For 29-year-old actress and model Karrueche Tran, love and growth are one in the same. Perhaps best known these days for her portrayal of Virginia Loc in the smash hit TNT crime drama series, CLAWS, Karrueche is currently filming the series’ second season in New Orleans. She can also be seen in the upcoming Lionsgate film The Honor List about a group of high school friends who fulfill the items of a bucket list they sealed in a time capsule years before. We recently spoke with Karrueche about everything from the sisterhood of beauty salons, to spreading more love in the world, to the zen and art of chilling by the beach.
In order to be a star in Hollywood in 2018, there’s a good chance you will be spending a lot of time away from the lights of LaLaLand. Case in point, we spoke with Karrueche Tran by phone as she was shooting the second season of TNT’s CLAWS nearly 1,900 miles east of Los Angeles in New Orleans. Being immersed in New Orleans for so many months has given Karrueche a whole new respect for the Big Easy. “We started shooting the second season in late January of 2018 [here in NoLa]. We’re shooting ten episodes and we’re set to be done in mid-June. I love and enjoy the city of New Orleans,” she says. “I was born and raised in L.A. which is so different compared to New Orleans — the culture, their traditions, the amazing food, and that southern hospitality. It’s nice to be able to come home to L.A., but also to get to experience New Orleans. Filming remotely allows me to really focus on my work.”
She has most certainly found her own set of favorite things in New Orleans, but what’s the #1 item she wishes she could bring back home with her to L.A.? “Probably the food!” she tells us. “L.A. has some great food, but New Orleans has their incredible southern comfort food. It makes it hard to eat healthy (laughing).”
The amount of comfort Karrueche gets from the local food is not unlike the comfort her fans get from watching CLAWS. Sort of a cross between Steel Magnolias, The Sopranos, and Breaking Bad, TNT describes the show perfectly: “CLAWS is a midnight-dark, wickedly funny meditation on female badness set in a South Florida nail salon. It follows the rise of five diverse and treacherous manicurists working at the Nail Artisan of Manatee County salon, where there is a lot more going on than silk wraps and pedicures. CLAWS is about good women caught in bad places with worse men. It’s the story of hardworking women trying to get by in this economy, set against the surreal, bright, gritty landscape of Florida and the luscious, absurd, extreme excesses of the crime world.”
We asked Karrueche why she thinks audiences have fallen so madly in love with these women. “Audiences have never seen women in this light before,” she says. “Shows that deal with crime almost always deal with male-driven stories, but with CLAWS, the women dominate and are involved with everything — from the crime, to the drugs, to the sex, and more. What’s so beautiful about this show is we have these five amazing women who are so deeply connected and have such a tight bond. They’re like family and they love each other so much, yet each is so different and unique, and each of them have such a different perspective on the world and come from different walks of life and skin colors. Despite being so varied, they all still love each other,” she says, “and I think that’s what women can relate to. I think our female fans are each able to find that one character they can really connect with.”
It’s not only the fans connecting with the characters, it’s also the stars themselves. Playing someone as fierce and strong as her character, Virginia Loc, has been a huge source of inspiration for Karrueche. “[Playing Virginia] has inspired me to be a bad ass bitch (laughing). That sounds crazy but it’s the truth,” she says. “Virginia is very truthful, she does not hold back, she is genuinely herself, she is confident, and as Karrueche I can sometimes feel shy or insecure, overthink things, or get nervous, but Virginia helps me realize I can be and do anything I want at all times. There have been times, in fact, where I’ve had to do a gig and I’d be nervous, but then I’d think to myself, ‘No, think like Virginia would! You can do this!’ So yes, Virginia brings out the bad bitch in me.”
We asked Karrueche about some of the other people that are huge sources of inspiration for her right now. “Ava DuVernay is the holy mother of everything,” she beams. “I really adore her because she’s hard-working, creative, outspoken, vocal with her feelings, all of which is so inspiring. I’m also inspired by all the women on CLAWS, too. We’re like our own little family. We support one another, protect one another, and really help guide me.”
It’s probably no accident that Karrueche and her beautician co-stars have bonded so strongly on set. Beauty salons are one of the most beloved cultural hubs of social connectivity in the Deep South. “For many women, beauty salons are the core of a lot of friendships,” Karrueche explains. “When women are there, they get to be together, be social, be themselves, let their hair down, and connect with other women. Plus, when a woman leaves a salon she feels glamorous, like a million bucks.”
Another of Karrueche’s highly anticipated projects is the Lionsgate film The Honor List (set for release in 2018). The film tells the story of four teenage girls who, after sealing a time capsule list of things they absolutely must do before graduation, lose touch through the years. By graduation, however, they reconnect, resurrect the time capsule, and start crossing everything off their list. So what might be the biggest items on Karrueche’s own bucket list? “I definitely want to go to Vietnam (my mother is from there). Skydiving is also near the top of the list.”
She’s also managed to stay close with some of her BFFs from high school. “I have a lot of friends from high school that I’m still close with. One of my closest friends is from seventh grade in middle school,” she tells us.
Acting isn’t the only passion in Karrueche’s life at the moment. One of her biggest is the social media project she’s started called With Love. “With Love is a movement I started on my own. I’ve noticed in my own relationship with social media I have a love-hate relationship with it. You can use social media to expand your brand and your platform, but there’s also a negative component to it as well,” she explains. “People feel like they have a license to be as mean and negative as they want to, and I feel like it’s affecting the younger generation in forgetting how to simply be polite. I want to spread love and positivity, and show people that it’s OK to express love, give compliments, to be nice, etc. I feel it’s getting lost in the younger ones, and if we don’t slow it down it’s just going to get worse. So I hope With Love is helping turn that tide and get some loving energy flowing. There’s nothing better than the feeling of love,” she says. “Not just in an intimate relationship between two people, but also just having love in your heart when you’re walking down the street.”
And what about her summer radar? “Work, work, work! Work comes first, but I’m also a tropical girl. I love the beach and sun, and next week I’ll be in Florida which I’m excited about so I’ll be on the beach the whole time. But I love to work, and I love to grow from experience.”
CLAWS returns to TNT for season two on June 10, 2018. The Honor List hits theaters in 2018.
Photography ARTHUR GALVAO | Creative Direction STEPHANE MARQUET
Styling LO VONRUMPF
Hair RAY CHRISTOPHER
Makeup ARIANNA GARCIA
Production Maison Privée x BELLO Media Group | Interview BRENT LAMBERT