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  • Writer's pictureHannah Pearson and Susannah Powers Stengel

Black TV Herstory Makers


Spoilers For: Nothing. Sip on this greatness.

Celebrating the stories that gut you with a collaborative list of creators who can't stop wowing us. Take notes, errybody.

Hannah Spreads the Love

Michaela Coel

I’ve written about my love for Michaela Coel twice now, and honestly I think I will be for years to come because this writing genius is only getting started in the industry. She has already proven her range. Chewing Gum was hilarious, I May Destroy You was a gut punch to the feelings box. Her work is honest, endearing, and relatable. She is a writer’s writer. She is also a woman who knows her worth, proving this when she turned down Netflix’s 1 million dollar offer after they refused ownership rights of her own material.

Still a pile of rubble, thank you.

Issa Rae

Issa Rae’s journey is the kind of story that inspires creators to stop waiting for their big break and go out and make their own. Rae’s fame is in large part because of her tenacity to not wait for anyone’s green light and make her own show. Thus the web series Awkward Black Girl was created. Fast forward and the underground hit parlayed into writing and staring in her own series on HBO. The show, Insecure, has gone on for five seasons and has been nominated for myriad acting, writing, and production Golden Globes and Emmys. Insecure is the kind of show that feels like drinking wine with your friends, or listening to a break up playlist. It draws out the purest emotions in you and makes you realize you need them all, good, bad, and ugly. Issa Rae is also a NYT best-selling author with her memoir, Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl.

Her charisma is a natural creative resource.

Zöe Kravitiz

Zöe has been in the game for a hot minute but here in the last few years, she’s really come into her own. The girl has talent in the DNA. She can write and sing, but she really shines on screen. She adds depth to any character she plays. For instance in Big Little Lies, her character Bonnie is supposed to be hateable. She’s hot, successful, and might steal your man. But Kravitiz makes her dynamic, makes her human, and you love her. She delighted in the remake of High Fidelity as love-cursed Rob. Oh, and she is gonna be Cat Woman…. so yeah she’s a badass.

Never expect us to stop talking about the injustice of this cancellation.

Yvette Lee Bowser

Two words for Yvette Lee Bower: Dream Career. After going to Stanford for college, Bowser made her mark in the television industry by producing the Cosby spin-off, A Different World. And then went on to be the first WOC to develop her own prime time series with the show Living Single. She went on to work for mega hits like Black-ish and Dear White People. Her new show coming out, Run the World, is about four young black women living in Harlem and their lives and friendships. Bowser has made a name for herself in a field dominated by white men. She truly is on a course to be the one to run the world and I am here for it!

Runs it.

Susannah Keeps Spreading the Love

Tiffany Haddish

This woman spins magic with her layers of crass positivity. A queen of rhetorical asides and interactive riffs emerges in her specials and albums and books (oh my!), and you want to take part in her mischief. She creates within her comedy a platform to invite other makers and doers to the stage. Quite literally, Tiffany Haddish Presents:They Ready Seasons 1 and 2 (Season 2 just dropped on Netflix this February 2021), beckons her broader community of unsung comic slayers and brings them into our presence for a debut 15-20 minute set of their tastiest jokes. Shout out to Season 2's Erin Morgan for really making me roar. What Haddish offers here, and in all her work, is a new way--bold, brash, warm, frank, and radically inclusive. Preach. You can guest host Ellen any time you want. America needs more.

Haddish noted that she is one of only two Jewish people Grammy Nominated for Best Comedy Album this year. :)

Lena Waithe

When Lena Waithe stopped by the radio program The Breakfast Club in 2019 to talk The Chi, racial equity, and smack--Charlamagne the God referenced a previous comment Waithe had made to him: she wanted to be "the Kanye West of writing." Every Yeezy album thrums with a wildly different thesis, tone, and method. So it shall be for Waithe--and she continues to prove it as triple threat on The Chi, celebrated black poetry about life on Chicago's South Side. To be the first black woman to win an Emmy for Comedy writing (for hands down one of the best episodes of TV ever, Master of None's "Thanksgiving") will not be enough for Waithe. She will hunt, fight, and re-envision to tell stories with punch, texture, and ferocity. I will be ready. With popcorn.

Waithe distills her creative ethos on The Chi.

She plays a mayoral candidate who winks to Chicago's own, Lori Lightfoot.

Regina King

Even before she stepped into her directorial greatness in her debut with One Night in Miami on Christmas Day 2020, and before she absolutely critically annihilated her leading role on HBO's Watchmen, King was dominating your small screen. Pause this article and watch Watchmen now.

Okay you're back? From The Big Bang Theory (Don't worry, we won't write about that shit!) to The Leftovers to The Boondocks to Southland, this woman deftly avoids the limitations of genre in her earnest, gutsy, sharp, easy, funny, deep, sensual, aching performances. Her lens is just as layered and humane, and our breath is bated for her next liberating move. Fact.

Additional Fact: Regina King had a damn good time hosting SNL on 2.13.2021.

Shonda Rhimes

Grey's Anatomy began her notoriety, but her continued titanic influence should come as no surprise. Salacious, dynamic Shonda shows her audience fantasy selves that reflect the diverse but universal language of desire. We all want. Power. Healing. Change. Your body on this staircase. Her work teases, frustrates, evades, and reveals. Her high stakes are always (Mc)Steamy. Moreover, Shonda speaks blackness into representational greatness. Viola Davis. Come on. Kerry Washington. Stahp. She anachronistically pushes great black actors into layered main roles in Bridgerton. She writes complex female friendships. Failed motherhoods. Lost selves. Dreams suffocated and revivified. Metamorphosis. She is a living icon and synaptic neuron firing, rendering even John Oliver horny, and all of us ready for more and more black female greatness on screen. Thank you for blowing up the door at the hinges over fifteen years ago.

At least seven more Shondaflix shows are coming. Cue salivation.

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