LisaRaye McCoy is our modern-day pin-up girl–stunningly beautiful, sexy, and highly desirable; she has brilliantly captured the heritage of her various acting roles. Forever known for portraying the role of Diana “Diamond” Armstrong in the 1998 now cult film fave Player’s Club, LisaRaye has perfected the art of bringing style and grace to her every performance with just a touch of badassness. She does not have to actually wield a sword to lay you out; she can do so with the power of her Chi-town aura.
LisaRaye was born in the Windy City, Chicago, to David Ray, a millionaire businessman, and Katie McCoy, a professional model. She had a relatively privileged upbringing and has often described herself as a “daddy’s girl” whose father spoiled her to no end. After graduating high school, LisaRaye enrolled at Eastern Illinois University but decided upon an acting career before graduating.
At age 21, LisaRaye suffered the unthinkable, the untimely passing of her beloved Dad. The death of David Ray was not in the lexicon of LisaRaye’s emotions, and the grieving process took a toll on her. Tragically, David Ray was found shot to death in the back seat of his Cadillac on November 12, 1988, in a South side Chicago alley; he was only 52 years young. His girlfriend, Sheila Daniels, and her brother, Tyrone, were convicted of murder in his death. They were both charged with murder and ultimately convicted and sentenced. Tyrone received 60 years, and Sheila got 80 years. To this very day, LisaRaye‘s eyes still well up thinking about her Dad.
After her father’s passing, LisaRaye channeled her pain into making her father proud by working tirelessly as an actress, model, and music video performer. She had blinders on and was on a serious quest to make a name for herself. LisaRaye made her acting debut as the lead in Reasons, an independent film directed by Monty Ross. In 1998, The Player’s Club came along, where she was given the lead role even though, by Hollywood standards, she was still green. LisaRaye left an indelible mark with her convincing performance as a stripper who struggles to provide for her child and pay for her college education. Even today, the actress is still referred to as Diamond by her adoring fans.
After appearing in the cult melodrama, LisaRaye went on to appear in yet another fan film favorite, The Wood, starring Taye Diggs. Film roles began pouring in, and the actress went on to costar in the films Rhapsody, All About You, Go for Broke, Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story, Holiday Heartbreak, and For the Love of Money.
When the NAACP Image Award nominee segued onto the small screen, she starred in several memorable shows like All of Us, Single Ladies, The Family Business, and as of late in ALLBLK’s Daytime Emmy Award-nominated series, A House Divided, where a cameo appearance turned into a steady role for the past two years. LisaRaye can also be seen every week on Fox Soul’s Cocktails With Queens, where she and co-hosts Claudia Jordan, Vivica A. Fox and Syleena Johnson sip-and-serve tea on the hottest topics of the week.
Besides performing, LisaRaye followed in her dad’s entrepreneurial footsteps. The businesswoman will relaunch her jeans line, PZI Jeans, A LisaRaye Collection around the Christmas holidays. She also started the company LR Home Styles, a luxury brand of high-end handmade mattresses and luxurious, beautifully crafted furniture (www.lrhomestyles.com).
It is undoubtedly apparent that LisaRaye’s success is fueled by an internal drive and boundless determination. Even after dealing with life circumstances that could have broken her, like her father’s death and the end of a marriage to the Turks and Caicos Prime Minister that brought about life-altering circumstances and heartbreak, LisaRaye is still standing tall and has stayed the course.
The glam-ma of one beautiful baby girl opened up to 50BOLD in her usual honest and tell-it-like-it-is manner about all that is LisaRaye, and don’t get it twisted, she has made it very clear to never refer to her as just ‘Lisa.’ The ‘Raye’ part is a kind of homage to her adoring dad.
50BOLD: You grew up in the Windy City, Chicago, and lived a pretty privileged life. Your father, David Raye McCoy was a highly respected millionaire businessman and your mother was a former professional model. What were you like growing up?
LisaRaye: Spoiled! I was very spoiled, and I understood the power of being privileged. I had a very fun, easy-going spirit, because I was a sharer. I loved to share. I loved to gift and give. And you know looking back on my life now, I know what it all meant. My upbringing cultivated the Mother Theresa spirit I have now. Back then, I wanted everyone to be happy. I wanted everyone to have fun. I wanted everything to just be about laughter and playing which spoke to the life I lead because I did a little bit of everything. I did tap dancing, ballet, and played the clarinet. I joined the pep squad. I participated in talent shows and did modeling. You name it, I was in it. I had a well-rounded childhood. I was able to explore so much as a young person, so that I could realize what some of my passions were early on and get a feel for what I wanted to do later in life.
