Ajiona Alexus: Kendra is definition of resilience in 'Real Love,' 'Strength of a Woman'

The Lifetime movies were inspired by two of music legend Mary J. Blige's songs. Blige was also a producer on the films.

Da'Vinchi (L) and Ajiona Alexus star in "Mary J. Blige's Strength of a Woman," premiering Saturday. Photo courtesy of Lifetime
1 of 5 | Da'Vinchi (L) and Ajiona Alexus star in "Mary J. Blige's Strength of a Woman," premiering Saturday. Photo courtesy of Lifetime

NEW YORK, June 17 (UPI) -- Empire and 13 Reasons Why actress Ajiona Alexus says Mary J. Blige's Strength of a Woman shows a more mature, but still troubled version of her Real Love character Kendra.

"Troubles never stop coming your way and I just think you see another phase of Kendra -- older and more established," Alexus said in a recent virtual press conference.


"Just because she is more successful in her life doesn't mean the problems stop," she added. "You're always finding strength on your journey. It never stops. Kendra, I think, is just the real definition of resilience. Even when she is going through stuff from college to now, she's always pursuing her dreams and goals and you see her balance all of that."

The Lifetime movies are inspired by Grammy-winner Blige's songs by the same names. Blige also served as executive producer on the projects.


Real Love, which first played on Lifetime June 10, follows Kendra as she starts her studies at an HBCU in North Carolina and falls in love with her photo class partner Ben (Da'Vinchi), facing an unexpected pregnancy, financial struggles and disapproving parents along the way.

Premiering Saturday, Strength of a Woman picks up 15 years later, when Kendra is a successful photographer trapped in a failing marriage and Ben unexpectedly comes back into her life.

The films gave Alexus the chance to reunite with Da'Vinchi with whom she'd previously co-starred in the Starz series, Black Mafia Family.

"We had so much fun. I was actually happy it was him because we already had a rapport and chemistry built from before," the actress said.

"For me, at least, it was kind of hard to get into the lover mode of like, 'Now, we've got to be kissing on each other for six months?' But I think, overall, it worked," she added. "Me and him, definitely, were like Kobe and Shaq out there on the films."

Producer Jordan Davis said it was "fantastic and a real privilege" to collaborate with Blige, who weighed in on the movies' scripts, casting and costumes.


"She worked with us every step of the way," Davis said. "You can see in the films her spirit and her brand."

Davis said she was a fan of the music legend "just like everybody else."

"I knew Mary and she told me she wanted to do this with her songs and it was just a thrill," she added.

"She picked these two particular songs and she wanted to set them in an HBCU and she wanted to talk about a woman's experience and the experience of the artist."

Blige thinks the movies capture the messages she wanted to convey in her music.

"When I wrote 'Real Love' and 'Strength of a Woman,' I was searching for love in people and couldn't find it. I finally found it in myself," Blige said in a pre-taped video to promote the films.

"I think the songs resonate because everyone is searching. As executive producer for these movies, I've been able to develop these songs into love stories with my music as the backdrop," she added. "It was a dream come true to make my songs into movies."


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