Chronicles Of The Overachieving Black Girl

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Six Fridays ago, I arrived at my apartment door and found what is now one of my most coveted possessions: the complete season of Daria on DVD. I used the Amazon gift card my sister gave me for my birthday to purchase the set and spent the next few nights binging on the first two seasons. The binge watching continued during the subsequent weeks. I discovered a newfound appreciation for the wit and sharp writing of a show that I couldn’t exactly understand during its run in the late 90s when I was wearing pigtails and hitting up Ms. Donahoe’s fifth grade class.

I love many of the characters on the show (my favorite is Daria’s best friend Jane Lane because she is a cynical asshole, but she’s also artistic and much more well-adjusted than Daria.)  But, another character who resonated with me was Jodie Landon, the only black recurring character aside from her boyfriend Mack Mackenzie. Jodie is smart, likable and over-extended when it comes to her extracurricular activities. Watching the episodes where Jodie appears reminds me on some level of my own high school experience, one that also took place at a predominantly white school. I understand Jodie because I was one of those black girls who knew people and they knew me, but I wasn’t in any popular inner circle. I wasn’t exactly overextended when it came to extracurriculars, but I worked pretty hard and did well enough to join the world of college and, later, student loan debt.

Jodie could be considered an overachiever. The same could be said for Olivia Pope. Or Annalise Keating. Or Michaela Pratt. (And if at least one of these names does not ring a bell, I’m going to question our friendship.) These are all fictional black characters whose ambition and zeal resonate in good and bad ways with the black female audiences who consume them. But, when it comes to being a black woman, I don’t know if overachiever is even an accurate term. Often times, it feels like what the rest of the world considers an overachievement is just a basic achievement in my book. Maybe we’re all kind of like Olivia and our parents are all kind of like Rowan:

Rowan: Did I not raise you for better? How many times have I told you? You have to be what?

Olivia: Twice as good.

Rowan: You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.

I don’t know if I ever directly heard the phrase “twice as good” in my household, but I know that fucking up was not an option. Bad grades weren’t an option. Slacking off wasn’t an option, at least not if you wanted to live to see your eighteenth birthday. My mom wasn’t in the PTA. She didn’t chaperone field trips. But, she drilled me before spelling tests and asked to see every report card that made its way through that front door. My sister and I did not have permission to entertain mediocrity. Now, I appreciate both of my parents for that lack of permission. So, who knows if I’m insanely intrinsically motivated or if I’m just conditioned to do things well and right. I don’t know and I don’t quite care.

I’ve called myself an overachiever before. So have many others. But, now, I would like to settle in the comfort of knowing that I do things well and I am damn good at what I do. I am not over-anything. I am achieving. I’m accomplishing. I’m learning from mistakes and resetting my sails. I’m bouncing back. I’m showing up. I am doing the work. I am putting my head down and doing the motherfucking work. If those things are considered overachieving, I damn sure do not want to know what “achieving” is.


Don’t Rely on Olivia Pope to Represent Black Women

Guest Post by Raven Best

Arguably, there is nothing better than spending a night in with your friends. Gossip, good food and entertainment, all in the comfy confines of your home. For me and my girls, our semi-monthly church service was recounting the many testimonies and personal tragedies we faced, usually accompanied by a generic bottle of wine, chinese food and Olivia Pope. In these settings is where I’ve had some of my deepest conversations and revelations about people, myself and life.

One night as our little group spiritedly debated about the night’s Scandal episode, one of us commented on how the show just wasn’t the same as it used to be. We all had to agree. In the first season, Olivia Pope was Empress of the Gladiators, she ran EVERYTHING (with her five-inch pumps and hair laid for the gawds!) But, by season 3, every five minutes she was in some lip- quivering fit on the verge of tears. All because she couldn’t decide what she wanted to do with her married lover. Rather than an episode centering around Olivia’s command of herself, her team and the messy political underworld of D.C., everything was about Fitz! Olivia wasn’t fixing problems anymore; she was running around the White House, battling Mellie for the eyebrow-less president and drowning herself in wine alone on her couch at night while her life was in shambles.

Needless to say, we were upset, but as loyal viewers we watched every week in the hope that our favorite character would return to her original glory. Our biggest grievance was not that Olivia fell in love; that’s life. It was the fact that the show, which was praised for having two strong, beautiful, intelligent female characters had reduced our heroines to a side chick and wifey battling over who got to keep their man. It’s disheartening at best. Strong characterizations of women in the media are far and few between. Generally, the strong female leads we do see are quickly diminished by the beauty standard (whether or not they’re “pretty” or attractive enough), their emotions, or a man. As women, it seems like we can’t stand on our own two and hold our own, at least to whoever is writing these scripts and screenplays. Instead, us women are nothing more than rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots battling each other for the ultimate prize: a date.

