All about self-care! Queen Sugar star Dawn-Lyen Gardner is a busy woman, but she still makes time for herself.
The actress, 40, has played leading lady Charley Bordelon West on the OWN series — currently in its sixth season — since its debut in September 2016. The show, which is based on Natalie Baszile’s 2014 novel of the same name, follows three siblings in rural Louisiana who must decide what to do with their father’s sugarcane farm after his sudden death.
Creator Ava DuVernay implemented an initiative to only use female directors on the show from the beginning, which set a positive tone.
“It has been actually pretty game-changing,” Gardner explained during a February appearance on The Real. “Working with all women directors for five years of my life, it actually fully shifted just the definition of a director. Ava was the first woman director I ever worked with in television, and then it was sort of 34 women after that. It has really completely transformed what was possible even for myself, I think, on some level as an actor, just seeing who’s at the helm, seeing who’s in leadership — all of that informs, I guess, a permission that you give yourself to more fully embody yourself, to more fully embody the work, and your own dreams of perhaps one day doing that for yourself.”
The directive not only changed Gardner’s life but also the field of television as a whole. “It really was an emotional shift for me, and I’m so, so grateful to the show and for Ava for that initiative,” she continued. “It was, I think, game-changing for me and for other actors, but it was definitely game-changing for the industry.”
The Juilliard graduate reflected on her character’s journey earlier this year. “What has emerged from her struggle with belonging is that she doesn’t wait for that space to be made — she makes it,” she told emmy magazine. “And we watched that process, as she did it from a more authentic place, based in her connectedness rather than in self-service. It feels less fraught and more rooted now. Playing that has been such a delicious journey for me.”
Gardner has plenty on her professional plate, but when she is not on set, she focuses on self-care and work-life balance, whether that is through a power nap, a workout, meditation or reading.
Want to see Gardner’s day in action? Keep scrolling through the photos below to discover how she spends her time.