Amanda Seales Talks Comedy, Sexism and Carefree Black Womanhood

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Amanda Seales Talks Comedy, Sexism and Carefree Black Womanhood

Amanda Seales, the dope carefree black girl with classic facial expressions worthy of a trademark, is one of the most dynamic voices of her generation. In 2016, she continues to fiercely bring a fresh perspective to conversations about the empowerment of women and marginalized people. Paste caught up with the multi-talented actress, comedian, host and pop culture commentator, who opened up about her web series Get Your Life, other projects and the importance of creating content that is funny and thought-provoking, but always real.

“I bring the intellectualism to talking shit,” Seales declares. “We’re gonna keep it funny but we’re always gonna keep it real.” She goes on to explain that, as a black woman, it’s important that she get recognition for her work. “Because I want to inspire other black women to continue to do their work.”

Seales, who has a Master’s degree in African American Studies from Columbia University, was recently recognized by The Huffington Post Black Voices during Black Future Month for her creative work in bringing visibility through black representation.

Seeing the absence of diverse voices in media, she created a web series, Things I’ve Learned This Week: Blackurate News in 2013, tackling social issues, Hip-Hop and pop culture.

“The news media is so inherently racist that, not only does it not speak to the black community or even the communities of color outside of white people in this country, but [it] also doesn’t even address us properly, with the blatant use of words like ‘thug’ or the misappropriation of culture, of victims… I could go on and on,” Seales says.

With an ever-evolving platform that challenges stereotypes Seales is not only speaks out against racism in the media, but she’s also empowering people of color to be “more pervasive” in how they speak and respond to ignorance.

“I know some people would be like, ‘Why are you responding to these racists on Twitter?’ Sometimes it’s for the purpose of letting them know they’re being watched, and that they’re going to have to answer for their words,” Seales explains. “[It’s also] for the people who are watching me to know—Yo! You can speak up. I feel like there’s a lot of folks that may say to themselves, ‘Oh, I don’t want to say nothing to people, or I don’t know what to say. And I like to be able to show them, you don’t have to take shit from anybody.”

Though she acknowledges one flaw when it comes to being a black woman devoted to keeping it real.

“I feel like if I were a little more chill if I were a little more amenable, less abrasive, I’d be way more famous by now.”

Seales has gained supporters from the likes of Ava DuVernay and Kendrick Lamar. Since transitioning from a career in Hip-Hop (including working as a VJ for MTV2) to comedy, she credits doing stand-up as an element of helping her further hone and elevate her voice.

“I want to see my career evolve into limitlessness. I want to be able to do what I want to do and have people care about it,” Seales said. “And it’s not saying that the whole world has to care about it, but I want to be able to create work at the level of quality that I believe in, with the support of large names and large brands and global visibility.”

She approached Issa Rae, creator of the web series Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, with an idea for a comedic series Get Your Life documenting the comedian’s venture from New York to Los Angeles and all the hilariously unscripted happenings in between. The series, released on Rae’s YouTube channel in October 2015, was met with high praise from fans and respected actors, including actress Gabrielle Union, who called the series “genius.” Academic professor Michael Eric Dyson and singer Maxwell have also publicly declared their fandom.

“I knew I needed to write a series, and I knew that I wanted to write something about my life, because it’s very crazy and silly,” Seales said.

Episode three of the series entitled “Girl, Get Your Pineapples” centers on a Netflix and Chill session that ends uncomfortably after she’s told by her date that she “tasted weird” and proceeds to research how pineapples can enhance the taste of her “goodness.” Actress Cree Summer is known to die-hard A Different World fans as Freddie, and she makes a guest appearance to empower the comedian. (“She’s hilarious and sweet and dope and a rebel…my Freddie godmother,” Seales says.”)

Summer, who met Seales on Twitter, was one of the few actors who actively supported the web series in the beginning.

“When we met in person, I was telling her about some of the difficulties I was having with actresses and getting them on the show, and she was like, ‘Well, screw that! You ain’t gonna have no trouble with me. Let me know when you want me to come through.’ When I showed her the concept, she thought it was hilarious and she was like, ‘Let’s do it,’” Seales says. “It was dope that someone who I consider an icon, and who I grew up watching, and whose work I love was just so willing to take a look at my project and then when she liked it, supported it.”
Her 2014 appearance on CNN (about the discussion of street harassment towards women and challenging sexist perceptions) went viral. Her hilariously epic reaction to the male guest who argued that “There’s nothing more that a woman wants to hear than how pretty she is,” was a highlight for many viewers.

People fell in love with the segment because Seales not only disagreed, but flips the script.

“Do you speak to men that you don’t know in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable? Do you address men about their bodies, about their looks in public spaces?” Seales said. “Furthermore, do you address men that you don’t know with an expectation that, if they don’t respond to you, they deserve to be hurt?”

This inspired the creation of the Side-Eye Seminar: Identifying, Challenging & Ending Everyday Sexism, where Seales travels around the nation, including on college campuses, to start a needed dialogue amongst young people, especially men. Her vision is to keep it growing to reach more diverse audiences.

“I’m surprised by how many guys come up to me after every show, ‘Thank you. We appreciate you, we appreciate your message. You know…I just didn’t know,’” she said. “I’ve kind of found a sweet spot with the Side-Eye Seminar and being able to talk to men of that generation in a language that makes them feel responsible as oppose to attacked. It’s about empowering, and once they get information, they’re empowered.”

For Seales, everything she puts out in the universe is simply bringing her a step closer to the breakthrough moment in her career, though she admits that she often asks herself, “When is this shit gonna hit?” She credits her supporters for encouraging her along the way.

“I’ve got a lot of stuff up my sleeve, and I’m waiting… I’m never waiting. I’m preparing for when that thing hits like ‘brrrat, brrrat, brrrat, brrrat!’” she says with a laugh. And so are we.