8 African American Women Ahead of their Time: The Influence of Pop Culture on my Womanhood

I used to be a huge tv junkie. I’m not so much into television these days, but when I do look for something to watch, it’s either a show that is no longer aired or a movie that was made years ago.

As I’ve gotten older and developed into this self-defined feminist that also stands in all of my blackness, I’ve realized how unwittingly influential the women I’ve watched on television have shaped my mindset about who I am and the power that I contain.

I’m sure there are plenty more influential women of all kinds of colors that I have missed out on, but these are just some of the women whose characteristics have had an impact on my own life.

1. Original Aunt Viv of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Although she may have a first class seat on the petty train these days, no one can ever deny that her character on Fresh Prince wasn’t the shizniyee. The depth that she gave to that character was not a role. You could tell that she believed in every stance she took on that show. From educating prep school students about Black History, to standing on her on as a woman and mother, to dancing her butt off against a younger group of women, Janet Hubert was it, honey. She lived a comfortable life without forgetting from where she came. She embodied the element of balance and grace (all while wearing some baaaad suits, y’all). Before “Aunt Viv Lite” or “Aunt Viv (The Remix)” came along, this character had power. She taught me that it’s ok to have a dominant personality, voice my opinions, and demand respect from my peers. So shout out to you, girl.

And for your throwback pleasure: Aunt Viv Dance Scene

2. Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show: Now, listen. To this day, nobody is touching the ever-so-fabulous Claire Huxtable. She was an educated, bilingual lawyer, with about 17 kids (ok that was a bit dramatic) and was still getting down to her business without breaking a sweat. Now, I know you all remember that infamous scene where she told Elvin about himself. She was clearly a woman with a feminist mindset, but still had an element of softness and warmth to her. Growing up, there were so many negative connotations I heard that went along with the word “feminism” that I was afraid to participate in the movement. I felt as though the impression was that if you are a feminist, you hate men and you’re not open to love from the opposite sex. Claire was a factor in breaking that barrier for me. She was so clearly in love with Cliff and would have done anything for not only Theo, but the spouses of her daughters. She helped to show me that feminism is not about “coping” with manhood, but that it’s about trying to live your best womanhood. She showed us that you can stand in your belief and still be full of love.

And of course…I have to share the scene where she got Elvin ALL THE WAY TOGETHER: Claire Huxtable Going for the Jugular

3. Maya Wilkes from Girlfriends: I’m completely obsessed with the show Girlfriends. I watch all of the episodes on repeat as I fall asleep (either that or The Office). The more that I watch, the more I admire all of the women in their diversity of black sisterhood. More specifically, Maya Wilkes was such an advanced character, that to this day it still shocks me. Although she is constantly poked at for being the “teen mom” of the group, she manages to hold her own. She goes on to attempt to go back to school while raising her son as a single mother after her divorce. She then finds her calling in life to be a writer and eventually pens a best selling book, entitled “Oh, Hell Yes!” Her character had humor, yet so much depth. Aside from Joan, we connect the most on an emotional level with Maya. We experience her getting kicked out of her home after her infidelity, her dealing with a teenage son, and even experiencing the loss of her baby and book deal simultaneously. Maya was the everyday woman who fought to make a name for herself. She was a reminder to me that we may have many adversities and things may not always come easy, but eventually hard work pays off.

Take a peak at her sassy attitude: Maya vs Toni

4. Maxine Shaw from Living Single: Can we get into the force that is “Maxine Shaw, Attorney-at-Law”? Listen…she had the original undercut along with dreads and was still killing it in the corporate arena. Hell, I want some goddess braids right now, but I’m afraid to take that into Corporate America. Maxine was a fierce force with which to be reckoned. She did a great job at being a lawyer and even went on to make the decision to have a child on her own (which coincidentally ended up being Kyle’s). Max was a free-thinker with a healthy appetite and she was never apologetic for it. She stood strong in her beliefs but was still a woman of the people. She made me feel as though it’s ok to be strong, independent, and self-established, and still have the emotional capacity for love and family.

