Octavia Spencer: I live beneath my means so I’m not living in golden handcuffs

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Octavia Spencer was a guest on The Daily Show recently, where she’s promoting the biopic on Madame CJ Walker, who became the first female self-made millionaire in the US. Madame Walker’s parents and older siblings were born slaves, with her brothers eventually working as barbers. That’s where she learned the haircare business, started her own company with products for black women, and trained other women to sell them door to door. At the time of her death in 1919 she was worth about $8.8 million adjusted for inflation. The movie is called Self Made, Blair Underwood is in it and it’s out today on Netflix! I’m so going to watch that.

In Octavia’s interview, she talked about how the film came about, her mom used CJ Walker as an example for them growing up to dream big. (I’ve covered Octavia’s story before, here’s a link to her background. She had six brothers and sisters and was raised by a single mom living in poverty in Alabama.) When it came time to negotiating she needed an assist from Lebron James and her male partners, explaining that woman aren’t taken seriously unfortunately and there’s still a wage gap. She also talked about how she could step away, and I really liked her reasoning for that. (Please note that she said this in the context of a business deal, and that this was recorded before we knew about the economic downturn.)

You’ve been outspoken about the journey black women face in Hollywood. The challenges of having control and creating work. You’re creating 10 projects as we speak. What has that been like?
You touched on something really important. So many people have asked me, ‘what is the role that you feel you’re destined to play?’ For me it is producer. Not only am I creating opportunities for myself, but for so many people who’ve been marginalized, whose stories haven’t been told.

I know Lebron James is also one of the producers
Springhill Entertainment, Maverick, everybody over there they’ve been amazing to partner with. When I was making my deal we had reached an impasse with the studio and I’m one of those people, because I’m from humble beginnings, I live beneath my means so that I’m not living in golden handcuffs so I can walk away from the negotiating table. I was prepared to walk away. Lebron and Maverick intervened on my behalf. We have to have that advocacy until women are treated fairly with regard to the pay gap.

[From The Daily Show via YouTube]

I also try to live beneath my means. I get my clothes from goodwill and love a bargain. I can really relate to what she’s saying about not being taken seriously as a woman and also about being willing to walk away from the table and not being hungry for the deal. So many times when I was looking for a new ad company for this site I was treated like an idiot (by younger men, usually) and key negotiation points were conveniently forgotten. I followed my instincts and waited until I found a company that was trustworthy and which was run by women, frankly. I wish that was the case for more of Hollywood, and with women like Octavia in charge hopefully the tide is turning.

Ooh also Octavia has stocked up for her social distancing! She likes regular old ranch like the rest of us. I love her and will try to cover her more. So many celebrities don’t get covered because they’re not controversial. Honk for Octavia!

Here’s that interview!

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photos credit: Amanda Matlovich and David Lee/Netflix press.

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57 Responses to “Octavia Spencer: I live beneath my means so I’m not living in golden handcuffs”

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  1. Lisa says:

    Love what she had to say and that is key not being so hungry that you can’t walk away. Also it is great that Lebron James is walking the walk and not just talking. Between this and his school I am impressed.

    • Outliner says:

      “not being so hungry that you can’t walk away.”
      - Good approach to just about any decision you have to make in life, really. Helps you stay balanced, detached, and centred.

  2. FHMom says:

    Very smart lady. So many people are living beyond their means and don’t understand or care that they will eventually have to pay for everything they own. Or else they have no savings if things go south like, say, if a pandemic strikes and they have no paycheck coming in. My dad was a kid during The Depression and it shaped his entire life.

    • tiredTreaded says:

      Love this. I realized it was time to stop showing off, or having a need to “show off”. I never went Marie Kondo tho, and found enough hand sanitizer behind bags of single socks to last this Armageddon! Tho “retired” , still work to make sure I’m not a burden on my kids when the day comes I just -can’t- work. I cleaned bathrooms at my receptionist job, so you can imagine why I got this virus. I’m home now, I miss the extra income but maybe they’ll hire back in summertime? I feel okay, I hope I make it.

