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6 Black Actresses Who Are Leading Woman Material


Black Women in Entertainment

6 Black Actresses Who Are Leading Woman Material

Earlier this month I wrote about five Black men who are worthy of leading roles in film, and while I really am rooting for those guys (and for “everybody black,” in general), this is the piece I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. However, unlike my piece on leading Black men, I find myself concerned with something beyond exposure for the following black actresses; I find myself concerned with the content of the roles they’ll be presented with. There’s a likability factor that I’m afraid of embracing, when I demand that these women be given the opportunity to take the lead on screen. So, to be clear, I’m not asking for lead roles featuring strong, Black women who are encountering some sort of difficulty in life that they will surely overcome. I’m asking for stranger, darker more complex roles. I’m asking that we assume Black women can and should play literally any type of character (that isn’t some Black, female character trope) imaginable, and—especially—those unimaginable ones. And I’m asking that we remember there are other black female actresses beyond favorites like Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Issa Rae, Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis. Here are six black actresses who are more than ready to take the lead in the next big- or small-budget project—assuming those projects are worthy of their talents.

1. Aisha Hinds



No disrespect to Viola Davis (an icon, an influencer, the woman responsible for the most important Black-Woman-over-it-reaction gif of all time), but it’s going to be difficult to see another Harriet Tubman after watching Hinds on the small screen. This was an incredible year for the actor, who played a young pastor and activist on Shots Fired as well as Harriet Tubman on Season Two of Underground. Hinds will be remembered by everyone who watched the critically acclaimed drama, particularly for carrying an entire episode that worked as a one-woman show of sorts, “Minty.” In that hour, it became clear that Hinds is a force—something she’s proven time and again throughout her lengthy TV career (which includes True Blood and Under the Dome). But her strength and commanding presence tell me that all of our lives will improve greatly once Hollywood writers start giving her the superhero/action/sci-fi roles she deserves. Hinds will be seen next on Fox’s 9-1-1 and then playing Biggie Smalls’ mother Voletta Wallace on Unsolved, but it’d be a shame to see her relegated to biopics and dramas when she has the range to do anything she wants to.

2. Natasha Rothwell



Some people watch Insecure for Molly, others for the beautiful directing, and still others because it just feels good to see all that melanin on HBO. And then there are a select few of us—the coolest and smartest audience members—who know that this show all but belongs to Natasha Rothwell’s Kelli. No character has done more for the TV culture than Issa and Molly’s friend, who achieved peak black feminism when she engaged in a sex act at a diner, whilst enjoying her diet cheat day. In 2016, Rothwell also blessed us with an entire episode of weirdness on Netflix’s The Characters, in which she brought to life, among many other oddballs, a guy on the subway asking for spare change and sent from spoiler hell to tell you all about the Game of Thrones episode you haven’t watched yet. Rothwell recently landed her own development deal with HBO, but I won’t be satisfied until Idris Elba is playing her love interest in a romantic comedy based on that Valentine’s Day contest that I may or may not have entered earlier this year.

3. Alexandra Grey


Amazon’s Emmy-winning series Transparent made the brilliant decision of opening their third season with a story centered on Elizah, a young black trans woman played by Grey who has a brief and odd, but powerful encounter with Maura Pfefferman. Grey was truly captivating on screen and my only disappointment with that incredible season is that we didn’t get to see more of her. Since watching Grey as Elizah and seeing her go on to play Marsha P. Johnson in an amazing episode of Drunk History, I’ve realized that I want to live in a world where #girlslikeher get to write, produce and star in stories that speak to their many varied, wholly human experiences. This year Grey appeared on Doubt and When We Rise, but let’s hope she’ll be booked to high heaven in 2018. I could easily see her bringing back that gorgeous green hair from …


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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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