Tagged: women in film

Dame of the Day: Michele Ohayon

Michele O

Today’s Dame of the Day is Michèle Ohayon (1968-).  Born in Morocco and raised in Israel, Ohayon’s first film addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and received critical acclaim. In 1997, Ohayon’s documentary, Colors Straight Up, received an Academy Award nomination. The film centers around Colors United, an after school program teaching drama in the city of Watts.

Dame of the Day: Zohra Sehgal

Zohra Sehgal

Today’s Dame of the Day is Zohra Sehgal (27 April 1912 – 10 July 2014). After watching her sister’s marriage fail, Sehgal vowed to pursue a career in acting instead of getting married. She studied ballet in Europe and, during his European tour, met choreographer Uday Shankar. Upon her return to India, Shankar offered her a spot in his touring dance company. This position kickstarted her 60 year career; Sehgal went on to star in dozens of silent and speaking film roles.

Dame of the Day: Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong

Today’s Dame of the Day is Anna May Wong (January 3, 1905-February 3, 1961). Born in Los Angeles’s Chinatown neighborhood, Wong began acting in silent films when she was 18. In two years time, she became an international sensation. Dissatisfied with Hollywood’s stereotypical casting practices, she spent half her time in Europe starring in major plays and films. In spite of the industry’s narrow typecasting and racist tactics, Wong became the first internationally known Asian-American actress.

Dame of the Day: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

Today’s Dame of the Day is Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (November 12, 1978-). As a journalist and documentary filmmaker, Chinoy’s work sheds light on injustice. In 2010, she won an Emmy for her documentary, Pakistan: Children of the Taliban; Saving Face, a closeup look at acid attacks on women in Pakistan, won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2012. In 2005, Chinoy became the first non-American to win the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Recently, her work has focused on Pakistan’s trans community, domestic violence, and women’s issues.

Schoolin’ Life: Shawnee´ and Shawnelle Gibbs

In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we get to meet writers, animators, producers, and sisters Shawnee´ and Shawnelle Gibbs. They release many of their projects through their production company, Reel Republic.

Gibbs-New-Orleans

 

Shawnee´Gibbs and Shawnelle Gibbs (The Gibbs Sisters) are writers and television producers based out of Los Angeles, California, who also work collaboratively on independent comics and animation.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

Shawnee´: I definitely had awesome expectations for my twenties before I entered them. In my pre-twenties vision, I’d be married with a home and two kids by the time I was twenty-seven. I’d be a journalist for Essence Magazine and would be off traveling the world and experiencing fabulous things. Of course, none of that has happened, so my 18-year old self would probably be quite disappointed in not getting all that checked off by twenty-seven.

I’d just get my teenage self a real estate guide with how much it costs to buy a home in Los Angeles these days and she’d probably cool her jets a bit. Though my life hasn’t been exactly what my early expectations were, I’m pretty happy with where I am at this point in my journey.

Shawnelle: Oh, Shawnee and I would always joke that we would “take the world by storm by 25,” so expectations were pretty high out of the gate, haha. Those expectations involved breaking into Hollywood, walking onto a film set, and becoming a baby Spike Lee weeks after leaving home in Oakland, California, for Los Angeles. Needless to say, those expectations have had to be reassessed over the years. I feel more mature and grounded for it.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

Shawnee´: I think as a kid in the 1990s, with phrases like “nineties kind of girl” being thrown around (thanks, Living Single!), there was almost a sort of expectation from society that we should try and achieve as much as we could. With so much groundwork having been laid by the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the feminist struggle of the 1970s, and the push for women to succeed in the workplace in the 80s and 90s, by the 2000s I think we wanted to have our cake and eat it, too, but it’s definitely a big balancing act that this generation is still trying to figure out how to manage.

Shawnelle: Oh, the ‘90’s taught a lot of young women of our generation and background to be confident, fearless, independent, etc. There was a lot of focus on being “strong,” I believe to the detriment of a lot of young women during that time. Especially towards the end of my 20’s, I’m glad that I got to experience the strength in actually acknowledging my weakness. It gets exhausting trying to knock down walls all the time.

