Jenna Bush Hager’s Interview With Pharrell Is The Manifestation Of Needing To Be 10x Better

January 9, 2017  |  

Last night, you may have stumbled across Pharrell’s epic side eye. He made it during an interview with NBC correspondent Jenna Bush Hager. On the Golden Globes red carpet last night, Bush Hager stopped Pharrell to speak to him about his latest project, the reason he was there. And things went left.

“So, you’re nominated for ‘Hidden Fences’…”

In case you missed it, the movie that Pharrell produced is called Hidden Figures. But it didn’t stop there. Perhaps we could have forgiven her for flubbing the title. But the rest of the question was ridiculous.

“…How cool is it? You said that this party’s known for a little drinking. Are you thinking you’re going to partake?”

Hidden Figures is about recognizing a group of people who are often pushed to the margins of history, or entirely forgotten. It’s about a seminal event in American history that feature the accomplishments of Black folk and women. And Jenna Bush Hager, with her hand firmly gripping his shoulder, took the opportunity to ask Pharrell about drinking.

His subsequent look said it all.

As notorious as Jenna and her sister became for their drinking and partying, you think she would shy away from the association. But that didn’t stop her. And later, in the full interview, Pharrell corrects her, not for saying the title of the movie incorrectly, but mentioning the fact that it was not him who mentioned drinking, it was Jenna.

What made matters even worse was the fact that once the actual award show started, actor Michael Keaton continued the blunder by calling the film ‘Hidden Fences’ again as he spoke from the stage.

There were some who argued that Jenna’s confusion of the two Black movies pointed to her being racist.

It wasn’t racist. It simply speaks to the ways in which White folk see Black people as a monolith. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with labeling movies with predominately Black casts as “Black movies.” But I can see now why it can be such an issue. They’re all lumped into the same category and it’s not accurate or fair. I’m reminded of Gina Prince Bythewood and her frustration with

I’m reminded of Gina Prince Bythewood and her frustration with Beyond the Lights being categorized with movies and shows like “Being Mary Jane,” The Favorite Five, starring Brian White, Pastor Brown, Nollywood film Knocking on Heaven’s DoorA Mother’s Love, Note to Self and episodes of “A Different World” on Netflix’s “More like this” section. If you’ve seen Beyond the Lights and any of these other shows or movies, you know that they are nothing alike. Nothing. It’s the equivalent of suggesting someone watch The Godfather, Casablanca, Mommy Dearest and The Matrix after Sleepless in Seattle.

There really is no connection.

Yet, because the casts of both movies are predominately Black, the assumption is that they must be telling the same stories.

It speaks to the fact that stories about Black folk have been excluded from mainstream award shows for so long that when they finally do make it, they’re lumped together in their own genre: Black. The grouping, apparently, is not enough. How about we just go ahead and combine the titles to make it even easier?

It’s always been ridiculously obvious that Jenna Bush Hager was awarded this job because she was the daughter of the former president. I’m not totally opposed to nepotism if the person is actually capable of doing a good job. But when it comes to Jenna, it’s painfully clear that there are scads of people infinitely more qualified to hold this position. And trust me, I’m not saying that because she messed up the name of this movie that she deserves to be fired. I’ve watched her. And from the time she came on to the show as a correspondent, she’s been less than great at it. With exceptions, like speaking about her political family members, Jenna never really appears comfortable or prepared to be in front of the camera. In their write-up of the incident, the Daily Mail, mentioned that Jenna spent the holidays with her parents and had just come back from a vacation in Florida as if these facts were meant to excuse her faux pas. I rolled my eyes when I watched the video and I rolled my eyes reading the Daily Mail trying to turn this story into a portrait of Jenna: the family woman.

The 7-second clip dominated a significant portion of the Golden Globe conversation last night because it was so symbolic of White privilege and the messages our parents preached to us about having to be ten times better than White folks to get half the opportunities. It really should come as no surprise that Pharrell who has worked hard for decades, transitioning from one White dominated industry: music, to another: movies, would find himself being interviewed by a woman who by virtue of her family’s name got a job as an NBC correspondent, who has struggled to perfect the skills necessary to adequately perform her job. Our parents warned us about this. And her interview with Pharrell was a manifestation of it.  I’m not mad at Jenna. She has to do something productive with her life. And if I were offered a great opportunity for which I was under qualified, I would likely take it too. I’m mad about the fact that the way this country is set up, there are far too many Jenna Bush Hagers who consistently get all these “lucky” breaks.

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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