Publicly holding your employer accountable is a risk for anyone, but it can be an especially large gamble for women of color in the entertainment industry. Last month, Riverdale’s Vanessa Morgan addressed the neglectful treatment of her character as the drama’s only Black regular cast member. Thankfully, her concerns were met with an apology from creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who promised to do better by her and other characters of color. Now Freeform’s popular drama The Bold Type is facing rightful scrutiny from one of it stars, Aisha Dee.
Dee plays Kat Edison, a queer Black department head for the fictional Scarlet Magazine. Though Kat has broken some barriers at Freeform, she has also made some curious choices, like getting romantically involved with a conservative woman whose views diverge beyond the perfectly respectable “difference of opinions.” Dee addressed that choice in a lengthy statement, which she posted on Instagram. “For the first time in my career, I got to play a character who was centered in her own narrative,” Dee wrote. “She wasn’t just the white character’s ‘best friend.’ She was empowered and confident, she approached the exploration of her queer identity with an open heart, and was met with nothing but love and acceptance from her friends. Kat Edison: unapologetic, outspoken, brave, the woman I always wished I could be. I’m ready to take a cue from my girl Kat. What would Kat do? She would take a stand and advocate for herself and all other marginalized voices to influence change.”
Dee went on to detail the ways that The Bold Type has failed to build an inclusive enough off-screen environment, even though it has benefited from and been praised for its inclusion of Kat. “It took two seasons to get a single BIPOC in the writers’ room for The Bold Type. And even then, the responsibility to speak for the entire Black experience cannot and should not fall on one person. We got to tell a story about a queer Black woman and a lesbian Muslim woman falling in love, but there have never been any queer Black or Muslim writers in the room. In four seasons (48 episodes) we’ve had one Black woman direct two episodes.”
In regards to her characters romance with a woman named Ava, whose father ran a gay conversion camp: “The decision to have Kat enter into a relationship with a privileged conservative woman felt confusing and out of character. Despite my personal feelings about the choice, I tried my best to tell the story with honesty, even though the Kat I know and love would never make these choices.”
Per Variety, a source familiar with The Bold Type said that the show has had queer women of color on staff, including a lesbian woman of color in season 2 and bisexual woman of color in season 3. The source also notes that in season 4, the writers’ room consisted of three people who identified as LGBTQ+, and five writers were people of color. However, this source doesn’t appear to specify whether any of these people of color were Black women, which Dee was careful to specify in certain examples. After all, the distinction matters.
Producers of The Bold Type, Freeform, and Universal Television issued a statement to Variety in response to Dee’s concerns, appearing to show support:
“We applaud Aisha for raising her hand and starting conversations around these important issues. We look forward to continuing that dialogue and enacting positive change. Our goal on The Bold Type is and has always been to tell entertaining, authentic stories that are representative of the world that Kat, Jane and Sutton live in — we can only do that if we listen.”