A Conversation with Mercedes Young: Love, Life, & Everything In Between
Actress Mercedes Young Talks New Reality Series, To Rome for Love, Dating in Her Twenties, and The Journey to Self-Love
Many great things can be said about this Jesus-loving, truth-speaking, vastly-talented, Southern girl. But, we’ll start with the basics. Her name is Mercedes Young. Twenty-six years “young”, with an abundance of wisdom to give.
Originally from Miami, the University of Florida graduate is a honed actress, model, author, and motivational speaker, who’s most known for her role in the 2012 action-horror film, 2-Headed Shark Attack, alongside famed actresses Carmen Electra and Brooke Hogan.
With a number of other film and television credits, including Straight Outta Compton, Think Like a Man Too, Investigation Discovery Channel’s Married with Secrets, and Lifetime’s My Crazy Ex, Young’s work truly speaks for itself, and she’s certainly on the rise.
However, with a flourishing career, for Young, finding love has seemingly fallen to the wayside. But, not for long. On a quest to receive everything that her pure heart desires, the 26-year-old recently embarked on a trip to Rome… for love in the Bravo-produced reality series—ironically titled, To Rome for Love.
Without question, everyone has a love story, but some just take a little bit longer to reach its happy ending. And, frankly, Young’s story is still being written, and she’s taking the world along for every single chapter that it brings.
Check out our recent sit-down with Mercedes Young, as she talked branching out into reality television, dating in her twenties, self-love, and so much more.
Parlé Mag: Currently, you are a cast member of Bravo’s new reality series, To Rome for Love. Talk to us a little bit about how you initially became involved in the project.
Mercedes Young: I’m originally from South Florida—Miami, to be exact, but I live out here in Los Angeles. The dating scene in Los Angeles is horrid, girl! I mean, when I say it’s horrid, it’s horrid.
Parlé Mag: Really?!
Mercedes Young: It really is so bad because, out here, there are a lot of people who are superficial. Some of the relationships are like, “What can I get out of you in order to help me?” You know what I mean? It doesn’t feel authentic at all. It feels forced; it feels plastic. So, dating out here is hard, especially with these men. The men, they be having all kinds of women, honey. There’s a beautiful girl on every corner. As long as they got money, they can afford to have multiple women and play many women.
Parlé Mag: Wow! That’s usually how it is, unfortunately.
Mercedes Young: Right. So, I was talking with one of my girlfriends about [the show], and the next thing I know, I hear about Italy and how the men just adore Black women over there. I’m like, ‘You know what? Why not go where you’re celebrated? Why not go where you’re absolutely adored and cherished?’ Before I knew it, we were on a plane over to Rome, girl, and I was on camera trying to get my whole life!
Parlé Mag: Wow! So, was this your first time traveling to Rome, or you had been there before?
Mercedes Young: This was my first time traveling to Rome. I’m an avid traveler, so I travel a lot. I went to five countries last year. But, I had never been to Rome before, so that was an experience, especially because I’m a Christian, and you hear all about the Romans in the Bible and stuff like that. It was just so interesting to see! To just put everything into perspective like, ‘Wow, I’m actually here!’ So, yeah, it was crazy.
Parlé Mag: You have a lengthy background in acting. However, reality TV is completely different. So, was it difficult to have to kind of branch out and broadcast more of a personal side of yourself on a national platform?
Mercedes Young: Ooooh, girl. Difficult isn’t even the word. It was very hard for me! For the simple fact that I’m a very private person when I deal with my life and my personal life. My personal business is called personal for a reason. [laughs] So, to like really open up and expose myself to these women in the house, expose myself to the love expert, and then expose myself to the world, in the beginning, I was a little shy at first. Because I’m like, ‘Oh, Lord! People are going to see a little bit of my ratchet side.’ I’m still classy, at the same time, but I literally was being my authentic self. So, you can see everything… my flaws and all. I was watching the playback, and I was sitting at the dinner table, slouching. I was like, ‘Oh my God! That’s so hideous!’ Like, why ain’t nobody tell me to sit up straight?
Parlé Mag: [laughs] Well, I would imagine that you kind of forget that the cameras are there while you’re actually recording, right?
Mercedes Young: That’s exactly what happened! But, it’s not even that, too. It was our first night there, and we had so much jet lag and had been filming all day. I was exhausted! Girl, I was ready to go to bed. That’s why I was hovering over that plate! I was falling asleep. [laughs]
Parlé Mag: [laughs] What would you say are five things that people may not know about you from watching the show?
