5 Things Amanda Seales 'Be Knowin' About Being A Black Woman In America
Seales’ first HBO comedy special aired on Saturday.
Amanda Seales is the woman we've all aspired to be at some point or another.
As a former member of singing duo Floetry, the Inglewood native was the one endowed with both rhythm and soul. As a poet who appeared on the iconic Def Jam series, she was deeper than a drunk you listening to Thank Me Later while strengthening your block list. As Tiffany on Insecure, she’s the hassadiddy friend, who you'd hardly be able to stand if her self-assurance wasn't so admirable. On both social media and in real life (rare, we know), she’s unapologetic AF, with an eighth chakra that just exudes “don’t try me.”
At 37 years old, Seales continues to embody all of these women. But now, she’s focused on channeling another of her seemingly infinite talents — making people laugh. But not that mundane chuckling nonsense; the kind that compels you to slap your thigh and maybe even incidentally let a “yooo” slip out, because your greatest and blackest idiosyncrasies have just been called to front street.
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On Saturday, HBO had the fortune of premiering Seales’ comedy special I Be Knowin'. The title alone encapsulates one of the most beloved yet slept-on facets of Black womanhood: Black women are embedded with knowledge that takes others years — if not an entire lifetime — to learn.
Days before the premiere of her stand-up special, Blavity sat down with Seales to discuss Black womanhood, exactly what it is that she be knowin’, how she’s ringing in Black History Month and what on earth can be said to women still caping for R. Kelly.
Blavity: Can you fill in the blank? "Black history made me __."
Amanda Seales: Black history made me better.
Seales: Black history made me better because, when you are aware of where you're from, you have a lot more of a platform to jump off into where you want to be.
Blavity: Who's someone in Black history who inspires you? From back in the day or a contemporary figure.
Seales: [In] contemporary Black history, I mean good ole’ Kamala [Harris], Maxine. I have a fascination with Harriet Tubman. I really, really do. Mr. James Baldwin is just...every time, you know? He's like a Colt 45 — smooth.
Blavity: How are you celebrating Black History Month?
Seales: We're looking to relaunch the ‘Smart, Funny and Black’ Instagram. We're looking to interact with our viewers and the audiences in a different way — a more integrated way — with what the show really represents. My special comes out a few days before Black History Month. It's an opportunity to be on stage and continue to speak about this very defiantly Black piece of comedic artwork.
Blavity: Was the timing intentional?
Seales: No — which is why it's serendipitous!
Seales: Five definite things I know about being a Black woman in America:
Blavity: What is some advice you have for Black women in white workspaces who feel they can't be their authentic selves?
Seales: Find allies. I think sometimes, we find allies in the most surprising [places], and we also find enemies in the most surprising places. All skin folk ain't kin folk, OK!
I [also] think sometimes we also have to find ways to be OK with the fact that our work doesn't have to have our whole authentic self. Because maybe they don't deserve that, which can sometimes be frustrating, right? Because you're just like, "I'm here all the time. I want to be able to give them everything." But it's like, they don't deserve it all. I think the best thing I can say is to find allies, and to also find peace with preserving your energy in yourself — there's nothing wrong with that.
Blavity: What's your message for Black women who are still caping for R. Kelly?
Seales: "What the f**k is wrong with you?" That's my message: "What the f**k?"
I don't even know how to be eloquent about it anymore at this point. I'm just like, "What is the intervention that we have to do? What is the intervention?! Is it therapy? Are you being victimized? Are you a villain?" Because I just don't know what you're standing up for. You think you're standing up for Black men, but you're really standing up for Black men being able to do s**t, and get away with it, and hurt Black women and not be held accountable. So that's where you're standing up for.
This idea that supporting him is somehow supporting Black men literally sends the message that R. Kelly represents Black men, and I'm pretty sure that sane Black men are like, "No, no, no, no, no. That ain't my friend!" So, I don't know. And I don't know why people are being evasive, like we should love him — I think it's a pretty black-and-white, right-or-wrong situation. Everyone keeps talking about R. Kelly and not talking about his victim. It seems to be way more focused on "we need to love R. Kelly." What? We need to find the women that are in his cult, and we need to find a way to alleviate or relieve them from whatever has hold of them. I honestly think that the people who are still defending him, men and women, have fallen prey to the same thing that the woman in the cult have, because he clearly has some level of witchcraft about him.
Blavity: What do you want to see Black women accomplish as a community in 2019?
Seales: I just want us to continue the quest in really being ardent about our self care and about our healing, in spite of individuals who are not pursuing the same. I think sometimes, we stop our own growth to accommodate others. By doing that, we actually don't help them we enable their stagnation.
I Be Knowin' is now available on HBO.
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