When discussing the intersection of culture and art, American poet Aberjhani said it best: “The American identity has never been a singular one, and the voices of poets invariably sing, in addition to their own, the voices of those around them.” The new web series Brown Girls tells the story of two twentysomething women of color navigating their sexuality on Chicago’s South Side. The show not only brings to life the Chicago roots of its creators but gives a voice to women and queer communities of color everywhere.
This month, Brown Girls premiered on the digital media platform OpenTV. It was written by Fatimah Asghar and directed and produced by Chicago native Sam Bailey, who is also the creative force behind another Chicago-set web series, You're So Talented. Bailey says her main goal for Brown Girls is to develop a world that audiences will find familiar.
“We shot everything in Pilsen because a lot of our crew and cast live in that neighborhood, plus it’s already a culturally rich location in Chicago,” says Bailey, adding that everyone is invested and connected to the stories being told onscreen.
That personal touch extends to the relationship between the show’s two main characters, Leila (Nabila Hossain) and Patricia (Sonia Denis). The characters are inspired by the real-world friendship between Asghar and Chicago musician Jamila Woods, who also composed much of the music for the series.
The entire seven-part series (each episode running between 7 and 14 minutes) was released February 8 on OpenTV and on the show's website. Ultimately, Bailey says the series endears viewers to its main characters and makes them feel part of the hilarious, and at times dramatic, world they share. “If you write specifically to your own point of view, the story becomes universal,” she says. “There’s universality in the personal, and I think that people are going to find that in this series.”
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