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Television Feminism

This New Web Series Is For Us Brown Girls

Us brown girls make questionable decisions, too.

Us brown girls have ambitions, fears, bad habits and co-dependencies too. We’ve got families, besties, Tinder dates, high expectations, and not a little self-doubt. Yeah, we’re strong, but us brown girls have our vulnerabilities, too.

With Brown Girls, the new web series written by Fatimah Asghar and directed by Sam Bailey, this truth is front and center. 

If you’ve been sleeping on this buzzy, newly released series, here’s your chance to catch up. A long line of fans formed to get into last night’s Chicago release party well before the doors opened. The event itself was at capacity, with standing room only and the fashionably late turned away at the door.

Photo: Alexus McLane

This was the case at simultaneous release parties across the globe, from LA to London. All over the world, people are ready for this story.

In it, we meet South Asian American Leila (Nabila Hossain), a writer, and black American Patricia (Sonia Denis), a would-be musician. Their deep friendship — which Asghar based on her own with musician Jamila Woods — anchors the two as they navigate the uniquely modern perils of love, sexuality, community and career.

On one hand, Brown Girls is a classic story of friendship between two young women. But on the other hand, we witness these women moving through spaces and realities defined by queer people of color — spaces not often represented on television with the texture and complexity that Brown Girls achieves.

Photo: Alexus McLane

In one scene, Leila tries to serve her sister, Mussarat (Minita Gandhi), the South Asian flatbread roti, only to admit that it’s made from pre-spiced Trader Joe’s pizza dough instead of the traditional atta. This happens right before she works up the nerve to come out to her sister as queer. Mussarat tells Leila that she knew she was queer from the time Leila was a child and would make all of her Barbie dolls strip down and have orgies. She tells Leila she’s proud of her and that, “All that hiding is going to kill you,” as Leila bursts into tears and the sisters embrace.

Meanwhile, Patricia, who has taken a vow with Leila to be in their “Single Girls Club Forever,” kicks a Tinder date out of her apartment at 4 a.m., but later sabotages his date with another woman when they wind up in the same restaurant where Patricia works.

It’s this kind of deeply personal ambivalence that makes Brown Girls both endearing and engaging. The two women grapple with the existential confusion that surrounds so many in our generation — conflicting ideas of adulthood, feminism, and self-determination — but do so while standing at the heart of a fully-intersectional experience. They move through their daily lives, subtly code-switching between interactions with family, co-workers, and friends, their “brownness” an intrinsic fact of their existence, bearing no need for explanation or qualification. 

In another scene, Leila and Patricia’s friend Victor (Rashaad Hall) casually laments that he wants the kind of love that “makes you go to work and deal with racism because you know can go home to your bae at the end of the day.” Leila and Patricia listen, in full understanding of both the desire for love and the experience of marginalization of which Victor speaks, but only commenting on whether or not this makes the “Single Girls Club Forever” an unsustainable model. 

With Brown Girls, Asghar, Bailey, and their entire creative team (Hannah Welever’s cinematography is particularly intimate and enthralling) have created characters with whom we quickly fall in love and empathize, and who are undeniably and uncompromisingly brown and femme in their world view and experience.

Us brown girls have stories to tell too, and, like Leila, we’re tired of hiding. With Brown Girls, we get to fully see, experience, and identify with a dynamic diversity of women of color, presented without special packaging or comment.

Us brown girls have been waiting a long time to see ourselves reflected back to us in such clear, simple, and truthful light. 

More, please.

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