The Duchess of Sussex and her guests explore the negative labels placed on Black women in the latest 'Archetypes' episode.
Meghan Markle, Issa Rae and Ziwe Fumudoh are pushing back at the idea of the “angry Black woman.” On Tuesday’s episode of the Duchess of Sussex’s Archetypes podcast, she spoke with the creator of Insecure and the Ziwe host about the stereotypical perception of Black women in media.
Meghan -- who revealed she recently discovered she was 43% Nigerian -- began the conversation with Ziwe, who shared that she often is told ahead of interviews that people fear her, and how that makes her feel "horrible."
"Usually when I'm talking to an interviewer, the first thing that they say to me is 'I’m terrified of you,'" the comedian tells Meghan. "And I'm like, 'Oh my god, that hurts my feelings.' I’m a sensitive Pisces, I don’t want you to be scared of me. That’s not my goal."
The host of the Showtime series admits that her interview style can be a little uncomfortable, but notes that it's not much different than white men in late-night television such as Andy Cohen and Stephen Colbert. However, in order to tone things down and make people a little more comfortable, Ziwe admits that she created a character.
"That’s why I wear pink," she says about her appearance. "That’s why my character is so hyper-feminine. It's because it sort of codifies the message of the show, I think. It’s like Barbie packaging and then you bite into the sandwich and it's barbwire."
When asked if the Ziwe character plays into the archetypes, the comedian says she does.
"I think she fundamentally plays into archetypes," Ziwe says. "So, to be the character of Ziwe, that is brash and rude and thoughtful, is in direct opposition to what a woman should be publicly, according to sexism."
In the second portion of the episode, Meghan gets personal with Issa as they unpack the perception of Black women in Hollywood. The former Suits actress and the creator of Insecure talk about how the words "b***h" and "difficult" have been used to negatively define Black women in Hollywood, and why they have flipped the connotation of each word.
The Rap Sh!t creator makes mention of how other Black women in Hollywood told her that being afraid of upsetting people will get her nowhere, and how she had to come to terms with the fact that she may be labeled as a "b***h."
"I never seek out being a b***h, that’s not an aspirational thing for me," she says. "I take the fear of being labeled as that when I want to convey my point of view, when I want to express my disappointment in something. When I want things to be better. Like, I take away the fear of being labeled as such. I shouldn’t have to fear that if I want something to be great."
Issa and Meghan both reveal that they have "coward their power" at times to avoid that perception but learned that it helps set a clear and intentional meaning.
"I'm particular. A. I think a high tide raises all ships -- we're all going to succeed, so let's make sure it's really great because it's a shared success for everybody,' Meghan says. 'But I also know that I will find myself cowering and tiptoeing into a room -- I don't know if you ever do that, the thing that I find the most embarrassing -- when you're saying a sentence and the intonation goes up like it's a question. And you're like, 'Oh my god, stop.' Stop whispering and tiptoeing around and say what it is you need. You're allowed to set a boundary, you're allowed to be clear. It does not make you demanding, it does not make you difficult. It makes you clear."
Issa admits that she takes the same stance. "My form of that is question qualifiers, 'Or maybe we can do something else,' always offering a backup and I had to stop doing that and just being like, 'This is what I want.' Because it is another way of cowering in your power and I’m just not interested in doing that."
In one of the more personal moments, Meghan asks Issa if she feels that as a Black woman in Hollywood she is allowed to be angry.
"Absolutely not. Because I can't lose my cool, I can't do that, especially as a Black woman, but also just even as a public figure now," Issa says. "Because people are looking for ways to justify their perception of you. That doesn't mean I don't get angry. That might mean that I will vent my frustrations to someone that I trust, get it out of my system and then go in fix mode. And I think even personality-wise, I'm always like, I don't want to sit in my anger too long anyway because what does that do? I want to work on fixing something, but I want to be allowed to have that emotion because it's a natural…like, it's an emotion."
Today, Issa has learned to be confident in the work and the image she puts out about Black women with her shows.
"I feel like I'm confident in my purpose and I'm confident in what I'm meant to do," she says. "And love what I do. But it took a while to get there. I'm so in this now place, that I forget that I was trying to figure it out."
Meghan has spoken out against the perception the world has about her. In an earlier episode of Archetypes, the mother of two revealed that she was taken aback during a conversation with Mariah Carey when the pop superstar called her a "diva" -- and how the conversation opened the door to reclaiming words.
“The quote-unquote fabulousness, as she sees it. She meant diva as a compliment, but I heard it as a dig. I heard it as the word diva, as I think of it. But in that moment, as she explained to me, she meant it as chic, as aspirational, and how one very charged word can mean something different for each of us. It's mind-blowing to me," the duchess explained. "And it actually made me realize that in these episodes, as I've opened the door for conversation surrounding the archetypes, that they try to hold us back. What I hadn't considered was that for some, reclaiming the words is what they feel will propel us forward."