Niecy Nash is one of those Black actresses who has 20 years worth of credits under her belt while (White) Hollywood is just catching on. Her lead role in TNT’s Claws has solidified now as her moment. And the 47-year-old comedian and actress is using her time in the spotlight, to tell the truth about real inclusiveness in television and film.
Much has been written about the buzzword diversity. Superpower celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, who no longer uses the word, recognize the meaning of the word itself has been completely watered down. Because true “diversity” isn’t having one token Black, Asian, Latino, Muslim or queer person represented. Real inclusiveness is having multiple people with all of these identities, who each think differently, represented as fully developed characters. Nash understood this and tried to educate the forever simpleton Chelsea Handler during a recent visit to the host’s Netflix talk show, Chelsea.
“There was a point where you knew if you were going out [for a role] it was just gonna be the sassy Black dot dot dot — sassy black mama, sassy black neighbor, sassy black friend,” Nash explained.
Because Handler has been a longtime racist who is comfortable in perpetuating stereotypical narratives of Black folks, she told Nash, “But by the way you are that girl.” Nash uncomfortably laughed it off with a, “I’m a lot of girls.” The point Nash was making is that there are finally a few more roles for Black women than the sassy Black woman, but that’s not enough.
“The one thing that I will say is what I get all the time now is, ‘Well, because of Taraji and Viola and Kerry, things have changed. Now everything is OK,'” she continued. “And I’m like, ‘No, it’s not.’ That is progress, and I love seeing my black and brown sisters on TV — but there are so many other women in the world besides black and white women whose stories are not being told.”
Again, Handler couldn’t help herself from being the dunce that she is. “Like who?” she asked.
“Well, I mean, Asian woman, Indian women, Muslim women. I mean, just, a lot of women,” Nash responded.
Exactly. Nash who has landed roles in everything from Party of Five to City of Angels to Reno 911 to The Mindy Project gets it. Not only does she understand inclusiveness, she used her moment to be an ally to other underrepresented women — an allyship that is rarely bestowed to Black women by non-Black women.
True inclusiveness will happen when we are no longer able to name the handful of Black female leads on television. Actual diversity happens when there are more women of other ethnicities leading shows. And if White actresses learned to be allies in the way Nash was in a moment she could’ve used only to promote her show, just maybe Hollywood would speed up the process.
Until then we can appreciate Nash for finally getting the shine she deserves, being snatched while shining and speaking up for other marginalized women. Take notes.