As Women’s History Month is coming to a close, I wanted to analyze the dynamic friendships of some of our cultures most trailblazing, Black female led sitcoms, Living Single, Girlfriends and Insecure. Though fictional, the characters were all so relatable, representing Black women with various personalities and lifestyles in an array of melanated hues and body types—helping us feel seen on the screen that we don’t typically grace.
Apart from mere entertainment, these situation comedies gave us honest depictions of Black women experiencing adulthood friendships while solidifying that one, Black women are NOT a monolith, and two, we are more than capable of sustaining supportive relationships among each other while striving for success in our career pursuits, love and personal lives overall. Despite the negative “women are catty/competitive” narrative.
The fact that we can run these iconic shows back, and generations of women can identify themselves and friendships within them is a testament to the groundbreaking work the actor’s displayed.
So, here’s to our Insecure, Girlfriends and Living Single!
Check out the rundown of the top 3 sitcom-friendships below.
Set in Harlem, NY, in a 90’s kind of world, the comedic sitcom comprises of ambitious magazine CEO, Khadija James played by the multitalented Queen Latifah, comedian and actress Kim Coles as her quirky, off-beat and lovable cousin, Synclaire James, her sharp-witted, shrewd and successful friend Maxine Shaw, led by Erika Alexander and petite but bold, wig slayin’ Regine Hunter as portrayed by TV’s long time favorite, Kim Fields.
These women couldn’t have been more different from one another, but man did their personalities complement each other seamlessly! Khadijah gave major mother of the house vibes as she seemingly maintained order in the apartment that she shared with her aloof cousin Synclaire, and her sassy childhood best friend Regine (with honorary third roomie Maxine, who showed up for the free meals).
Khadijah demonstrated her support and patience by helping Synclaire find her way in the big city and her acting career. Synclaire in return with her child-like optimism, always showed Khadijah the brighter side of things in times of her entrepreneurial struggles (“Woo, woo, woo!”). Then there’s Maxine Shaw (attorney at law), always strapped with legal counsel and witty banter for everyone, most especially for her equally amusing sparring partner, Regine—who kept the ladies up to par with her unsolicited fashion and dating advice. The two kept the moments hilariously entertaining and proved that friends of friends eventually become your homegirls too—even if you trade harmless insults as a form of endearment! Through it all, their bond was true blue and tight like glue and the timeless characters became a part of our circle of friends too.
Reppin’ for the west coast gal-pals of the ’99 and 2000’s era, Girlfriends introduced us to the spunky attorney and hopeless romantic, Joan Clayton played by, THEE Tracy Ellis Ross. Actress, Jill Marie Jones as her childhood BFF, Toni Childs, who specialized in results as a luxury real estate agent, making no apologies for her self-proclaimed fabulousness. Persia White, took on Lynn Searcy’s character, as the eclectic, bi-racial free spirit and Joan’s newest girlfriend Mya Wilkes, played by Golden Brooks, served as the fierce young mom, wife slash authoress with a “tell it how it is” attitude.
Through thick and thin, Girlfriends did a great job at illustrating all facets of Black women evolving through their friendships and its complexities. Among the growing pains between Joan and Toni, the longest running relationship out of the foursome, the realistic (and sometimes dramatized) struggles didn’t overshadow the undeniable sisterhood that the group formed. From Joan’s unwavering dedication to all three ladies, to Toni reminding Joan of her fabulousness after a romantic encounter left her in shambles to Mya declaring, “Oh HELL No!,” all of these aspects reflect the realness of Black sisterhood. Lynn’s alternative lifestyle made for a refreshing take on the ladies’ outlook on what it meant to be a Black woman.
Their uncensored girl talks gave them a safe space to be heard and vulnerable without judgment, lending honest feedback. Each episode gave a heartfelt, no fluff depiction of Black women friendships going through and surviving challenges with each other and life at large. All of which I’m certain spark conversations and self-awareness among girlfriends to this day.
Adopting the framework of Girlfriends with a Millennial lens and personal approach, Insecure was set in modern day LA, following the precarious self-discovery journey of the leading character, Issa Dee—an indecisive “mirror rapper” in her late 20’s—en route to fulfilling her purpose. Her steadfast college best friend, Molly, played by Yvonne Orji, finds success in her career life, but not quite her love life.
Natasha Rothwell, brings the comedic relief as the no-filter having wild-card character, Kelli. While well-to-do, Tiffany DuBois, played by Amanda Seales, represented the astute, newly married-mom friend in the group who still made time for a wild girls night out. All the gworls can find a bit of themselves in each of these characters, and the familiarity and vulnerability displayed while dealing with the joys and real time challenges of a young Black woman finding her way was beyond needed on our screens. When Issa couldn’t find her inner confidence from the woman in the mirror she could always count on Molly to be one phone call away to reassure her with a venting ear. Both ladies sought co-council for their sizzling and rocky romantic encounters from each other (should Issa REALLY have chosen Lawrence in the end y’all?!).
When faced with Tiffany’s struggles with transitioning into motherhood and Kelli addressing her sobriety issues, the collective made certain to prop each other up, encouraging each other through their trials, further cementing their bond. Despite that explosive hick-up that threatened Issa and Molly’s connection (rewind to that episode of Issa and Molly’s huge fight at the park, whew ‘chile!)—it only gave a realistic account of two best friends feeling unfulfilled while navigating their personal life paths and how those feelings can cause you to unintentionally project your woes onto those closest to you.
In the end, with time and some major shadow work on both of their parts, Molly and Issa proved that when the love is real, you and your girl will ALWAYS find your way back to being better than ever!
Feel free to leave a comment to tell us how these iconic shows impacted you, and which characters you and your girls resonate with the most. As for me, my friends and I were all but 14-16 years-old when Girlfriends came out, but according to them, I was “corny, goody-two-shoes” Joan! Back then I was offended, but as an adult I can appreciate being compared to the girlfriend who ALL the other girlfriends could confidently count on. What about you?!
Jasmyne Seed | Hailing from Brooklyn, NY by way of NC, the self-proclaimed, “City Slicker with Southern Hospitality” attributes her love for all things creative and eclectic taste, to the many faces and places she’s encountered in her lifetime. After graduating in 2015 with a degree in Fashion Merchandising, she embarked on the entrepreneur route and developed JAS PR, a boutique-style, public relations agency in the fall of 2018. Rallying behind rare gems in the fashion, beauty, and non-profit industries, her intent with, JAS PR is to craft compelling stories and campaigns for emerging brands and their owners, that spark awareness and unearth their greatness to the masses. Holding significant support for Black-Owned businesses. Jasmyne lends her communications and writing skills to contribute pieces for publications and blogs while pursuing other entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors. In her leisure she’s a foodie, (aspiring) travel buff, and 90s sitcom’s binger! @jas__pr.