Marsai Martin on confidence and self-care: 'It all comes from loving yourself first'

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Marsai Martin talks self-care and shutting out haters. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Marsai Martin talks self-care and shutting out haters. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Actress Marsai Martin, 16, is the epitome of a wunderkind. At age 5, the Plano, Texas native booked her first commercial. At 14, Martin broke the Guinness World Record for being the youngest Hollywood executive producer to work on a major production for the film Little (2019). To date, she’s won six NAACP awards, and her witty, wry black-ish character, Diane Johnson — the role that catapulted her to fame — is so beloved that she’s been immortalized as a popular reaction GIF on Twitter.

It’s safe to say that this young phenom always understands the assignment.

While black-ish wrapped its seventh season in May, Martin has no plan to slow down any time soon. Between her grueling schedule as an actress and producer, she’s also taken on a purpose-driven cause as the ambassador for Invisalign’s Changemakers program, which celebrates teens making a positive impact in their communities. “We’re recognizing 100 teens from the ages of 13 and 19 who are bringing smiles and meaningful change to their communities,” she says. “Each kid gets $5,000 as their award.”

Ahead, Martin delves into self-care and the mantra that keeps her going.

As someone who often juggles so many projects, when was the last time you took a vacation?

We try to do big vacations as a family at least twice a year. And then every now and then my parents are like, “Hey, you want to go to Vegas?” out of the blue. I also try to take really small breaks as much as possible for good balance. But the last time I had a break where it actually felt like a break was when we went to the Bahamas in April.

What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care means a lot of things to me. It all comes from loving yourself first. You have to love yourself to take care of yourself and to know what your body needs and what your mind wants. You have to eat, sleep and fully take care of yourself. Eating and sleeping well sound easy, but when you're super-busy you can forget what your body truly needs.

What is currently bringing you joy?

Now that the [COVID-19] restrictions have slowly died down, getting to meet and see people that I haven't seen in a long time has been so fulfilling and so fun. Like when I attended the BET awards! Just seeing everybody for the first time in a very long time was so nice and it was one of the best days this year.

Do you have a personal mantra that keeps you going?

This is going to sound insane and I might get called a weirdo but I talk to myself a lot. Not on some crazy stuff [laughs], but I do talk to myself and say small things like, You can do this! You got this. My mom says to me all the time, “What’s for you is for you and it will not pass you.” There's a lot of things that I say to myself that kind of keeps me pushing. I feel like the cool people talk to themselves!

You’re an accomplished actress and even set a Guinness Book Record for being Hollywood’s youngest executive producer. How do you approach your day and fit so much in? Do you have a routine?

Throughout quarantine, I definitely did have a routine in the morning and at night. I try to keep that going as much as I can, but obviously, when you keep working and everything happens so fast, you try your best to maintain it. I would say the routine that I try to keep up with as much as possible is: I wake up in the morning, make up my bed and then I immediately get dressed and all that. If you start your day as quickly as possible, then your day runs long and you have enough time to do whatever. If you just run around in your pajamas for a long amount of time, the day just goes by really fast. So I get ready as soon as possible. Then at night, depending on my work schedule, I’ll read a chapter of a book then I'll read 30 pages of a script and then I go to sleep.

I know you went through some things last year where you expertly and hilariously addressed your haters. What's your advice for people out there who are trying to build more confidence?

Sarcasm. Kill them with kindness and sarcasm. That's always been who I am. Confidence is not an act, it truly comes from how you feel about yourself. So you have to do what makes you happy. Do what makes you feel loved and makes you feel beautiful. And that goes for boys and girls. There have been so many times where people thought they had to do this or that to feel confident or beautiful and think: Maybe if I looked like this person this will make me feel way more confident. But if you do what makes you happy, that's where confidence comes from. It connects to self-care as well.

Tell me about your Changemakers campaign with Invisalign.

We’re recognizing 100 teens from the ages of 13 and 19 who are bringing smiles and meaningful change to their communities. Each kid gets $5,000 as their award. I’m announcing the winners on July 10 at 5 p.m. PST on Invisalign's YouTube channel. I always want to bring joy to people's worlds and this is a great way to do that.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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