Now, I’m not writing all this to say that there is anything wrong with wanting love and someone to cuddle with at night. There surely is not, I just wish that as women we could have a little more depth than that. In real life, we all know that women are the masters of balance, somehow successfully managing work, family and personal lives. But more often than not we have to choose. Can I chase my dreams of being a business owner and still have time to be a good mother? Can I find a man who won’t be threatened by my salary and independence? Can I be pretty AND smart? Through society’s expectations, woman = sacrifice, we have to give up certain facets of ourselves to maintain our femininity for the security of others.

And depictions of women in the media like Olivia and Mellie do not help. Everyone recognizes Olivia and Mellie for their intelligence and power, so why have neither of these women backhanded Fitz, packed the Louis bags and sashayed off the premises? Fitz killed Olivia’s mama, has lied to her on several occasions and pouts whenever she isn’t at his beck and call. Fitz decided that because Mellie stopped sleeping with him and became distant, he deserved to have an affair. (Wouldn’t you think a husband would ask his wife what was wrong?) Olivia’s job has clearly taken a backseat to doing favors for and making sure Fitz can get another term. And we all know what Mellie sacrificed for her husband. Why are these women choosing to stay with this man at the cost of their careers, peers, families and even personal well-being?

As a woman, and a black woman at that, I had high hopes that the writer, Shonda Rhimes, would maintain the image of a brown girl who can be beautiful, kind, intelligent and powerful. Lord knows we need it. And maybe Shonda will have Olivia do a complete turn around. But as of right now, I have to continue my sad but necessary statement that we cannot take anything in the media to heart. As brown women: TV, radio and print generally do not accurately depict us. We need to rely on ourselves and on real-life, tangible role models to know what black womanhood means. The only way we can change society’s extremely skewed opinion of us is to live unapologetically and follow our aspirations without pause. Eventually, they’ll catch up. When it comes to Olivia Pope, her outerwear is just about the only quality of hers I can aspire to at the moment. Don’t idolize these characters that you see on screen, ladies. When you’re looking for someone to admire and represent you, find a mirror.

Raven of The Free Your Mind Project

Hi readers! My name is Raven and I’m a recent graduate from the University of Maryland-College Park. I’ve been blogging for almost a year, I created my blog in the hopes of inspiring and connecting other brown women; to encourage myself and others to follow our dreams and find our passions. It’s an honor to be featured on Twenty Unscripted! I invite y’all to check out my personal blog: The Free Your Mind Project ( follow the blog’s instagram (@fymproject) my personal instagram (@_inthesky) or email me at Feel free to reach out and get in touch! 


Alessandra Stanley’s NYT Piece: Pressure to Respond In the Social Media Age

I was supposed to be upset last Friday when The New York Times published Alessandra Stanley’s “Wrought in Their Creator’s Image: Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’ Latest Tough Heroine“. The article chronicles television screenwriter, director and producer Shonda Rhimes’ creation of strong, black, female characters, her latest being Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) in the upcoming series, “How to Get Away with Murder.” But, more notably, the article set off a shit storm across the Internet after Stanley began the piece with this race-baiting sentence: “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.'”

In the article, Stanley argues that Shonda Rhimes has taken the stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman” and redefined it with characters such as Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) on Grey’s Anatomy, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) on Scandal and, of course, Annalise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder.

Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable. She has almost single-handedly trampled a taboo even Michelle Obama couldn’t break.

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Don’t fuck with Shonda.

Without doubt or question, Stanley’s piece is problematic for many reasons. (I will not even get into the “less classically beautiful” phrase used in the commentary, because that is a different blog post for another day.) Unfortunately, its publication also doesn’t surprise me considering how much Tier 1 media uses race, or blatant ignorance of it, to leads its ledes (insert Patricia Garcia Vogue article.) But, when I read the New York Times’ television critics’ latest, I did not have the abrupt, visceral response that I thought I should have according to the Twitter powers that be. According to the Twitter tribe, I probably should have been incensed by the time I reached the last paragraph. I was not. Instead, my hairdresser called me from the waiting area to the booth as I was finishing the last few sentences. I shot off a tweet that I had “Just finished Alessandra Stanley’s piece…” and received a few replies soliciting my thoughts. I felt pressured to drop some intellectual and derisive quip, but I came up empty-handed.

