Black women, we need some things for ourselves. We need spaces, and events and people that/who will speak to uplift us, encourage us and let us know know of our voice, our beauty, our worth. Sadly though, there are people who are constantly trying to question the necessity of all of that. Black Girls Rock! gets attacked online every year. If a Black man celebrates Black women, he’s asked why he made it about race. And in the case of Yara Shahidi being asked about being a positive role model for young Black women, her co-star, Gina Rodriguez, had to make a moment about Black women one for women in general.
It happened when Shahidi and Rodriguez were being interviewed about their new animated film, Smallfoot. The interviewer, Xilla Valentine, took some time out to ask Shahidi what it’s been like having the major responsibility but also blessing to be a positive representation for girls her age and even older. It didn’t go as planned because Rodriguez decided to interrupt. But the interviewer stuck to his question, and Shahidi’s response made sure to shout out her specific “community”:
Xilla Valentine: You are just goals for so many young Black women —
Gina Rodriguez: For so many women! Women. Yeah. Yeah.
Xilla Valentine: So many women…Yeah, for women too, but for Black women we need people on a whole other level. How does that feel for you, to be so young and be a role model for so many people?
Yara Shahidi: It’s overarchingly just kind of surreal, but I have to appreciate the fact that the support comes from me just being me. So, luckily, I don’t have to promote some sort of facade to gain that support. But also, I feel like it’s been amazing because I get to be a part of such an incredible and thoughtful and brilliant community and so it’s very easy to just be constantly motivated and inspired because you look next to you in any which direction and there are people that are continuing the work in another industry, in another area of your life.
Thankfully, everyone handled the situation positively. And while Rodriguez may have been trying to compliment Shahidi by saying she is a role model to much more than just Black women (she said on Instagram that “my intention was to express how all women look up to Yara“), the way she said it during the conversation, which she momentarily wasn’t a part of, made it seem like she was attempting to correct the interviewer. When it didn’t work, she could only sit there with a tight smile after having her rebuttal denied. Valentine would tweet later that he asked the question while thinking of his daughters.
This isn’t the first time Rodriguez has been criticized for her way of looking at representation. When the anticipation for the release of Black Panther was quite high last year, she wanted to know why there weren’t more Latinx superhero representations.
And when she shared in an interview what she thought would be a great superhero story line, she was criticized for trying to sanitize history, particularly colonialism and slavery.
Therefore, exchanges like the one she had with Valentine are no longer a shock or an anomaly for Rodriguez. You can see how that went below:
But people aren’t afraid to call her on her stuff, just as they were in this instance. Check out all the responses to her emphatic women refutation by hitting the flip.