Why Representation Matters To a Writer

When I think of how representation has affected girls like me, I picture superstores like Walmart and Target, littering little brown dolls throughout their aisles. I can count on my fingers the number of movies I’ve seen with a black female lead who wasn’t the token character or a worn archetype. And additionally, “Black girls rock”, “Black girl magic” and “my melanin matters” have all become a staples in my vocabulary. So now, yes, I fully understand why representation matters for me as a minority and also as a woman. But until recently, I didn’t understand why it mattered to my career.

It hit me like a truck. Yes, an 18 wheeler sized truck of epiphany. I wanted to be a writer due to two constants: I loved to read and write but my love for television was sprinkled with female journalists as the leaders of their show’s packs.

 

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

Although I can’t remember the first time I tuned into Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, I know my interest was immediately piqued. A teenage girl, who had magical powers and a satirical talking black cat, it seemed perfectly tailored to what I liked. It was on at 4 o’clock when I got off the bus in the afternoon and if I was lucky, I’d catch it in the morning around 8 A.M right before my bus came. The show was a constant to my adolescent soul, as cliché as it sounds, and fed me all the right messages as I needed them. Sabrina was outspoken and daring and stood up for herself as well as her peers. I daydreamed in class about having my own Harvey Kinkel to go steady with and even stared at my cat sometimes in anticipation that she would talk.

The show’s running was lengthy and as her character aged, so did I. Sabrina left for college during the show, well before I even started high school but she majored in journalism where she navigated through the many ethical dilemmas she was facing on campus. Before long, she was working at a local newspaper, printing the daily press.

    Sabrina Spellman was my first introduction to what my future was alluding to, being a writer. Her finger pointing spells and hare brained schemes roped me into what I know now as my inevitable career path.

 

Ugly Betty

Not receiving half as much recognition as it deserved, the show Ugly Betty was a true gem. It featured an unconventionally “ugly,” Mexican girl named Betty Suarez whose highest aspiration, was to be: you guessed it, yet another writer.

In a vapid world of thin, attractive models in the fashion capital of NYC, Betty was the sore thumb that stuck out at her workplace, Mode Magazine. As I watched this show, a lot seemed to resonate with me. I didn’t find myself all that attractive during the transitional, middle ground of puberty and I looked different being one of the darker girls at my predominantly white high school. Betty seemed to be running into the same problems that I was during high school: no one wants to hear from the ugly girl with a lot to say. Ugly people weren’t supposed to be seen nor heard, rather just asked to stand in the back.

I remember every Wednesday when it would come, my eyes would be almost stuck to the screen as I sat adjacent to my mother. We would laugh and watch as the plot unfolded but the lessons, sunk in: you have to love yourself in trying situations and always stick with your passion.

As the seasons kept rolling out, I watched. Betty, who began as an entry level assistant to a superficial party boy, elevate to a lead feature writer working out of London on the show’s final episode (yes I was heartbroken and yes, I probably cried when it was over). Through the thick glasses, braces, frizzy black hair, off color almost tacky styles, Betty provided the show with true beauty from the very beginning. Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrero, showed me that if you work hard enough, I could be editor and chief of a magazine just like she was.

 

Sex and the City

 

Oh, Carrie Bradshaw. Sweet, fashion forward, chain smoking contributing freelance writer Carrie Bradshaw, you lit my path. Every time I snuck to watch the show with the bad word in it, I adored, admired and aspired to be you. Every time you were clad in a fur, or a Chanel accessory or yet another darling pair of Manolo Blahnik’s, I vowed to myself that I do anything just to beat the pavements of New York City, just to get to where you were in the show.

Every single tepid love affair, the late night romps with Big, the brownstone rendezvous and the hypothetical questions prompted at the end of each piece she wrote were coals stoked in my personal fire. She made New York City look like a single tree, not a jungle. Everything she did was with ease and style while managing to write endlessly. She wrote books and columns and feature pieces and with each one, my adoration grew. I loved Carrie Bradshaw and in fact, I namely called myself the “Black Carrie Bradshaw.”

 

The Path

The path that I’ve chosen to walk down was an inevitable one. I was destined to be a writer and even without these shows, I’m positive that has always been for me. To be a writer, I would need the power of Sabrina Spellman, the resilience of Betty Suarez and the vigor and fashion sense of Carrie Bradshaw.