What was your first job like?

Shawnee´: I’ve been working since I was about 12 years old, (which is probably why I feel like I’m almost ready to retire). Shawnelle and I both used to work for a program called Project Y.E.S. (Youth Engaged in Service) in Oakland, California, where we did lots of community outreach and city beautification work. I then went on to employment with the Mayor’s Summer Job program, a great program that placed Oakland teens in jobs around the city during the summer months. I’d done everything from clerical work to removing graffiti around the city of Berkeley, to selling newspapers door to door, to folding and selling denim at Old Navy. Shawnelle and I were our mom’s only two children, and she was a single mother, so learning how to get out and make a living early was an important part of our development. It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time sitting down today.

 

Shawnelle: We both had been working since we were 12 years old, primarily with city-initiated youth jobs, which involved lots of physical labor like community beautification and graffiti abatement. Haha. Which later evolved into summer job gigs with places like the housing Authority and Children’s Hospital.  But my very first official grown up job where I got to dress up (I couldn’t wait!) in A-line skirts and pumps was Bank of America as a teller during college. It was terrifying because I was (for all intents and purposes) a poor girl counting hundreds and thousands of dollars that, at the wage I was earning, would never be mine. So frustrating! I did surprisingly well at it, though. But I knew, without a doubt, that my calling was in the arts.

What was your first apartment like?

Shawnelle: A one bedroom in Berkeley that I moved into during college with my first official boyfriend (now an old ex). The place confirmed all my inklings that I had a superior knack for decorating as everybody marveled about the living room and bathroom space I took charge of putting together. Haha. I spent a lot of time in the apartment alone because the BF worked nights at a hospital. I invested in an easel that took up the space that should’ve been a dining area in the kitchen and experimented with acrylics. The paintings live on in my mother’s home and maybe one or two other places. I learned a lot about solitude there.

Shawnee´: My first apartment was in Winnetka, California, just outside of Los Angeles. It was a place shared by four girls and two cats, Jimmy and Hendrix. It was an affordable space about 20 minutes from my first television production job at Bunim Murray in Van Nuys, and contained a pool I never swam in. Your first apartment feels like the sink or swim moment before you’re thrown into a pool–it’s like your first big test in the adult world. Once I got out on my own, I knew I’d have to make it work because I didn’t want to ever have to go crawling back to my mom’s couch—even though I knew it was always there if I needed it. There’s something about keeping up your own place in the world that finally makes you feel like a real adult person.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Shawnelle: If you call moving a 6- hour drive away to Los Angeles big. It definitely was at the time a little over 10 years ago. Losing my grandmother and aunt definitely changed my perspective on how important it is to have and build a family, which I’m still figuring out how to do myself. Work in progress!

In what ways did your friendships change?

Shawnee´: I think in my twenties and before I sort of ended up with friends. It was always people who I just happened to be around but now I find that I like to seek more meaningful relationships out, and try to surround myself with people who support, inspire and encourage me and share similar goals or life outlooks. It’s still a work in progress, but in my estimation, you end up with a stronger network of friends when you seek out those people who have value for themselves and can in turn add value to your life.

Shawnelle: I definitely learned that to have a good friend, you have to be a good friend. It informs all of my relationships and helps me to reach out to my girls even when I don’t necessarily feel like it. I became a bit isolated focusing on work in my early and mid-20’s and missed out on some very good foundational friendship years. Since then, I’ve actively built and rebuilt some quality friendships with particularly women (something I was missing for a while) and am a better, more well-rounded person for it, I feel.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

Shawnee´: I think I learned how to run for the hills sooner. I also learned to be more open and giving in relationships. In my twenties, the world revolved around me, now in relationships it’s important that it revolve around us.

Shawnelle: Men are people, too, (laughter) and it takes a surprising amount of courage to love someone the way they deserve to be loved.

How do you feel society viewed you?

