by Latonya Pennington
When it comes to live-action television and film, it’s not often that I’ve seen myself reflected as a queer person of color. In mainstream media, queer people of color are rarely seen in front of the camera or behind it, but independent media has provided a way for them to thrive. By using crowd funding, social media, and support from independent media companies, queer people of color can produce and promote the content they want to see.
This is the case with the new webseries “Brown Girls”, which is directed by Sam Bailey and written by Fatimah Asghar. The series focuses on the day-to-day life of queer millennials of color, including a South Asian American writer named Leila, played by Nabila Hossain, and a struggling black female musician named Patricia, played by Sonia Denis.
Leila is someone who is struggling to be in a romantic relationship with her love interest, a queer Latina named Miranda, played by Melissa Duprey. On top of that, she is dealing with having to come out to her family and attempting to become a successful writer while working as a secretary to pay the bills. Meanwhile, Patricia is dealing with her own sexual and romantic relationship issues and trying to figure out what she wants from her life.
Both lead characters are actual characters. Leila is awkward and a little insecure while Patricia puts up an attitude to hide her vulnerable side. As seen in episodes two and three, Leila’s role as a sister and Patricia’s role as a daughter adds more depth to their personalities.
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These characters are relatable to women of color, especially millennials. They are young adults trying to figure out what they want from their respective relationships and life in general. They work, party, dream, and ask their parents for money if they are broke. Since millennials of color are rarely seen in mainstream coming-of-age works, these characters are important and poignant.
Meanwhile, the storylines are just as valuable as the lead characters. Both have their own separate yet intertwined storylines that deal with issues that include figuring out who they want to be, coming out, being in relationships, and dating. While all the storylines are commendable, the dating experiences were especially portrayed well. Relationship problems were handled realistically without any slut-shaming or unnecessary judgment by anyone. There is some drama involved, and it develops the storylines of both characters in a way that makes you emotionally invest them.
Besides the storylines, the dialogue brought the characters to life very well. Some lines are funny, while others are more serious. None of it is ever forced. One hilarious line occurs after Patricia proclaims that she, Leila, and their friend Victor, played by Rashaad Hall, will be in the “Single Girls Club” forever. Victor replies, “How about the “I love y’all, but I’m too young and beautiful to be single forever club”?
When it comes to the cinematography, it was very smooth. Director Sam Bailey did a great job making the camera movement and location seem natural, making the web series seem almost like a documentary. For instance, the opening shot of the first episode shows glimpses of Leila’s room. We see a collage of personal photos mixed with a pride flag, a desk of beauty products, a chalkboard with personal reminders. These things establish Leila as a queer, working woman of color before we hear Leila speak.
A final aspect of the series that is notable is the sound production. Music artist Jamila Woods provides a laid-back, casual atmosphere to certain scenes that fit the tone of the series. This can especially be heard in the show’s theme song that can heard in intervals throughout various episodes.
One thing I wanted to see developed more was Victor’s character. He is funny to watch, but it feels like he came out of nowhere. Hopefully, we can get to know him better in future episodes, especially since he, Leila, and Patricia make a fun group of friends.
Overall, “Brown Girls” gives queer people of color, especially queer women of color, the slice-of-life web series that they deserve. It validates the experiences of queer people of color by showing that they love, dream, work, and play just like everyone else. With poignant storylines and humor, “Brown Girls” shows that queer people of color can survive any crisis that life throws at them by staying in touch with who they are and supporting each other.
“Brown Girls” premieres February 15th on their official website.
Latonya Pennington is a queer freelance writer and blerd. She specializes in pop culture and entertainment and has written for Superselected magazine, The Mary Sue, Black Girl Nerds, and more. When she isn’t freelancing, she can be found on Twitter, streaming shows, listening to music, reading, and writing poetry.