I always remark on how much pop culture had a hand in raising me.
Whether I was sprawled in front of a television or in front of my family’s stereo with CDs scattered about around me, I know what an impact certain movements, songs and characters had in my life. Just like the figures I was learning about in school, some of TV’s heroines served as aspirations in one way or another from my pre-pubescent years, through my chaotic twenties. Two women, in particular, stood out the most. One of them came in the form of a plus-sized, quippy and charismatic individual. Her name was Khadijah James (Living Single).
Photo: TV One
The other was a blonde with ridiculously stellar fashion sense and confidence. Her name? Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City).
Both women struck something in me that served my appetite for the pen and publications. Along with other girlish hopes and dreams, both Bradshaw and James showed me the power of your hustle, your words and the company you keep. They were #GOALS before I even knew that was a thing. I’d seen every episode of their respected series a dozen times each, studying what made them such beloved and influential beings. That studying still takes place today. Revisiting each series as an adult and writer definitely serve as a testament to how I move and the choices I make. As an adult in this industry now, I can say that Khadijah did so much more for the culture, and for this black girl, than Carrie ever could.
If there was ever a blueprint for being a boss ass black woman with realistic career goals, relationships and experiences, it was Khadijah James. James was, and still is, a cultural gem and a permanent mainstay in my household, thanks to my DVDs and old VHS tapes. Khadijah speaks the language that I don't have to struggle to understand. She’s me, and I am her.
I’ve compiled a list of a few reasons why I kind of stan for living in a '90s kinda world.
Carrie sold us the dream that Khadijah manifested.
Photo: Logo TV
While Carrie’s lavish lifestyle was the stuff that dreams were made of, it was just that—dreams. Carrie was a journalist living large and taking charge in one of the most sought-after zip codes this side of the Atlantic. A few of us are still scratching our heads at how she was able to flourish with an income like hers. The story she told, while decadent, was unrealistic. Khadijah seemed to embody every aspect of the word “hustle.” Flavor magazine was her bread and butter. She had to make some major decisions, with some not-so-cute consequences, to make sure her vision came into fruition. And she did it while explicitly showcasing the struggle of running your own show. ‘Twas real with Ms. James. As a young writer trying to make it, that’s so admirable.
Khadijah’s closet was just as magnificent as Carrie’s, if not more.
Looks fresh off the runway, that’s definitely going to catch the attention of many.
Carrie’s designer digs were definitely a sight for sore eyes, especially that mean shoe game. I truly wouldn't have known about labels like Heatherette, Manolo Blahnik or Oscar de la Renta without her. Still, Khadijah was different. She was what the 90s looked like in my household. HBCU-themed gear, gold necklaces with Benz keys attached and fly club clothes with the hair to match. Khadijah was every woman in my neighborhood, every teacher in my classroom, every mom, sister, auntie or cousin. She could dress it up and make it real for you, or dress down and still serve a look. Get you a girl who can do both.
Baes on baes on baes.
In terms of relationships, both women possess a checkered past illustrated with tales of love lost and gained. What made Khadijah stand out to me was that these men loved her for more than her good looks and charm. Her ambitions served as a turn-on. Not to mention, she never really had any toxic connections with the men in her life. Especially with Scooter (Lord, Scooter). I can't really say the same for Carrie (I’m looking right at you, Big). The older I get, though, I realize that my heroines weren't perfect in their pursuits of love. Those storylines I wanted to play out as a young girl are currently manifesting in my adulthood. This time however, I’m not really pining to be saved. I’m looking for a partnership on a multitude of levels.
It should go without saying that I saw my girls and I more in the Brooklyn foursome, than the Upper East Side group. It was more than color, though. Synclaire, Maxine, Regine and Khadijah are literally my three best friends and I. We’re interchangeable with every passing day. Their issues are ours. Their love plays out organically, much like my girls and I, and their lifestyles match ours for the most part. Their heartfelt moments look just like my girls’ night. The Living Single quartet exposed the difference between sisterhood and sistahood, creating an image of unconditional love, support and fellowship that I aim to keep amongst my girls and I.
Representation trumped all.
Photo: TV One
Living Single was a force, unbeknownst to the cast and crew at the time of the show’s run. There was something about seeing black love, black struggle and black success showcased in such a relatable way. The content was timeless, as proven by its syndication through Viacom networks. The messages were for us. Everything from the cast, to the plot, to the crew was made for us. Not to mention, Khadijah looks like me: a curvy woman embracing her sexy and her social status, living her dreams unabashedly in the heart of the city. Can't beat that, you know?
Doing it for the culture.
Everything Khadijah did was for the sake of Flavor magazine and the preservation of the culture. Because of that, to many like me, she's a cultural icon. She internalized everything related to her hustle, and got hers. What was even more endearing was that it wasn't glamorized in any way. I saw Khadijah literally give her all to see her dream grow into something she, and the world, could love. She taught me that each project you take on is your baby. You have to be prepared to sacrifice tremendously to get what you want. It doesn't come easy and without a few breakdowns. Now, more than ever, do I understand that.
So, tell me, who you wit’?