Queen Charlotte’s Star Aresma Thomas is on top!

Aresma Thomas, the breakout star of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, is taking over Hollywood role after role. The hit series takes place forty years before the events of the Netflix hit Bridgerton, The prequel tells the story of a young Queen Charlotte and King George as they fall in love and transform England, particularly when it comes to race relations. Aresma’s character, Agatha Danbury, is a bold young woman entrapped in a loveless marriage who wishes to be a part of high society. We chat with Aresma about her role, her upbringing, and more!

Featured Interview:

You attended some of the best schools in the country (Carnegie Mellon & Yale University), What did you go to school for, and how did you transition into acting?

I went to school originally to become a neurologist, then wanted to be a marine biologist, then an astrophysicist, and then a public health guru. Looking back now, I realize the constant switching was a symptom of my unhappiness in the general science field. But going from one university to another that both had noteworthy drama programs was also causing this itch that none of the courses I was studying could scratch. I’d see these happy drama students doing the scary thing, which just constantly reminded me of my cowardice, so then, after my second semester at Yale, I started to scroll on Playbill and started auditioning for everything. I’d send out 20 cold emails with my “headshot,” which at the time was a photo my sister took of me in our yard in Nairobi. And just doing that filled my cup more than what I was studying, so I pivoted, I had no choice once I knew what I knew. Truly, I went to school to buy myself more time to gather the courage to do what I wanted to do, for the first time.

When you decided to become an actress, you silently packed up your life and moved to Paris. What was living in Paris like, and what did you spend your days doing?

Living in Paris was both the hardest and most colorful part of my twenties. I had read about all my favorite artists and thinkers moving to Paris, of Frida and de Beauvoir, of Baldwin and Baker and even Joan Mitchell, so it felt strangely necessary. I was going to a drama school there, I was spending my evenings by the Seine, I’d go to Le Chat Noir and recite my poetry that no one needed to hear, and I’d see my friend perform her experimental cabaret musical (Sophia Menendian check her out). The greatest part was the fact that I was finally in a space where I could create and cultivate the community that I wanted. There is something magical and rough about that city. There is a palpable anger and frustration there, but it just made sense. I’d organize these salons in my apartment, play records on my friend’s record player in a flat in Pigalle and we would have these beautiful evening of food and chat and dance. It was just this city of lost idealists in an ecosystem that is rife with racism, Islamophobia and classism. Looking back with rose tinted glasses I almost forget how difficult Paris was as a woman-presenting individual and how little my body belonged to me. If I’m being honest, I spent a lot of my time in Paris just walking.

As you grow in popularity, what keeps you grounded mentally and emotionally?

It’s so strange how often I get this question and how unprepared I always feel answering it. I think what has helped keep me grounded mentally and emotionally is that I just don’t think about it. It really doesn’t affect my life unless I seek it out, so other than my Instagram following, I haven’t noticed any changes in my daily life, and I try and keep it like that because the popularity is not really about me. People know my character and people know my online persona, and that is where the popularity derives from, not from me being me. Which is why when I expose more and more of myself, like the hair of my armpits, people are shocked. Of course, because you didn’t know me before. This popularity is bolstered by my performing femininity and heterosexuality, because the majority of society buys into these ideas. My deviations from it affect my popularity which then affects my ability to be an authentic human being. Long story short I try not to think about it. But when I do, I think about the people who exist in the fringes with me who have come up to me in events, who feel seen by what I talk about and how I exist. Then I feel grounded by the fact that the “popularity” will not compromise me. And then I go back to not thinking about it again.

Being of Nigerian and Ethiopian descent, what are your favorite things about the culture of those countries?

Wow what a question. I wouldn’t consider myself being of descent from these two countries, it feels so distant and they live quite close to my heart. I used to drive through Lagos with my family when we were living in Benin, and there was just this unison heartbeat throughout the city, like it was a throbbing wound. It felt exciting and electric. You feel it in the music and you can taste it in the food, this rush. I don’t know how to explain it, but that is one of my favorite parts of existing in Nigeria (because that is how I would describe it). That, and Naija slang, it is unparalleled and melodic. Whenever I read or hear Pidgin I feel that same heartbeat. It is also slowly making its way into international vernacular, something both thrilling and frightening. The history of Ethiopia for me is just mesmerizing, how in depth and far back it goes, the traditions and rituals and the meaning infused into everything makes living this value-laden experience. The food is magical and the jazz is unmatched. But the coffee and the ceremony around it is my favorite, partly because of the nostalgia of being in Addis at home and smelling the beans roasting in the living room. One of those olfactory memories that is logged in my brain forever.