Check out Max attempting to get her first tattoo.

5. Jaleesa Vincent from “A Different World”: Jaleesa, Jaleesa, Jaleesa. Where do I even start with her character? She was a divorcee that returned to college to better herself. She pushed herself to do her best in all of her classes, while still trying to experience the college life at a later age. Her character was so charismatic and well-rounded. She had the work ethic and determined mindset in school and in the workplace that I always wanted for myself. She was not afraid to say that love can wait while she focused on her career. She was driven to be the best, but was still vulnerable enough to share some of her insecurities as she did in the episode where she was too nervous to share her paper in front of the class. Jaleesa Vincent was a motivated individual but she constantly cared. She was the woman that everyone respected because she demanded it.

Jaleesa shows her softer side in love.

6. & 7. Florida Evans & Willona Woods from “Good Times”: Yes, of course I gave my favorite show of all time 2 slots. *kanye shrug* Florida Evans was the epitome of poor, black mom goals. She constantly did what she could to make a way out of no way for her family all while making sure that they were equipped to stand on their own. She pushed them to keep their faith in God and knew that better days would come for them. No matter how hard things may have seemed with James and his “temporary layoffs” (I know you sang that in your head), Florida still made sure that James never felt emasculated. She only pushed for everyone to do their part and she did hers. She was the true backbone of her family. Mom goals, indeed.

Now, let’s talk about my girl, Willona. Single goals AF. She was so proud to stand in her singlehood which was unheard of back then. She dated whoever she wanted and never put pressure on herself to get married again because others thought she should be. She even went on to adopt Penny (shout out to young Janet!) by herself. She did what she wanted and was unapologetic. She stayed fly in her outfits from the boutique and always had her best face forward. In other words, Willona was an all-around baddie!

Watch as Willona expresses her desires to not get too serious.

8. Lisa Landry from “Sister, Sister”: Hear me out here. Lisa Landry’s character was so slept on. She was a single mother that uprooted her life for the sake of her adopted child and twin sister. All the while she was there, although invasive a lot of the time, she made sure she fulfilled the mother role to the best of her ability for both children. Even in doing that, she still never lost who she was in the process. She came from a rough background, but still chased her goals constantly. She went from selling clothes out of the trunk of her car, to having a cart in the mall (despite it eventually catching fire), to ultimately getting to dress prominent people like the councilwoman. I admire her because she was constantly on the grind. She did what she could to have her own despite the fact that she was living with someone that could have handled everything for her. She never toned down her personality or who she was no matter who was around. She spoke and dress how she felt comfortable. Lisa was the cool mom who never got enough credit.

Check out this Best of Lisa Landry video!


All of these women had something to admire about them. Whether it was Lisa’s willingness to flaunt her sex appeal or Maya’s constant desire to become more than just a secretary. Every woman was their own definition of black womanhood. Every woman left a mark on my personality, my goals, and even the way I dress.

Like I said before, I’m sure there are plenty more but these are some of my faves. Who were some of your favorite/ most influential tv characters?

Road Rage

Both sides of my family are from the country. My mom is from Natchitoches, Louisiana and my dad is from a little town outside of Houston, TX called Needville.


The thing about growing up with a country family is that everyone learns how to drive at a really young age. We were all behind the wheel by the age of 10, driving through country gravel roads and stretching our necks to see over the steering wheel.


Fun fact: I had a car by the age of 19 (a silver ’97 3-series BMW that I was obsessed with and named “Bullet”), but I did not actually go and get my license until I was 23. * gasp *


The crazy thing is that I am now 26 and I have yet to ever get a speeding ticket. * knocks on wood *


But one of the main things I remember my oldest sister telling me when I would be driving was, “You’re not only driving for you. You’re driving for everyone else on the road too.”


Basically she was saying that any mistake I or anyone else on the road makes, it affects ALL of us as drivers, so we must all be careful.


But I’ve really been realizing lately that that’s how life works overall.


