How Fatimah Asghar Got Out Of Her Own Head to Create “Brown Girls”
For all the women who never saw themselves represented in the stories on television, Brown Girls is the answer.
Brown Girls is a web series taking over the internet through its commitment to centering women of color and queer women. Creator and screenwriter Fatimah Asghar noticed a lot of the relationships she had weren’t reflected in the media, and so she sought to create a work that resembled her experiences.
“I wanted to create something that was a love letter to the different communities that I have found home in and the friendships that have made me who I am,” Fatimah told Galore. “I also wanted to show these characters as nasty not perfect people.”
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Though the characters may not be perfect, they certainly work their way into our hearts. As they navigate their twenties, they are just as messy and confused as any of the rest of us and that’s what makes this show so good. “Brown Girls” takes over where shows like HBO’s “Girls” failed. It shows us that the transition from girlhood to womanhood is messy for women of color too, and relatably so, but that that experience has its differences.
“A lot of my poetry is about traumatic moments I’ve experienced and writing and sharing that work has been so important for me,” said Fatimah, “However this is a story that I wanted to lace with joy and love, and show that these characters get their strength from their identities which are usually considered a point of trauma or struggle.”
“Brown Girls” stars Leila and Patricia, both women of color who are developing a new understanding of their individual identities. Leila is a South-Asian American woman just realizing her queerness and Patricia is a Black American commitment-phobe. Together, they are best friend goals.
The fact that this series takes place in Chicago, a city that is often characterized by violence, is the icing on the cake. This Chicago doesn’t resemble the one Donald Trump often describes. And while a project that changes narratives sounds daunting even for an experienced screenwriter, first-timer Fatimah manages it was grace and ease.
“The biggest challenge was just getting out of my own head,” she said, “For so long I put off screenwriting because I didn’t have a blueprint or feel like I knew how.”
How many of us have had the same problem? But Fatimah proves that experience is no indicator of talent. Prior to “Brown Girls,” she was a nationally touring poet, educator, and performer. Her connection to the arts provided a good foundation for this new project but the trick was actually convincing herself she could do it.
“I don’t think you know what you are capable of until you try,” Fatimah also said, “And I think its important to take that pressure off of yourself. You don’t have to be perfect, the thing you make doesn’t have to be flawless. You just need to try and learn from that trying and allow yourself the ability to grow.”
She gets it wrong, though, because “Brown Girls” is flawless. In addition to the main characters being women that we rarely see at the forefront of a series, the supporting cast is just as diverse. It was important for Fatimah to write that diversity but it was equally important for her to show that they’re just people. They aren’t stereotypes.
Even shows that seek to represent South-Asian American women or Black women don’t always hit the mark. Often, they display them through their proximity to whiteness or through stereotypes, but Brown Girls celebrates the diversity within communities of color. The show is part comedy, part drama, which allows it to tackle the issues without getting too heavy. Like when Leila jokes, “They’re gonna think I’m a terrorist!” and you immediately understand that fear of being stereotyped.
“As a queer women of color, I think that can feel very hard to never see yourself represented well,” Fatimah told us. “And while [the characters] occupy marginalized identities, they still are able to just walk around the world and do normal things: wait for the bus, get ready for a party, have conversations with their family, get too drunk at a party. I wanted to show that we could be full, nuanced people.”