The Stunning Transformation Of Naturi Naughton

Naturi Naughton is the kind of star who has a career so diverse that how you know her and think of her largely depends on your own age and generation. For some, she will always be the 15-year-old singer who was part of the girl group 3LW and who toured with Destiny's Child. For others, there is no way she can be thought of as anyone besides Tasha St. Patrick, wife of James St. Patrick, fiercely protective mother of three, on the hit Starz show "Power." For some, Naughton is Jill — a whip-smart, fiery lesbian on the ABC show "Queens."

And that doesn't even begin to touch on the number of roles that Naughton has enjoyed. She has nurtured a career that has resulted in her becoming a true triple-threat. This woman can really do it all. A mother of one who is planning her own wedding for spring 2022, Naughton is at the top of her game. The reality, though, is that she still has plenty of goals, and she's on track to achieve every one of them.

Naturi Naughton grew up in New Jersey

While it seems to be pretty common to give people from New Jersey a hard time about their home state, Naturi Naughton is very proud to hail from the Garden State. As she told LadyGunn, her childhood was pretty spectacular. Naughton was raised by her parents, who have been married for over 50 years, and spent most of her youth as a "regular kid."

There is one thing that sets Naughton's childhood apart from the experience most of us had: She could sing. As she explained to the publication, Naughton first tested out her vocal skills at New Hope Baptist Church, and the experience was transformative. She said, "I remember being the little girl who was very confident, outgoing and couldn't wait to get the mic. My first solo was at [5 years old] in the choir and ever since then, I never put the mic down."

Naughton was dead set on being a triple threat, as she told Essence in 2018. With Whitney Houston as her idol, Naughton said, "I wanted to be able to dance. I studied dance, piano, and voice." Luckily, she's had a career that has allowed her to do exactly that.

She was the first in her family to go into entertainment

While Naturi Naughton's childhood was pretty blissful, she definitely broke the mold in her family in a major way. Naughton is the first member of her family to pursue a career in entertainment. In an interview with Forbes, the singer and actress explained that no one in her family had even considered the type of career she wanted to pursue, and she even had a back-up plan in place just in case. She shared, "I went to Seton Hall University, was a straight-A student, and I actually thought about being a lawyer if my whole singing-acting thing didn't work out."

Even though entertainment was her dream, Naughton didn't have the easiest time breaking into the industry. She's been open about battling colorism and racism throughout her career, telling LadyGunn that if she could tell her younger self one thing, it would be to really love who she is. She stated, "Stop worrying about what other people think about you and just do you because you are enough, you are beautiful, and you are special. Really love the skin that you're in."

As a teen, Naturi Naughton was part of the group 3LW

Naturi Naughton made a name for herself as one of the three members of the singing group 3LW. She was only 15 years old at the time, which Naughton later admitted is a fact she feels is easy to forget. As she put it to People, while she ultimately described her departure from the singing group as a "tumultuous breakup," there was still plenty to learn. She said, "I look back at that experience of being in a girl group, although it had some learning experiences that were growing pains, it just showed me what it takes to make it in this industry."

Whether or not she looks back on the experience positively, Naughton definitely recognizes that being in the group helped her grow and learn a lot about the entertainment industry as a whole. As she told Black Star News, being a singer even helped her as she became an actress, as the two are more closely linked than some might realize. She explained, "Even though my career started off as a singer, there is still a level of acting you have to bring to be an artist. Singers have a lot in common with actors because you have to dig deep into a song and show the audience what you are feeling as you sing."

She went to Broadway after leaving 3LW

Naturi Naughton has been open about her desire to have a well-rounded career filled with tons of different experiences and types of work. With that in mind, it makes sense that Naughton wanted to do something different, though still within her wheelhouse, after she left girl group 3LW. Naughton actually ended up on Broadway for three years in a production of "Hairspray." In an interview with Collider, Naughton explained that the experience was invaluable.

As she told the publication, making it in the entertainment world means you sometimes need to approach things with a business mindset. Luckily, she's been able to do just that. As Naughton told Collider, "You have to think like a businessman or a businesswoman, and I can't wait to continue to grow, as an actress, but to also continue to grow as a brand and show people that I have so much more to offer."

Naturi Naughton made her movie debut as Lil' Kim

In 2008, Naturi Naughton finally turned to the big screen when she was cast as Lil' Kim in the Notorious B.I.G. biopic "Notorious." Preparing for the role as one of the most legendary women in hip-hop was a tall order, but Naughton told Black Star News that she felt more than up to the challenge. Part of her preparation included intense levels of research, a task she took seriously. Naughton said, "I watched her in videos, stage performances, behind-the-scenes footage, and listened to her voice in radio interviews. I also read a lot of material that the director [George Tillman Jr.] gave me about Kim's back story. It helped to understand her struggles as a child growing up in Brooklyn."

While acting was always a goal in the back of Naughton's mind, she was still blown away once she began booking gigs. As she told Collider, the years of prep work, which included dancing, singing, and acting lessons, helped inform every part of her time in the role. 

