Brianna Brown has been crying. For weeks. All while donning designer clothes and perfectly blow-dried hair. But her emotional rollercoaster ride has nothing to do with heartbreak, or excruciating pain. It’s simply par for the course on Lifetime’s hit show Devious Maids, produced by Mark Cherry and Eva Longoria. “It’s kind of been fun to be upset all the time,” says Brianna, who co-stars as Beverly Hills power wife Taylor Stappord. “But honestly, I’m pretty excited to not have to cry so much in my next job!”
Brianna is not one to shy away from a genuine good cry. Or a good laugh. But stiff designer dresses? Not so much. With her long, tapered limbs and sun-streaked locks, she embodies the carefree California spirit. She’s lived in Los Angeles since shortly after high school, when she left her native Minnesota to pursue an acting career. Her role as Dr. Lisa Niles on ABC’s General Hospital prompted People magazine to name her one of the “best villains in the show’s 50-year history.” She’s also worked opposite Claire Danes on Homeland, as well as True Blood and Castle.
Hollywood has also inspired her in a different way: Brianna is the founder of The New Hollywood Women’s Goal Group, a non-profit whose mission is to empower women. “The entertainment industry is not always such a positive force,” she says, explaining why she founded her women’s goal group. “Look at reality television and how women are pitted against each other. It scares me. We’re taught to be hard on each other and on our bodies, and to be perfect all the time. There’s so much competition amongst us, but instead of tearing each other down we need to learn how to support each other.”
In a candid interview, Brianna opens up about her own heartbreak, how she got over it and what she learned along the way. Not afraid to talk about sorrow, she reveals a woman who has learned that our lows, even the ones that can bring us to our knees, should be be embraced as part of the beauty of life. And she proves that — despite her scribbling on the chalk board above — love doesn’t always suck! • Ulrica Wihlborg
Ulrica: What made you write ‘Love Sucks’ on that chalk board!
Brianna: We took that photo last summer when I was going through a difficult heartbreak. My girlfriend and I were taking the photos, and she and I were laughing between the takes. We were talking about how, in Los Angeles, relationships can be hard. It’s different from where we grew up, where you tend to get married after college and stay together. When you’re in a big city like LA, people are so focused on their careers. It’s harder to live here, or put your children through school. It takes longer to find the right one.
Ulrica: Looking back at what you wrote, a year later, how do you feel now?
Brianna: I’m very grateful that relationship didn’t work out. Sure, it was a very difficult period of my life, but now that I’ve gone through it, I’m grateful for it. I’ve learned that the darkest moments can be used as a launching pad to get stronger, to learn more of who you are and what you want. So we have to be grateful for those times, too. We can’t only be grateful for the happy moments.
Ulrica: What’s your best advice for other women experiencing the same thing?
Brianna: The only way out is through! I see a lot of women, myself included, that try to numb themselves. But you need to learn how to grieve. That was a big thing for me that I learned. I had to accept that it’s okay not to be okay. When I lost my father, I didn’t really deal with it in the moment. A year later, it really hit me. Especially for us women, we work so hard to always have a smile on our face instead of being vulnerable and honest. Sometimes life doesn’t work out. And that’s okay! It’s okay to go through those valleys, and to allow our friends to go through those valleys. And have faith that you’ll eventually understand what is unexplainable in that moment.
Ulrica: You know what sometimes is hard for me when I’m having a tough time? Seeing everyone’s happy life on Facebook! It can make you feel that you’re the only one having a tough time.
Brianna: I know! But life is not a fairy tale. Those Facebook updates don’t reflect all that life is. And the dark moments have a purpose, too. They allow us to grow, and to appreciate when things are good. By expecting life to always be great and happy, like a Facebook update, we set ourselves up for failure. That’s just not real life. Feeling vulnerable and feeling despair are part of the human experience, so we should not shy away from that.
Ulrica: Also, nurturing gratitude for what is working is a great remedy.
Brianna: Yes! Gratitude for what is working is a really important habit. There’s a wonderful book by Shawn Acor, The Happiness Advantage, that I love. It teaches you that by being focused on what’s working, and having gratitude for that, you set yourself up for a happier life. And success comes easier to you. Our brain is set up to dwell on what’s not working, and we can get stuck on that. But if we instead teach ourselves to be grateful, every morning when we get up, life will be very different.
Ulrica: So what are you most grateful for?
Brianna: I remember when I shot a movie in Panama and I came back home after being in the jungle for two months. It made me so appreciative of having a fridge stocked full of food, and a closet full of clothes! It really made me grateful for basic things I usually take for granted. I’m also grateful for my friendships, for my chosen family and my real family, and my sweetheart, my special guy [she prefers to keep his name private]. And I hope that through my work, through acting and my foundations, can make a small ripple of difference in this world.
Ulrica: Tell me about one habit you’ve adopted that’s made a big difference in your life?
Brianna: I’m very stubborn, so it’s hard for me to introduce new habits. But every morning, I’ve learned to sit down and meditate for 20 minutes. And I try to feel gratitude before I jump on the phone and head out for the day. It’s easy to rattle off a list of things you’re grateful for, but to really feel gratitude in your heart, that’s the challenge and that’s what makes a difference. I certainly don’t have it all figured out! I sometimes feel I take one step forward and one back. But life is really good right now. •
If you loved our feature with Brianna Brown, please share it with your friends! You can follow Brianna on Instagram @brianna_lynn_brown and Twitter @brownbrianna. Don’t miss Devious Maids, airing on Lifetime on Mondays at 9/8c.
All photographs by Ragan Brooks ©2015.