Tina Lifford, actress, author and founder of the Inner Fitness Project, is on a mission to help others be inner fit and combat the projection that by 2030 the biggest health scare the nation will face is depression. As an Inner Fitness trainer, she created a wellbeing initiative that teaches effective, reliable practices for navigating your past, present and future with resilience, power and wisdom. In addition to operating her own company, Lifford’s acting career shows no signs of slowing down. With over 30-years in Hollywood, she’s best known for her roles as Joan Mosely in South Central and currently as Violet Bordelon, aka Aunt Vi, on OWN’s Queen Sugar. Although the series is still in season six, she’s preparing for season seven, the series finale.
“Whenever anything that happens to us, that separates us from our sense of ourselves, and it’s in a way that leaves us feeling shame, or feeling incapable, not good enough or afraid of ourselves,” Lifford explains, “we walk with it. It’s not like it happens, and then we can tuck it away in a drawer. It is a part of our lives, and we manage it. … I see inner fitness as literally the brother, sister, to physical fitness. One speaks to the importance of the physical body. And the other speaks to the importance of tending to the interior, the mental, emotional and spiritual. So if we have more awareness of ways to proactively begin to work with ourselves, build our self-awareness, and become more knowledgeable and deliberate in how we are with ourselves, that is inner fitness work.”
Lifford entered the workforce as a public relations specialist. She took acting classes and auditioned for the local community theater any chance she had. One of her mentors asked her to audition for a specific role on a theater production he was directing; however, it required her to leave her job in publicity.
A year later, that same director began working in television. He helped Lifford earn her SAG card while offering her a role in Knott’s Landing. She enjoyed life as a television actress and had her sights set on starring in a film. In 1991, her goal came to fruition by acting alongside Steve Martin and Alfre Woodard in Grand Canyon. That role made her a sought-after actress within the industry.
Lifford has always been intentional about her goals and what she wanted out of life. She noticed a pattern of writing down her next move, working towards it, and accomplishing specific objectives. Through tracking her routine, she discovered that all along, she had been working on her inner fitness, developing a fit mindset.
“We can begin by recognizing that there is an interior experience,” she explains. “Let’s call it the interior self. That self requires time and attention. That sounds like a simple statement, but it is profound because we walk through our day, we live our lives as though the physical body is who we are. And that’s how we have ignored, missed, denied, lied to ourselves about what is going on in the internal self. So we first have to make room for the reality that there is an internal self that requires time and attention. That internal self can be found through our mental, emotional and spiritual experiences, our thinking, feeling and choosing. And if we want to take care of the interior self, then we must learn that we have impact and we can choose our thoughts.”
Her experiences ignited the idea for the Inner Fitness Project and her first book, the Little Book of Big Lies, which was featured in Forbes as a best personal development book. Additionally, the book was a Book Authority 2020 winner of Best Meaning of Life Books of all-time and Nautilus Book 2019 Gold Award winner in the personal growth category. Now, she’s in the middle of writing her second book.
As Lifford continues to pivot and evolve in her career, she focuses on the following essential steps:
- Ask yourself hard questions about how this new opportunity is aligned with your mission or values. Will this pivot bring you closer to your overall goals?
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it most likely isn’t right for you.
- Set clear intentions. Being specific about what you want will yield quicker results because you’ll be laser-focused on making the goal reality.
“In November 2015, I was writing that I wanted to be a series regular on a critically acclaimed show, with an incredible ensemble,” Lifford concludes. “I wanted to be number three or four on the call sheet. And I wanted to bring undeniable value to that. I did the audition [for Queen Sugar], and in January or February, I was cast and headed to New Orleans. It is critically acclaimed. I am number four on the call sheet. Every single actor is amazing. And working with them is amazing. And a woman over 60 is one of the break out characters.”