Gina Torres considers herself a late bloomer, and she's perfectly OK with that. The "Suits" actress, who now stars in a spinoff called "Pearson," chatted with TODAY Style about turning "50 fine, 50 fabulous" and why she loves her large lips after being teased for them as a kid.
It took me a while to love my lips because growing up with this set of soup coolers, as we called them, I got a lot, a lot of flack. Kids were merciless. They teased me constantly. I had to grow into my lips. They took up about 50% of my face when I was really young and so I was very self-conscious about them.
But then as I grew older, I couldn't imagine my face without them. They're a reflection of my father's lips. They're actually the perfect combination of my parents' lips. I have my mom's old bow up on the top and my dad's fullness. I think of them every time I look in the mirror.
And, quite frankly, I'm getting the last laugh because somewhere in high school the "Paris pout" came into fashion. And we all knew that the "Paris pout" was just a euphemism for beautiful Afro American, Afro Latino lips that were full and full of life and framed the face in a beautiful, beautiful way. And so my lips became the envy of the school and became the envy of a city. And now they're just a part of who I am.
My daughter has a version of my lips. She is also the beautiful and perfect combination of her dad and her mom. The most important thing I can teach my daughter about self-confidence and beauty is that it starts inside. It starts with self-love. It starts with self-acceptance. And when you get to that point, it's unstoppable. Because the world sees what you see when you accept it in yourself.
Being a New Yorker has instilled in me a kind of tenacity that I don't think I would have had if I had been born somewhere else. There's a quickness with which you respond. There's a kind of kinetic energy that is part and parcel to this city that you grow up with.
The best advice I ever got was when I was working in a bakery on the Upper West Side in high school, and it was my senior year, and I just wanted to get out there and I just wanted to do it. And this other actor — a working actor, who was a regular — came in and I recognized him because I kind of had a little crush on him.
And then he said, "You know, you're going to hit your sweet spot later. There's a maturity to you that won't make sense for a few years, so just hang in there." Here I am. He was right. Didn't think it would take this long, but he was right.
I would tell my younger self to hold on tight. It's going to get better, and the world will catch up with you.
I am a late bloomer. I absolutely would consider myself a late bloomer. And that's all about acceptance. That's all about just understanding a little bit more about how the world works and your part in it and embracing it.
I just turned 50 and, as my girlfriend would say, I'm "50 fine." So, yes, I love that; 50 fine, 50 fabulous. It's really the best birthday I've ever had. I am so in my body, so good and, thank God, healthy and excited about what's next. More than ever, I feel like I'm prepared to take on whatever's next.
I am looking forward to more, just more. Not because I need it, but because there's always more, right?
As told to TODAY's Emily Sher. This story has been edited and condensed for clarity.