, I started wearing makeup because I was doing Lion King. I remember being so enamored by it. Ever since then, I've been creating my own looks. I'll do my makeup for the red carpet sometimes. I'm always on YouTube looking at different trend videos and makeup tutorials.
Makeup is an art, and it's a beautiful way to express yourself. It's one of the only things I feel everyone can control. We can't control the way our lives unravel or what other people do. But we can control how we show up and make ourselves feel. When I do my makeup, I feel good.
What are some of your makeup must-haves?
I use the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($65) because it feels like nothing is on my face. I also like NARS and Fenty Beauty's complexion products. I love playing with the Morphe palettes. They have the best eyeshadow palettes because there are so many different colors.
Do you draw beauty inspiration from anyone in particular?
I love Rihanna. She's so effortlessly unapologetic. She's not scared when it comes to taking beauty risks, which I admire.
What does Lexi's perfect day off look like?
I like to stay in the house. My perfect day starts with me taking time to journal, meditate, and read. Usually, I'll try to cook and clean up the house. I like to do things that make me feel happy and productive on my days off. I also love going out with my friends. We've been doing picnics at the park lately. I had immersed myself entirely in work for a while, which is good. But as a teenager, I like to be social and hang out with friends. I missed having that connection with them during the pandemic.
You've worked on so many cool television shows. What are some of your favorite shows to watch when you're at home?
I'm really into animation and love Midnight Gospel on Netflix. Succession, High Fidelity, and Yellow Jackets are also great. I watch Insecure all the time. Issa Rae captured the essence of what it's like to be a Black girl in LA. Abbott Elementary is amazing. Quinta Brunson is a genius, and I can not be happier for her. She's finally getting the credit she deserves.