      • FHMom says:

        Wishing you better health. Please keep us updated. Hopefully, life will return to normal eventually.

      • dj says:

        Agreed. Keep on writing & checking in. People here are our own little community. Keeping you in my thoughts.

  3. Lori says:

    Honk! (from a safe distance…)

  4. tempest prognosticator says:

    She is wise.

    • BUBS says:

      Very wise indeed. Especially in this SM age when people are trying to one-up others, we need this sort of sound advice. Live within (beneath) your means and you won’t be held hostage by people or situations…

  5. Spicecake38 says:

    Love Octavia she seems wise and kind as well as (obviously)talented.
    Blair Underwood sure isn’t hard to look at,is he?😉

    • Jerusha says:

      Nope, and doesn’t look much older than he did 20 some years ago.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Saw him on stage a few years ago. That is one fine looking man.

    • Guest with Cat says:

      I second all of this! @SpiceCake38

      It’s so refreshing to see someone in the crazy entertainment business with her head on straight. If kids feel they must look up to a celebrity, let’s hope they take a look at this talented and wise woman.

  6. Jerusha says:

    If you want a treat, listen to her recent Fresh Air interview. She’s wonderful. I love Octavia. BTW, she comes back to Alabama for family time at holidays.

    I’m a thrift/consignment shopper, also. The only things I buy new are bras and panties and socks. Not gonna wear used underwear, thank you very much.

  7. Scollins says:

    Octavia stole the spotlight in The Help.
    “I make myself rich by making my wants few.”
    HDThoreau
    I try. Simplifying has been so rewarding especially as my children got older.

    • Yup, Me says:

      It’s easy to keep your wants few when you live on the land of a friend and your mom does your laundry and you can still have company over to kick it on a regular basis.

    • Joanna says:

      Yes I was scrolling down to post about her being in that movie! Great movie

  8. Marigold says:

    I love everything I’ve ever heard about this woman. If she ran for ANY office–I don’t care which, city council to POTUS–I’d vote for her. She’s beautiful, smart, talented, and decent. Lord, we need more decent people in places of prominence, don’t we? Honestly, I just love her.

  9. SJR says:

    The more you own, it ends up owning you.
    I agree the growing up poor/poverty level never leaves you.

    This movie looks good too.

  10. MeghanNotMarkle says:

    Octavia seems like such a down-to-earth person. I’d love to have coffee with her sometime.

  11. Alice says:

    Honk!!!

  12. lucy2 says:

    I’ve always liked her, and anytime she does an interview, she confirms it! She strikes me as very smart, very grounded, and with her eye on the big picture.
    A lot of celebrities splurge and overspend as soon as they get a big paycheck, but so many of their careers don’t last.
    I’m so happy to see her really producing and making things happen, for herself and others. I will definitely watch the Netflix show, I’ve been waiting for it for a while! She’s also a YA author and has 2 books!

  13. Emily says:

    HONK! This post was what I needed today! Thank you for featuring Octavia, and thank you for the sensitivities to the current climate in the post itself.

  14. Veronica S. says:

    Not wanting to stretch my income is why I don’t own a house, to be brutally honest. I could afford one on what I make, but I’m not married and am way too paranoid after living through the 2008 recession to risk a mortgage alone. (Good luck finding a decent home that you can afford on a single income these days, anyway. 9_9) I do put away money and have multiple 401Ks, though. I splurge occasionally, but my bills are paid. The biggest noose around my neck is the credit card debt I have from college, but I throw down hefty amounts on those monthly, so they should be paid off in the next six months. Then it’s just a matter of deciding whether I feel like taking on more school debt for a doctorate ugh. I agree with Octavia that when you don’t grow up rich, you either struggle with balancing finances as an adult or you became very conservative with how you use money.

