Ooh La La
La La Anthony in the Holiday Season’s Best Natural Diamond Bows
Photographed by: Andy Jackson | Styled by: Ian McRae
Written by: Sarah Cristobal
La La Anthony is a multihyphenate talent of the first degree. She is an actress, a producer, a beauty entrepreneur and a committed community leader. But if there’s one role that she is still mastering, it’s that of a diamond jewelry collector. “It’s definitely something that I’m interested in,” Anthony says about expanding her assortment of natural diamond baubles. “A woman always loves diamonds, and I have some great pieces.”
Staying motivated has never been an issue for the self-made star. Anthony, 40, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and her family’s circumstances (her mother was raised at the Marcy Projects) provided her with an inherent drive from an early age. At 16, she parlayed an internship at Atlanta’s Hot 97 station into a co-hosting gig with rapper/actor Ludacris. By 2001, she was a VJ for MTV’s TRL and Direct Effect. Some ill-informed types told her she would peak there; she didn’t. She went on to marry NBA great Carmelo Anthony, and VH1 even documented the buildup to their union with the popular 2010 reality TV series, La La’s Full Court Wedding. She wrote two books—the New York Times bestseller, The Love Playbook (2014) and The Power Playbook (2015)—and has amassed nearly 50 film and television credits to date.
Anthony has a penchant for playing tough-as-nails characters, and that is not by accident. Her most notable roles include a six-season arc as Lakeisha Grant on the Starz drama POWER (produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) and a recurring guest spot on Lena Waithe’s The Chi that snagged Anthony an NAACP Image Award nomination. Oftentimes, she admits, she is drawing inspiration for these characters from her own life. “There’s a piece of me in each one of them because they are informed by someone I knew or grew up around,” she says. “Women who had to be strong in really difficult situations. We were surrounded by them, so it’s nice to be able to honor them.”
The boldness of La la Anthony is also visible on the red carpet. She recently attended the CFDA Awards—dubbed the Oscars of the fashion industry—in a white asymmetrical Rick Owens gown, complemented by Jennifer Fisher jewelry, to support Kim Kardashian, one of her best friends and an honoree at the event. Typically though Anthony considers her personal style to skew more tomboy than tony. Fortunately, the camera loves her no matter what she wears. “I like seeing myself in pictures that look good,” Anthony says with a laugh. “What girl wouldn’t like that?”
At the Only Natural Diamonds shoot, songs by Cardi B and Diddy blared while Anthony got into fashion model mode. She was particularly enamored with the first look of the day—a tangle of Eleuteri and Jemma Wynne diamond necklaces casually wrapped around her hair paired with a Shayne Oliver trench that draped off her shoulders. A more mignon ensemble that involved a flurry of sparkly bows cascading throughout her tousled braid was also a favorite.
In thinking about her most significant diamond memory, La La references her engagement to Carmelo Anthony on Christmas Day in 2004. The couple is no longer together, but the specialness of that memory endures. “I’m not married anymore, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that that moment was still incredible,” says Anthony. “It was the first time I really had a decent diamond.” (Said diamond was originally reported to be a nine carat sparkler, which was later upgraded to a 20 carat oval diamond ring.)
When she’s getting gussied up for a big event like the Met Ball, Anthony will go big and borrow some bling. “It’s not like I’m just sitting on millions and millions of dollars worth of diamonds,” she jokes. Among those on speed dial is jeweler Lorraine Schwartz, who also happens to be a dear friend. Their collaborative history runs deep: Schwartz redesigned her engagement ring, and Anthony has worn her pieces to countless premieres and parties.
“I adore La La,” Schwartz says. “I redid her ring when she was with Carmelo. We’ve become good friends. She always supports her friends and is a girl’s girl who loves beautiful bling.”
Talk to Anthony for any short period of time and it will quickly become evident that her relationships are of the utmost importance to her, particularly the one between her and Kiyan, her 15-year-old son with Carmelo. Anthony admits that she gives off big “boy mom” energy. Raising Kiyan has also inspired her to become an unofficial boy mom to other kids too, most notably young men who are serving time at Rikers Island that are participants in a program called Fatherless No More.
