There is nothing more beautiful than the love between a black woman and a black man, and it is especially profound when there is a compelling story behind the fight for that love when the odds are stacked against it. June 19th is the highly anticipated date for the romantic comedy, Love Is_, on OWN at 10 pm/9c. Mara and I had an insightful conversation about the show and the messages she wants to convey about the journey of life and love to the audience.
I understand this comedy is a true story about you and your husband. What inspired you to want to tell your love story?
It really is an honest answer to a sincere question that has been asked of me. For a few years now when I am on a panel or on Instagram, people ask me, ‘how are you guys doing this?’. I am from a generation of the women who were told we could have it all and I believed it. So I went and tried to get it, people are feeling that I have accomplished that and wanted to know will I write a book and I’m like, ‘ain’t nobody got time to write a book’. I thought maybe I can write a TV show in the spirit of a TV memoir and create a new tone in television and a new way to tell a story.
The show is inspired by a story about us and there’s a lot of facts in it but as a storyteller I have to create a license to manipulate those facts for better storytelling. The essence of how we did it and who we are is true. I really wanted people to know love is achievable if you define it and design it yourself and that’s what Salim and I did. I feel safe enough to do it at this time in my life because I feel that I achieved a vision that we had for ourselves. I would love to share that with people who really want to know and have a conversation about how do we do this. As an artist I am supposed to be able to reflect the human condition. What I want to remind everybody about our humanness is we are built from love not darkness. We are built from hope, aspiration and vision not just succumbing to the bumps in the road and living in our failures. I understand and have lived those moments. Everything is achievable when you look at things with the eyes of your heart and your soul and not what society tells you is valuable. You have to decide what is valuable to you.
In the first episode I observed there were various issues addressed such as the belief that light skinned females with long, curly hair were considered to be the most beautiful and a black male aged 33 didn’t have a pot to piss in. Please discuss why these issues were important to address.
That was exactly what was happening in that moment. I wanted to remind people where we were in 1997 and really where we progressed to. The light skinned conversation was big back then and our images were just being celebrated. The images on TV and in videos of what was considered to be beautiful was light skinned women with long, curly hair. That’s what people were talking about.
As far as not having a pot to piss in, we remember the 90s as being hopeful and prosperous. The reality is that in entertainment and sports wise we were progressing, but what was very real is that black men and women were still highly unemployed. The reality was brothers could not get a job at Blockbuster. That was real and I wanted to remind us of that time and how far we’ve come. That was a brother who sold everything he had so that he could come chase a dream. That’s somebody I want to ride with.
Please expound on the love and passion you possess for telling the stories of black women.
I have been having a conversation with black women from the beginning of my career. At the beginning of my career there were things that reminded me about the joy of celebrating our culture. It ignited in me what Debbie Allen was doing with the show, A Different World, and it reminded me that I can reflect beauty and be seen. Feeling seen allows the human person to step up and show up. When you show up and shine your light the world is going to see you. It is part of my mission that I am supposed to focus on. It is okay for the world to experience humanity through the lens of a black woman.
Check out the preview of Love Is_
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