Leading Ladies on Netflix Embrace Their Differences To Inspire, Not Shame, Other Women
Entertainment| | By Robin Milling
The leading lady that we see on television today comes in all shapes and sizes, race, ethnicity and gender identification. Netflix celebrates those differences on such shows as Orange Is The New Black, Sense8, Dear White People — premiering April 28 — and the upcoming Ingobernable, which premieres on March 24. They all celebrate women who embrace their differences to inspire an audience and not shame them if they don’t fit into a cookie cutter mold.
Your Daily Dish attended a press panel in New York where several female Netflix stars gathered to talk about what their characters mean to them personally – how being different has empowered them and their faithful binge-watching fans.
Danielle Brooks, who portrays incarcerated Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson in Orange Is The New Black, got her role straight out of graduating the prestigious Juilliard School. Describing herself as “fat, curvy and chocolate,” her main concern shifted to what beauty means for a leading lady, but quickly realized her first job wouldn’t shy away from what makes her different.
She explained, “I was very confused on how do I wear my hair? Do I need to lose weight? Gain weight? I can’t change my color so that’s going to have to stay the same. Like I was just so confused on my angle in the business because the sassy woman looks like this and the other woman looks like that and so to be on a show where they say there’s not one formula of what beauty is. You can have a hint of mocha chocolate latte, a hint of fat back, a hint of pimples and zits — you can have that and it’s still beautiful. Because people are seeing themselves on TV. And because of that, they are changing not just how they feel about beauty, but how they feel about people that are incarcerated, in the system, and how broken it is. They are changing their minds on what it is for people that are transgender or whatever that is. I just feel like the show has kind of really hit it when it comes to dealing with females in television. But I also feel that way when it comes to plus size I want to be the love interest. I want to put on makeup and look fabulous and have some man be doting over me. I don’t want to be limited because of my size.”
Sense8 features Jamie Clayton who portrays Nomi Marks, a Trans-lesbian hacktivist and blogger living in San Francisco. That certainly ticks a lot of boxes that may push some people’s buttons, but Clayton — who is transgender herself — is proud to be in a show that doesn’t call that out because everybody wants to feel like they belong.
She said, “One of the reasons I’m so proud to be on Sense8 is it’s not telling the stories that are watered down. There are all kinds of people in this world and I bet dollars to doughnuts that not everyone is white or men and it’s really important that everybody can watch. It’s really important that young people, older people feel represented. Everybody wants to feel they belong. One thing that impressed me with Sense8 was it included a Trans character but it had zero to do with the story because Trans people just exist which is why I really like (the character) Nomi because I’m Trans. I exist. I’m sitting here. That’s what Nomi does but it has nothing to do with the story. She just is. These people just exist. We’re all here.”
Kate del Castillo of Ingobernable will portray the First Lady of Mexico, Emilia Urquiza. As a Latina in Hollywood, Castillo has faced the gamut of the stereotypical Latin woman portrayed on television. She says usually Latinas are seen as voluptuous and seductive, but in her role she’s “bad ass.”
She added, “They would always want us Latinas to be all these things. That’s okay if that’s the case of the role but now at least what I’m doing — trying to do with Ingobernable I’m playing the First Lady but she’s bad ass! I think being a strong female leading actress, it means so many other things that we need to care for. It’s not I am a bad ass because I can manipulate men because of sex or because of my gender or because of my kids. I am because that’s the whole of me.”
The controversial differences of Dear White People is not lost on it’s star Logan Browning. She portrays Samantha White — a biracial film major at a fictional prestigious university – who has a candid radio show that criticizes racial transgressions both in academia and wider society. Based on the film of the same name, the series has been accused of escalating racial tensions.
Unlike the other above shows on Netflix that have been applauded for being outspoken, Browning is well aware she may have to win over her audience for her character’s point of view.
She says, “For me, as long as you’re being honest and compassionate I don’t see why any of us shouldn’t be allowed to express ourselves fully and that’s exactly what that show, Dear White People, in particular is doing. It’s being honest about things that are actually happening and telling it in a compassionate way where it wants to open up the conversation.”
Thanks to social media and fan mail, these women are not in an unreachable bubble, and they are able to hear invaluable feedback from watchers.
Brooks talked about how strutting her first red carpet event inspired a plus size girl.
She recalled, “I wore Christian Siriano that had designed this outfit for me. A plus size custom outfit is a hard thing to get done so he made this outfit and I was super excited and I felt amazing and this girl sent me a picture of herself on Instagram. A plus size girl, chocolate, drop beautiful, picture of her, she recreated the same dress because she was so inspired. She had somebody go and make it and so I was like, wow, that’s all it is. You just want to see yourself, you know what I mean? That’s what you look for and hope for and so I think that’s the beauty of what we do and why we do it.”