January 4th, 2021 | Uplift, a series: Conversations to raise awareness, lift voices, inspire
Malia Baker is an actress perhaps best known for her role as Mary-Anne in Netflix’s series The Baby-Sitter’s Club. From a young age, she was interested in the arts, with both of her parents setting the stage for the passion that arose in her. From dance to musical theater and film, the Vancouver-based performer has immersed herself since the age of two. As Malia gains recognition for her acting chops, she has also dedicated herself to social and environmental causes — from gender-based violence to climate change to the Black Lives Matter movement.
We sat down with Malia recently, as part of our Uplift series, to learn more. Here’s the interview:
Thank you, Malia, for joining us today, and congratulations on your recent successes. Just over a month ago, we heard that Netflix is producing a second season of The Baby-Sitters Club. You’ll also be starring in the second season of Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? And you were just named one of Seventeen Magazine’s 2020 Voices of the Year.
Recognition of your versatility as an actress is clearly growing. Malia, you’ve been performing from a very early age. What stirred in you this passion for the arts? Who were some of your role models growing up, and why?
MALIA: Well, I’ve got to be honest. I come from a not-so-sporty but very artistic family. My dad is a musician, and my mom has done arts in all sorts of areas. I always knew I was going to be a part of the arts in some way. I started dancing when I was two, musical theater when I was three, and now acting, for which I’m grateful. Now, it has grown into something that I’m so grateful for — and so confused because it happened so fast.
Some of my first role models included Robin Williams, Meryl Streep, and Nelson Mandela. I would also add Greta Thunberg, Yara Shahidi, Malala — the list could go on and on, but that is what I’ll sum up in a short portion for you here.
Since the first season of The Baby-Sitters Club, your followers on social media have grown exponentially, and you’ve been highlighted in Elle, Teen Vogue, Fashionista, Oprah Magazine, and now Seventeen. How has this impacted you? Has it all been positive? And are there lessons you’ve learned along the way you would like your fans to know?
MALIA: It has been all positive. I am so grateful for every opportunity, every person, and everything that has come my way. It happened so fast and flourished into something I am so proud of. I am so proud of everyone who has had a helping hand in making this into this big thing. It has been quite amazing and surreal, and it’s a lot of new experiences which I’m so grateful for. I am looking forward to the future.
Some lessons: I think I have learned a lot of new skills. One lesson I learned is to make sure that you have your own comfort crowd and your own community that is there for you. I know that if things got a little stressful for me, I’d want my mom, my sister or my friends there with me so that I’d be able to put my best foot forward. Making sure you have the right people around you, that support you in everything that you are doing, thinking of, or dreaming of.
You know, Malia, you’ve really made a point to speak up for issues you believe are important. You were recently featured as part of the 1st Annual Girls Talk summit hosted at the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta. For the summit, you talked about girls’ empowerment and self-love, while openly discussing how you deal with your own anxiety, how you’ve navigated self-doubt, and how much you’ve worked to build your confidence. You’ve also been an outspoken advocate for taking pride in natural hair, and you brought a real authenticity and vulnerability into your Baby-Sitters Club character Mary-Anne’s relationship with transgender character, Bailey, portrayed by trans actor Kai Shappley. Why are you compelled to speak up?
MALIA: I feel like that’s a hard question because, as a young Black girl growing up in today’s society, I don’t want to be scared for my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters, simply for going out in the streets. I feel like I have always had a deep-rooted feeling that I was going to do something. I had no idea what that was until now, but I’ve always been compelled to speak up because I look at everything that’s going on in the world and where I am. It’s very important to me to use my platform to bring issues to light and lift up the voices of others whenever I can.
Back in March, Malia, you took part in an Instagram Live on Women’s Equality Day, saying “it reminds me of how far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go. The fight for our rights is both global & in our own backyard.” And in the same breath you mentioned Breonna Taylor, Riah Milton, and Dominique Fells. These deaths are case in point for exactly how far we have to go. Can you tell us, are you hopeful that we will find ways to advance gender equality and counter gender-based violence and systemic racism here in the United States and globally?