For as long as I can remember, black women being portrayed in creative spaces as funny, strong, fierce and sexy just didn’t happen. If we were lucky (and I use that word loosely), we got to play the sassy sidekick with no deeper substance. But the past few years have seen a much-needed shift in the way black women are depicted. With shows like How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, Blackish and Insecure, just to name a few, black women are able to show our complexities, our resilience and our magic, all while being relatable to large audiences.
That’s why I couldn’t wait to shine a spotlight on a new web series that puts black women in the forefront as subjects such as love, friendships and everyday life are tackled. “Black Panties” is the story of four friends, Mahogany, Valerie, London, and Juice, who are trying to navigate life, love and sisterhood in the concrete jungle that is New York City. These four women journey through friendship, sensuality, and truth. And I don’t know about you, but we are overdue for more authentic stories of black female friendships, without the reality TV fallacies.
I recently sat down for a chat with show creator and writer Francina to discuss her inspiration behind the show and what it means to tell such important stories in today’s anti-black, anti-woman climate. Check out our interview below:
What was the inspiration behind the “Black Panties” web series? Are any of the characters’ stories based on your own life?
The inspiration for the web series came from vulnerability. I started off acting, but the roles I found did not represent me or the people close to me in the light that I wanted. I asked my friends if I should create my own web series, telling very specific stories, and they thought I should. I wanted it to showcase the women I know, not them as just caricatures. Each of these stories are true stories; I know these women and I’ve been them.
What does the creation process look like for you? How do you turn your ideas into a full production?
The process is a start, stop, start, stop, constant up and down battle. I had moments where I truthfully didn’t want to write. Then I’d get more inspiration from different areas of my life. I had to be open to the process and to revealing myself in a way the world would understand. I had moments of doubt where I’d question myself, “Who are you to say you’re a writer? Who is giving you the authority to tell these stories?” But I pushed through.
What was the most challenging part of bringing these characters to life? The most rewarding?
The challenge was making sure one character didn’t overshadow the other. Also, making sure their voices remained true. It was rewarding seeing these actors come to the table read and point out situations they had been through before. Seeing that type of connection and how everything came to fruition was unbelievable.
The series will be discussing many sensitive topics, such as mental health, relationships and vulnerability as it relates to womanhood. How does being a black woman of today affect how you handle your own vulnerability?
As black women, we’re told we can’t be vulnerable. We can’t have flaws. But I want to show that there is strength in vulnerability and the need is imperative. The world thinks not being perfect makes you sound or look weak. No matter how we represent ourselves, we’re placed in a box or viewed as one type of way. Sometimes we’re just about our business and making magic happen. Sometimes we just need a good cry. They aren’t exclusive.
What are three major takeaways you want viewers to have as they watch the series?
I want viewers to:
- See plus-sized women as women, different and complex in their own right
- Realize that women can be delicate and magical, not one or the other
- Acknowledge that God speaks through a woman’s intuition.
Which web series or TV shows are you absolutely loving right now?
The two web series I love right now are “Giants” by Issa Rae and Black and Sexy TV’s “Chef Julian.” I’m also watching Underground because it is so powerful and an educational show to see how far we’ve come from. I love and admire Taraji P. Henson so Empire is still in rotation. Also, a lot of older shows simply because they are timeless and the lessons and tales still ring true.
Can’t wait to see more? Check out the official trailer below:
I’m super excited for this web series! I think I already have a favorite character. For more information and upcoming dates, visit their website http://www.blackpanties.tv/.
Briea L. Curington