Editor’s Note: The arts and entertainment department is adjusting its grading scale from a letter-grade system to a numeric score out of 5. This change is intended to increase accuracy and consistency between reviews.
As queer representation in media is few and far between, there exists a dearth in particular of representation for queer women of color — yet “Brown Girls” does not exist solely to fill this gap.
“I’m not interested in (Brown Girls) being the voice of queer women of color. I’m interested in adding to that voice,” director Sam Bailey expressed in an interview with the Guardian.
Instead, “Brown Girls” provides insight into the lives and friendship of two 20-something women of color: perennially disheveled, queer writer Leila (Nabila Hossain) and self-purportedly cool and distant, though privately sensitive, musician Patricia (Sonia Denis). The web series reveals its protagonists’ amiable personalities, quirks and flaws through their conversations with family, friends, lovers and each other, an ensemble refreshingly composed solely of actors of color.
Uproariously funny and heart-wrenchingly honest, Denis and Hossain’s incredible chemistry and spot-on comedic timing make up the show’s impassioned core. Hossain, in her acting debut, portrays Leila with a charming earnestness and effervescence. In episode three, she provides one of the series’ most affecting scenes, giving her audience whiplash as they transfer from whole-hearted laughter to empathetic tears — and back again.
Denis, however, masterfully captures the ways in which her character bottles up her emotions, culminating in earth-shattering outbursts that disrupt her measured calm. A proclaimed “single girl forever,” Patricia’s attempts at navigating adult relationships are both outstandingly funny and overwhelmingly relatable.
Director Sam Bailey and writer Fatimah Asghar were adamant that people of color be the ones who tell their story. Not only does the cast of “Brown Girls” consist completely of actors of color, its crew is near-exclusively populated by women and people of color.
Asghar drew inspiration from her own life as a queer Muslim woman and based Leila and Patricia’s friendship on her own friendship with the series’ music consultant, Jamila Woods. Additionally, Woods created the “Brown Girls” theme song (ft. Lisa Mishra), with its notably chill, beach-like vibes.
The music within “Brown Girls” is one of its most laudable attributes. As the show is filmed on the South Side of Chicago, its creators ensured that not only its cast and crew were, by majority, Chicago creatives, but that the artists behind its tunes represented the diversity of Chicago’s world-famous music scene.
With gorgeously framed shots and sharp editing, the only flaw of “Brown Girls” is that it ends too soon. Not to worry, however: the series was recently granted an HBO pick-up.
Contact Caroline Smith at [email protected].