Okay, so this first in a series of posts has precious little to do with fashion but lately the simple act of opening my mailbox only to find another magazine in there just gives me a headache so I wanted to post about something else for a few days.
I was reading last weekend in Entertainment Weekly about the plan to make 21 Jumpstreet into a feature film. Because I am race obsessed, I immediately started wondering about who would be cast in the Holly Robinson Peete/Judy Hoffs role because you know that, these days especially, kinky hair and darker brown skin isn't viewed as "feature film" ready in Hollywood. My best guess is that producers will go the way of a mixed race light skinned actress or a dark skinned (preferably not American) actress with some of that "good hair" -- if TPTB are feeling particularly generous, then Beyonce might get a call, if they're feeling spiteful then Angelina Jolie is going to be breaking out that pancake makeup and curly wig again.
After I spent entirely too much time thinking about this, I started remembering all those other black women (real and fictional) on television both past and present that are sacred too me. Sadly, even after thirty years of television viewing, I still get that deer in the headlights "hey look, a black girl on TV!" euphoria when I see one. I've decided to list here (and in a few upcoming posts,) my all-time favorite black chicks on TV. Note that these are in no particular order and I'm sure I'm missing a few key ladies so bear with me. Please note that additions to the list are welcome.
Maria from Seasame Street (Sonia Manzano)
Okay so right off the bat, before anyone comments, I have to share that when I was a kid my ideas about who is what race were not very clear. My mom is a black Panamanian and she looked a lot like Maria so I just thought Maria was like any other Spanish speaking black person in my family. I have no idea how Sonia Manzano self-identifies but back then I would watch Sesame Street and pretend she was my mom and Gordon was my dad .
Jayne Kennedy Overton
Back in the day, Jayne Kennedy was what Halle Berry is today. That is, she was the black woman who white people name dropped when they had to name a beautiful black woman. She was the first African American woman to appear as a commentator on NFL Today and when I was a kid, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. My uncle Rico used to talk about her so much, I thought he actually knew her. I was clowned hard on the playground for sharing that false piece of information.
Valerie from "Josie and the Pussycats"
This cartoon was already in reruns by the time I was old enough to watch it. All I can really remember is that I had to wake up at 6:30 am to see it on TV. Yeah, those were some miserable days back before TiVo. Okay, so Valerie didn't get to play a "real" instrument and even though I was five, I knew that her character was tragically underutilized but the fact that she got to wear that leotard and furry ears made me a fan instantly. In the abysmal live action movie, she was played by Rosario Dawson.
Diahann Carroll as "Julia"
The original "hey it's a black girl on TV!" I mean, damn, she even got her own show (and she wasn't playing a maid.) Again, this is one that I only saw in reruns but my one of my mother's constant refrains from back then was "when are they going to bring my Julia back?" I guess it was her appointment television. Lastly, I think Julia and Pussycat Valerie look suspiciously similar.
Dee Dee (the black Teen Angel from Captain Caveman)
Yeah, another cartoon but I was in elementary school and TV wasn't very good back then. I didn't even like Captain Caveman (found him to be a little too creepy) but I felt I owed it ot Dee Dee to watch. She was another character that looked alot like Diahann Carroll. I think it's the hair, cartoonists just didn't know how to draw black hair styles unless it' was in an afro. Dee Dee was fly though, I'd take her timeless mini and turtleneck combo over what that blonde is wearing any day of the week.
Uhura from Star Trek
Uhura. C'mon. This one hardly needs an explaination. She was hot AND she got to work on that giant Lite-Bright that passed as a computer. She wore a sexy red dress and boots and had hair like one of The Supremes. If the more recent Star Trek iterations had characters that looked like Uhura, I'd be a Trekkie.
Dee from What's Happening!
How could I have forgotten forever wisecracking "Dee" --the baby sister of Rog on What's Happening? Yeah, her character was written with heaping spoonfuls of sass but no one else on TV could rock an afro-puff like Dee.
Thelma from Good Times
Forget Janet Jackson's Penny and her love for all things JJ. The cutest chick on "Good Times" was always Thelma and her ever changing hairstyles. From cornrows to the big ass halo afro, Thelma always looked fine and was way more well behaved than her white "One Day at a Time" counterpart Mackenzie Phillips. If Thelma ever tried to pull half of the shit on Florida that Barbara pulled on Ms. Romano, there would have been on less child in the Evans household.
That One Black Friend of Marsha's on The Brady Bunch
She didn't have any lines and they made her wear sheer white pantyhose with her minidress but even though that mud in Peter's volcano royally fucked up her press and curl and Marsha probablly never invited her over to the house again, I will never forget her.
Cheryl Song (aka That Asian Lady on Soul Train w/ the Long Hair Who Could Really Get Down.) As confused as I sometimes was on issues of race when I was a kid, deep down inside I knew that Cheryl Song was not black even though my cousin and I tried very hard to convince the rest of the family that she was. My argument was that of course she was at least part black because why else would she be on the show and that if you looked closely enough, you could see a little kink in her hair. My older cousin argued that Song had to be black because of her fresh dance moves and dress sense. No one ever bought the argument but it hardly mattered, because Cheryl Song was just a fly ass chick if there ever was one.