    I’ve always loved her work and am happy to see her succeed. I think she has a really great head on her shoulders for business, and it’s so nice to see it paying off in industry.

  15. Cobra says:

    Honk!

  16. Sumodo1 says:

    Honk honk. She’s the best!

  17. Melissai says:

    Honk for Octavia! Check out her instagram. She posted a bunch of memes that people made spoofing her movie Ma. It’s hysterical!

  18. Case says:

    This sounds like an awesome movie! I’ll probably watch it tonight — in honor of Women’s History Month, I’m watching all female-led films in March. This fits perfectly.

    I’m so grateful to have a few streaming subsciptions. The entertainment has been a bright spot in otherwise crummy days!

  19. ChillyWilly says:

    I love Octavia! I’m going to watch this movie is today. I’ve always found Madame CJ Walker to be so interesting.

  20. Mei says:

    Honk! She’s great :)

  21. Jess says:

    I love her and I can’t wait to watch Self Made this weekend! That and the Emily/Kumail podcast are two small silver linings to social distancing because of this terrifying pandemic (and Willie streaming his big annual music fest live last night).

  22. bucketnot says:

    Yes please. Do report on people who are not controversial or otherwise particularly interesting but have inspiring stories of their struggles and experiences. It’s a good break from the usual.

  23. Blairski says:

    Honk! Looking forward to watching this. My husband has worked with her and she’s a lovely human in person, not just in interviews.

  24. Christina says:

    The lady brings beauty wherever she goes. She’s done a lot of character roles, and she’s always wonderful. I would have seen her horror flick if I could deal with those. I’m glad she did it.

  25. Dee Kay says:

    Love Octavia Spencer and cannot wait to see the Madam CJ Walker Netflix series!!! I don’t stockpile possessions and buy most of my clothes secondhand (from ThredUp and other online retailers of used clothes), but unfortunately, I’ve learned that house renovations can take up all of one’s income and then some. I love our beautiful home but I really really hope that one day this place stops being a money pit. It’s my one extravagance and it’s a big one.

  26. minx says:

    Love her.

  27. Ksweet says:

    I love her! Good for her about living without golden handcuffs, and good for Lebron for being a real ally!

  28. Outliner says:

    I love Octavia in movies. Personally I live a capsule/minimalist lifestyle for its own sake and for the sake of the planet. Fast fashion stores depress me much of the time, though you can find some good bargains in places like Uniqlo. I’m just focused on consuming less as well as spending less, but on food I treat myself and I think it’s great to invest in a good purse, bag, phone, laptop, and other things you’re going to use for a longer period of time.

  29. ZsaZsa Fierce says:

    The series is great! Just watched The Shape of Water and she’s great in it too.

  30. Joanna says:

    I like that saying! I’m the opposite, we didn’t have a lot of nice things when I was a kid so I want them all now! Going to put this show on right now.

  31. Flying fish says:

    Honk, this is for Octavia and all those women willing to fight and leave the table when necessary.

  32. Flying fish says:

    Yes, Kaiser cover Octavia and women like her.

  33. Ella says:

    Honking for more Octavia! Love her and love your coverage of her. Bringing much needed positivity. :-)

  34. Bunny says:

    Madame CJ Walker is a fascinating subject and I love both Octavia Spencer and Blair Underwood. I need to watch the film first, but I’d love to assign it to my class next semester if it is appropriate (can’t have too much ‘adult’ content).

    She’s so right and wise about living below your means. My husband and I were recently able to withstand a six-month break in his employment in order for him to qualify for the job of his dreams. So much happier now!

  35. jferber says:

    Started watching the series; on episode 2 now (of the four parts). Octavia, as expected, is masterful in this role. Respect for Lebron as executive producer. They take a lighter approach than I had anticipated, but the clothes and sets are superb. Why in the hell hasn’t Spencer won an Oscar yet? She sure as hell deserves one.