#TBT: Choppin’ It Up With China

Time for another #TBT! On the second Thursday of each month, we’ll release a past celeb cover story from our print-only archives. For this round, we’re throwin’ it back to fall 2016 with China Anne McClain.

By Andréa Butler| Photographed by Jim Cornfield | Hair by Nicoletta Gauci | Makeup by Andy Trieu | Styled by Ayanna Thompson + Andréa Butler

Hustle. Humor. Talent. China Anne McClain’s got all that and more. But if you think you know everything about this 18-year-old* actress and musical powerhouse, think again.

The best advice China Anne McClain has ever received came from “uncle” Tyler Perry: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” It’s no surprise, then, that China, armed with a bevy of talents, including acting and singing, stays booked and paid. Since she was just 6 years old (starring in her first movie, The Gospel), China’s been racking up the roles and the #receipts — think Daddy’s Little Girls, Grown Ups, House of Payne, How to Build a Better Boy, and A.N.T. Farm.

Now 18, China continues to slay the game. In fact, she’s got two movies in the works right now: Descendants 2 (to be released in 2017) and Brother’s Blood (out later this year). The first is the sequel to Disney’s 2015 film, Descendants and has China playing a new character, Uma, the daughter of Ursula. “I’ve always wanted to play the villain in something,” she says. The second, however, is a lot darker and follows the story of a man as he takes revenge on his childhood friends for letting him sit in prison for a crime they all committed. China plays 17-year-old Darcy. “I’m runnin’ around acting crazy the whole time … It’s a lot more serious than the other projects that I’ve worked on in the past,” she says. “[Darcy is] having a bit of a hard time dealing with the things going on in her family, but she distracts herself by focusing on music, and unfortunately, partying. The film, as a whole, feels dangerous and action-packed.”

Minus the “dangerous” part, China’s real life is pretty thrilling, too. She gets to jet-set all over the world doing what she loves (Descendants 2 was filmed in Canada and Brother’s Blood was shot in New Orleans), collab with cuties like Trey Songz (she plays his sister-in-law in Brother’s Blood), record new music (“You guys are definitely gonna hear a McClain album!”), and produce videos for the YouTube channel she shares with her sister, Lauryn. (Her fave videos to make? The karaoke challenges, obviously.) “The singing ones are just so fun, especially when you do it with your siblings,” she says.

Something you may not know about her, though? Despite living her life in the limelight, she’s actually an introvert. This just means that after all that work, work, work (work, work, work) and being “on” all day long, she needs a little alone time to recharge her energy. And ya’ girl is all about that crocheting life to do just that. You heard right. “A lot of people think that’s kinda strange when I tell ‘em [that I crochet], and they’re like, ‘Crochet?! What?!’” she laughs. “But it’s really fun to do when you’re feeling down. Just anything creative helps to pick my spirits back up.” She’s apparently so boss with the hook and yarn that she’s knocked out 10 to 12 purses and bags (she prefers making these instead of blankets), and they get snapped up with a quickness. “My mom sees them sometimes, and she’s like, ‘Can I have that?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure, Mom.’”

What nobody can count on having, though, is China’s silence on important issues. She’s woke and has no qualms about letting you know. “There are a lot of things that I don’t like about social media, but it really works in certain situations. It really helps when you want to speak out to the whole world and to everyone who wants to listen about the things that are going on,” she says. “Just talk about it and bring awareness to all the things that are happening in our country right now.” And she doesn’t plan to limit her thoughts to 140 characters, alone. “I’m thinking that I should start [a blog],” she says. “Right now, I may send out a tweet or put out a photo on Instagram and talk about the way that I’m feeling, but I think that I am going to probably create a blog … so I can really express myself about all the things that are going on.”

No matter what pursuits China takes on, she believes in going all in and putting in that work. Her advice to you: “Hang in there,” she says. “Everything is going to be worth it … trust me.”

*China was 18 years old when her cover interview was first published in our fall 2016 issue.

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