After capturing our hearts and tickling our funny bones as the sassy and sweet Olivia on “The Cosby Show,” Raven-Symoné has continued to be a tour de force on television while successfully avoiding the pitfalls of childhood stardom. Now the queen of her own empire, the curvaceous star has made it her mission to help girls feel confident in their own skin. ESSENCE.com chatted with Raven about surviving Hollywood’s crazy body obsession, her new mission and dreams for a family of her own.
ESSENCE.COM: You teamed up with Dove to promote healthy body images, for young girls after their survey discovered that 70 percent of teen girls feel inadequate. Why is this cause important to you?
RAVEN-SYMONE: I always enjoy helping girls feel comfortable about themselves and I’m thinking about whose watching my projects. I told Dove I wanted to be involved in their initiative. Everyone has their moments when your self-esteem is low. I had people around me who supported me in all of my decisions and who told me the truth and gave me the tsame ools that we are giving at our workshop. By sharing my story I hope to inspire.
ESSENCE.COM: And what are some lessons from your life that you hope girls will learn?
RAVEN-SYMONE: Well, what you see in the media is not necessarily how people look. I’ve even airbrushed myself and with that tool, you really question the beauty stereotypes that are out there. At a young age, I’ve always had to hear “you don’t look like this or that.” I was confident and had a shield against those negative languages. That’s why I’m excited to be able to sit down with girls and say, “Sweetheart, do you know how many pulls and tugs, and airbrushing, facelifting, tying the eyes on the side of your head it took to look like this?” I want them to have a better depiction and wider definition of beauty.
ESSENCE.COM: Studies suggest that low self-esteem among young girlsso make them a primary target for sexual pressure from guys. Did you ever succumb to those pressures?
RAVEN-SYMONE: For sure. Some guys can be a little tricky. They bring you in by [acting] sweet and then you’re in love and you know… I’ve definitely been through situations, and every day I’m learning. You move on and become a better person. I would love to get married and have a family but I am 23, how about that? When the time is right, I would like to find someone who is very talented, very driven and very business-savvy and very nice to look at. That’s what I’ll say.
ESSENCE.COM: We hear that. Well, you may be all grown up, but people will always remember you from “The Cosby Show,” and then we saw you again on “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” which was my show…
RAVEN-SYMONE: You’re the only one who remembers that show! I love you! (Laughs.) I don’t really remember that much from “The Cosby Show” but I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without that show. With “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” oh my goodness—I miss that family. The TGIF Fridays, the ’90’s sitcom was so much fun. If you watch “That’s So Raven,” I do a lot of Mark Curry’s facial expressions and he’s like, “You know I used to do that face.” (Laughs.) I still talk to Mark and Holly [Robinson Pete] all the time. I grew up on TV and you always go back to where you grew up, so I definitely would like to go back.
ESSENCE.COM: So what’s next for and what do you hope the Raven-Symoné legacy will be?
RAVEN-SYMONE: I’m working on my fifth album and some scripts, and enjoying helping others. I’ve done so much and it’s time to go out and really touch people. It’s also important to show that I do more than just act and sing. I cook, I decorate, I design. I want my legacy to be that I gave hope to people of all ages, sizes and colors.