50BOLD: So impressive! Did you always know you wanted to act?
LisaRaye: Not at all. I didn’t know I wanted to act until the bug hit me. I was doing an independent film in Chicago that was produced by Spike Lee’s executive producer at the time, Monty Ross. I ended up getting a small part but walked out with a lead role. And although the film never got a distribution deal, I received great advice from Monty. He said I needed to go to LA for pilot season. I didn’t even know what pilot season was because I was so green. Monty explained how pilot season took place a couple of months a year and how agencies were looking for new talent during that time.
Well, I went to California and looked for a manager and agent. I didn’t find anyone at that time. However, it felt good to be out in California. And I guess I’ve always been the kind of person who goes with their feelings and emotions. Once something feels good to me, I roll with it. I am glad I listened to my spirit because I am now in a business that I absolutely love. I am a better actress now. I’m successful. I’m accomplished. I’m blessed.
50BOLD: And your attitude of gratitude shows. You experienced a horrible tragedy at a very young age. Your beloved father, Ray, was ruthlessly murdered by his girlfriend. How did that tragedy change how you view life?
LisaRaye: I lost a part of me at that time of my life. I did not even want to remain on earth without my father because I couldn’t imagine life without him. Being without him didn’t make sense. My father was my biggest fan. So, when your biggest fan is gone, it makes you feel like who’s going to root for you?
The tragedy took me under and what saved my life is that I got pregnant. I felt very strongly about keeping the baby. I didn’t know how my mother was going to feel about the pregnancy, so, I waited, until after the first trimester to tell her. Well, one day my mother busted into my room, and asked me if I was pregnant. I was just like blown away. It was like one of those mother moments. When I shook my head to confirm the pregnancy, my mother said, ‘We are having this baby!’ And it was uphill from there because of my mother’s support. I just felt like my mother had a plan even if I didn’t. She knew how we both needed something to bring us out of the funk because at that time, my mother was overwhelmed by all of my father’s businesses. She was dealing with a lot. My daughter actually saved my life.
50BOLD: Wow, divine order! You’re viewed as a very strong and opinionated woman, did this work for, or against you, when you arrived in Hollywood?
LisaRaye: I don’t really care if it didn’t because I was being me. And I’m unapologetically me! I didn’t come to Hollywood to change who I am; I came here to show them who I am. I am absolutely proud to come from Chicago. I came out here to get what I was coming to get. And get out of my way! I am real straight from the hip, this has always been me. And I’m glad to be who I am because I have knocked down the suckers and walked up to the players.
I didn’t have time to play because I was a young mother, single parent. I came out here to search for my dreams and didn’t have a lot of time to do so. I gave myself one year to make it, if not, I was going back to Chicago. ‘No,’ was not an option for me because I had a lot to prove to myself and my family that I could make it. Acting looks like a glamorous job but people don’t really know what it takes to get here, the BS, the auditions. I knew I was not going back home.
50BOLD: Well alright! You made your legendary mark as Diamond. Everyone in the world knows Diamond, especially, every Black man in America. How did The Player’s Club role change your life? And because you’re so accomplished now, do you ever get tired of people referring to you as Diamond?
LisaRaye: No, I am forever Diamond and I’m okay with this. The Player’s Club is an iconic film and is how I got my start; it made me a bona fide sex symbol.
50BOLD: It made you an icon, girl! It made you a true icon.
LisaRaye: It made me an icon. I know this now because I feel this now. I’m told this now. When I’m on a set and I see the younger generation, millennials, Instagram influencers, walk up to me as true fans and say, ‘You’re a bad bitch, we love you!’ (laughs) my mouth just hangs open.
50BOLD: Now, unfortunately your marriage to Michael Misick, the former prime minister of Turks and Caicos became tabloid fodder. Is that a chapter in your life that’s closed now?
LisaRaye: I will say this, no it’s not. I don’t have any further involvement in what’s been going on in Turks and Caicos. However, he’s still fighting a case. And because we have actually found our way to a friendship, I’m not bitter. I am no longer disregarding what we had together. So, he’s been going through turmoil for years now and it has torn him down in a way that I don’t feel any human should go through. We already know there’s a lot of crime that don’t fit the time. And I believe he’s being strung along so much that he is broken. He’s already been taken for everything he’s has that includes money, position. Relationships he’s had have suffered–marriage, friends, just everything! And so he’s still over there fighting his case. When his legal issues are over and done, hopefully, he can get back to a regular life, I think everything can get back to normal.
