Her Kind of Black Women: Actress Bria S. Henderson
By: Kailah Lee
Despite your preconceived notions, Black women are not monoliths. She’s unique and diverse but most people see her as the media’s archetype. She’s over-sexualized, angry, and unsophisticated, and if her features are too Black, she’s typecast and underappreciated.
Too many sisters have fought the battle to be seen authentically and ABC’s The Good Doctor, and FX’s Mrs. America’s Co-Star Bria S. Henderson knows this fight all too well.
“…As a dark skin black woman, as a woman of size, I’ve always had to fight to be seen in spaces I wanted to be in,” Henderson said in Exposure Magazine Interview.
How often do we see the non-ambiguous Black women shine—the dark-skin Aunt Viv’s, the Issa Rae’s, and the Viola Davis’? Dark-brown sisters with class, realistic figures, and natural hair exist and the world needs more of this representation.
Young Black girls need to see themselves properly because perception is reality and “Our perceptions influence how we focus on, process, remember, interpret, understand, synthesize, decide about, and act on reality,” Jim Taylor, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today.
Henderson emphasizes this importance by saying, “I want chunky dark skin girls to watch tv and be proud to see themselves in her,” because she was that little girl searching for diversity and inclusion.
And through time Henderson bloomed–now bringing nuance to her work. However, her journey was nonlinear and damn hard. She Graduated from HBCU Spellman College and went on to receive her MFA from The University of Washington, but this is where reality set in. Attending a PWI meant her Black was now the elephant in the room.
“I felt like Dorthey in a sense… I wasn’t home anymore, HBCU’s–they nurture us…we’re being birthed and molded and crafted into free-thinking people…” so once “you leave a place like that… you have to exercise the tools and the morals they give you,” said Henderson.
It was a slap in the face to leave an environment that emphasized her worth as a Black woman just to enter a place where opportunity was handed to less deserving white counterparts.
Darker Black women are in this constant battle to be treated fairly and exist normally. Thus, the Black women’s fight to get half as what her white counterparts get, shouldn’t be seen with endearment.
“The titles that always get labeled on us as compliments are strong and resilient…and I’m like those aren’t complements, that’s survival…that’s just how we get the bare minimum, Henderson adds “that’s actually an insult– that’s traumatic–that’s harmful.”
It can only make one wonder “what’s the expiration date for us to fight for the minimum” Henderson laments.
Nevertheless, women like Henderson—high-value women, who break glass ceilings and carry themselves with conviction are how Black women progress.
Henderson is strategic, she picks the battles she’s willing to die on the hill for and lives a life of substance outside of her roles.
It’s not easy being in her position, breaking the norms for Black women “it feels like pressure,” Henderson says, but she sets the stage for more women and young girls to uphold their excellence.