Currently starring in “Orange Is the New Black”, actress, singer and smokin’ hot DJ, Taryn Manning (I haven’t even finished my first sentence and she already sounds awesome) shared her thoughts with us on her music, her acting career, her inspirations, her skin care and makeup favorites, and so much more. Not only is DJ Taryn Manning the Los Angeles club scene’s golden child, she’s also kickin’ some serious ass in the role of Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett in “Orange Is the New Black”, a Netflix original series that was created by Jenji Kohan (who also created “Weeds”). “Orange Is the New Black” is great. I’ve already blazed through the first season and Taryn is fantastic as Pennsatucky, a born-again, psychotic, hillbilly inmate. Taryn strives to keep her career in music hand in hand with her acting career. As an actress, Taryn is most known for her roles in the films “Hustle & Flow” and “8 Mile”, but her list of acting credits in both film and television is long. Being the talented actress that she is and having worked as much as she has in her acting career, Taryn made it very clear to me that music is her first love, “Music has always been there. It’s been a bigger part of my life than acting.” Taryn is not only a solo artist, she’s also the front-woman of Boomkat.
As an actress, Taryn always seems to bring a high level of honesty and authenticity to her work. She’s great at making her characters multi-layered. When you watch Taryn perform, you believe her. Taryn injects her roles with a fascinating vulnerability that even shows up when she’s playing tough, edgy characters. While other actresses might skip that final layer of depth, Taryn always seems to be diving deeper and deeper into the life of the character that she is playing. Taryn really “goes there”…and she goes all the way there. In what was planned to be a 15-20 minute chat, Taryn and I hit it off right away and talked for over an hour. With what I had already observed in her work as an actress, what I found in her as a person during our conversation was refreshing, but not surprising. Taryn was an open book with me. She gets deep fast, she’s very present, she vocalizes her vulnerabilities, and she is wonderfully unapologetic about who she really is…good/bad, weak/strong. Much like the characters that I’ve seen Taryn bring to life on screen, she’s very relatable. The combination of her relatability, vulnerability and depth, makes her a very interesting person to talk to. I really enjoyed my conversation with her. Super cool chick! Enjoy!
I began my chat with Taryn, and her great raspy voice, by asking her about her influences in music. Taryn’s passion and interest in music began with the influence of her father and brother, and all of the time that she spent at the roller rink when she was a kid in the 80′s. “I have a brother who is six years older than me, who is a huge music lover. Anything my brother was listening to, I was listening to, because I was such a poser for him. Obviously Michael Jackson was huge for us and Prince. For me, Cyndi Lauper and British stuff like New Order and Depeche Mode. We were also super into hip hop, like Big Daddy Kane, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. I grew up rollerskating all of the time at this one roller rink. At the roller rink there was mostly pop and R&B, so it was also Johnny Gill, Keith Sweat and Bell Biv DeVoe. There was a lot of soul music mixed with British influences. My father was very into Motown. It was a huge mix, so it’s very hard for me to name one or two. Music has been so much a part of my life. I’m made up of a little bit of everything that I like.”
Taryn talks about music with immense passion. Listening to her, I found myself imagining the movie version of her life. I imagined her begging for concert tickets as a kid and stapling flyers for her gigs to every wooden street pole that she could find. I’ve never seen Taryn perform live, but listening to her talk about her love for music made me feel like I had. “My dad was a musician in probably about ten bands and he was signed several times. None of his bands really hit but he was always the vocalist, he played the drums, he played the organ, and he had the most amazing voice on the planet. I actually have a scrapbook of all of his clippings and pictures of him with all of his different bands. So there was always different music with him and he would always make me sing. He would put me on the spot in front of his friends and have me sing. So singing and music has always been way more a part of my life than acting and movies.” Sadly, Taryn’s father passed away when she was a teenager. When I told to her that it sounded to me like her dad was her biggest influence in music, she said “My dad was number one. My dad and my brother, for sure. No doubt about it. And then, the roller rink and whatever they played, ya know?” I actually do know. Like Taryn, I’m a total daddy’s girl and very proud to be. And some of my favorite memories from my own childhood were at the roller rink.
Between your career in music and being such a big fan of music in general, what’s your opinion of shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice”?
It’s hard for me to totally judge people because I don’t know if they’ve been at it their whole lives, singing in church and paying their dues wherever they are…and then this is their outlet to be seen. So I believe every case is different. I will say that I think it’s getting a little bit tired. There’s too many shows. But, again and again, I’m blown away by how many freakin talented people there are in this world and I just think creativity in general is a beautiful thing if it’s honed properly. Every situation is different, ya know? Look at Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. They’re having uber success that has longevity. And then you’ve got the ones that win and you don’t hear about them again, who maybe didn’t really start off with that hunger. And I don’t care how pretty you are, I don’t care how good your voice is…I’m not by any stretch a super vocalist, but I’ve got drive and I’m hungry. It’s like all the worlds have to collide to make a successful person. And it’s not just gonna be the prettiest girl in high school, it’s not gonna be the best vocalist, it has to shine from the inside out. It’s gotta be that whole thing that comes together. And that thing is unexplainable and you can’t buy it.
Tell me about your character, Pennsatucky, in “Orange Is the New Black.”