50BOLD: Hopefully so! The name…Duane Martin, your costar on All of Us, what are your feelings about him? I know there was some bad blood between you two and he was at one time like a brother. Are you still in contact?
LisaRaye: I don’t have to contact him for anything ever in life!
50BOLD: I know he’s been very disrespectful as a friend and brothers don’t do sisters like this so, I understand where you’re coming from.
LisaRaye: Very much so! I’ve been very vocal about our situation. You’re right! There’s a level of respect and boundaries that come along with friendships. I’m just mad because Duane hasn’t been man enough to come to me and say, ‘You know what, my bad!’ When you have bad blood with someone, you should want to make things right and fix things after a time. You should want to grow from your mistakes.
50BOLD: Oh, you are so mature and loyal.
LisaRaye: I am VERY loyal. Loyal to almost a fault. Because I’m a tough cookie, I’m like well, I can rise, I can survive, it’s OK. But even the strong gets knocked down sometimes. And I’m like wow, everything that I was going through at the time and how I returned from Turks and Caicos, you wouldn’t come to check on a sister and say, ‘Hey, how can I help you?’ Wow, how weak!
50BOLD: Understood. Now you’ve worked with Will Smith, whom many folks love. What was the experience like and are you friends?
LisaRaye: I love Will. When I tell you I love everything about him because he’s a true professional. He has wisdom, and experience. He’s a family man, funny, talented, light-hearted. He’s a giver. Will is also charming as hell. He makes everything fun. He was our boss on the sitcom All of Us, our gifts, lunches and experiences were great.
Will would direct some of the show’s episodes and make you feel as if you weren’t working at all. He is such a cool dude which is why it’s hard for anybody to be mad at Will Smith. He’s accomplished so much since The Fresh Prince sitcom. He just transformed himself into a megastar.
Will was a wonderful boss and great friend. He embraced me, my talent and helped me in my career. You know Jada was very instrumental in my audition for the sitcom. She suggested we improvise. So, we threw down our scripts and forgot about the lines. She wanted me to give her the LisaRaye she had known before the audition. She knew I could give her what she wanted so she said, ‘Sister, throw that down, let’s get this together.’ And I was like alright, let’s do it. I was still green, still new. Jada made me comfortable enough to give it to her, so I could show the network how worthy I was to get that job. And I’m grateful for her. As far as Will and Jada, they’re a dynamic duo and I love them. (Editor’s note, the interview took place before the Will Smith incident at this year’s Oscars.)
50BOLD: The Smiths are definitely loved by so many! The Emmy-nominated dramatic ALLBLK series A House Divided is absolutely a fan favorite. You play the scandalous Alexis. Now the role was supposed to be a cameo I hear but you’re riveting portrayal turned you into a staple.
LisaRaye: I have become one of the show’s stars.
50BOLD: You also get to work with Cochise, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs on A House Divided. I guess I’m telling my age (laughs).
LisaRaye: I was a fan of his as well. I’m telling mine too because I even remember him on the back in the day sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. I wasn’t old enough to go attend a prom at the time, but I just knew either Lawrence or Todd Bridges was going to take me (laughs).
50BOLD: What is it like working with Lawrence? I know you’re loving your role on the show.
LisaRaye: I do! I love the professionalism, you know. When you work with someone you’re a fan of, you no longer fan out! I respect him because of the body of work he brings to the table. I’m honored to be working with him. I’m honored to be learning from him. I’m honored to have a body of work that I could show everyone and say, ‘Hey, I worked with Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs!’ When we work together, we have such great chemistry which is why my role went from a cameo to becoming one of the show’s stars.
When we are on set, we work under strict rules because we don’t have a lot of time to film. We’re turning over scene, after scene, after scene. So, there is little room for mistakes. You’ve got to know your lines. You’ve got to be really prepared and we are. When we’re on a break, we have nothing but fun and laughter. Lawrence is also directing a couple of the show’s episodes so, I’m learning to shadow him in this area. You know, I directed an episode with the series BET Her Presents: The Waiting Room. It was the third time I’ve directed, and the episode is called The Pink Fight which airs in October of this year.
50BOLD: Wow, and you’re now a director too; you are truly a superwoman!
LisaRaye: I’m happy to be working at directing; it’s an education. Plus, I am getting paid on top of it all. It’s the best feeling!
50BOLD: Well, you did say that when you love and enjoy what you do it’s not work! Acting is a joy and a passion for you and it’s obvious. You are a great inspiration for younger women which reminds me of your birthday segment on your Fox Soul’s Cocktails with Queens show. Your castmates were celebrating your special day. Selena said to you, ‘ I’m glad you were born!’ I thought Selena’s statement was so beautiful. Are you and the ladies actually friends?
