I don’t often find myself feeling jealous of the fictional characters populating the many, many TV shows I watch. I’ve never coveted Olivia Pope’s ability to say "It’s handled," with the level of intensity usually saved for real-life Senate hearings or wished I was actually the Mother Of Dragons. But, as I watched the "sneak peek" of Freeform’s new drama The Bold Type, I instantly felt a little — okay, a lot — jealous of one of the three main characters taking on New York City, Scarlet magazine social media director Kat (Aisha Dee).
Out of the many fabulous lives on TV, it might be surprising that Kat is the character I’m envying, especially since we have so much in common. We’re both proud feminists working in media. She’s handling her magazine’s Twitter while I spend my days writing about TV for Refinery29. We both use humour to deflect from our emotions. We’re both ethnically ambiguous in the exact same way and our hair is nearly identical, down to the part. I know Kat, too, probably grew up crafting the perfect answer to, "So, what are you?" Hell her name is Kat and my middle name is Kat(arina). It’s a lot. Our similarities are exactly the reason I’m feeling jealous. Watching Kat feels like watching a much more confident mirror image proudly stomp through The Bold Type — someone I’m way too nervous to act like.
At the beginning of the the Cosmopolitan-inspired series, our trio of leads is assembled at a meeting to go over the latest issue of Scarlet. It’s filled with rich old white men in suits, along with the leading figures of the publication. When an editor explains that an upcoming article about a Muslim lesbian photographer is being pulled, Kat doesn’t stay silent. She speaks out loudly in the cavernous room, asking why the artist decided to rescind her offer to let Scarlet publish her photos. All the rich old white man heads turn towards Kat disapprovingly, as do her superiors. Instead of shutting up, she shrugs and continues, "I think this story is worth fighting for. It’s click gold for us. It hits all of our boxes, no pun intended. It’s feel-good. It’s sexy, just the right amount of political." Although the Bold Type’s editor-in-chief, Jacqueline (Melora Hardin, AKA Jan From The Office), agrees with Kat, she says the discussion is a moot point, since the photographer isn’t interested in giving Scarlet the rights to her art. Conversation over.
Let me just say how deeply uncomfortable that kind of situation would make me. I’m an extrovert and a Leo, so I love talking, sharing ideas, and yes, sometimes even being the centre of attention. But, I’m also a young woman of colour who grew up — and stayed — in white spaces. I’m a born and bred Staten Islander, so I hail from New York City’s most famously homogeneous borough, and the only NYC county that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Although I never felt ostracised for my background growing up, I always knew I was different. In elementary school, I was the only obvious Afro Latina in my grade, and definitely the only one with natural hair. So, I adapted by naturally making everyone around me extremely, extremely comfortable. That way, no one would focus on the fact I didn’t exactly look like them.
Yes, I’ll share my many thoughts and make an entire room laugh and prove I’m the kind of intelligent that helps you graduate cum laude from Syracuse University, but not in a way that seems too bracing or too loud. Not in a way that would ever make someone uncomfortable. It’s not something a woman of colour should concern herself with all day, every day, but it’s the way my personality ended up forming in south shore Staten Island, where — and I’m paraphrasing a 12-year-old story my mom told me — a vice principal once said as a compliment that I wasn’t that dark.
So, that’s why I found Kat’s bravado so amazing. She, as someone who looks a whole lot like me, doesn't care when a board room full of rich white men stare at her. In fact, she ignores her boss’ blanket statement and pursues the Muslim photographer, eventually convincing her to let the piece run, photos and all. If my boss told me to drop a story, I would probably immediately agree she was correct and go catch up on Orange Is The New Black. I would forget about the morally imperative article by the next day, because who wants to make waves? Thankfully, I don’t actually have to worry about this happening, since my real-life R29 bosses would never do that. But if I worked somewhere else, it could happen.
With just a single pilot episode, The Bold Type managed to create a character I, a nearly 25-year-old woman, hope to be like when I grow up. I can’t wait to see what she does next when the series makes its full two-hour debut on 11th July. Until then, I’ll try to remember Kat the next time I’m in a room full of judgmental old white dudes.