BLAIR UNDERWOOD: Flipping the script from FILM to FASHION!
BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD
When reflecting on the Hollywood talents that nudged positive and complex depictions of African-Americans into the mainstream, actor, director and producer Blair Underwood is among the names that come immediately to mind.
Underwood first entered the pop culture consciousness in the 1985 hip-hop cinema classic “Krush Groove,” and few can forget his role in “Set It Off,” the buzzed-about depiction of Jesus in “The Second Coming” and his landmark performances as part of the cast of the long-running NBC drama “L.A. Law.” Most recently, he received rave reviews for his part in the Broadway smash “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Today, partnered with K&G Superstores (owned by Men’s Wearhouse), Underwood is lending his persona to the BU Collection — an eponymous clothing line that embodies his signature suave presence.
“I am very excited about my new casual clothing line,” he said in an interview with Las Vegas Black Image. “When I put my name of something that I have worked very hard to build over the years, I am a little bit of a control freak. So I am involved in every aspect of the clothing line. But I understand my strengths and weaknesses in the arena of apparel. It’s all new to me, but my passion about quality, likability and affordability resonates with the K&G design team.”
The son of a military family, Underwood traveled the world before settling in New York. He studied acting at prestigious Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“I think what my acting career has done is give me a point of reference,” he said. “I have a point of reference with my acting career that allows me to have a starting point with people to have a conversation about clothes, fashion and really feeling good about one’s self. I enjoy being a storyteller and creating things that make people feel better. In terms of being a storyteller as an actor, producer or director, you answer the question, ‘Why?’ The clothing line also has a story behind it. The story is found in my initials, BU. In this case, people deserve to find clothes that make them feel good, and be the best version of who they are. The external standpoint is to be the best ‘you’ possible. Hence, BU.”
Onscreen, Underwood will soon take the lead role in an NBC pilot that updates the classic detective drama “Ironside,” which ran originally from 1967-75 and starred the late Raymond Burr. “I am having a wheelchair delivered to my home so I can practice living my life in a wheelchair,” he said. “It is so ironic that this role has come to me because my mother has been in a wheelchair now for the last 10 years.”
Married for 23 years to his wife, Desiree, Underwood carries an air of absolute certainty and devotion when discussing what he holds most dear.
“Family is the most important thing to me,” he said. “I am happy when I am spending time with my wife and our three children. Even though I have various businesses and an acting career, I hold my family as a priority — and I know my family needs me to be there. I am also aware that my children need to be exposed to my business activities, so that they are in a position to own and operate their own businesses one day. ”
Known internationally as a Hollywood heartthrob, Underwood has steadfast beliefs on love and relationships that he hopes will someday help guide his 14-year-old daughter.
“I hope that before my daughter finds a partner in life, that she first learns to love herself,” he said. “That is more than a Hallmark card quote, but it really is all those complexities of what that means, and how that manifests itself in one’s life. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin. It is so important to love yourself. It puts you in a stronger position to offer and share your life with someone else. The biggest trap that a male or female can fall into is to be needy and look for someone to fill the voids in your life. Unfortunately, some men smell desperation a mile away, and they take advantage of that.”