dinner party

Rap Sh!t’s Jonica Booth Is Ready for the Celebrity Basketball Tourneys

Photo: Rich Polk/FilmMagic for HBO Max

When I talk to friends about why Rap Sh!t works, I usually get a mix of “This is just a fun, cute show” and love for the City Girls–inspired friendship between Shawna (Aida Ousman) and Mia (KaMillion) at the center. Or they love how it doesn’t need to carry the torch for all Black millennial sitcommery, which was the feeling of Issa Rae’s last hit, Insecure. Rap Sh!t doesn’t have nearly the weight of its older sister, but that doesn’t mean shit don’t get real. We got a prime example last episode. Chastity, a.k.a. the Duke, who manages the rap careers of our stars and also manages sex workers, is played by Jonica Booth — and on the show, she’s now losing her cool as all the pressures of making stars outta the locals escalate.

This is Booth’s first major role, but if the Bad Girls Club reality-show alum’s performance is any indication, it certainly won’t be her last. Get privy, Booth ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Given your history with reality TV and content creation on YouTube and TikTok, I think it can kind of be misunderstood that this character, Chastity, might feel kind of close to who you are. But is it?
Yeah. We have some similarities. Chastity, however? I don’t think it’s who I am. I think it’s who a lot of people wanted me to be, which was a dominant lesbian, and I’m not.

Haha, that’s facts.
You know, it’s been like a lot of women, they’re like, “I’ve been wanting to see you being a stud,” and I’m just like … Ehh. So I think that’s what it is, because it’s not who I am. But that’s what I have paid attention to. If it was truly who I was, this role wouldn’t have been as challenging as it was for me — in a good way. It made me sit up and work and be like, Oh, you have to act! Like, You have to go learn, and you have to find Chasity in another realm of you.

Yo, okay, so what did you study? Was it people that you were studying? Was it just different ways of being?
Once I realized that Chastity was from my hometown, that actually was more pressure.

Really? How so?
I can’t act like I don’t know what it’s like to be from my hometown. I’ve been gone for so many years, so it’s like I had to go get my accent back. I had get back into it. And then I have close friends that fit Chastity, head to toe, you know. So it’s like, I gotta do her justice. We gotta make this thing. So that was the challenging part.

That’s felt. But it’s pressure to make sure, like, you check some shit off the St. Louis list, ’cuz you gotta go home at some point, right?
You gotta home in, and you want the people who really are Chasity to be proud and feel like, Oh, she got it.

What’s the reaction from back home been so far?
Unless they lying to me, they said I did a great job, haha.

Okay, fair!
They’re saying they love me. They was like, “Yo, you really brought it to us. It’s funny.” The other night, I was in an event and a dominant lesbian and stud walked up to me and she say, “Hey, you putting on for us!” And I was like, Oh, haha, I didn’t know I needed that. Like, I needed to hear that from someone who lives that life.

But also, like low key, don’t sleep on a stud army. They come in handy later on, you know what I’m saying? Like they got your back; ask Kehlani. But it always feels weird when the sexuality projections get sort of tossed around.
Right. It doesn’t matter who I’m sleeping with. Keep in mind, I’m not saying I wasn’t into women. I was into women, I just wasn’t a stud. But I felt boxed in and it was like, Let me be free, you know? ’Cause I want everybody else to be free.

You know how many people I meet that keep saying you should really get a tattoo on your neck?

I’ve seen that a lot! It’s just somethin’ about that neck tattoo — it’s doin’ it for me too low key.
Now I can’t even date women — they’re gonna get with me and be like, Jonica’s a loser; we wanna date the Duke.

All this stuff is sorta aligning with you right now. You got the podcast going, called Titties Out, and you’re called “Titty Boy” on the show. It’s one of them things like no matter the sexuality or whatever, we all agree on titties. And I wondered how purposeful that was. Like where it was like, Okay, I know that everybody likes titties. It’s like you the Duchess of Titties right now.
Let me tell you how God works in divine order. My co-host, Seiko, and I came up with a name that was called Pussy-something. We feel like that was — well, that was way too much. We finally agreed and landed on the name Titties Out because we think of when you take your bra off as a woman — I know you don’t know about that! — but as a woman, we take our bra off, it’s free. You’re finally able to be comfortable in your home and just be free. And we want that; that’s what we want our podcast to do.

