Leslie Odom Jr. Talks Pre-Show Rituals, Fatherhood, and The Moisturizer His Mom Put Him On

Leslie Odom Jr. Talks Pre-Show Rituals, Fatherhood, and The Moisturizer His Mom Put Him On featured image
Steven Ferdman / Stringer/ Getty Images

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed theater nerd like myself or not, you’ve definitely been influenced by the power of Leslie Odom Jr. in one way or another. From his iconic role as Aaron Burr in Hamilton to his film appearances in blockbusters like Glass Onion and Harriet, Odom Jr. is a force to be reckoned with.

Not only is the 42-year-old an actor extraordinaire, he’s also taken on the role of father to his two beautiful children. Recently, Odom Jr. took his title of superhero dad to a whole new level with a partnership with Kinder Chocolate to celebrate the brand’s expansion into the states and their “Let That Kid Flag Fly” initiative, dedicated to letting kids be kids. After frolicking through the deliciously decorated and outrageously fun Kinderland pop up in NYC, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Leslie to talk about the partnership and hear from him about all things fatherhood, life in the spotlight and generational product recommendations.

Life can be so busy, especially as a parent. How has this collaboration with Kinder Chocolate shaped how you find moments of togetherness with your family and even small moments of joy with yourself?

“It has definitely helped. Kinder was very generous and sent us a box of Kinder Chocolates and that went over great with the kiddos. Then we had a meeting, and I learned more about the brand, their ideals, their culture and there was a whole lot of synergy there, especially when you talk about letting kids be kids—that’s a big part of our parenting. Sweets are not something we have every day, but some of the most precious moments I had as a kid were centered around food. For example, getting ice cream with my dad after mowing the lawn or buying myself a chocolate bar after some sort of accomplishment as reward for myself. And so, today, walking through Kinderland and splitting one of the rolls of chocolate with my daughter, just having that moment with her, you’d be surprised how those little sweet moments linger and last with a kid long after they brush their teeth.”

As a former theater kid myself, being involved with theater has played a big part in my understanding of myself. How has the theater world played a role in your self confidence and your understanding of who you are?

“For me, theater was a place that I found a lot of affirmation. When I was there I was making friends, I was joyful and it lit me up, which is why I was a little less afraid to take on that silly role or be that guy that had to sing a few songs. But really, what it was at first was that I wasn’t fearful to do it. I was willing to try, and over time I’ve built my life out of the theater. My closest friends are from theatre and I met the love of my life there, too. I’ve developed a relationship with these audiences and so, in a way, my whole life has organized itself around those early moments of joy and affirmation that I found in theatre.”

I can imagine performing eight shows a week on Broadway takes a toll on your body and your mind. What are some of your self care rituals for staying healthy and grounded when you’re performing?

“Presence is huge because I don’t always get the time off that I would like, but a present five minutes or even an intentional 20 minute nap goes a long way. An intentional 20 minutes is more restorative and better than a scattered 45, so I just use what I have. I use what is available to me to the best of my ability.”

How has your self care and wellness routine changed since becoming a father?

“I may be in need of more of it but I have less time for it, so I started waking up earlier. About two years ago, I started waking up an hour and a half before my kids—an hour and a half to two hours before Nicolette and before the kids, and that’s my time. Sometimes, that’s when I have to get it. That’s when I can drink my coffee and journal and do yoga, check in with myself and find out how I’m doing before the day starts rushing in. It’s a time where I can check in with myself first and see what I’m in need of. When I do do that, when I get up and tend to myself in that way, I’m meeting my family with a more full cup.”

Do you have any beauty products you’ve been loving lately?

“I tend to develop a relationship with products, and then they hold a sentimental value for me. They’re not fancy but, for example, my mom—because of her eczema issues—got the whole family on to Eucerin, and that’s lotion that we all use now. For my lips, recently my favorite thing is Aquaphor. Aquaphor around our house is like Windex, we use it for everything. Eucerin is what we use to keep our skin moisturized because Yaya–that’s what my kids call my mom—has us using it. There’s definitely a sentimental aspect to it all.”

You’ve been to your fair share of award shows and in-person events. Do you have any pre-award show or pre-red carpet beauty or grooming rituals to help you feel your best when you’re under those lights?

“I have a team now, thank God. Not for nothing, most people have some sort of team—if you’re a guy, you’ve got a barber, if you’re a girl, you’ve got a salon or sometimes you have somebody that does your makeup, whether it’s your sister, or an aunt—I have a team, and they are my go-to ritual. Those people, like everybody in my life, I’ve chosen wisely because they do more for me than just grooming. My barber does more than just my hair, he’s a presence around me. His positivity makes a difference on my night and his confidence in me gives me confidence in myself. A fresh cut from Vernon the barber makes me stand a little taller and hold my shoulders back a little bit on the red carpet.”

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