There are more than a few times when I agree with the majority on matters such as Stanley’s article. And, I probably don’t even disagree this time around–I’m just not as enraged by it as it seems I should be. Yes, Alessandra Stanley’s piece is mortifying in its racial recklessness. Yes, I wondered what editors vetted that thing and decided it was ready to go to print. And, no, I did not understand or receive her argument in the way she allegedly intended. All of those things stand. Now, was I incredibly upset? No, not really.

Sometimes I miss the good ol’ days when you could read something and formulate an opinion sans an audience watching. Of course, I’m not denouncing Twitter–after all, most of us, self included, would not have known about the article if it weren’t for Twitter. If it weren’t for Twitter, news outlets would not have been able to get screen grabs of Shonda Rhimes’ reaction to the piece via her own Twitter account. However, I felt these tinges of guilt for not reacting in a way that mirrored the masses’ response. In her article, “Tragedy. Call. Compassion. Response.”, Roxane Gay writes, “The tools of the modern age afford us many privileges, but they also cost us the privilege of time and space to distance ourselves to properly think through tragedy, to take a deep breath, to feel, to care.” I want my time and space back. I want the room to think on my own and for myself.

I’ve been changing my relationship with social media this year and in that shift, I’ve realized that social media rarely gives us time to react in a way that honestly represents our emotions. It’s such an immediate, knee-jerk kind of a medium. That sort of dynamic energy makes it difficult to form an original response to anything without being under the social influence. So, we become responsible for creating our own space. We become responsible for temporarily severing our ties to social media at times in favor of reacting to things in a way indicative of how we truly feel, no matter how mild or outraged those feelings may be.

Yes, I take issue with a white New York Times critic reducing one of television’s most powerful screenwriters and producers to an Angry Black Woman. But, I also take issue with the fact that nearly ten years ago a black man by the name of Tyler Perry used that same stereotype and it sky rocketed him to fame. As an impassioned and opinionated black woman, I’m not selective in my disdain for the use of this stereotype. If there’s anyone trying to “take the image of the Angry Black Woman and recast it in [his or her] own image,” it is Tyler Perry. Shonda Rhimes does not have time for that stupidity and Alessandra Stanley is a flaming imbecile to think any differently. For me, it’s just that simple. No hashtag required.


The Kardashianification Of America: Our Obsession With Consuming Other People’s Lives

I’ve cultivated this love-hate relationship with television these days. Yesterday morning I bummed around with my sister and we watched a few hours of various TV shows including Don’t Be Tardy, some 15-minute previews of The Real Housewives of Orange County and The Real Housewives of New York City (reunion) and an insanely long episode complete with “bonus scenes” of Four Weddings. Let me just tell you that a show like Four Weddings barely merits 60 minutes, let alone 90. It terrorized us to watch it for that long, but once we started, we couldn’t stop. We just had to figure out whose wedding would “win” the competition. I have never cared so much about centerpieces and chair covers over the course of an hour and a half in my life.

If you do not know any of the aforementioned references, consider yourself a much better person than me.

I’ve thought a lot about the television shows I opt to watch lately and have deliberately pulled back from my prior mass consumption of reality television. There was once a time not too many years ago when I watched reality television on autopilot, devoting hours each night to viewing women yell crazily at one another. My decision to abandon watching so much TV was a hybrid of getting sick of the same vapid drama signature to the narrative arc of the shows as well as no longer having enough time. The few hours in my evening became sacred and I learned I could not waste them on entirely on Joseline Hernandez, Ramona Singer or Khloe Kardashian if I stood any chance of building my blog.

But, it’s easy to get enamored by the escape of consuming other people’s lives. Between reality television and social media, we’re now hardwired to snack on both the beautiful and tragic bits of other people’s livelihood. I do not have any idea how reality TV stars carry out their lives in such a public way; it seems like a true deal with the devil. As someone who has developed an iota of a public persona simply because of my blog, I know I could never handle the ridicule, presumptions and misconceptions that come along with carrying one’s life out on television. I just write about my life, a fraction of it at that, and I find myself constantly having to correct people’s assumptions that they know everything about me based on a few blog posts. We forget that reality television is the culmination of editing and the necessity to create characters and caricatures out of real people. We forget that behind a neatly-packaged episode, there are human beings on the other end who hurt, cry, fight, love and doubt just like the rest of us.

