This past year felt like a watershed moment of representation for queer people of color throughout media and entertainment with the success of films like Moonlight and the continual rise of people like actress Laverne Cox.
And already within this new year (even under Donald Trump) it seems that this trend of seeing and celebrating the lives of the people who were most often ignored looks to only continue, one web-series has already captured the excitement around this new visibility: Brown Girls.
While the new series that depicts the lives of two women of color exploring their identities, relationships and sexuality won’t be out until mid-February, a version of the trailer released last month has already garnered over 2 million views on Facebook and an explosion of articles screaming ‘YAS!’ for the web series that seems to be the perfect blend of #BlackGirlMagic and Broad City and so many others things.
The show is the brainchild of co-creators writer Fatimah Asghar and directed by Sam Bailey from the highly acclaimed web series You’re So Talented, so expectations surrounding this show made possible through the OpenTV platform, which has been consistently launching some of the internet’s favorite new online shows like Two Queens in the Kitchen are high. But they look to be met.
We sat down with Ashgar and Bailey to talk about her new show, the power of telling storytelling and even got an exclusive sneak peak of the series that we are sure everyone will talking about later this year.
OUT: The web-series is about two women of color living in Chicago exploring their friendship, identities and sexuality. What pushed you both to want to create this work now?
Sam Bailey: For me, I just thought that I hadn't seen anything in mainstream media that really explored those intersectional relationships between women of color, which is crazy to me because that's exactly what my friend group looks like. I'm pretty outspoken about how important I think representation is and I don't think that's just flippant talk. To be able to see ourselves and the complexities of our relationships really validates our experience. I wanted to be part of bringing that story to life.
Fatimah Asghar: I wanted to write something that I felt like reflected my experiences, my friendships and my relationships. I've always had such strong friendships with different women of color from different racial backgrounds, but I never see that on TV.
I think that there's a very American impulse of flattening nuance around identity in media. Its very rare to see people from marginalized identities represented in complicated manners. I wanted to make sure that Brown Girls was highlighting that.
As people of color in America, the times have been politically turbulent since forever. When I first started writing Brown Girls I just wanted to make something that I could see my friends laughing too, I wanted to provide a small space of joy.
OUT: An amazing aspect of the series is that not only is it written and directed by two women of color, but over 90% of the crew reflects that diversity. Why do you think it's important for the people creating work like this to also be intimately familiar with the subject matter?
Bailey: Aside from there being a shorthand in communication within shared experiences, I think it just made our production more layered. There were so many different intersections of experiences on set and it plays out really beautifully in front of the camera. We're all human, there's ego wherever you go and even as marginalized people, we're not immune to that. But there is a certain level of respect and love that comes with being in a room where the majority of people are POC, LGBTQ, and/or female. There just is.
I think it's because we're so used to being the only ones in whatever we're doing-it's rare that we get to share and create stuff together, especially on film sets. So there was a genuine sense of commitment to get the story right in a way I've never experienced before -- [at least] not at that level.
OUT: What do you both hope to accomplish with this show and what it stands for? What do you think it's presence on the web signals to others within the LGBTQ communities and communities of color celebrated in this work?
Asghar: I hope that it shows the complications of communities of color and queer communities. So many times American media is shown in binary fashion. I hope this show helps show that's not the reality for many of us. We exist across racial lines all the time, across lines of queerness and sexuality. We are real people who make complicated relationships with each other.
I also hope it shows people that we can control our own narratives and make our own work, and that there is a very real market and desire for stories like this. I've been so amazed at the reaction so far to Brown Girls, the amount of people who feel seen in just the trailer. I really hope to see more content from LGBTQ communities and communities of color that challenge the ways that we are represented, that offer up real, nuanced characters that defy the narratives of how we have been shown.
OUT: Tell us a little about this clip? Why did you decide to share this?
Bailey: I picked this clip because it's the first time we really get to see the three best friends together in a full scene. It happens about halfway through the series and it really shows how at ease the three of them are together. They pick at each other and ride each other hard but there's also an undeniable sense of love and freedom in that scene.
Asghar: I love this scene because -- there is so much joy to it. There's so much play, and the teasing and love. Its also so nasty. I think that's a pretty accurate representation of what the show is going for-- real, honest conversation between friends.
OUT: What are you most excited about regarding the release of Brown Girls
Bailey: I don't think people know how much work goes into creating an indie series like this. When all's said and done, it'll be about 15 months of detailed work and late nights and little budget to get this work done and out. I'm incredibly excited for people to see it, especially the people who worked on it.
We've all been collectively carrying this baby for certain amounts of time depending on where we were in the process and I'm just ready for people to see the fruits of their hard labor...
Asghar: I'm super excited for people to see the storyline we've created. To get a better sense of the characters and what they are fighting for. Also, I'm excited for this to be out, and for us to create more work. There's a lot more storylines for these characters and this world, and I'm excited for the second season.
The web-series Brown Girls is slated to be released on February 15th, 2017 and be streamed on Vimeo or on their website.