LisaRaye: We are absolutely friends! We support each other. We visit and hang out with each other when we’re in the same city. When we tape our show, we’ll actually stay on for about ten to fifteen minutes afterward just talking personal shit, shooting the breeze, or just laughing. We might talk about how fat we are, or how someone’s wig was too tight and they couldn’t wait to take it off! It’s girl’s time.
50BOLD: Yes, the realness is evident and I love how you all uplift each other on the show! Now, you’re definitely a businesswoman in every sense of the word. You’ve launched LR Home Styles by LisaRaye, a luxury brand of high-end handmade mattresses and luxurious, beautifully crafted furniture. How did this company come about, and have you always been interested in home design?
LisaRaye: My company came about because of one of my partners approached me wanting to create a mattress called, of course, Diamond because the name follows me wherever I go. So, in discussing the creation of Diamond, I provided such intricate detailing about its design that he asked if I was interested in home furnishings. He also asked who decorated my home. I actually shopped for all of my furnishings and a girlfriend assisted me. Well, he mentioned how home furnishings was not an area where there were many Black designers. I thought how perfect the home furnishings business would be for me because I always enjoyed being one of the first in everything. When you’re a pretty girl you tend to get pushed in the direction of hair or makeup. Well, everyone has got a makeup line! Everyone has got hair products! I gave the proposition further thought and hey, everyone needs to furnish their homes and businesses!
The home furnishings area is huge and there is money to be made in it. I was looking to diversify my portfolio and wanted to leave a legacy for my daughter and granddaughter, so I agreed to give it a shot. So, we created LR Homestyles by LisaRaye. We had a store at the but we’re relocating now. COVID-19 affected us like everything else but it was really so great for us. I loved it!
I’m looking on a bigger level now. I’m looking to do corporate and franchise contracting with large companies like hotel chains. I want to expand and not just focus on individual customers, VIP clients, or online sales. I want to land those big contracts that will bring in more money. I want everyone to see that we are a Black-owned company that can hang with the best of them! We can make and get anything a customer wants.
50BOLD: Where do our readers go to support this venture?
LisaRaye: Your readers can go to Lrhomestyles.com to view our offerings.
50BOLD: Have you also launched your line of jeans?
LisaRaye: Not yet. I haven’t launched my jeans yet. During the pandemic I just couldn’t see how to have two startup companies at the same time and the furniture launched first. So, I held back on this jean line, but I am thinking about launching a holiday collection for Christmas.
50BOLD: You’re such a trendsetter! We admired your fashions on the VH1 show Single Ladies. Is there any talk of a reboot for the show without dot, dot, dot, Dash?
LisaRaye: I did the show because Stacey Dash was doing the show. When I heard she had auditioned for the show and she was over forty, I thought well, I look good and I’m over forty! So, hell, I needed to audition for the show too. Having two known sex symbols in one series was great for me. Stacey was beautiful! I remember doing close-up shots with her and how the lighting would illuminate her eyes…she was gorgeous! I got what people saw in her. But I hated that we weren’t able to finish out the rest of the seasons together. But she had other plans and that was her choice. So, she moved on.
The beautiful Denise Vasi then joined the cast after Stacey left. Well, since the show, Denise has become a wife and mother of two. She is really enjoying her family life so, I’m not sure, we’re ever going to get her to come back. But Single Ladies was a definite fan favorite. Like you mentioned, we gave fashion, we gave hairstyles, we gave eye candy, we gave storylines, and we gave wealth. I mean the show was a Black version of Sex in the City. It was great!
50BOLD: I can’t think of a current show that compares to Single Ladies!
LisaRaye: No, there’s nothing like Single Ladies anywhere. I don’t know what could become of Single Ladies because I don’t even know who owns it. I don’t know if Queen Latifah owns it or VH1.
50BOLD: Well, I think it would make a great reboot, especially with you in it. Switching gears, are you in a committed relationship now?
LisaRaye: I am not. I will say this, I thought I had found my Prince Charming but time revealed otherwise. I think that I could be in a relationship that isn’t much of a learning curve, you know. I think when being in a relationship things should come naturally. You shouldn’t try to upgrade, raise the bar, teach, or any of that. I mean I don’t mind compromising and sacrificing but I’m at the age now where I’m not trying to be a mother in a relationship. I’m not trying to show or teach you how to date or treat me; I think these things should really come with maturity. You know, if you’re dating LisaRaye then you have got to come with it. You know she’s not the average chick, so you can’t do only average things. You have to appeal to her and to her lifestyle. And I think my then partners fell short of that you know.