Shawnee´: Shawnelle and I have always been expressing ourselves creatively, from screenplays and animation to television and comics. Film, comics and animation have been primarily a boys club, so Shawnelle and I have probably always been viewed as a little different by some of our peers but that’s totally fine with me. Being women, and African American, (and short to boot!) in television, I think we have had to prove to people who aren’t familiar with working with young people from diverse backgrounds that we really do rock as television producers, comic book writers, etc. I think we’ve learned to break down the walls of old ideologies without being jaded by it. It’s definitely important not to let other people’s opinions define you.

Shawnelle: Coming where we came from, I feel society viewed people like us as women who would eventually become a burden on the country’s resources. However, we were taught a very strong work ethic from our mom at an early age. This has helped us time and time again both when times are lean and plentiful. Early on in film school, I was very concerned that it would be a difficult journey to survive from my art alone, and several people over the years confirmed that fear. But through faith, hard work and determination, things have continued to come together. Sometimes I still can’t believe I’ve been able to sustain a creative career for over 10 years now. I am extremely thankful for it.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

Shawnee´: Getting older, I’ve mellowed out a ton. I certainly don’t drive as fast as I used to and I’m not as concerned about what people think of me. I think that’s the best part about transitioning from teens, (where what everybody thinks matter), to your twenties, (where you realize it actually doesn’t) to your thirties (where you’re able to start being a bit more comfortable in your skin and wearing it a bit more proudly). I think with each decade you learn a new life lesson, so I’m really looking forward to finding out more about myself in the next thirty years.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

Shawnelle: There’s something about slowly inching your way up a tax bracket that forces you to appreciate everything you achieve a bit more. In my 20’s I felt at times ashamed of humble beginnings, now it inspires me to do more and be more.

How did you change intellectually?

Shawnee´: In the last 5 years or so, I’ve become extremely interested in science and wish that I’d paid more attention to math as a kid. There’s a pseudo-scientist living in me these days that I try to nurture as much as I can. I find that in my twenties, I used to turn up the latest and greatest music album. Now I’m more apt to turn up an NPR broadcast while driving or learn about a cool subject from a podcast.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

Shawnelle: Getting a couple stamps on the passport has certainly helped. I’m a lot more socially and politically aware than I was in my 20’s. Freelancing, traveling, reading, absorbing, and coming into contact with people from everywhere has certainly helped with that. In one of my jobs as a producer, I get to meet and talk for hours with people from across the world with completely different backgrounds and life experiences. It helps with understanding the complexities of the human condition on a more real level.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Shawnelle: When I was starting out in television…I made the mistake of trying to impress some pretty important people in a certain circle with an embellished story about my life that I nearly got called out on. I couldn’t sleep for days worrying about the consequences. I learned then it is just easier to be myself and let the chips fall where they may.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

Shawnee´: Say what you will about President Obama, but there was something very decade-defining about him coming into his first presidency in 2008. I think that youth-fueled campaign really helped young people feel like they had a voice in this country and gave hope to people all across the U.S. Obama’s presidency was the first time I actively contributed money to any politician’s campaign and I think it did a lot to help bridge several divides in America. Obama’s 2008 inauguration was also the first inauguration I ventured to Washington, DC to attend. I’m gonna miss the Obama family in the White House. Like the Kennedy’s, there was something indescribably cool about them and I’m happy I was able to witness such a game-changing presidency in my lifetime.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

Shawnelle: The life of my late grandmother was and is something I continue to reference for inspiration. She was full of great quotes that are on repeat in my head to this day. Like, “You don’t believe fat meat is greasy,” which she always used to highlight something you’d have to figure out through trial and error. I certainly did find a few cuts of some of the greasiest slabs in life.

Shawnee´: We definitely had great women in our family to be inspired by. From my mom, who always supported our dreams and was a great inspiration in seeing hers through to become a RN while we were in high school, to my aunt Iris, who would talk to anyone and everyone she came across. In lots of social situations, I ask myself, “What would Auntie Iris do?” and will usually find myself talking to someone when my first instinct was to be a wallflower. My aunt Saida, who is the family’s resident artist and photographer, was also a great inspiration for how to be an artist while holding down a day job. We had so many awesome and different women to look up to growing up who I continue to be inspired by to this day, that thinking about it makes me realize how lucky we were in life.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Shawnee´: I’ve got no regrets about life. There’s still enough time left to cross things off my bucket list and accomplish things I’ve yet to try. I think with enough good living and experience under my wing, any challenge that seems insurmountable today, might be able to be solved once I devise a plan for it tomorrow.