When you are not working and have time to yourself, what does a typical day look like for you?

My typical day starts with coffee and a stretch in my living room. Then a mindless scroll through Tumblr and Instagram. Then I try and respond to emails and texts, and then I usually spend a day in a museum. This is why living in London is special, majority of the museums are free, and on rainy days I bring a sandwich and just walk throughout (getting my steps in) and writing short stories for the paintings and sculptures. Then I unfortunately buy something in the gift shop because capitalism, and then I go home and I paint and watch old episodes of Veep. I try and stay busy and out of my head during downtimes, I know I can think myself into a whirlpool of anxiety and fear and so I keep engaging my body. And then I eat and read and play on my Nintendo Switch (Mario Kart or some cooking nonsense). Then I have a three-way call with my mom and sister because the night time is the only time that works for all three of our time zones lol. Sometimes I roll through an open mic night near a local pub in East London and watch.

What is your daily beauty routine?

My daily beauty routine is really all about the serums. So I wash my face with this great Pacifica vegan ceramide face wash my make up artist (Kymberli Williams) gave me, then I exfoliate with Dr Loreta enzyme polish, then toner by The Lip Bar, and then I put on Osea’s Blemish Balm, then Dieux eye gel, then Eadem’s dark spot corrector, then Dr Loreta replenishing serum, then Slug Cream, then I finish everything with a Clinique moisture face spray and then Supergoop’s unseen sunscreen. I’m all about quantity AND quality?

What beauty item is a must-have for all black girls?


Favorite fragrance?

Carolina Herrera Good Girl

What is in your purse? Give us 3 items that you never leave home without

A book with a pen as a bookmark, Vaseline, charger

Growing up, you traveled all over the world for your parent’s jobs as diplomats. What was that experience like as a child, and what were some of your favorite places to visit and live?

The experience was isolating and intoxicating. As a kid there was nothing that rushed my adrenaline more than moving someplace completely different, being shocked by the difference in culture and being the new kid, all were elements that gave each move this adventure-life feel. I think it’s the reason I can never see myself settling down any where now. But at the same time cultivating friendships became foreign until I got to college and even now I get anxious making friends because I never know how long I’ll be in a place, but I crave community so much. So now it’s all about Satellite Community lol. My favorite place to live was Benin, I think the music and the ocean are attractive elements, but it’s also the fact that when I’m in Benin, or Cotonou specifically, it feels like the city doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s not trying or forcing itself to be anything other than what it is, a beautiful coastal West African city. My favorite place to visit is Johannesburg, the vibrations of that city, the history, and the people are so colorful, it feels like you’ve been living in Black and White until you got to Jo’burg, like Dorothy and Oz. Every time I’m in Jo’burg something wild happens and as long as I come out alive and untraumatized, I love a city that is the source of stories.

Every time you step out your hair is always in a cute and unique style, and you are dressed down from head to toe. Have you always been into fashion and beauty, and what are some of your favorite brands?

I have always been into fashion, beauty came later, and was something I fought. I used to hate lipstick and only wear thick black eyeliner on my bare and angsty face throughout college. I used to dream of becoming a fashion designer and with the textile industry in the countries I grew up in, it was so common for women to design their own clothes. I think it all comes from my grandmother, she is this master dressmaker and has designed prints and beautiful Habesha dresses. I then grew up watching my mother wear the brightest outfits and most stunning gelés to General Assembly meetings and watching my dad put together impeccable suits and even buy my mom her dresses when she was busy. There has always been something about a stylish and chic outfit in my family. A couple of my favorite brands at the moment are Harbinson, Abigail Ajobi, MmusoMaxwell, Agobly, Telfar, Abiola Olusola and Lisa Folawaiyo. I love the ability that clothing has to cultivate an identity. Today I am androgynous but maybe tomorrow I will be in a skirt and bandeau. There is a flexibility and control that putting together an outfit has that being a member of society takes away from you. And to be able to wear clothes that remind me of my home, the people I love, the countries that I consider my motherlands, I feel empowered by history and heritage in a way that other clothes don’t.

Team Credits:

Photography by Bonnie Nicholads

Cover Art: Perrin Johnson @editsbyperry

Editor-in-chief: Prince Chenoa @princechenoastudio

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