50BOLD: Well, you’re quite accomplished and this can sometimes be a threat to men. Are you ready for marriage again?
LisaRaye: I can’t really answer the marriage question because I think that’s putting the cart before the horse. I definitely need the man first because he can absolutely change my mind! But I would love to belong to someone. I’m definitely looking for a companion to grow old with, someone I can forge a true partnership with as we age. I want us to be able to grow and glow together. I want someone I can work with to build upon our household. I want someone I can laugh and have fun with. I want to know that after getting beaten up by life, we can come together at the end of the day and just hold each other. I’m just that girl from the South Side of Chicago who just needs a hug.
50BOLD: A lot of women in general won’t clearly state what they want in a mate. LisaRaye, realness is what separates you from the rest.
LisaRaye: Many women want to be independent, stating how they can do it all by themselves. But here’s the thing… God did not intend for us to be by ourselves, all alone. We were meant to be partnered up. So, I want to honor it. I want to definitely have those butterfly feelings. I want to experience that can’t-wait-to-get-home feeling. I want to find my peace within my soulmate. So, I don’t want to do it all by myself. Hell, I’m tired of wearing the pants because I’m independent and I’m by myself. I can’t wait to take these pants off, give it to my man and say, ’Here you go king!’
50BOLD: [laughs] Men will definitely be knocking on your door left and right when they read this interview!
LisaRaye: Well, tell them to come on with it but make sure he’s got his 401(k) straight! He should be a gentleman, God-fearing, and generous. [laughs]
50BOLD: God-fearing is always a good thing!
LisaRaye: We definitely need God in the world right now and this is key that is for me. If he does not believe in God, then I don’t have space for him in my life because I’m definitely a woman of God! I know it sounds cliché but the family that prays together, stays together! Prayer has helped me in a lot of ways which is why, I am on my knees every morning thanking Him.
50BOLD: You know you’re aging backwards, right? Do you ever get tired of hearing how beautiful you are? You also have beauty that comes from within you. I love you value loyalty and the way in which you look out for others.
LisaRaye: I will say this, I feel more empowered as a woman now than ever before! I know who I am. I know where I’ve been. And I know where I want to go. Knowing all that I know now makes me walk stronger, taller. I am walking through this life with a definite plan. I am moving forward on my journey. I am proud of my age and maturity. I am glad I’ve experienced everything that I have because it has all made me the woman that I am now. I’m a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole lot of everything. And I like me.
50BOLD: What makes LisaRaye happy nowadays?
LisaRaye: Oh, my grandbaby! My grandbaby makes me so happy! She is everything to me. She has my personality and gives me that unconditional love. When I come home my granddaughter says things like she misses me, she needs me, and hearing this makes me rise to the occasion. I just want to do better for her. I just want to be a great example for her. I didn’t know I was going to love her the way that I do because I damn mad at my daughter for getting pregnant! When my daughter told me she was pregnant, I was mad because it was not in the damn plan! However, looking back on the situation now, the baby has done for her, what she did for me.
Family and sharing makes me happy. It’s lonely at the top and I don’t want to be at the top by myself. So, I’m always putting together a girl’s trip for cousins who are like sisters, or a family trip. Everyone will put their money towards getting to the destination and I will take care of the rest of the expenses. I also love cooking. My love language is making sure everybody is happy and that their stomachs are full. My mom is a great cook. I also love cooking breakfast!
Even though I’m not in a relationship right now I have commitments to my friends and family and it feels awesome! My friends and family are helping me gear up for that man in my life, so when he does come, I’ll show up as a better version of me.
50BOLD: Have you ever considered doing a talk show; I think you’d be the phenomenal, I really do. You can include a cooking segment. Not to mention, you are hilarious as well!
LisaRaye: It’s funny you should mention a talk show. I’ve been wanting to do a one woman show. I have so much stuff that has happened in my life that I can absolutely laugh about now. When I tell a story, I do have everyone laughing because I’m laughing about it. And I am a great storyteller! I really do hold court when I’m telling a story.
50BOLD: What’s coming up next for LisaRaye?
LisaRaye: I’ve been working so much on other people’s stuff. Now, I’m at a place where I need to be working on my own stuff! I believe in working on yourself while you’re still relevant, while you’re still hot. I think I’ve done a great job at staying relevant and staying hot even after all these years.