Mercedes Young: I’m a Christian, so they’ll definitely know that. I’m always cheering for the underdog; I think that’s something that people might not know. Like, when I say I cheer for the underdog, I really do. I’m a people person; I’m very passionate about people–to the smallest extent. I could be watching something online and if something happens to someone, I would be extremely affected by it. I internalize stuff like that. Hmm, what else could I say? I’m a comedienne, girl! I love to laugh. I love to have a good time. I’m not like a real comedienne, standing up there and telling jokes, but I love to laugh.
Parlé Mag: I can definitely tell, just by talking with you now!
Mercedes Young: I love to make people laugh! Laughter is good for the soul.
Parlé Mag: It really is!
Mercedes Young: Also, pain fuels me. Who goes looking for pain? Nobody. [laughs] However, some people go through things, and they get depressed—everybody has their fair share of being down and out, but it makes me want to do better, it makes me want to prove people wrong, it makes me want to be great. You know how they say, “Haters are my biggest motivators?” I hate that cliché; I hate that saying, but it’s really true. It reigns true in my life. I love it. Like, bring it on, because I just want to be above anything that you could ever think of. You know what I’m saying? And I don’t like to be boxed into a certain category.
Another big thing for me is that I’m a Christian, but I’m not like an overzealous Christian. I’m not trying to shove the Bible down your throat. I’m not holier-than-thou. I’m human, first. I sin, just like everybody else. But, you know what? There’s a redeemer, and I ask God for forgiveness, and I ask Him to keep me on the straight and narrow.
Parlé Mag: And He will do it.
Mercedes Young: Exactly! So, I love the Lord. But, I never wanted to portray myself as a holier-than-thou [person]. I don’t think I’m better than anybody. I just try to live my life and love the Lord, at the same time.
Parlé Mag: Throughout this whole experience, what would you say was the most important thing that you learned about yourself?
Mercedes Young: That I don’t really trust people. It’s crazy! It took some experiences to happen, while I was there, to make me realize that I really don’t trust people, in general. I just don’t. Sometimes—and I hate to say this, I don’t even trust God. Because, if I trusted God, some of the stuff that I do, I wouldn’t be doing. If I really trusted Him, wholeheartedly, and relinquished everything. So, I’m still growing and trying to learn how to trust people. You’ll see on the show that I’ve been through a lot. When you have all that type of baggage, it’s hard to just be trusting people all willy-nilly. I think that’s crazy. I’m trying to change, though.
Parlé Mag: I completely agree. It’s something that you have to work to.
Mercedes Young: Yes.
Parlé Mag: How do you hope To Rome for Love will sort of set that table for dialogue and enlighten the people who have been sucked into society’s stereotypical perceptions of the modern-day Black woman, especially when it comes to love and relationships?
Mercedes Young: Ooooh, this is a good question. I honestly hope that people will see that we’re not the stereotypical, angry Black woman. Black women are so passionate. That’s what it is! We’re so passionate. We’ve had to carry the load for so long. We’re the backbone of America—of society, period. We’re uplifting and supporting everybody. So, because we’re doing that, people perceive us to be so strong, and no one wants to lift us up in return. We’re just soft, and we want to be loved. We’re not upset all the time. What people probably perceive is frustration, but it’s not anger. It’s, “I just want you to get it! I just want you to hear us. I just want you to understand that we want to be great, just like y’all.” So, I’m hoping that this really opens up their eyes to see that we do have a softer side, that we’re loving, that we’re caring, that we’re nurturing, first and foremost. I know that I’m a nurturer.
Parlé Mag: As a woman in her mid-twenties, yourself, what do you think are some of the biggest challenges you face in today’s dating scene?
Mercedes Young: Players, players, players. [laughs] These dudes out here, honey, they do not want to be tied down; they want to have three or four women. And, I blame society. Like, when you listen to the music, I blame the culture. These people are making songs about side chicks winning, okay?! We got Joseline [from Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta]. She was fake married, but that kind of counts because he claimed her in public. You got all of these side chicks who are winning right now. So, in a culture where they’re glorifying this stuff, it’s hard to find somebody who’s genuine. It’s hard to find somebody who’s going to be loyal to you, who’s going to be your ride or die, who’s going to be your partner, so you guys can grow and learn together. No! The more women you got, “you’re the man.” So, I think—in society, and, especially, in my age demographic, that’s the problem, to be honest.
