Danielle Brooks Celebrates All Things Feminine With Melanin With “Black Woman”

February 3, 2019  |  

danielle brooks debuts new single

Source: John Lamparski / Getty

Danielle Brooks is helping kick off Black History Month in big way. For her latest project she’s stepping away from the orange jumpsuit we’ve been used to seeing her in for the past six seasons as a star on the Netflix favorite Orange Is The New Black. Instead of using her voice to fight for equality and justice for her fellow inmates, Brooks is stepping to the mic to celebrate black women and praising the power of melanin in her new single “Black Woman” which dropped the first day of February.

Brooks is not at all new to the singing game. She already has a Grammy for her performance in the 2016 Broadway production of “The Color Purple”. In her new single she belts, “You want my thighs, you want my stride but not this melanin,” noting that the features of black woman are coveted among many, even if our actual experiences aren’t as nearly desired. For their We Built This series, Huffpost sat down with Brooks to discuss how exactly the single came about as well as how much she grown as an artist and actress over the years.

Brooks shared that the inspiration behind the single came from the need to continue to tap into her gift song and the belief that she was blessed with her talent to help serve. The 29-year-old shared she was looking to create an anthem for black women that was raw and uncut in a world where she feels prior anthems were somewhat watered down:

“I think I have heard a lot of black girl anthems but I felt what was lacking was … I felt like most of them had filters. I’d never really heard the nitty-gritty of those things that we struggle with every day. And throwing them at the world and say, “Hey. Can you hear my story? Can you see me?” And all of me. Not just physically but my mind, my spirit, my soul, my heart, can you feel that? Do you know what we experience every day? Do you care to know what we experience by the way in which you walk in your life?”

When it comes to maintaining her focus and staying positive in a world that subtly attempts to break black girls each and every day, Brooks shares that she’s no stranger to self-help books to stay motivated:

“I am a self-help book queen. I’m always trying to find joy. Because I feel like life is so short as we see with so many people in this business who don’t make it, or commit suicide, or whatever that is. For me, I’m longing to find that joy in a world that still will tell me that I’m not important enough.”

“So I look to God, I look to my friends, my family, and I keep myself grounded in what is real versus all this hoo-ha, all this noise, that is social media. And all the noise that is TV and all of that. So yeah, that’s how I kind of find that joy.”

When it comes to her growth on OITNB, Brooks who’s affectionately known as Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson on the show shares that although it’s hard to believe, she was once hesitant to use her voice and would often stumble over her words. The role was her first major television opportunity and she shares that if she’s taking anything away from her role on the show, it’s the confidence to speak up:

“When I first started “Orange,” I was really nervous to use my voice ― clearly as I was just stumbling over my words ― but being with those women, being under Jenji Kohan, getting to work closely with women like Laverne Cox and Uzo [Adaba], and Taylor Schilling, I got to surround myself with people who were unafraid to use their voice. And that really inspired me to be able to put my voice on a mic and use it for good.”

Brooks says her focus is on representing curvy, dark-skinned women who are often under-represented mainstream media and are repeatedly type cast as funny sidekicks to their slim and trim counterparts or matriarchs making Sunday dinner:

“I mean, really it’s only a handful of us that you have, Gabourey Sidibe is my girl, Amber Riley is my girl, myself. There’s a handful of us … but juxtaposed against the plethora of skinny white women out here or skinny black women out here, we’re not seeing enough.”

“And we have stories to tell, too. We’re beautiful. We deserve to be seen as such and not made as jokes or second best. And so I’m hoping that we can definitely move forward in that department.”

Brooks, who was born and raised in the South by a Christian family shares she has many role models including Tarana Burke and Michelle Obama, but ultimately her own story is what drives her:

“And I guess for me the thing that has motivated me the most is my own story. And that’s a woman who is curvy and dark-skinned, who grew up in the South with natural hair, and being OK with that when the world tells you that you might not be enough from what we see every day.”

“And so that’s been my goal, is to make sure that little black girls get seen and have a role model for whatever they want to do in life.”

You can read the interview in its entirety here and check out Brook’s single “Black Woman” below:


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