Shawnelle: I’ve worked very hard on accepting the things I cannot change about myself and the decisions I have made in life. Post-20’s have definitely been about being completely comfortable BEFORE making decisions and asking myself, “Can I live with this?” Or, “Should I say that?”  If the answer is yes, onward and upward!

Schoolin’ Life: Beldan Sezen

For today’s Schoolin’ Life, we get to know videographer and graphic novelist Beldan Sezen.

Beldan

Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

Okay, I’m a graphic novelist and I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I’m into comics, graphic novel, sequential art, cartoons, name it whatever you want, I dig it. I freelance as a videographer, image manipulator and care taker, all jobs which have given me enough space to start my graphic novelist career. My days (and nights) are often spent in the studio.

 

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade? 

I don’t think I had expectations.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

Which society?

What was your first job like?

I started working as lab assistant when I was sixteen. At nineteen, I decided to go back to school so I could apply for a university program. In my twenties, I was studying and had, in addition to a study grant, various side jobs to support me.

What was your first apartment like?

I had a tiny room under a roof in an apartment shared with three other students. It fit a bed, a desk, a closet and bookshelf and had one small roof window. The kitchen was so disgusting that I lived off instant Chinese noodle soups and pizza for quite a while. No, I didn’t feel the urge to clean the kitchen since the other two housemates were fine with it and the third never really showed her face. I was happy and proud to call the room my own.

Did you experience any big life changes?

I came out in my twenties and I moved to a city in another country. I’d say that’s big.

In what ways did your friendships change?

They changed from superficial drinking buddies to more honest and sincere friendships where I could be more like myself. I made some lasting friendships in my twenties.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

Languages. And, in the first part of my twenties, through my male relationships, that I really should be with women.

How did your relationships with your family change?

I became more independent and less involved in family matters and expectations.

How do you feel society viewed you?

Oh I dunno, pick a label…

How did you change emotionally and intellectually?

Emotionally and intellectually, my eyes opened to a much bigger worldview and I’m very happy about that. Since then, I no longer feel the need emotionally to belong to a nation or let myself squeeze into an ethnic concept.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I had my coming out in my twenties, as a lesbian and as a woman of color.

Being aware and more importantly admitting to my sexual and cultural identity did change how I take space in general and in my daily life. I went from being defined to defining myself. I was engaging in a life of my own instead of submitting to one dictated by the terms of the societies I live in.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

It broadened. Luckily!

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Asking a police officer in Manhattan where I could find a cab to go to my hostel because I had that cliché in my mind that it wasn’t safe in NYC. He laughed at me, pointing out that it was just a block away and that I could easily walk! Yeah, I felt embarrassed.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

I think being part of an activist women and lesbian scene did shape me tremendously. It gave me acknowledgment and strength. I saw everyday role models who didn’t look and act in a passive, submissive way but did what they wanted. I hardly ever question myself in regards of gender roles, if I can do things or not. I just start doing and see how far I can get.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you? 

Yes, the rise of Neo-fascism in Germany in the early nineties. It narrowed my perspective and shook my confidence. After a year or three of actively working to fight fascism (in the streets, and in theoretical discussions etc.), I couldn’t see anything else and felt there was nothing else for me to do but fight. It was a very narrow minded and claustrophobic, slightly paranoid feeling which was harmful to my well-being.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Uh-oh, Frank Sinatra lurking around the corner…Regrets: I had a few but then again to few to mention… I had some periods where I was lethargic. It feels like I wasted my (precious) time which I’d rather not have done. Then again, it goes as it goes.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

Too many, so I made a book out of all the stories. The final product, Snapshots of a Girl, will be published this fall by Canada-based Arsenal Pulp Press.

