Funny. Sharp. Witty. Acute. All adjectives I would use to describe Latasha Mercer’s trailer for her upcoming web series, “Sit Black and Relax.” I watched it about a month ago, and I instantly knew I wanted to know more about the woman behind the work. Tonight Latasha, better known as JustLatasha, will debut a screening of the series in NYC to a sold out audience. In this Q&A, she chronicles her creative journey and discusses the inspiration behind “Sit Black and Relax.”
Tell us a little more about your creative journey.
I began as an on-screen entertainment host for my brand Dope Files in 2010. I got to do really cool stuff like cover exclusive celebrity events and several seasons of NYFW, as well as provide a spotlight for underground talent in fashion and music. Three years later I found myself burnt out and empty: I no longer found purpose in the work I was doing. I was just chasing an image for myself while portraying false images on my platform. I decided I wanted to create something with meaning, especially with all of the attacks Black people were experiencing. So that’s the birth of JustLatasha: the name reminds me to always be myself and live in my truth, while also shedding light on racial issues.
What inspired Sit Black and Relax?
Black women have several types to play in Hollywood: slave, maid, “sassy homegirl”, or the strong woman who saves the world during the day, while secretly having breakdowns at night. I wanted to portray a shocking image: a Black woman being normal. I was inspired by both “Broad City” & “Louie” and I wanted to have a Black woman having fun in NYC while experiencing dark moments as well. I also wanted to show how color influences friendships involving different races, and what those perspectives may look like. Race debates don’t always have to be a head-butting of white vs. black, even though that’s a very real and valid experience.
How is your own coming-of-age story represented in Sit Black and Relax?
Easy! I had arguments with my white friends. I actually used exact sentences from texts they’ve sent me and put it in the script. I just kind of wondered, “I’ve been your friend all this time and somehow you’ve missed that I was Black and that I have experiences directly and specifically tied to that.” I needed to give us Black people with white friends a voice and show the slight tensions that can arise when our issues are overlooked, even though we care about our white companions.
What do you hope viewers gain from watching your series?
I hope Black women feel they were heard and something represents them, especially the awkward, introverted and sometimes passive Black women, because we’re here too. And I hope our white friends can acknowledge said differences, learn, and drop their defenses when discussing race.
What has been the most challenging part of creating a web series? The most rewarding?The most challenging part was putting all of it together; production is no joke! Putting a team together, casting actors and getting locations were difficult and put me through the mud. It definitely toughened my skin to be able to make quick decisions, keep the team in a positive place, and to not take anything personal. The most rewarding part is completing it and showing myself my own power. I saw a bit of my alchemy.
How did you highlight serious topics like race while maintaining the comedy and humor of the series?
I completely exaggerated whiteness and how white people deal with Black people. My lead character is a Black woman named Maya, and she passively deals with whiteness daily, like we all do. So we get to see her boss being extraordinarily white and being completely oblivious to his Black staff by being offensively loving toward them. We get to see her date a white man who goes about adoring her Blackness all wrong. We also get to see how “afraid” media and police are regarding Black people simply occupying space of any capacity and so much more.
Who are some black women creatives you would like to work with in the future?
Oooh good question! Is Beyoncé an option? If not, she can just glance at me and it will resonate the same. I would LOVE to work with Heben and Tracy of Buzzfeed, Chescaleigh, Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes, and create Black superheroes with Ava Duvernay. Bree Newsome is a filmmaker too, so that would be dope.
What’s one piece of advice you’ve received as a creative that has stuck with you?
“It’s none of my business.” If people no longer want to be around, if something in the project falls through, if something was promised then it vanishes… Let it go. The “why’s” are a waste of time and it’s none of my business. Next.
Latasha is a Queens, NY native and cum laude graduate with a Bachelor’s of the Arts degree in Communication Arts. She started her first brand, Dope Files, in 2010, and was able to garner herself interviews with some of the most established names in Fashion & Music, such as Anna Sui, Pharrell Williams, Trey Songz, and much more. She ended Dope Files in 2014 in search of work with a purpose. This birthed her current brand JustLatasha; she films and edits bi-weekly comedic vlogs about race issues to her 4,000+ subscribers. This also led to her highly anticipated upcoming comedy web series, Sit Black & Relax, debuting March 14, 2016. This is her first scripted work, and she is more than excited to share more of her talents with the world. Connect with Latasha on Youtube @JustLatasha and on Twitter @JustLatasha404.