Your twenties are all about figuring sh*t out. And for Hattie, Marie and Nia — the cast of BET’s Twenties— that also means navigating career, relationships, social media and most-importantly sisterhood. Hattie, played by Jojo T. Gibbs, is a masculine-presenting Black woman pursuing a career in journalism. Brought to us by director Lena Waithe, Twenties checks the box for representation across the board. With three unique Black women portraying everyday women with everyday issues, Twenties is visual proof Black women are not a monolith.
Twenties is the first time a masculine presenting woman of color is a lead on a television show,” said Jo Jo in a candid chat. “That’s extremely significant because there are so many girls like myself who, you know, I wasn’t necessarily masculine presenting growing up, but I was attracted to women and I, I felt very alone in that and very scared and fearful in my thoughts.” According to Jo Jo, “It would have significantly helped my mental state and emotional state growing up if I had seen someone on television that I could say, ‘Okay, I’m not the only one’ or ‘I’m not going through this alone.’ There are people like me and maybe they aren’t tangible in my personal space at the moment, but they are in the world.”
Jo Jo would eventually find the confidence to come out to her mother and she assumed the “floodgates” would open with dozens of women flocking. it didn’t quite happen that way. She questioned if she was giving off the wrong “vibe” and soon she switched up her wardrobe.
“It was this lady, up the street, who used to boost men’s clothing out of her van. And I went up there one day. I was like, let me get all the smalls you got it,” she explained with a warm laugh. “I just started dressing more masculine and, you know, it wasn’t really necessarily like in terms of like my preference, it was just more like, this is way more comfortable. I can go to an event and wear flats instead of heels and still be cute and still be appropriate.”
Jo Jo brings that swaggy style to Twenties alongside her co-stars Christina Elmore and Gabrielle Graham, who are forms of representation in their own respects.
Art imitates life for the rising starlet, who said she shares many characteristics with her character Nia.
“She is a quirky spiritual yoga instructor. Very like much in love with love, waiting to find her one; kind of saving herself until she finds the one. But she also has this passion for acting. And then the first season we see her, she’s kind of scared to get into it because she’s afraid of the failure that might come with it because she used to be a child actor.”
For Graham, a Canadian actress with strict Carribbean parents, landing a starry acting role was a dream come true.
“If you come from a strict background, her parents expected her to become a doctor or a lawyer. She’s sort of the black sheep of the family cause she moves to LA and she wants to do her own thing and doesn’t really have a job.”
Nia, Hattie and Marie lean on each other in the series. And on set, their sisterhood is as present as ever.
“[Jo Jo] makes me laugh, she’s hilarious. And Christina is the most loving human being that I’ve ever met, so they made me feel really comfortable.”
Christine Elmore, who simultaneously stars as Condola on Insecure, embodies Marie on the series. “I feel like I’m just the luckiest Black actress. I feel like my little girl at like 12-years-old, who this would be in the mirror pretending and doing my own shows in the mirror is just so proud of her adult self,” said Elmore about the blessing of being on two shows at one time. “I’m making stuff that you care about, that you think is good and putting it into the world with Black women, created by Black women about Black women. It’s epic. I feel so grateful for this moment in time, in my career.”
Sisterhood is the common theme throughout Twenties. These unique stories are what push the culture forward.
“We have not gotten to see characters like Hattie on TV centered front, and this show is about her. It’s about her and she is a masculine presenting Black woman. But it’s not about some stance or, look at me coming out. She’s living her normal regular life and we get to be a party to that. So we get to see this very specific story from a point of view that we never do. Normally when we see women who look like her on screen, there’s some trauma, there’s some tragedy and instead we’re watching her joyful, hilarious life and then to see her do it with her two straight best friends. It’s also pretty cool because that’s the kind of sisterhood that we don’t see either.”
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