Dame of the Day: Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo

Today’s Dame of the Day is Xiaolu Guo (1973-). As a novelist and filmmaker, Guo’s work explore both the public and the personal. From discussing personal memories and struggles to examining China’s past and future, Guo’s fearless literary experimentation captivates both readers and critics. Her work has been translated into 26 languages and has earned numerous awards.

Sit Down/Stand Up

In the wake of the post-Oscars wave, there’s been a lot of talk about Patricia Arquette and her rousing acceptance speech. After receiving the award for Best Supporting Actress, Arquette thanked her family and friends and then went in on equal pay for women.

Patricia Arquette. Photo courtesy of ABC News

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.

Her words received a thunderous applause and animated shout-outs from Queen Meryl herself.

Backstage, Arquette had more to say to reporters.

It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women.

And then she kept going:

It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.

Many women of color and members of the queer community expressed their frustrations at the limiting nature of that final sentence. Can you be a person of color and a woman? Can you be a lesbian and a woman? Do trans women factor in at all? If you strip out the gay community and women of color, who’s left besides straight, white women? Arquette’s words prompted criticism on Twitter from the likes of Morgan Jenkins and Roxane Gay.

Capture1

Capture2

Judging from her post-Oscars remarks, it appears that Arquette did not intend to marginalize queer or feminists of color. But when called on the carpet about her comments, Arquette Tweeted back:

Capture4

Capture3

Yet, in this case, privilege is exactly the point. Francesca Ramsey curates a fantastic set of YouTube videos about privilege, racism and intersectional feminism. In the video posted below, Ramsey breaks down the fallacies and realities surrounding this touchy word:

“Privilege does not mean that you are rich, that you’ve had an easy life, that everything’s been handed to you and you’ve never had to struggle or work hard. All it means is that there are some things in life that you will not experience or ever have to think about just because of who you are.”

Yet Gay and Jenkins voiced their opinions in a way that could really benefit Arquette in the future. They’re not arguing against equal pay like Stacy Dash, who told rudely Arquette to bone up on her history and bogusly mentioned President Kennedy signing the Equal Pay Act in 1963. (With no mention of Kennedy’s further speech upon signing or modern day realities of the very real pay gap, I don’t have the time to unpack how off-base this statement is.) Instead, they told Arquette that her comments made them feel marginalized, like they didn’t fit into her definition of womanhood.

While many supporters quickly came to Arquette’s defense, it’s important to view the criticism in a broader context. If we look back through history, white feminism tends to ignore other identities under the banner of “all women.” This legacy exists today and dismantling language that excludes racial identity and sexual orientation isn’t just about surface level politically correctness; it’s about recognizing that you can be both a victim of societal oppression and benefit from privilege simultaneously. “All women” is a lovely, idealistic goal, but it’s not the reality; Arquette may have intended her speech for all women, but her post-Oscars aside did not support her previous statement. As Ramsey explains, “It’s not about your intent; it’s about your impact. So when you get called out, make sure you listen, apologize, commit to changing your behavior and move forward.”

There’s a time to speak up and a time to listen; I hope in this case Arquette takes Ramsey’s advice and does both.

Still Waiting: Oscars 2015

When the Academy announced this year’s Oscar nominations, I felt the way I did about 2015’s Grammy nominations: unsurprised yet somewhat disappointed. But with friends in the film, theater and fashion industries, I felt compelled to watch the events unfold. Our group text fired back and forth commentary on outfits, interview questions and winner predictions.

 

Ava Duverny

Ava Duvernay. Photo courtesy of Relevant Magazine

Perhaps my disappointment stems from wanting to hear more stories. After all, the collection of nominees represents the whitest Oscar group since 1998 and the fewest number of women directors, with women directed only 4.6% of major studio released films last year. Much like cracking into any cutthroat industry, a major barrier to women directors is studios’ attention to past experience. When hiring for a big budget film, a director’s box office record and past experience with major films figures prominently. Instead of taking a chance on new talent, studios frequently return to old favorites, maintaining the status quo and creating a catch-22 for women who want to move up. The notion that there are absolutely no women interested in directing a super sized blockbuster or a superhero film seems slightly improbable.

