In January, the Blackish spinoff Grownish is set to make its debut on Freeform. It follows Yara Shahidi’s character of Zoey Johnson as she heads off to college and realizes, like the rest of us did, that adulthood isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
There is a lot of excitement over the upcoming sitcom, another Kenya Barris creation, but also a reservation or two.
One woman on Twitter actually said that she wasn’t interested in watching and pointed out that like series like A Different World, where Lisa Bonet’s Denise Huxtable became the main character, spinoff shows only seem to happen when the subject who will be the focus is “racially ambiguous.”
There is also a documented habit on television of Black characters who are of a darker complexion being replaced with stars who are light-skinned, so while the woman’s delivery of her point wasn’t the best, it’s in interesting conversation to have, nonetheless.
This tweet actually caught the attention of Shahidi who decided to respond. She might be biracial (her mother is Black, her father is Iranian), but Shahidi made it clear that when she steps out into the world, she is and is perceived as Black — not racially ambiguous. However, she could understand why someone might feel colorism played a part in the appeal her particular character had for a spinoff, and as she said, she is open to having a conversation about that.
The woman didn’t respond to Shahidi to have that chat.
The 17-year-old can clearly hold her own quite eloquently, but she also received some love from director Ava DuVernay:
Interesting enough, colorism in Hollywood is something Shahidi has been pretty conscious of and aware that she benefits from. She even had a conversation with Zendaya, who benefits similarly, about it in an interview they did together for Glamour recently and said, “my goal is not to be the face black girls.” Instead, she wanted to see representation of all kinds of young Black women in the hopes that “I am drowning [in a sea of Black girls].”
“I shouldn’t be the ‘accessible’ version of a black girl,” she said. “That doesn’t allow people to fully appreciate their heritage. I’m half black, half Iranian, and I’ve never seen a half-black, half-Iranian description of a character in a script ever. There’s more to do.”