Seales is back on the small screen, but solo this time, for her standup comedy special She Be Knowin’, also debuting on HBO.
Chatting with PEOPLE ahead of the Jan. 26 premiere, the 37-year-old actress and comedian could hardly contain her excitement. “All the feels, converging all at once at the same damn time,” Seales said of her anticipation.
The moment has been a long time coming for Seales, also a popular podcast host, who kicked off her acting career in the early 90s with roles on film and Nickelodeon. She joined the cast of Insecure in 2016. It wasn’t until recent years that she caught the comedy bug, churning her life and social media commentary on race, politics, womanhood and friendship into standup material.
As for her success thus far, “There’s no luck in this equation,” says Seales. “I’m 37, an age when we get mammograms. I have friends freezing eggs. This is the result of consistent focus and growth.”
Here are five things to know about the I Be Knowin’ star:
1. Seales was born in Inglewood, Ca. and attended high school in Orlando, Fl.
“I was a very intense kid. I was an only child, so I had a very wild imagination,” says Seales. “I was always coming up with stories and ideas and my mom got a video camera so I was doing full production music videos and choreographing dances with my friends. I was the kid who was always directing.”
2. She went on to study at SUNY Purchase and later Columbia University where she received her Master’s Degree in African American studies with a concentration in Hip Hop.
“I was living the dream,” says Seales. “I wanted to be an MTV VJ and I was a VJ in grad school. At the time it was like, it gets no better. But once I achieved that I had to reconfigure. I found my way into the music business as a writer and radio host. But the music business was making me hate music,” says Seales, one of a number of women who have accused former music executive Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct. “So I switched gears. Comedy was my other passion.”
3. Her comedy centers on her experience as a black woman in America.
“I have always felt unapologetically black but I didn’t always know that I could make it being that way,” she says. “People will tell you you have to water down and make white people like you. That you have to do this by not speaking about your true experience, by not addressing the unique identity of blackness.”
4. Seales credits 2013’s Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave with awakening her courage to share her black experience with the world.
“After I saw 12 Years a Slave, I had this epiphany and I was like ‘You know what, I’m not going to worry about crossing over. I’m going to break through.’” Seales can still remember that moment. “I saw it with my mom and a girl who was staying with me because I was an Air BnB host at the time. When we left the theater the girl said ‘That was really sad.’ I got out of the cab and just walked and on that walk I was just like ’Nah, ain’t gonna conform no more.’”
5. When she’s not acting, performing or hosting her live music, comedy and pop culture experience Smart, Funny and Black, Seales finds comfort in doing her podcast Small Doses, watching Game of Thrones and playing Candy Crush.
“On Small Doses I have a segment called ‘People I Like’. It’s the best thing ever,” says Seales. “Once I start recording, I’m like oh this is fun.” And she’s also adept at multitasking while she zones out. “I like to watch Game of Thrones and play Candy Crush, but they have to happen at the same time.”
Seales’ standup comedy special I Be Knowin’ premieres Saturday, Jan. 26 at 10 p.m. on HBO.