Especially in a time when we have a President whose decisions are literally changing the standards of our daily lives.


We are all technically “driving” for one another.


Not to say that you should base your life decisions off of what others tell you, but we must consider how our actions might affect others.


We can’t get on a dark road and swerve across both lanes and assume others will be ok because it was fun for us. Consideration is a key element to any functioning relationship. Key word: FUNCTIONING.


We are all so disconnected right now because so many are only thinking of personal gain and not using their blinkers to warn others that they are trying to get over.


I’m not just talking politics.


How many times in the past year did a friend do something to hurt or offend you or did a business partner or colleague do something for their own personal gain?


Sometimes our actions don’t match our intentions.


We may be trying to stay in our own lane and focus on our destination, but not realize the traffic that’s behind us.


I’m definitely guilty of it too though.


Sometimes I just want so badly to disconnect from the world and from life for a bit that I tend to block out others. It’s not even because something negative is happening in my life. Sometimes I just need space and to center myself.


But in the eyes of others, they usually tend to take it personal and think that they’re the only ones I’m blocking out, as if I’m angry or something.


The other day I was listening to the Black Girl Podcast and one woman shared how she sat down one day and just wrote down her accomplishments. (I suggest everyone to do this by the way because sometimes we spend so much time focusing on what we need to improve, that we end up not giving ourselves any credit.)


In reflecting on this exercise as I was driving, I realized that the main accomplishments I am proud of, are ones that I did alone. Not to say that I don’t work well in teams, but I’m realizing that I’m so used to doing things for myself, that it is basically second nature at this point.


Now this may not seem like a big thing. Initially you would think it would be good to show my independence, but the more I looked into it, the more I realized that there was only one thing on my list that I finished as a team and it didn’t feel right.


I realized how much this mentality carried over into my personal relationships. It’s not so much an issue with my friends, but with my significant others. I’m realizing that it’s probably the reason I question if I ever even want to get married. Subconsciously, I feel as though I don’t need another to be great.


In order to bring this full circle, I find myself “bulldozing” through and over guys because I’ve never felt like I needed a passenger. I had to look back to realize that it’s potentially affecting my future.


We have to make sure that our paths and methods of getting from Point A to Point B aren’t forcing others off the road or even causing us to get ourselves lost.


When was the last time you really looked over your life to make sure that your life is helping to benefit others in some way?


Don’t just drive for yourself. Drive for others, as well.


Stay blessed, people.

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Feel vs Field

I come from a big football family.
I’m talking about everything from people who used to play professionally to my mom and my sister battling it out over their fantasy teams to me playing the role of a football girlfriend for 4 years while I dated a guy who was chasing his professional dreams.
One thing I’ve always noticed throughout every rough tackle, every injury, every flip that lands a player on their back, there’s one phrase that constantly gets yelled out by the hardcore fans and coaches: “Shake it off”
Now I’m not the most emotional person, but when I see someone laid out on the ground, my first thought isn’t “shake it off!”
But I also had to realize that I hadn’t been at the practices or following the players’ history that closely enough to know if they have had issues with these same injuries before or if that player is more prone to needing a second to recover then being able to bounce back
That’s how it is with us and our relationships with God
Sometimes we go through things that hurt so bad or seem impossible to get through, but we hear our coach (God) in the background yelling for us to “shake it off!”
I mean…you’re literally laying on the ground, staring up at the ceiling, unable to think past your current pain and the person that is supposed to be helping you is yelling at you to get up and telling you that you’re OK.
At certain moments, it can seem impossible to get up, but you have to remember that God was there for every practice, every previous injury, every cramp, EVERYTHING
He knows how much you can take
If your coach was really scared that you were down for the count, he would be running out on the field to help you
Everyday we play on the field of life
Some days we get injured and some days we make big plays and score touchdowns
Some days we get an audible called and have to change our original route
Life isn’t always easy, but never forget, if God hasn’t stepped on the field, He knows you still have some fight left in you to finish the game
Keep fighting, friends.


Stay blessed

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