Aunjanue Ellis throws her head back and lets out a boisterous proclamation, “I am Hippolyta.” At 51-years-old, the seasoned actress appeared on TV fully naked, displaying her real body in its mid age glory. Something we rarely see on TV, let alone in Black skin. Lovecraft Country’s ‘I Am’ episode, was a futuristic and prehistoric journey this Sunday night and I can’t get it off my mind. It was so memorable because we got to see a Black woman have her moment…to vent…to scream…to reclaim and walk in her light. A Black actress bared her natural body as the lead of an entire episode.
Ellis poignantly embodies Hippolyta — a scholarly woman whose vibrant glow has been diminished by her eager husband George (brilliantly played by Courtney B. Vance). Hippolyta is a strong character whose stern glares and arched eyebrow speaks volumes. Upon episode seven, Hippolyta finds herself on a journey to the future, the past and back to her present where she finds the strength to speak her truth and reclaim her voice.
If you’re a fan of Lovecraft (and you should be because it’s an incredible whirlwind of a show), you probably stopped and marveled Jurnee Smollett’s svelte and petite frame in her perfectly tailored ensembles. If you’re like me, you may have pinched your stomach in a “fatty” place or two. I thought, “Sis has no body fat.” And for a moment, I got lost in the perfect TV body. Fast-forward a few episodes and I’m screaming “I am Hippolyta” with triumph as I’m reminded that my imperfect body, which carried a baby, is more common than Hollywood and social media makes it seem.
“I am” was an epic episode for more than Ellis’ nude scenes, it allowed a Black woman resolve. It was reminder than real bodies matter.