This “Sister, Sister” Star Dishes on her Love for Food, Family and Being a Woman
Written By: Jordan Ligons
Photographed By: Tae Kwon
Styled By: Judy Kaufman
Hair By: Kendra Garvey
Makeup By: Anton Khachaturian for Exclusive Artists using MAC Cosmetics
Tia Mowry-Hardrict has one of those laughs that escalates. Her whole body kind of shakes, her nose scrunches up and, as you listen, you can’t help but follow suit. It’s full of pure joy, happiness and it’s memorable—a laugh that’s good for the soul. The actress, author and entrepreneur expressed that this joyfulness is a choice that she makes every single day.
At about eight years old, Tia felt God putting that gift in her; she now feels there’s a spiritual connection to why bringing others joy brings her joy. “I feel like that’s who I am,” she recalls the moment vividly. With stuffed animals surrounding her on her bed, she remembers crying happy tears. “I feel like my job on earth is to put a smile on people’s faces, to inspire, to uplift, to encourage, to get people to forget about their problems…I never told anyone that before.” She put her face in her hands and apologized for seeming corny. Well, Tia, you’ve put your gifts to work and we’re all lucky to be the beneficiaries.
FAME & FAMILY
Not only were my cheeks sore from smiling and laughing so much during our two-hour chat over lunch, but she and her twin sister, Tamera, have been entertaining and spreading that joy since she can remember. It started with dancing and modeling, Tia says, even while on base in Hawaii.
Tia’s parents were both in the United States Army, her mom a drill sergeant and her dad a first sergeant. Born in Germany, this army brat called numerous places “home” while growing up, but her favorite was the Aloha State.
It took Tia and her sister three years to beg their mom to move to Los Angeles. At the time, they were living on the base in Fort Hood, TX. The sisters were performing and doing the local pageant rounds when it got to a point where eyes would roll when they’d sign up for competitions. “I say this with humility, but we were winning everything,” she says matter-of-factly. “Sometimes I would take first then [Tamera] would take second or she would take first and I would take second.”
When they finally convinced her, their mom gave up her position in the military and moved the girls and their younger brother, Tahj, to Hollywood.
“It was tough because we didn’t have any money. The army really does take care of their soldiers…we never really got that feeling of struggle until we moved to LA,” Tia explained. That house on the base was downgraded to an apartment, rice was eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a once two-parent home became a single-parent home, as her father had to stay enlisted back in Texas. Christmas shopping was done at the 99 Cents Only Stores and they were bullied for their high-water pants in school.
But then, chance happened. Producer Irene Dreayer introduced the rising twin stars to Suzanne de Passe, who discovered The Jackson 5 (yes, The Jackson 5) and she said, “You girls are a TV show.” And after numerous meetings with network bigwigs, ABC bought the idea of “Sister, Sister” and it was soon on the network’s family programming block, TGIF. They were only 13 years old.
The popular ‘90s sitcom had us all wondering if (and secretly wishing) we had a long lost sister out there. Over 100 episodes of singing along to the theme song, anticipating switcheroo incidents and loving on the oh-so-nineties fashion, we as viewers got to witness Tia grow up on the show. But off camera in the Mowry household, their mom still allowed them to be average teenagers.
“Our mom really, really protected us. It was just a job to us,” Tia says that there was a fine line of being a child star and creeping into the dark parts of Hollywood. They weren’t allowed to let their new job as sitcom stars define them as people. Their mom kept them in check and made them check their egos at the door. “We had chores, curfew, we had an allowance. It was like things had changed, but things really hadn’t changed,” Tia said about the experience of the six-year-long hit series. “But the most incredible thing was that I got to do it with my sister.”
After the series ended in 1999, Tia needed to break away for a bit. During one of her semesters studying psychology at Pepperdine University, she studied abroad in Europe, alone, and did some self-reflecting. She concluded that when she would return to the States she would get serious about acting and get serious about her career. “When there’s change and you’re not in your comfort zone, that is when you should realize you’re doing the right thing,” she said. It took seven years to land another starring television role, but when she did, it was a game-changer.
When she went to audition for The CW-turned BET “Girlfriends” spinoff “The Game,” even the casting director wanted to make sure that she knew what she was auditioning for; it was quite the different role than kid-friendly Tia Landry. “Uh yeah, I’m a grown ass woman,” she said to the casting director at 24 years old. “I’ve been through everything that this girl Melanie is going through.” Nine seasons later and viewers were still obsessed with the plot line. It was risky, she said, but then again Tia doesn’t shy away from risks: “I feel like I’m giving away my secret, but why I am where I am in my career is because whatever I am afraid of, I say, ‘Bring it on,’” she said. “I’m kind of addicted to looking at things that are risks, or that I am afraid of, and embracing it.”
