Loni Love, the comedian, actor and co-host of the TV chat show “The Real,” has a gift: She can preach without being preachy. In I TRIED TO CHANGE SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO: True Life Lessons (Hachette Go, 241 pp., $28), Love tells her story about growing up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass projects at the height of the crack epidemic. Her formative years were every bit as harrowing as 50 Cent’s, with hunger a constant theme and ketchup sandwiches a staple. When Love was tapped to be a dealer’s girlfriend — an honor among her friends — she demurred. The French-horn-playing, math-loving teenager had other ideas. She made her money delivering groceries, then got a job on the G.M. line glue-gunning car carpet (all the while secretly living in her car — her mother had thrown her out to make room for her new boyfriend). With help from an exec who saw her reading “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” — who had himself made it out of the projects — she turned in her glue gun and went to college. In a few years she was working as an engineer at Xerox by day, and trying out her comedy chops on the Chitlin Circuit (the Black L.A. comedy clubs) at night. At various points in her life she tried to make herself what she was not: skinny, corporate, a “Black Stepford wife.” Fortunately, none of it worked.
You may recognize Loni Love as an Emmy-winning co-host of The Real, a daytime talk program led by women of color. Perhaps you’re a fan of her comedy work, or recall her acting roles in kids show Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide or the star-studded film Mother’s Day. Maybe you listen to her on the nationally syndicated radio show Café Mocha, or were charmed by her turn on RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. But do you know how she found fame, going from a little girl in the projects to a successful engineer and, finally, a star?
“A lot of people only know me from certain areas in my life, and a lot of people don’t know how hard it was to get where I am,” Love, 48, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “I didn’t know anybody in this industry. I wasn’t born with money or well-off parents. I want to show that this is a country where you can have humble beginnings and you can make it. This is my American story.”
On June 18, Loni Love delivered a refreshingly honest commencement address via Zoom to her high school alma mater in Detroit, MI. In true Loni Love fashion, the actress laid out a blueprint for how to accept, embrace, and live life to the fullest—all the while cracking jokes and humble bragging about her run-in with Beyoncé. It’s no wonder the Emmy- and two-time NAACP Image Award–winning co-host of The Real was designated the class of 2020’s “part-time Auntie.”
That sensibility—wise but relatable—can be found in Love’s latest book, I Tried To Change So You Don’t Have To. In the collection of comedic essays, she writes about resisting the pressures of conformity, loving yourself for who you are, and how embracing your God-given flaws are the keys to unlocking your true potential. While her first book was focused on no-nonsense relationship advice, this time the author applies that delivery to every aspect of life.
Ahead of the release of Love’s second book, out today, Marie Claire chatted with the comedian and co-host of the number-one nationally syndicated GRACIE Award-winning radio show Café Mocha about the embarrassing mistakes, uphill battles, outlandish characters, and unexpected breakthroughs that fill its uproarious pages.
“His name is James. We met online. He’s a wonderful man,” “The Real” co-host Loni Love, 48, tells Rach and co-host Nate Berkus. “We just really, really get along. To be an older woman and to find love — that’s what I talk about in my book [I Tried To Change So You Don’t Have To], that it’s never too late to find love.”