“All the things I’m involved in now are about women standing up for themselves,” How to Get Away with Murder’s Aja Naomi King tells Shape magazine as its September issue cover girl.
Joining an unprecedented number of black women (and Kanye and kids) covering 2018’s fall fashion issues, King, also an ambassador for L’Oréal Paris, tells the magazine she’s proud to be part of the beauty brand’s annual Women of Worth event, honoring women making a change in their communities. She’s also the star of the upcoming film A Girl from Mogadishu, which chronicles the story of international activist Ifrah Ahmed, a Somali woman fighting to end the practice of female genital mutilation.
King is also politically and socially active; she mentors through Opening Act and works with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is currently working on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prevent states from enacting laws that deprive women of reproductive health care.
But King tells Shape that her activism is fueled by an equally active lifestyle, filled with regular workouts and weightlifting—balanced with a very healthy relationship with food.
“I feed my body for energy, but I also want to feed my spirit with things that make me happy,” she tells Shape. “It’s important to have a positive relationship with food. For me, there’s no such thing as a cheat day because eating isn’t cheating.”
And as for exercise? King uses her physical activity to center her mind and emotions.
“As women, we are constantly thinking ahead and trying to solve every problem,” she says. “We are so worried about tomorrow that we barely have time to experience and enjoy what is happening right now. Exercise lets me appreciate where I am in this moment.”
But while King may be living in the moment, she tells Shape she’s also playing to win the long game.
“When I’m in my 90s, God willing, I want my body to be active—I don’t want someone else to have to take care of me. Exercise is a commitment to my independence in the future.”