“I have an incredible bond with my son, and that’s what helps me with the work at Rikers as well,” says Anthony. “When I look at the boys in the program, I look at them the way I’m looking at my son. I talk to them with the same passion, care, concern and love that I talk to my son with. It’s just second nature to me.”
She was introduced to the initiative through New York City Mayor Eric Adams who encouraged Anthony to sit in on the Fatherless No More sessions conducted by former NFL player turned pastor, Tim Johnson. Anthony assists the mentees by teaching them about important life skills and reentry into society. (She was even able to flex some of that old MTV VJ magic by inviting rapper Lil Baby to come and speak to the group this past October.) Upon release, Anthony’s den mother mentality extends to helping the mentees to understand the legal aspects of their respective cases and she even secures jobs for them.
One of her mentees, JR, 18, is now Anthony’s intern and was with her at the Only Natural Diamonds shoot manning the music and doing other assorted errands. Anthony is keen to show him that “if you keep doing the right thing and good opportunities will happen.” She has witnessed JR’s growth firsthand since they started working together and is in the process of getting him a job at a sneaker store. (A total dream for any young sneakerhead).
“He’s accountable to me and he doesn’t want to disappoint me, nor do I want to disappoint him,” says Anthony. “Sometimes people need accountability to help them make the right decisions. Now being able to see him out in the world in regular clothes, and he can order food and eat with us, these are privileges that we take for granted. It’s an incredible feeling for me.”
Anthony says when she’s not filming, she’ll go to Rikers once or twice a week to check on the Fatherless No More participants. (If she’s on set, someone from her team will go instead.) Anthony is dedicated to broadening the program as much as possible. “This is not something that has an expiration date,” she says. “You see all the young men in this program through, and then a new group comes in and you try to help them through. It cycles like that. Unfortunately, young black and brown boys are getting incarcerated, and that number is not slowing down.”
With nearly 14 million Instagram followers, Anthony is keenly aware that people are watching how she presents herself in this world. “I feel like it’s my duty to do good,” she says. “Growing up a certain way and seeing people struggle, and now being in a position to actually help those that may be struggling and help them have hope, is very important to me. It’s my driving force.”
This do-good mentality even extends to her newish beauty line, Inala. After experimenting with rice-water-based hair treatments during the pandemic, she created a suite of products made of Rice Water Complex that contribute to scalp and hair health. “When people feel good about their hair, their outlook on life is different, they feel more confident,” says Anthony. “That, to me, is a measure of success more than anything else.”
Besides keeping her work as the founder of Inala going, Anthony is planning to hit the red carpets again soon for her upcoming projects. First is Netflix’s The Perfect Find alongside Gabrielle Union. Anthony plays Union’s good friend who warns her about dating a much younger man. “All that is so relatable to what’s happening in the dating [world] right now,” says Anthony. “Especially when you’re at a point in your life where you might be out of a marriage and starting over. You just see so many things on the dating front.” The next release will be a supporting role in the rom-com Your People starring Eddie Murphy, Jonah Hill, Julia Louis Dreyfus and Nia Long. In January, Anthony can be seen on season two of BMF as another badass character, Markaisha Taylor, teaming up again with 50 Cent who is the executive producer of the Starz series.
Ask her what her downtime looks like and Anthony admits that she’s not a “spa day” type. The thing that brings her the most joy is hanging with Kiyan whenever she can, and especially attending his basketball games. Lending Kiyan her support is always fun for Anthony, but lending him her diamond jewelry? Not so much. Even a super mama like Anthony has her limits.
“My son’s ears are pierced, so sometimes I find him trying to take my [stud] earrings,” she says with a laugh. “These are not earrings to just play around with, you know what I mean?”
Photographer: Andy Jackson
Stylist: Ian McRae
Director of Photography: Carl Knight
Video Directors: Carl Knight and Annika White
Creative Production: Petty Cash Productions
Hair: Nikki Nelms
Makeup: Keita Moore
Stylist Assistant: Josh Hickman
Tailor: Maria Del Greco