Lala Anthony is one of the most prolific and cross-generational personalities that hip-hop culture has ever witnessed. There’s absolutely no one like her. The Brooklyn, New York-raised talent, born Alani Nicole Vázquez, got her start in radio at just 16 years old and it’s been on ever since. From radio to landing the coveted role as an MTV VJ for Total Request Live to huge acting roles as well as hosting the 2023 Met Gala red carpet for Vogue — and on top of it all, being a mother — there are so many reasons Lala is important to the culture and with Hip Hop’s 50th approaching, it’s time to highlight that.
Right before the 2023 BET Awards, at the Amex & BET Watch Party at House of BET, I got a glimpse of Lala at work with the lights, camera, and mic on. Oh, and the many eyes staring and all the ears listening (because it has to be quiet on the set, of course) while she did it. It looked like she could do this in her sleep — which should come as no surprise. She’s been thriving for years in an ever-changing media space and in so many ways. It’s to the point where there’s something comforting about knowing that Lala’s involved. Whether it’s on Starz’s BMF or a cameo in a Drake music video, there’s a certain standard that comes with her association.
“I started on TRL really young and that was live TV, and you couldn’t mess up,” she told me after she wrapped filming. “So, I think I’ve gotten trained over the years to try to just do it in one take because on live television, you can’t do it again. So, I’m used to it.”
Exactly. There’s a reason Lala will always be famous. During our conversation, we discussed her early days on the radio, with Ludacris giving her a shot, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and the music she’s looking forward to the most this year.
How did you get your start at the radio station in Atlanta
I was an intern. And then from there, I worked really hard, and Ludacris, they gave me a shot at actually being on the radio with him when I was 16 years old. So that’s how everything started, and that’s how my career kind of started. I know, I know. It was young. It was young. Well, I lied and said I was 18 so I could get the job, but I was really 16. It was young, but I was driven. I knew I loved music, I knew I wanted to do something with music, so once the opportunity to intern came up, I knew that was something I wanted to do.
You took that risk?
I did. I took a chance. It was a fun job for me to intern at a radio station as a teenager. You get to hear all the music you love and you get to meet all the artists that you love.
And also, since… He wasn’t Ludacris then, right?
Chris Luva Luva.
Right. So you guys are both at the top of y’all’s game at this point. During that time though, when you both were on the radio, did you two ever discuss what you wanted the future to look like?
Chris always wanted to be a rapper and we knew that. I’ll never forget the day he came in the radio station and he said, “I’m going to leave this job now.” He said, “So you got two options. You’re either going to get in the car with me and we’re going to travel all over the country selling my mixtape or you’re going to have to find another radio job.” And I was like, do I want to be in his Hyundai for however many months just on the road? Or, do I want to pursue my own career? I always supported Chris, but I wanted to find my own lane.
I decided to go with the option of getting on another radio station. That’s when I moved to LA, probably at about 18 or 19 years old, and got on the radio here in LA.
It’s been so dope to see you go from radio to TRL to doing all the TV shows like Power and BMF and reality shows to hosting the Met Gala red carpet. What would you say is your most memorable interview moment?
The internship that we talked about started because I remember Method Man and the Wu-Tang Clan, they were opening up a clothing store in Atlanta and I wanted to meet Method Man. I wanted to meet the Wu-Tang Clan. I was such a fan growing up. So, it wasn’t an interview, but it was the moment where kind of my career started when I went to the clothing store that they were opening. I got the internship because the radio station was there.
I always think about Wu-Tang as what kind of started me in this career and everything, and then years later, I was also a part of the Wu-Tang series. So it all came full circle, to be acting in the Wu-Tang series and knowing that my career started following Wu-Tang at the clothing store that day. I feel like hip-hop is the soundtrack to my life and my career and my path, so I have so much love for it. It started my career in music. It’s been great to see a little bit of everything.
Do you remember the first rap you ever memorized?
Yes. “Anything” by Nas I memorized, and I still to this day know by heart.
Which album drops were you the most excited for this year?
I loved Drake and 21‘s album. Thug’s album was great. There’s been some great music this year for sure.
Do you have any projects that you’re looking forward to?
Well, if Drake does, then I’ll look forward to that, of course. Nicki Minaj said she was releasing, so definitely Nicki for sure. I mean, I just take them as they come, and then I get right into them. I know there’s some great concerts happening. Definitely, Beyoncé’s concert, so that’s going to be great. I know Drake is going on tour with 21, so I’m going to definitely go to that. It’s a great time for music.
Speaking of Beyoncé, I do have a question about a specific picture though, because I know one year at the Met Gala you, Beyoncé and Nicki took a photo. Tell me about that moment.
It’s always great energy with all of us. I think that Nicki, we were sitting next to each other at the Met, and then Bey was walking around and came over to say, ‘Hi,’ and then we just snapped a picture together. The Met is so fun. You never know who you’re going to see or who you’re going to run into. That was a couple years ago. It was a fun night.
What’s it like inside the Met Gala?
It’s like a dinner and then a performance — but it’s really fun. You get to see people that you love, people that you’re fans of and you get to see friends. It’s like a gathering of just great energy and people you don’t see all the time. So, it’s really a fun night and it’s in New York, which makes me happy because a lot of events are in LA, and I’m from New York and I live in New York, so it’s nice to have events like the Met be in New York.
What’s next for you or something we should look out for?
I just had a movie drop, The Perfect Find on Netflix with myself, Gabrielle Union, and Keith Powers. I just finished filming season three of BMF, which will drop in January, so people seem to be excited for another season of BMF.