For Us, By Us: #BrownGirlsTV and the Joy of Representation

When I first heard about the series Brown Girls last year, I had no idea Sam Bailey, the writer and director behind one of my all-time favorite web series, was the director for the show. Like so many of us who still look for representation wherever we can find it, I was simply ecstatic to know another show that centered women of color was getting some major buzz. However, I had to wait until February of this year for the premier.


It finally came. Releasing the first episode exclusively on Elle magazine’s site before releasing the entire series on the web, Brown Girls was accessible to those of us who have cut the cord or who still may not have access to premium streaming services. And in our Netflix driven viewing experience, we didn’t have to wait week after week for the seven episodes, none of which lasts more than 13 minutes.

Within this series that last a little more than an hour, we got so much more than just another web series. The name alone responds directly to another well-known show that focuses on female 20-somethings who happen to be all white despite its NYC setting. With Brown Girls, we get stories about Black and brown female creatives dealing with singledom, sexuality, family drama and friendship.


Yet it’s all done with a humorous slant. No one is tragic here. Messy maybe, but there are so much more to Patricia and Leila than the -isms that surely have an effect on their lives outside their friends and family. They’re allowed to live as young people and make all the mistakes 20-somethings tend to make and deal with the fallout of said mistakes.

Furthermore, the show brings queer representation and body diversity to a city that is already full of it: Chicago. In fact, almost all the faces in the show are Black and brown and feel safe. Brown Girls refuses to deliver pain porn to audiences used to seeing Black and brown women and girls suffer for their entertainment. While the living isn’t all milk and honey, there is legitimate joy in these characters and the spaces they occupy.


Written by poet Fatimah Asghar and directed by Sam Bailey, the two leads are loosely based on her and her best friend Jamila Woods, yes that Jamila Woods who delivered us some Black girl joy with her single “Blk Girl Soldier” and subsequent album Heavn. Woods actually does the music and performs in an episode as well. While Asghar says the depictions are not autobiographical, she describes the characters as the alter-egos of her and Woods.

Bailey brings much of the humor she infused in You’re So Talented to this new series. The collaboration between her and Asghar reminds us of what women of color can do together, much like we learned with the first season of the excellent Queen Sugar. Overall, it lived up to the much-deserved hype it’s gotten over the past few months. While we hope for a second season, we should also hope this series brings more opportunities and visibility for all those involved. Brown Girls does not purport to be “the voice of a generation” as other shows might, but we do see that the voices vary and each one deserves to be heard in its own way.


8 Reasons to Watch You’re So Talented

Every once in a while, I fall down an Internet rabbit hole. Sunday afternoon that hole took me to a web series I hadn’t heard about previously even though it has two seasons under it’s belt. The series is called You’re So Talented.

I found it on somehow and gave it a gander when I noticed the young woman in the promo photo reminded me of one of the young ladies in the punk group Big Joanie. That young turned out to be Sam Bailey, the creator, writer, casting director, producer, director and star of the series. With You’re So Talented, Bailey has created a web series that fits perfectly within this burgeoning realm of Black creative talent yet still sets itself apart from other series.


I’ve watched the series twice already since I first found it and foresee another binge in the near future. After the first watch, I found myself posting about it on my various social media outlets as I’m want to do. Look, it’s one of the only ways I know how to “pay” for consumption of media I get excited about. So in that spirit of “payment,” here are a few reasons you should check out the show.

1. Sam Bailey Herself

As Beatrice Freeman, Bailey does a wonderful job leading the cast without being overbearing or annoying. Her Beatrice is beautifully human with flaws and strengths, fully realized. At times, she does self-sabotage, but it does not feel intentional or even subconscious on her part. She just makes mistakes. Furthermore, Bailey just reminds me of a taller Quinta B.


2. It’s Set in Chicago

Most of the time I find stories focusing on artist communities, they are set in LA or NYC. However, this show takes place in Chicago. Beatrice navigates the various artist communities of poets, artists, comedy actors and others as she juggles dating, jobs and “artist” work. And while there are fickle sides to these communities, Beatrice has her constant group of friends to keep her company. We even see more of this Chicago in an unexpectantly touching episode in which Beatrice spends the day with her father.

3. Beatrice’s Wardrobe

And here’s my shallow side: Beatrice has the most adorable wardrobe. From dresses and heels to more casual cardigans and tees, I want everything she wears in this show. And by the way, her body type is not exactly skinny. She wouldn’t be considered fat, but she is well more than size 6.


4. Beatrice Has an Active, Unapologetic Sex Life

Having said that, I was glad to see that multiple people find Bea attractice. Although the first episode finds Bea’s boyfriend breaking up with her, we’ll find that she has plenty other options in store. And sex isn’t just a cut away after a kiss. We actually see as much nudity as possible in a postcoitus situation.

5. Gabriel Ruiz as Rob

Which brings us to another awesome feature on the show: Gabriel Ruiz as Rob. Rob is the 30-year-old “lover” of 25-year-old Beatrice as they casually date. Of course, the boundaries and lines of the situationship fluctuates as Beatrice begins to drift professionally and personally while struggling with a decision that may affect her art career. Yet, Rob is very much eye candy, especially for those who love beards.


6. Other Black Female Characters

And one of the best aspects of the show: Beatrice is not the only Black woman in Chicago! Her sister Lisa is a part of her life as is one of her best friends and roommate Devin. We find other friends such as Jasmine later in the series and other Black women throughout the artist communities.


7. It Reminds You of Your Favorite Indie Films

The style and tone of the show takes me back to my college days when I spent hours watching IFC (before it turned into whatever it is now). However, I never got to see Black people in this whole indie vibe, especially with the focus on artists and performers. I love to see creative and free spirited Black people in a world where they are not bound to expectations set upon them.

8. The Music Score

The original music in the series is absolutely perfect. The duo Whatever Spectrum provides the score. Much of it has the relaxing vibe of Ibeyi but as a Greek chorus at the end of the episodes.


There are many more reasons to watch this show. You can binge it in less than two hours. I haven’t seen any confirmation that the show will get a third season, but it did make some noise on the festival circuit and funded its second season with a grant. So perhaps this is a good sign that we will see more of Bailey and company.