I wasn’t expecting God to come up in a question about titties, but shouts to God, bruh. Divine titties. In the last episode, I feel like you had your moment to explode. You let people know the pressure and stakes this character is wading through. What was that scene like for you?
I think Duke was fed up. Everybody been walking over her since old dude took her money in the beginning. That man ran off on my hoes and took my money. If you Duke, you been getting played now — Shauna being ungrateful after she gon’ get up there and mess up the whole show.

Oh my God, how embarrassing was that spoken-word bullshit, haha.
And then to blame Duke?!

Foul shit!
Blaming Duke, but Duke trying to put you in a position to win! And then you got my main hoe, just coming over here talking about working for free? And it’s like, “Trust me! If you working for free, it’s a reason, you know, and now’s not the time.” So Duke was fed up, and that was a moment to show you gotta give people grace, ’cause if you don’t, people will explode. She just had it. Enough is enough. Y’all not finna keep effing with her. But for me, Jonica, personally, it was like, to Issa and to the writers, Elise and Chris — I’m like, “If y’all want me to be a drama actress too, say that!”

It was a stretch!!
We didn’t even audition to see if I’m capable, but they believed in me — shout out to the director, Lawrence Lamont. They all believed that I could do that.

I really like this character. I guess when most people think about a pimp, they don’t really think about women. I’m from Houston, the South, ya know. I wouldn’t call it like non-problematic, but there is a fascination with pimping and hustling. You’re from St. Louis; I imagine there’s some pimpin’ culture there. Have you received any secret DMs or texts from players and the pimps around the way?
Well, as you know, pimping isn’t legal. I would have to say no, haha.

For sure.
I know a few people that’s in both sides of those industries, and so, yeah, it’s tough. They say it’s being shown well for the most part.

Just to be real with you, there’s a way that you can read Chastity’s character as somebody who’s a little fucked up. With this last episode, the way she pops off on her hoe, I think that’s the first time you can kind of see her as a character that is multidimensional. There is the mystique of the lifestyle and the mystique of just sex work in general. If it wasn’t as criminalized or stigmatized, it probably wouldn’t be as fucked up to us to see how things work. So, yeah, that’s why I asked; I ain’t wanna put you in a bind.
No, you’re fine for asking. I just — I’m not a person who just, you know, how people just answer the question, right? I really like to put thought into it and see how I truly feel about that question. And you stumped me.

Haha, I’m sorry. Promise that wasn’t my aim.
I actually have friends that are in the business and in that world. That’s not a world that I come from growing up. I grew up very green, you know. I just played sports and went to school. I’m a college kid, you know, so my life is different. So when all that was brought up, I didn’t honestly learn more about that world until I moved to Atlanta.

Yup, that’s when I learned about that world and became friends with people who were in the industry. That’s what made me start realizing: Don’t put people in a box because they were cool people, even if that’s the profession they are led to. So I just didn’t judge them, you know? It wasn’t my place to judge them for what they’re doing. I found a respect for them ’cus they doing what I wouldn’t do, you know?

That’s felt. If you ain’t got the courage to do it for real — I know I don’t got the courage to sell ass on the regular — who can say shit? I wanted to end on this: You said you’re a hooper. Do you follow any teams now?
Nah, I like players more than teams.

Okay, yeah, same.
I actually just took my little brother down to the Drew League. He got to see LeBron up close and personal, and that was —

Oh yes! You went to that?
You know I did!!

Oh, fuck, for real? Demar DeRozan was there too, right?
And more! He got to see Migos. Draymond Green was sitting in the stands. My brother probably will remember that for the rest of his life.

Yo, that’s huge!
I been playing basketball since I was 6. And then after college, I no longer played. But I was like, I can’t be this good and my talents just go to waste. I think I’m meant to be like playing a celebrity basketball game. And I called my dad and he was like, “But you’re not a celebrity.” I said, “I know! I gotta go become a celebrity.”

This read!
My dreams were backwards. I didn’t know how I was gonna become a celebrity, but I said, “I’m gonna do something. So I feel like if it’s not next year, the year after that, I’m gonna ask my publicist. Might need to get me in a celebrity basketball game with the NBA. That’s gonna be my time to shine, T. So if I don’t do good, I’m gonna be mad at myself.”

This is what you worked for!
I’ve been working for this in my mind. I’mma guard Kevin Hart ’cus we ’bout the same size.

Ayo Jonica, dawg, chiiilll.
That’s my dream. That’s what I see for my basketball career.

Yo, he kinda nice low key. And yo, you might give it to him a little bit.
I’m giving Kevin buckets. I’m telling you that right now!

Rap Sh!t’s Jonica Booth Is Ready for Celeb B-Ball Tourneys