With the combo of risk-taking and strict parents, Tia feels this is why her career has had longevity. “I feel so honored to have great parents like my mom and my dad,” Tia says. “They don’t care about money or fame; they care about integrity and character. That’s what they’ve instilled in us and that’s what I’m instilling in my son.”
Tia’s six-year-old son Cree has character for sure, but he also is one. “Mommy, do you have a seed in there?” Pointing at her belly, that’s what Cree asked Tia during the early stages of her pregnancy with her recently announced second baby on the way. He must’ve overheard her talking about it. She finally let him know that he was going to be a big brother. “Well, how big is it?” he quizzed. “It’s about the size of a lemon,” Tia answered. “Oh, well I’m bigger than a lemon!” She said she can already see the competitive spirit seep through.
This kid definitely has a future for TV. He loves making people laugh (like his mommy), even if his jokes aren’t that funny. “Mom, what’s a pig that’s next to a sink? A pig sink!” Tia pretends to laugh an obviously fake ha ha. She throws up her arms with a shrug when retelling the story, “I don’t want him to think he’s not funny.” I mean, what can we say, entertaining is in his blood.
“When I realized that I really loved cooking was when I started to dream about it. And that was after I got married,” Tia has an elongated grin on her face as we talk about one of her fave topics: food. “I would go to bed and I would dream about what I was going to make the next day. Literally, I would dream about food!” Can we all raise our hand in solidarity that we’ve done this too?
She confesses to fangirling over Food Network stars like Giada De Laurentiis to Bobby Flay to Ina Garten and after “Sister, Sister” she confesses the thought of culinary school crept into her mind. “It has always been in me,” she said adding that she started cooking at about 12. “When I cooked chicken piccata for the first time, I was like, ‘Damn this is good. This is a gift.’”
And she isn’t the only one who thinks so. She can’t get rid of her husband’s friends; they’ve become dinner table groupies, showing up for every gathering to take selfies with Tia’s dishes and take home the leftovers: “I am a nurturer at heart, and I feel like when you feed people, it’s like you’re nurturing them.”
Let her upgrade you, and your shelves, with her jam-packed cookbook “Whole New You.” She wanted to not only inspire fans to choose a healthy lifestyle but be vulnerable, real and share her story of how her passion for food turned into a life-saving change.
In her book, Tia talks about being diagnosed with endometriosis in 2006, an abnormal growth of cells from the lining of your uterus that appears outside of the uterine cavity, after years of symptoms and abdominal pain. This lead to a multitude of emergency room visits and two severe surgeries, but then her doctor declared that if she was planning on having kids and if she wanted the surgeries to stop, she simply needed to do one thing: change her diet.
“I used to say it was like for years you’ve been putting on your pants a certain way, without even thinking about it, and now all of a sudden you have to change the way you put on pants,” like swapping out the dairy for vegan cheese and pushing the carb-filled pizza dough aside to use cauliflower crust; expect this and more in over 200 recipes curated for her cookbook.
“The audience that I really wanted to touch was the African American community,” she says about the bestseller that was two years in the making. “I feel like in our community we don’t know a lot about how food can be medicine—until something happens.” When she started to change her diet, her aunties, grandmother and close family members were confused by this new-school ideology: Ain’t nothing wrong with a little soul food! What are you doing?
She then began to list off stats in regards to African American women: Heart disease is the leading cause of death and 56.9 percent of those 20 years or older are obese, according to the CDC. Plus, endometriosis targets 15 percent of women, with growing numbers in the African American community.
“I’m so blessed to be able to be creative in that space and that we live in a day and age where you don’t have to go to culinary school to be accepted in that world,” she said. We think appearing on Food Network and her former show “Tia Mowry at Home” on the Cooking Channel has definitely given her some kitchen cred. “I’m having loads of fun with [cooking]. I love it.” She holds her tongue to the roof of her mouth for a couple seconds for more emphasis on the “love.” “Love it, love it, love it.” There’s that laugh again. I definitely believe her, and it shows.
“I’m very proud to say that I am a feminist,” Tia said. We were talking about the importance of this ‘sisterhood’ in the industry. She stated that you have to combat society’s view of women that we were only put here to be sexualized and raise children. She calls BS. “You can do anything that you want to do. No matter what.”
She continues, “I feel like just because I am a mom doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to give up who I am or who I was. I can still dream, I can still feel and be sexy. What’s wrong with a mom taking a burlesque class?” I nod my head and “Mmhm” in agreement.
Tia explained how she’s had to turn down numerous roles in her career that play into stereotypes, whether it perpetuates being black or being a woman. She flat out said, “That’s not my calling.”
“I feel like we need to build a community where we can uplift, where we can support, where we can inspire and where we can say, ‘I got you.’” She’s already started building said community with her new YouTube channel “Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix”, where she’s taken the reins of her career and is making content that she loves.
