Black Women TV Writers I Look up to

The television is at the center of my household. While in college, I eat meals and take breaks while in front of my computer screen, often streaming shows in the company of my roommate. At home, the couch is my throne; I rule with a remote in my hand. It’s no wonder I want to be a television writer and create a show that I’ve never seen before. What inspires me the most is when the writers of my favorite shows reflect my background as an African American woman. According to Race In The Writers’ Room: How Hollywood Whitewashes The Stories That Shape America, “black writers accounted for just 4.8 percent of the 3,817 writers”. In the same report, “69.1 percent of white-led writers rooms had no black writers at all”. According to a study by Woman and Hollywood, “Women comprised 27% of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography working on broadcast network, cable, and streaming programs”. Imagine, if there was a study that researched the intersectionality of being a writer who is a woman and black. How measly would those numbers look? Despite these disheartening statistics, Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae, and Courtney Kemp are women that motivate me to pursue my dreams.

Shonda Rhimes is the first African American producer and writer I was introduced to. I began watching Scandal, a political drama starring Kerri Washington where the lead character just happens to be a black woman. What I appreciate about her work is that yes, issues of race are discussed, but they are not the focus of the show. The characters are complex and intoxicating, leaving you unsure if you should root for their success or downfall. Grey’s Anatomy also features many people of color, with one of my favorite characters being Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), as well as storylines that blend medical drama and romance. How to Get Away with Murder keeps you on your toes with the reckless and brilliant Annalise Keating (Viola Davis). Shonda Rhimes has been at ABC for 15 years, even having Thursday nights dedicated to her TGIT programming. I am so excited for what Shondaland (her production company) has to offer Netflix with her new deal. I hope to write dramas that are just as gritty and emotional.

Actress, writer, and producer Issa Rae fuels me with creative energy because of her presence behind the scenes and on camera. I remember watching her web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and being over-the-moon when it was announced that she would be getting a show on HBO. Insecure challenges stereotypes with comedic flare. Her upcoming film, Love Birds, showcases an interracial coupling of an African American woman and a Desi man which is something that is rarely seen onscreen. She pushes me to explore the humorous side of my writing.

Lastly, producer and writer Courtney Kemp and her Starz series, Power, showed me how edgy and ruthless characters can be, as drug dealers who are trying to become legit. The theme song by 50 cent is permanently stuck in my head, but unfortunately the series just ended. My mom and I almost cried when we learned Comcast was cutting Starz from their lineup, as we almost entered 2020 Power-less. Her background as a journalist inspired me to write for Her Campus because it lead her to create one of the best shows on television.

These writers' creativity and ingenuity encourage me every time I turn on their shows. I hope to be as successful, as determined, and as imaginative as these women.