Women make up 52% of movie audiences, but it doesn’t mean that women directors must exclusively tell stories about women. Ava Duvernay is a great example; she wrote and directed Selma, a $20 million biopic about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet in spite of being the first black woman director to receive a Golden Globe nomination, she did not receive an Oscar nomination. Organizations like the Alliance of Women Directors support and mentor up and coming directors, but when it comes to cracking the Academy or the executive board, the results are usually pretty safe. Studios may bizarrely justify their choices by saying women are less capable of managing and handling risk than men, but if they keep pulling from the same shallow pool of talent, who’s really afraid to leave their comfort zone?

Selah and the Spades

Building off Monday’s post about women, advertising, and the Super Bowl, I wanted to continue on this theme of representation. Black women make up 13% of the population but only 2% of television roles (as if you needed a reminder, check out this month’s predictably pale Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair.) Currently, shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder are captivating audiences with complex characters like Olivia Pope and Analise Keating. But when it comes to programming with teenage characters, television’s growth is still stunted. If you don’t connect with the Disney-fied “realities” of True Jackson or Raven Baxter, there’s a void that needs to be filled by a black female lead.

Enter Selah and the Spades, a project in progress by Tayarisha Poe. Speaking about the motivation behind the project, Poe says:

 

We all know that representation matters, this cannot be denied. In a society where media creates so much of how we feel about others, and ourselves, it matters absolutely. I write with the understanding that this story itself, its main characters and their actions, are largely unrealistic.

That, however, is the point. How often does a black girl get the chance, in fiction, to be so unashamedly badass–for lack of a better term–without having to defend her race, her hair, her clothes, or any other thing about herself? How often is a woman of color given a chance to be the anti hero? To define herself? I want to show young girls that they can choose how to define themselves, and they can shape their world–I don’t wish to tell them for what side.

 

Poe explains that the episodes are more like sketches than a final product; she’s working on a feature film about Selah and her friends. Yet the initial foray is an intriguing teaser for what’s to come. Each installment comes with an accompanying song; scroll down and you’ll peruse stills of the episode. In the Prologue, we meet Selah on a chilly afternoon as she waits outside a storefront. Armed with the comforting warmth of spiced apple cider, she steels herself against the wind and periodically peers into her binoculars. Selah, as it turns out, is working: after knocking out her college applications weeks in advance, she spends her last period study hall doling out payment to those who threaten her crew, the Spades.

 

From the jump, it’s clear that Selah needs to be in control. From choosing to lead Spirit Squad (“We decide how short our skirts will be”) to meeting up with her friend Paloma (she sits in Paloma’s window seat reading a book until she wakes up), Selah takes no shit; she’s incredibly cool and in control of her own destiny, the type of girl you want to befriend yet find difficult to approach. Don’t be fooled, though: Selah’s personality is not so one dimensional. She’s too smart to be a Mean Girl, but she’s well aware of the power structure in which she operates. She’s tough, but she still worries about how to respond when a boy expresses interest (as she points out, “boys are fragile” and she worries about “being a huge bitch”).

 

With a style alluding to Wes Anderson’s aesthetic, these digestible vignettes give viewers a quick glimpse at Selah’s world: treking from the suburbs to Philadelphia to geek out on issues of Art in America at the library; breaking down the intricacies of the Five Factions; fashioning her spirit squad’s uniforms out of DIY tee shirts. According to Poe, there is no defined order; you can watch one, skip around and circle back to get the desired effect.

 

From this perspective, Poe’s project is already a success. Instead of accepting the media’s lacking representation of black women, she forged ahead and fleshed out the stories she wanted to see. Taking a cue from Selah, Poe took charge of her characters and brought them to life. While the details of the back story may be imaginary, the traits and subtle quirks each character exhibits makes their personalities compelling and real. Once a viewer steps into Selah’s suburbs, they play by her rules and for that, she will not apologize.