“I have so much fun on these damn YouTube [videos], you have no idea,” she wanted to create a hub for all her fans from the other social networks to meet in one place. With over 160K subscribers in just over four months, we think it’s working.
In partnership with the Kin Community, every Friday she drops a new video detailing a life hack that you didn’t know you needed. Hair tutorials, sheet pan-cooking demos, marriage advice—you name it. The best part? There are no limitations, no script; she can do whatever she wants, and she does. “Life’s all about finding those quick fixes, those easy life hacks that just kind of get you through [it].”
She creates her content off of what her fans are interested in, commenting on and questioning about this dialogue is what being a community is all about. “I want to inspire other women. I want them to say, ‘Wow, if Tia can do it, I can do it too,’” she said. “I think the key to sisterhood and being a woman in general is that we need each other, instead of being competitive with one another.” Major key alert.
On Tia’s right wrist is a pink and purple butterfly, located, purposefully, to be in constant sight. A representation of an insect that evolves into something beautiful. A reminder that it doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. You know, like a 20-plus-year career timeline. “I don’t like change. But the older I get, I’m learning to embrace change because [it] is actually your friend. It doesn’t have to mean it’s a bad thing. It’s just a new beginning to something amazing. But, I had to learn that,” she said.
The tattoo serves as a reminder to always be like a butterfly: to fly with the wind, not against it, or, as Tia translates, to let go, and let God. “I think we are always evolving,” whether as an actress, a cook, a mom (or new mommy-to-be) or simply as a woman, within it’s ink, this butterfly encompasses that change is okay; take the risks and worry about them later; just fly with the wind, and laugh along the way.
Party Over Here!
Tia loves throwing noteworthy parties! Her list of party-throwing accolades includes:
-“Game of Thrones” party, where everyone was supplied their own crowns.
-Emmy party with matching award decorated cookies.
-An ultimate slumber party with fried chicken and waffles, cereal bars and pajamas.
-Italian themed with different kinds of pasta, pizza and wine, of course!
Rising Star: Tia and Tamera were briefly part of a girls group in 1992 called Voices. Their song “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” is definitely worth a YouTube search.
Letter to Teenage Tia
We asked Tia what she would tell her teenage self. Here’s her advice:
“Don’t worry. What’s meant to be will be. Continue to stay focused, and continue to stay true to whom you are. Embrace change; change is your best friend. God’s got you.
Don’t be such a ‘worrywart.’ Don’t worry about what you’re going to do next, what you’re going to be, if you’re going to get married, if you’re going to have kids—things happen for a reason. Let go and go with the flow. Continue to work hard, continue to dream, but don’t be afraid that if the plan that you had doesn’t work the way that you had it in your head to work, just let go.”
Favorite Share-Worthy Instagram: @thegoodquote
Favorite Late Night Snack: Chocolate Chip Cookies
Name of Her Alter Ego: Sasha Fierce—“I’m obsessed with Beyoncé.”
Last Song Played on Pandora: “rockstar” by Post Malone and 21 Savage
Last Splurge: Jimmy Choo “Lockett Petite” leather shoulder bag
What’s Coming Up in 2018
– Welcoming a healthy baby into her growing family
– Celebrating the 10-year anniversary with husband, Cory Hardrict
– Releasing Indivisible, a film that tells the stories of those suffering from PTSD after returning home from the Army
Did You Know? Despite the twin’s begging to move to Hollywood, it was actually their younger brother, Tahj, who got a gig first. He played Teddy on the hit sitcom “Full House” and Tia and Tamera would do their homework in the taping’s bleachers after school.
Black Girl Magic: The Mowry sisters have their own children’s four-book series with HarperCollins Publishers called “Twintution.” The story follows tween twins Cassie and Caitlyn who have magical powers to see things before they occur. Tia spills that they are aiming to turn the beloved book series into a television series.
All for Love: Tia says her biggest risk she’s ever taken was marrying someone just for love—not for material things like money, fame or stability. “I married a man that I loved. And when there’s risks, there’s success,” she said. They tied the knot in 2008 after almost seven years of dating.
Tia Loves Fashion: Favorite Piece in Her Closet Right Now: Balenciaga leather jacket—“It’s badass!”
Favorite Brand Currently: One Teaspoon, www.oneteaspoon.com
Fashion Icon: Actress Tracee Ellis Ross
Army Brat: While living in Hawaii on base as a little girl, Tia recalls the tune “Reveille” playing over loudspeakers across base and every one, including her parents, stopping what they were doing, facing the headquarters and saluting the flag.
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Jordan is a storyteller with a creative passion for things LOCALE. She loves dogs, macaroni and cheese and buying shoes. This former student-athlete could always be found watching ESPN or actively engaged in a Kobe-verse-LeBron debate, with Kobe winning every time.