She may play the manipulative, tough-as-nails assistant prison warden Natalie “Fig” Figueroa on the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black (which debuts its second season today!), but in real life, Alysia Reiner is a total sweetheart. The down to earth actress is a devoted mom and passionate environmental activist who also just so happens to be incredibly fit. We chatted one-on-one with the brunette beauty to find out her workout secrets and what’s in store for the second season of OITNB.
Shape: Your character on the show is pretty cold and calculating. How different are you from Natalie “Fig” Figueroa in real life?
AR: I’m about as different as a human being can be. I get cast as the rich bitch a lot. I’m tall and I modeled so I kind of get it, but in real life, I am the girl who gets my feelings hurt in two seconds flat and is a total mush ball who over-apologizes. And I’m a mommy. People who know me find it deeply hilarious that I keep playing these characters.
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Shape: As a busy mom and actress, how do you make time for exercise?
AR: I meditate in the morning and my daughter will do it with me, looking like the most perfect little Buddha. I’ll do ten minutes of yoga then two to ten minutes of meditation. She’ll sit there quietly half the time. Working out for me really depends on my shoot schedule, but I try to move my body every day. I really believe in exercise as an anti-depressant. It’s a great way to feel better. In my teens, exercise was about losing weight and being skinny. Now, it’s really about having love for my body and time for myself to enjoy. I only do workouts that I find deeply fun in a playful way or in a really challenging way.
Shape: What are some of your favorite ways to exercise?
AR: I love the IntenSati class by Patricia Moreno. It’s earthy, crunchy, and really fun—you’re saying affirmations as you exercise. I take Soul Cycle and Flywheel too. I also love kickboxing, so today I boxed and sparred which is crazy fun. I try to do something different every day. I’m the queen of variety.
Shape: What about your diet? Do you stick to a particular menu every day?
AR: On set, I feel really lucky because we have juice—it’s so delightful. So I’ll start with green juice and a spinach, mushroom, and jalapeno omelet that I eat throughout the morning. At lunch, they always have an amazing salad bar. I tend to eat 70 percent raw and cooked veggies or seaweed, and 30 percent protein mostly from eggs, soy, beans, and occasional fish. I’m not a big chicken or meat eater, but sometimes I’ll eat it if it’s locally raised. The family dinner will be stir-fry or we’ll roll our own sushi with brown rice, spinach, salmon, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and seaweed. The kids love it!
Shape: As an actress, do you feel extra pressure to be thin?
AR: It’s interesting to look at how much pressure society puts on us versus how much we put on ourselves. I’ve actually never felt a lot of societal pressure. When I was a kid, I was fat and I was teased mercilessly. But once I grew up and got out of my unhealthy relationship with food, for the most part I’ve had a very healthy view. If I ever find myself getting worried about how I’ll look on the red carpet, I’ll take a step back and look at what’s really going on inside. It’s more helpful to look a little deeper and think about what would make you feel more comfortable with yourself as opposed to thinking, ‘Let’s start starving ourselves.’ That’s not going to solve the problem.
Shape: What’s your best advice for a healthy lifestyle?
AR: Find ways to integrate joy. If you have kids, work out with them! When my daughter was little, it was always a dance party in our house. You also have to make time for yourself. I’m a better mom when I do so. Find that balance. Don’t judge it. Don’t obsess over it. Find out what works for you in terms of exercise in an objective experimental way, not a judgmental way.