Radiant actor, writer, social activist and entrepreneur Ciera Payton recently returned to television in the second season of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, which premiered on Netflix in May.

The show, based off the 1986 film of the same name, follows the saga of a young woman struggling to stay true to herself as she juggles three potential lovers. This comes on the heels of Ciera’s breakout performance as “Sylvia,” opposite Tyler Perry in the 11th installment of the MADEA/Lionsgate movie franchise, A Madea Family Funeral.

Ciera grew up surrounded by street performers, artists, scholars and the amazing cuisine that only the vibrant city of New Orleans could offer. This eclectic environment allowed her to embrace every form of creativity and shaped her to become a creative powerhouse. After Hurricane Katrina, Ciera and her family relocated to North Carolina where she graduated with a B.F.A. from the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts. During this time, she landed her first film, not only as female lead, but opposite Steven Seagal in the action-thriller Flight of Fury. Since her breakout role, she has shared the screen with Viola Davis, Nicholas Cage, Kevin Hart and Josh Brolin, to name a few. This modern Wonder Woman shows no signs of slowing down as she managed to master boxing, Muay Thai, sword and dagger fighting, and rifle training along the way.

Ciera always finds time to engage with her local community and youth organizations. As an avid speaker and teacher, Ciera seeks to empower at-risk youth by teaching them to channel their stories through creative writing, theater performance and short film production. Her dedication to arts education in under-served communities led her to create the Michael’s Daughter Project, an annual theater and media arts summer camp for youth in Panorama City. In addition to her creative endeavors, Ciera is the owner of Sincerely Cosmetics, an all-natural, mineral-based, vegan cosmetic company which caters to health-conscious women who have sensitive skin. We chatted with Ciera to learn more about her current projects, where she likes to dine and her favorite drink to make at home.

Chillin’ With Ciera Payton

Chillin’ With Ciera Payton

Photo by Alex Stone

Tell us a bit about the projects you are working on.

I wish I could talk about the project I’m currently working on, but things are super top secret right now. I’ll just say that viewers are going to be in for a surprise and a wild ride with my next project!

With your busy schedule, what do you like to do with your downtime?

I LOVE horseback riding and hiking. Those are my two go-to things to do when I need some time in nature and a moment to reset. Of course, scheduling those things can be a bit tough at times. If I can’t make time for those things, I’m totally just down to enjoy relaxing at home with some good movies, good food and lavender pumping from my oil diffuser.

When you go out to eat, where do you like to dine?

I’m vegan and absolutely love it when I can find some spots that are hip and vegan. Two of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles are H.O.P.E and Âu Lạc LA. Oh my goodness these places have the best dishes. Âu Lạc LA has an “octopus” dish that’s seriously the most amazing mushroom dish I’ve ever had! I’m slightly addicted to it. H.O.P.E has these amazing Muay Thai “wings” and the best curries. It’s like the best comfort food that’s also super healthy.

Chillin' With Ciera Payton

Chillin’ With Ciera Payton

Photo by Alex Stone

Do you cook?

Yes! I do a lot of veggie stir-fries and power salads or power bowls packed with lots of greens, quinoa and beets. Every once in a while I’ll do my version of Louisiana Shrimp Creole, subbing the shrimp for mushrooms. It’s super yummy!

What types of drinks do you order when out?

I love a good Sauvignon Blanc. But if I’m feeling a bit more festive, I’ll order a tequila blanco on the rocks with a squeeze of lime. Those are always my go-tos.

Do you prepare drinks at home?

Sometimes my boyfriend and I will make blended Margaritas. We make our own mix, nixing most of the sugar.

Chillin' With Ciera Payton

Chillin’ With Ciera Payton

Photo by Alex Stone

Do you own a home bar?

No, not yet, but I’m working on it.

What will your home bar it be like?

I would stock it up with the most amazing tasty wines and tequilas ever. I love Casa Mexico Tequila, so I would definitely have a few bottles of that. As for wine, I would definitely have my fair share of The Prisoner’s Red Blend and their 39007 Chenin Blanc. Both wines are so smooth and packed with the best floral flavors that keep me wanting more, but yet still satisfied.

What is your favorite cocktail?

My favorite drink is a nice Bloody Maria or a smooth Margarita. Every once in a while, I like a scotch on the rocks or a Chopin Martini with a touch of vermouth and three olives, shaken not stirred.

Have you ever been a bartender?

Yes, I was a caterer bartender and worked for many weddings and private parties. When I first moved to LA, I was also a cocktail waitress. I enjoyed interacting with customers and watching them delight in my concoctions. When I would bartend, my favorite cocktail to make was a cool refreshing drink called “The Crisp.” It had crushed basil, cucumber, mint, serrano pepper and simple syrup mixed with tequila or gin, shaken with ice. It was the perfect summer drink. I sometimes make it at home whenever I’m hosting friends and family.