Nonetheless, on the weekend or on a rare off-writing night, I sometimes slip back into my old habit and binge watch reality television. I catch up on what I’ve missed. While the shows no longer dictate my nightly routine, they can play somewhat of a role in my weekend trajectory. I usually feel a gross sense of writer’s guilt after, knowing I could have spent those two or three hours reading or doing anything else that would not zap my brain cells. I wish I could be one of those people who did not require cable as part of my life. You know, those people who just have a Hulu or Netflix subscription and save themselves a lot of money. Damn, those people are smart. But, my fear of missing out is most prevalent when it comes to television. What do you mean I can’t live tweet the BET Awards? No, thanks.

My only hope is to continue to be more deliberate about what television shows I choose to consume, especially when it comes to other people’s existence. It’s fun and somewhat cathartic to escape my own life for 60 minutes and get entrenched in someone else’s. But, maybe it’s not so fun when I consider that it’s at someone else’s expense. Sure, reality television stars sign up to have cameras follow them around, but I’m not sure they sign up for all of the demons that come along with that. And I’m not sure I need to keep contributing to the Kardashianification of America where scrutinizing someone else’s life is more commonplace than examining one’s own.



The Kim and Kanye Nuptials: Cause Jealousy Is Just Love And Hate At The Same Time

I typically refrain from writing about pop culture because this is a personal blog, and very rarely does my personal life intersect with popular culture in a way that compels me to write. However, I believe in writing about what is top of mind and today, for better or worse, the Kimye wedding inundated my brain.

If you are one of those people rolling your eyes because I’m giving more ammo to the SEO power of Kim and Ye, sorry that I’m not sorry. Perhaps I will be less vapid and more thought-provoking tomorrow. Perhaps I won’t.

I didn’t realize Kim Kardashian and Kanye West tied the knot on Saturday (maybe I’ve been living under an entertainment rock) until I caught a glimpse of E! News as they recapped that Rob Kardashian did not attend the ceremony. After that, I read articles here and there about the wedding. And, like many others, I marveled at the newly-released photos of Kim’s gown. But, I stood in even more awe of the “Just Married” motorcycle jackets the couple donned post-ceremony.

While bingeing on all of this entertainment junk food, I secretly hated myself, wondering why I cared even a little bit about these two people. There was a time not too long ago when I stopped watching anything on E! because I was just plain tired of The Kardashian Kingdom. Yet, in the past few days, I’ve been a moth to the Kimye flame.

As she often times does, Jessica Schiffer can take credit for the change in my mindset. I read her piece, “The Wedding of Our Time: Another Love Letter To Kimye” on Saturday and it struck a chord. Schiffer writes:

But Kanye West—he of inappropriately timed comments, a give-no-fucks-ever attitude, and a talent for general existence that is unmatched in pop culture—settling down? That would be worthy of our eyeballs in and of itself, but it’s even more so because he is marrying the Kim of all Kims—another figure who produces a strong reaction in the general public, with society’s collective insecurities and emotions constantly projected onto her innocent and wildly successful figure. It often seems that people rally against her simply because she bucked the system better than the rest of us.

“She bucked the system better than the rest of us.” Holy shit. She’s right.

I think it’s very easy, almost too easy, to turn our noises up at Kim Kardashian and castigate her for not following a traditional, American Dream, route to success. It’s also easy to do the same when it pertains to her spouse, particularly when we couple his success with his general assholery. But, it’s also our responsibility to look at ourselves and wonder what’s the true source of our disdain for these two people who have undoubtedly caused a cosmic shift in 21st century entertainment. Maybe we are simply annoyed by Kim’s voice. Maybe our skin crawls every time Kanye cuts someone off while they’re mid-sentence. But, something tells me it’s more than that.

Jealousy and resentment are emotions born out of a one-dimensional view of someone’s life, success or circumstances. Our views of Kim and Kanye are one-dimensional, our perceptions formed based on the sliver of details we know thanks to television episodes or radio interviews. That one-dimensional view makes it easy to forget that they are both as human, as flawed, as complex as the rest of us. That one-dimensional view makes it easy to forget that these two people fight and love and cry and hurt like the rest of us. That one-dimensional view makes it easy to be so much less forgiving of these two than we would be of ourselves. That one-dimensional view can make us really small beings if we let it.

It is very easy to both hate and love that which you do not truly know.  Jealousy is a snake of an emotion, often times inhabiting its possessor very quietly and then shooting out to spit venom into someone else when least expected. But, it’s also a natural response when we want something that we can’t have or we fall into the abyss of comparing ourselves to others. It’s easy to grab jealousy instead of trying to change ourselves. It’s easy to snatch jealousy instead of playing the cards we were dealt and not coveting the ones we were not. It’s easy to seize jealousy instead of accepting that Kim’s ass will always defy gravity, Kanye’s irreverence will always make headlines and these two people may very well live happily ever after.