She had been out of work when she booked Power

Naturi Naughton was 29 years old when she auditioned for the role of Tasha St. Patrick on what would go on to become one of the most successful shows on Starz, "Power." As she told Collider, at the time of the audition, she hadn't locked down a steady acting gig for a few years, and she really wanted to land the part. Naughton explained, "Initially, it was a struggle because they told me that I might be too young or not the right type, so it took awhile. But after that, I definitely felt like they embraced me."

Once the show's creator, Courtney Kemp, decided Naughton was the one, the singer and actress completely transformed into the role. As Naughton explained to LadyGunn, "Power" has been a game changer. She said, "It truly changed my life. Day in and day out, we found ways to separate [ourselves] from the bunch. The show was so raw and honest to the New York culture, so sexy, so provocative that we knew we had something great."

Playing Tasha has been about more than just landing a dream role as a great character. As Naughton related to Essence, it's refreshing to be acting in a day and age when Black female characters are being given the opportunity to make "an imprint within the culture."

Naturi Naughton became a mom in 2017

In 2017, Naturi Naugton's life changed again when she gave birth to her daughter, Zuri. Naughton and her now ex-boyfriend, identified only as Ben, welcomed their baby on July 19 of that year. Naughton gushed about her baby girl's arrival to Us Weekly, sharing, "This is the best experience of my life! Myself and Benjamin are so honored and happy to welcome this beautiful girl into the world!"

Naughton found out about her pregnancy as she was in the middle of shooting a particularly harrowing experience on "Power." As she was preparing to welcome a baby girl in real life, her character, Tasha St. Patrick, lost her daughter Raina. Naughton told Essence that she used the emotion surrounding her pregnancy to inform the emotional experience Tasha was having on screen. She explained, "As an artist, I was creating this emotionally devastating situation with losing a daughter, but at the same time that I was shooting the scenes about the death of Raina, I was pulling from the fact that I was carrying a life."

In 2020, Naughton revealed that, like a lot of working moms, she was feeling the weight of balancing being a parent while working a demanding job. Luckily, it sounds like she has a good support system in place, a fact that she's been happy to acknowledge (per Us Weekly).

Naturi Naughton ended her relationship with her daughter's father

Naturi Naughton has admitted that she and her ex-boyfriend Ben felt a little pressured to go ahead and get married after finding out they were expecting their daughter, Zuri. But toward the end of her pregnancy, she told Essence, the two were handling the thoughts and feelings of others well, explaining, "I think we're just taking it step-by-step and not worrying about what other people's judgments or thoughts are because at the end of the day, they're not living for me, or for us."

In retrospect, that hesitation to get married might have been a warning bell. She and Ben ended their relationship. Naughton explained to Essence that, for her, getting married wasn't appropriate if it wasn't to the right person. She said, "A lot of people think that marriage is the quintessential success, but it's not if the marriage is not grounded in the right foundation."

Fortunately, Naughton and Ben are great co-parents.

Naturi Naughton got engaged in 2020

Naturi Naughton found love again, and in December 2020, she revealed that she was engaged to her boyfriend, a music industry professional identified by Essence as Two. It turns out that Naughton and Two were originally introduced by the actress' "Power" co-star Omari Hardwick, who played her husband, James St. Patrick, on the show. In fact, Naughton told the magazine that she didn't realize Hardwick introduced the two of them for personal reasons — she thought Hardwick's goals for her were strictly professional. She explained, "Omari spoke so highly of Two to me. I don't even know that he was trying to hook us up."

The pair spent a year getting to know one another as individuals before they became boyfriend and girlfriend. Naughton said the rule appealed to her, and it helped her understand there was a bigger picture at work. She said, "That was how I got more comfortable because I started to see, wait a minute. This ain't just for boyfriend time, this is a setup for a husband."

Two has also stepped up to be a great father figure to Naughton's daughter, Zuri. In fact, when he proposed to Naughton, he "proposed" to Zuri too — something Naughton seemed to think was too much but an action Two defended to Essence. He said, "I want her to have her standards high when she gets older so [she] knows what to accept."

Naturi Naughton began starring on Queens in 2021

In 2021, Naturi Naughton took on a role for the show "Queens," alongside fellow singer Brandy. Naughton told Rock the Bells that she leapt at the opportunity to play a new character, as she hoped it would shake up the perception that others have of her. She explained, "I didn't want to do the same type of role. [Jill] is funny, she's uptight, a church lady — and yet, she's a lesbian. She's got a lot going on!"

Naughton has also said she is deeply appreciative of having the opportunity to continue to innovate while playing a character of which she is proud. As Naughton herself has personally learned, her character Jill's arc included a period of growth in which she realized she doesn't need to live up to the expectations that others have for her. Naughton shared with Rock the Bells that witnessing her character's personal growth is something she enjoys, admitting, "When she does step into her power and confidence, I love that."

Naughton can also relate deeply to Jill's experience of "being molded into a version that they say is acceptable." As a former teen star who made it big in just about every way you can, Naughton knows what it takes to rise above the rules others put in place — and it definitely sounds like she's not finished rising just yet.