Marsai Martin on Wearing Platforms and Her Desire to Work With Rihanna at Foot Locker Gala

Foot Locker
 recruits the top names in entertainment for its annual “On Our Feet” gala, a charitable event presented by the retailer’s nonprofit arm, The Foot Locker Foundation. This year was no different, as the retailer tapped famed actress Marsai Martin, 18, as its guest of honor.

Martin joined Foot Locker president and chief executive officer Mary Dillon on stage Thursday for a discussion at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

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During the conversation, Martin said the best advice she has received from her mom (“What’s for you is for you, and what’s for you won’t miss you”) as well as her dad (“‘The hardest thing that is ever going to hit you is life,’ meaning everybody has got to go through life, it’s something that everybody can relate to, so don’t ever think that you are alone”).

She joked that she couldn’t name her favorite shoe brand on stage, as she was trying to land a deal.

Martin also shared how she has been able to navigate fame and stardom while being a young adult, which includes the support of her family, listening to music, sleep, meditation and therapy. “Therapy helps, y’all,” she said with a laugh. “It doesn’t matter how crazy life is or how much you are seen, taking care of yourself is the best thing.”

Marsai Martin (L) and Foot Locker president and CEO Mary Dillon at the 2023 “On Our Feet” gala in New York City.

Although just 18 years old, Martin’s résumé is already stacked. Aside from starring as Diane Johnson on the hit TV show “Black-ish,” Martin also has the distinction of being the youngest Hollywood executive producer for her work on the film “Little.”

Martin, who received a Guinness World Record for the achievement, was 14 years old when when the movie was released in April 2019. She is also the founder of Los Angeles-based production company Genius Productions.

Before speaking with Dillon on stage, Martin revealed to WWD sister publication Footwear News where her relentless drive comes from.

“The drive comes from my competitiveness against myself, me wanting to keep going and seeing how far I can go,” Martin said. “What I’ve learned within this time going from a child actor to adulthood is anything is possible and there’s no limits to anything in this life. That’s what keeps me going, seeing how far I can go with my passions and what I love to do, and also to connect with other young Black girls and people around the world who want to create.”

Martin also shared some of the people in entertainment she’d like to work with next.

“I love switching the industries a lot. I would love to work with Kendrick Lamar on the movie side because I love his creative mindset and the team that he puts himself around. Tyler, the Creator is a good one, Rihanna is a great one — people that are amazing entrepreneurs, but also know how to put their vision to life and make it their own,” she said.

On top of her accomplishments in acting and directing, Martin is also an entrepreneur, and used her entrepreneurial spirit to debut in the beauty industry with her nail brand, Mari by Marsai, in February 2022.

“I grew up around beauty. I had a whole bunch of women in my household,” Martin said. “Aside from my dad, it was always my great grandma, my grandma, my mom, my aunts — a full house full of women who cared about their skin, their makeup, the way they presented themselves, not for other people’s pleasure but within themselves. They were always confident and powerful. And being in this industry, constantly getting hair and makeup done every time I walk out the house, it’s always been a thing in my everyday life and made sense to jump into the field.”

She continued, “But when you’re young and you’re a child actor, all you can get is some Chapstick and a little ‘brow gel and call it a day, so I was like, ‘Dang, what can I have so I can control my narrative,’ and press-on nails was the main thing.”

Looking ahead, Martin said she would like to home in on nail culture further. Specifically, she said she’d like to do a deep dive into what other nationalities globally grew up concerning nail culture because “nails are a very big deal in a lot of women’s lives.” Long term, her beauty industry interests include makeup and hair.

Beyond acting and beauty, Martin discussed the possibility of jumping into home decor.

“The thing about me is I have so many ideas and just don’t know where to start,” Martin said. “But the next thing is probably home decor. I’ve always liked home decor. That will probably be the next thing, but it’s crazy because you just never really know with me. I’ll just go any type of lane that makes me happy or feels good at the moment. And I’m really into real estate at the moment.”

Footwear has also played a prominent role in her life, which makes her appearance at the Foot Locker event Thursday all the more fitting. The retailer’s On Our Feet gala is part of The Foot Locker Foundation’s commitment to giving back to the communities it serves and its mission to advance equity for young people.

“Foot Locker has always been a thing,” Martin said. “Even though I grew up with a lot of women, I had that powerful dad that always taught me about shoes and the sneaker game — and why it’s important to always look good from head and especially to toe.”

Martin said the last time she did a closet purge, she counted around 200 pairs of shoes. Aside from a robust lineup of sneakers, she said she also favors heels and platforms.

“Platforms, that’s my main thing. You will always catch me in some platforms because I’m really short — well, 5-foot-2 ain’t that short,” she said with a laugh.

As far as sneakers are concerned, Martin loves variety.

“I like [Nike] Air Force Ones, and I’m a big Converse person — I love Converse. Converse is it for me, and I think it started with me and my love for Tyler, the Creator. His collaboration with Converse, I was like, ‘Yeah, I need them.’ That was my first time really diving into it. And Puma is a thing for me. I just got a lot of shoes,” she said.

Her favorite pair of sneakers, however, are the ones she wore to the event: The Comme des Garçons x Nike Cortez Platform in black and white. “I got these platforms a minute ago and they’ve always been my favorite. I always try to keep them as clean as possible. I have like three of them,” she said.

And her last sneaker pick-up was a fresh pair of white-on-white Nike Air Force One Lows. Martin offered a bit of advice to sneaker shoppers related to her last purchase.

“The only reason I had to get another pair was because my other ones were dirty,” Martin said. “Don’t hold onto the old ones, OK. They’re tired.”

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