Parlé Mag: Yes! I’m just shocked that you said that dating in Los Angeles had been difficult. You’d think that since it’s a larger city, you’d have more options. [laughs]
Mercedes Young: Girl, no. [laughs] Listen, if you plan on coming out here, don’t get your hopes up. Not to bash or generalize all of Los Angeles, but I’m just speaking from my experience because that’s the only thing I can speak on. I’m from the South, so we have real gentlemen in the South.
Parlé Mag: Oh, definitely. I’m from the South, too!
Mercedes Young: Up until my dad couldn’t walk anymore, he would still open the car door for me, he would still walk on the outside of the sidewalk. It’s like, the little things that he would do to show me that he’s a man who cares to be chivalrous, out here in Los Angeles, that’s foreign. They’re like, “Open the door? What? What is that?” [laughs] When I first moved out here, I would be walking down the street and I would see someone, and I would be like, ‘Hello!’ Obviously, I didn’t know this person, but I still said, ‘Hello. Good morning!’ They looked at me like I was an alien.
Parlé Mag: Really? That’s messed up.
Mercedes Young: Yeah, seriously! Or, they’ll try to avoid eye contact, or they won’t speak. It’s just different in the South. When I go back home, I’m like, ‘Oh My God! Yes! Nice people!’ I’m talking about, they can come from any type of socioeconomic, demographic, anything. People are more friendly, they smile, and they speak to you when you’re passing them. So, it’s been much, much different out here.
Parlé Mag: If given the opportunity, what advice would you give the younger Mercedes about love?
Mercedes Young: Just wait until you’re ready to get married! Because love doesn’t love anybody… in the beginning. [laughs] For my future kids and my younger self, I would say, just wait for the whole dating thing. Even though, I do agree that it’s important to teach your children how to date so that they know what to expect. I do believe in that grooming process. But, as far as like heartbreak and, you know, going head over heels, I would be like, ‘Just wait!’ Trust the process. When I was younger, I was so naive, and I thought that people really cared about me, and, really, they were just using me. So, just be careful of who it is that you create soul ties with.
Parlé Mag: One of the admirable things that I read about you is that you’re a very strong advocate for self-love. Sadly, a lot of women are still struggling with that concept, and, as a result, they go seeking love from others to try to fill that void and use it as a sense of validation. For you, personally, how would you describe your journey to self-love?
Mercedes Young: It’s a super difficult journey, kind of, especially when it comes to just our physical appearance. There are so many people who, especially out here in California—I hate to keep reverting back to California, but that’s just the reality of the situation—want to alter their bodies to try to fit society’s standards of what beauty is. In actuality, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; it’s what’s on the inside that matters the most. I remember growing up and my mom, she would never let me get my hair relaxed! I was walking around with a puff, girl, in high school!
Parlé Mag: [laughs] Oh, dear!
Mercedes Young: This was way before the natural movement! I was walking around with puffs in high school, and I just felt like, ‘Yo! People [are] clowning me!’ I used to wear a lot of braids in order to try to switch it up a bit, to show that I was mature or whatever. But, no! When the girls used to come in with their hair in a fresh wrap, I used to be so envious! I’m like, ‘Shoot! I want my hair to be soft and silky and straight, too.’ But, in actuality, we’re trying to be something that God didn’t intend for us to be. It’s all about embracing that natural inner self. So, right now, of course, I’m natural. I love the idea of embracing your own self so much that I wrote a children’s book about natural hair.
Parlé Mag: That’s amazing.
Mercedes Young: It’s called, “Look At All the Things My Hair Can Do“, so that when little black girls and black boys see their natural hair, they won’t want to try to rush to get it relaxed or be like the people who they see on TV. Now, I’m not against wigs, though. I love hair wigs. But, just learning to embrace your authentic self, first, and then switching it up, every now and then. You know us black women! We love to have a different hairstyle, like every week.
Parlé Mag: Every week!
Mercedes Young: [laughs]
Parlé Mag: What’s next for you?
Mercedes Young: Well, you can expect another children’s book that’s going to come out. It’s going to be dedicated to my black boys, about them being Kings! Right now, I am writing a television show that I’m trying to get. So, it’s either HBO or Starz. I’m super excited about that! I’m super stoked. And, then, about a month ago, I wrapped up a movie. I’m also working on a few other projects, but I can’t talk about them right now. You’ll definitely have to follow me on social media in order to keep up! I’m always on the go!
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