Loni Love Keeps It Real in Her New Book
The memoir traces her trajectory from Detroit projects to multi-hyphenate comedian
Loni Love, the Emmy-award-winning co-host of The Real, has come a long way from her humble beginnings.
She was kicked out of her mother’s home in a Detroit housing project and lived in her car while working on an assembly line at General Motors. It wasn’t until college that she started dabbling in comedy, and though she took an engineering job in California, she moonlit as a standup comedian, eventually becoming a regular at the Laugh Factory in L.A. and then a finalist on Star Search in 2003. “I took some time to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” she recalls. “At my job, my manager had a massive heart attack. It made me realize that nothing is certain, nothing is for sure, and if I’m going to make a move, I gotta make a move now.”
After working as a road comic for years, gigging across the country, she has been a co-host of The Real, speaking her own truth, with valuable insight, advice, and support, since 2014. She also co-hosts a podcast, Café Mocha, with rapper YoYo, which she calls the only nationally syndicated show of its kind that was created exclusively by and for women of color. It can be found on over 40 stations, including SiriusXM.
Now, the comedian is telling us how she became a star in her new memoir, I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To: True Life Lessons, out June 23 with Hachette publishers. It follows her humble upbringing in Detroit, bad boyfriends (and their mothers), office jobs, comedy breaks, and mistakes. As she sums up the book: “It’s a comedy memoir that tells the story about being homeless, married, how I went from being A to B, being an Emmy Award winner — it’s juicy.”
“Because women of color don’t have a lot of stories out there, we have to write our stories, or someone else will tell your story.”
It details how she lost a childhood friend to gun violence and the time she got arrested in college by a White police officer for “trespassing” at a restaurant (after defending a friend who filled up a free cup of water with soda). It also details the triumphs, heartaches, big breaks, broke months, and more on the way to the top. The media personality, comedian, writer, podcast host, and now host of an Instagram Live show called #QuarantineWithLoni, speaks about the importance of Black women telling their own stories, the shift in comedy, and Diana Ross, all from her home in California — where she is Zooming episodes of The Real.
ZORA: What inspired you to do this book? It’s inspirational but has self-help and is a memoir.
Loni Love: Well, this is my second book after Love Him or Leave Him but Don’t Get Stuck with the Tab, my first book that came out in 2013. I tend to be an advice-giver. It’s like my standup; you get advice. It’s not laugh after laugh but “why are things the way they are?” People don’t know how much it took me to become an Emmy-winning actress. I wanted to give people something to hope for. It’s funny how things work. I wrote this book in four months. I always wanted to do a memoir; I have so many stories from my life. I finally found a publisher that was like “I get you.” The first book was a dating advice book, but this is a memoir. It had to encompass something, which is me always trying to fit in. It’s for my fans, to show if I came from where I came from, believe in myself, work and become a success, they can too.
Why is it important for Black women to tell their own stories?
I want people to read this and journal their lives, write your story. Because women of color don’t have a lot of stories out there, we have to write our stories, or someone else will tell your story. You don’t want someone else to tell your story. Writing this book was therapeutic. I have a lot of stories that I wanted people to connect with; I wanted to inspire people, but I had to relive the trauma. Prepare yourself: There will be times when you are going to cry. I don’t care who you are — a teacher, a garbage man — write your life. Journal. It’s history, it’s for your family, it’s for everyone to write your own book.
How did you decide on the book cover?
On the book cover, you see me in many outfits — I tried doing comedy like a man, so I’m wearing a tuxedo. It didn’t work. I tried to fake being rich, wearing fur, didn’t work. I tried being a rapper like MC Lite. I was the worst rapper ever. I couldn’t remember my rhymes. It’s an inspiring book about trying to be all these other things, then learning to accept myself. Buy this book for a friend who tries to fit in with everybody because, in life, you have to accept who you are. That’s what it’s about.
How hard has it been to build your career?
Women of color don’t get the money that we should get. You see us with these jobs, but you have a certain lifestyle to adhere to, too. I’m not talking about flossing. You’re on TV; you have to have a secure life to live. You have to get on red carpets; that costs you. I’m taking deals, multitasking. Then, the pandemic hit. You’re just trying to chase dollars and get to the next page.
What do you have to say to women who want to follow their dreams?
Just show up — 80% of the win is showing up. Don’t laugh at the small opportunities. You never know what might become of it, no matter what the field. Spend time volunteering in the field. Understand and study the business. Be optimistic and work hard. You can do it.
What are some of the photos in the book?
There’s a photo of Diana Ross in the projects in Detroit because she’s from my projects (the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects). When she would perform, she would come back, driving in a limousine, and she’d wave to us. I’d wave to her, “Diana!”
Another thing you talk about in the book is the experience of being a plus-size woman?
For years, plus-size women were meant to feel like second-rate. That’s not true. That’s one reason why I went into standup. You have to be this power force. As you can see, plus-size women in the public eye are growing. It’s happening. We shouldn’t have to starve to get men. You should be allowed to be yourself. Whoever you are, you have to deal with that and understand it isn’t a flaw. Some people will do anything to keep women down. In my book, I try to explain that you can either accept that from people, or you don’t. You can say, “This is who I am, and you have to accept me.”
What do you think about Adele losing weight?
I’m a huge supporter of women who want to get healthy. What I like about what she has done is she hasn’t been putting out a thousand pictures of herself in magazines. She puts out one photo, and people go crazy. Instead of being depressed, she said she started hiking, working out. She can be a source of inspiration for me. Adele is gorgeous; nothing has changed. We put so much pressure on artists to look a certain way — versus being healthy. It’s one day at a time.
In the book, you talk about expectations. How did you get over that?
I think a lot of women are shamed for not marrying or having children, for not having a man or not being able to “keep a man,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. Men aren’t shamed for the same things. My ex-boyfriend’s mom told me to walk around in a prom dress on a Saturday. It’s an old-school notion of looks being more important than what’s in your heart, how you connect with somebody. We’re still fighting these stereotypical relationship goals in 2020.
Why is Oprah your idol?
I respect her for the hard work she has done. How she did it her way. I remember when Oprah and [her partner] Steadman Graham were on Gail King’s talk show and they were asked why she didn’t get married. Oprah said, “It just didn’t happen!” I love that about her. Then she became a mogul, retired from the show, and stopped talking about her partner. I always admired that she kept her relationship the way she wanted to; she didn’t get caught up. That’s the way I want to be. She stays focused. She’s the second black female billionaire. Who can’t admire that? I am from the projects in Detroit. I wasn’t supposed to meet Oprah and the first Black president of the U.S. This is a story about God, work, and opportunity.