Amanda Seales and the Weight of the Real
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because being smart and funny while telling the powers that be to drop dead may well be the best revenge.
By Eugene S. Robinson
Amanda Seales punched the Dave Chappelle ticket. The one when, in one fell swoop, you become a refusenik in the most public of ways and blow the whole program. After making her way to co-host on Fox’s The Real, the comedian, actress, DJ, VJ, singer, writer and poet said screw it.
She did so for a lot of the same reasons as Chappelle, primarily the inability to be herself in a workplace that didn’t know what, or who, that self was, even when it was waving a pink slip in their faces.
It’s like Jenga. You’ve got to stop moving the pieces from the top.
“I did not renew [my contract] because it doesn’t feel good to my soul to be at a place where I cannot speak to my people the way they need to be spoken to,” said Seales in recent Instagram Live. “And where the people who are speaking to me in disparaging ways are not being handled.”
When your mother is West Indian, your father African American, you have a master’s degree in African American studies from Columbia University and you’re 38 years old, this is how you drop the mic. In the middle of a pandemic when job insecurity is very real, no less.
But it’s this kind of fearlessness that has marked Seales’ rise from a 12-year-old bit player to multi-hyphenate threat. After several records and TV shows, including a recurring role on the HBO series Insecure, Seales can afford to pick and choose. She has the juice where it most counts: an audience that loves her.
One such Seales fan is author Jimi Izrael. “She’s just sort of filled that sister-girl spot for me,” he says. “But here, talk to my friend.…” You can hear Izrael’s friend, Samantha Smith, in the background enthusing about Seales. “I love her unapologetic voice,” Smith says. “And that she’s not afraid to use her voice, her Black voice, to voice unpopular opinions. Which is to say: She really stands for her values.”
That’s something you hear repeatedly when talking with people about Seales. And something Seales is clearly hearing when people talk to her (at least people who don’t work at Fox). Her brand has worked her into a crown jewel spot — hosting the BET Awards later this month and doing just about anything else she feels like doing. That includes being a voice of clarity about how to shatter the system.
“It’s like Jenga,” Seales said on The Time Is Now: Race and Resolution, a town hall TV show produced by OZY in collaboration with History. “You’ve got to stop moving the pieces from the top. That’s what has to happen. You got to move the pieces from the bottom. You know why? So we can topple.”
Seales is resolutely still standing. So for now let’s call it the Chappelle Circuit, declare Seales a winner and watch for all of the apologies that will not be coming. Because it really doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to sticking it to the powers that be.