I love my character. It’s an amazing role. She’s super religious, not very smart, but super convicted in her religion and God and stubborn as all hell. She has a way of speaking that’s a little bit illiterate, yet she’s resourceful. I’m so excited about what I’m doing with this role and I’m so grateful that it was offered to me. Very, very happy!
My favorite performance of yours is probably in “Hustle & Flow”. I think that one of the things that marks you as a very talented actress is that I can’t watch your work in that film and imagine casting anyone else in that role.
That’s an interesting way of putting it. I’ve never heard anyone say that to me. That’s awesome, thank you. That was a very special time in my life. I felt like that was the first time that I was really able to understand what it meant to have an arc as a character. After all of my years of studying, I finally understood what that really meant, to have an arc. To be honest, I’m not gonna lie, I really didn’t think that much about it. I didn’t dissect that character, I didn’t over think it…I just kind of rolled with it and I connected to it a lot. There was a lot of pain in me. People ask if I draw on all of my own stuff to get there (to get in the mind set of the character) and that’s not what I do. I actually believe enough about what my character is going through and then I draw in things that I understand are painful and I connect them. I find the common ground between my character and me. Acting is really cool. I realize more and more how grateful I am.
That’s awesome. I’d be a happy cat to just stay on this topic with you for another hour, but it’s time for me to ask you about some girlie stuff. What are your favorite skin care products?
My favorite brand is Epicuren. I think it’s amazing. My secret weapon is the Galvanic Spa, by Nu Skin. That is a tool that I love. I’m huge on toners. I love rose water. I’ll do my makeup and then I spritz my face with rose water to kind of set it. I’m very into hydrating and moisturizing my skin. I love having really soft skin. I’m such a tomboy, edgy stereotype, but I’m actually super girlie. I do a whole skin care regime three nights a week. I do a Kiehl’s clay mask, to pull out my impurities. And I use my toner, rose water. I also love Kiehl’s Cucumber toner. I use an Epicuren face wash. It’s more of a lotion than a gel cleanser. Because I travel a lot, I like to use cream cleansers.
My very favorite foundation, hands down, is Armani. Love it! I love Too Faced eye shadows and bronzers. For lipstick, I like Stila. I like all of the Stila lip glosses. For lips, I also love Benefit’s Benetint to stain my lips. I don’t like to apply tons of makeup. I’m not a huge makeup person. But I can’t really live without blush, a lip stain, and mascara. That’s my thing. That’s it, unless I’m working and someone else is doing my makeup. For blush, I like to use more of a highlighter or a bronzer…just sort of like a little pick-me-up. I also like cream blushes.
Do you have a favorite spa?
I love Burke Williams. I’ve been going there for years. I love their steam room and sauna. I get massages twice a month. I love massages. I love giving them and I love receiving them.
Wow. You’re the first actress I’ve spoken to for my site that’s told me they actually like giving massages. So, this is a first for MySkinAffair. Love it!
It’s fulfilling to me.
When do you feel most beautiful?
“Hustle & Flow” was an amazing experience, it really was. Everybody recalls the look I had in that film, the hair (braids). Before “Hustle & Flow” I had nice hair. I had fine hair, but I had a lot of it. I loved my hair, I never had an issue with it. I don’t know what happened or why, I don’t understand it…but when they would take the braids out, my hair would break. I was devastated. My hair has never been the same. It doesn’t grow back the same. It doesn’t grown back half as thick and there are areas where it actually doesn’t grow back at all. And I can’t do any type of hair extensions because I have such fine hair now that anything like that just breaks my hair. But sometimes if I have to, for a role, to create a certain look…I just have to suffer. And the suffering is when I take the added hair out, my hair is broken and is more fine. So my hair, ever since that role, has been very painful for me. There probably isn’t one day that goes by that I don’t look at someone walking by and think “Wow, nice hair.” I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but I feel most beautiful when I’ve got a lot of hair in (clip on’s, etc…). All of that extra hair makes me feel beautiful, but I wish it was mine. Beauty and hair are very much associated and that’s been tough. But, you know, whatever…what can you do?
Which makeup or skin care products do you keep in your purse?
I always have several lip glosses, in different colors. I don’t like to apply makeup all day, unless it’s a day when I need to (for work). But what I will do is keep a little rose water in my purse and if I feel like I need a little pick-me-up, I spritz my face with that. So it’s really just that and lip gloss. Honestly, sometimes I think I look prettier without makeup.
I can’t tell you how refreshing that is to hear! Another first for my site, by the way. I know a lot of actresses that use very little makeup on a daily basis (just lip gloss, or only mascara). But I’ve never had an actress tell me that she actually feels prettier without makeup, in any of my interviews. Even if you only feel that way “sometimes”, that’s still a first for MySkinAffair. Personally, on a daily basis, I’m either very minimal (just mascara and a lip balm or gloss) or I wear nothing at all. I prefer the feeling of a clean face (no makeup). Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment is the one item in my purse that most often finds it’s way to my lips, even on my naked face days.
I just feel like, if you’re gonna like me, Taryn…this is what I look like. But, I will say this…there are definitely times when I have to make that effort and I do know how to do my makeup well. I just feel that it doesn’t change all that much with or without, that’s the point. *
What did I tell ya? Super cool chick!
For more on Taryn, check out her site: Taryn Manning