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'Grey's Anatomy' Writer Felicia Pride Is Making Space For 40+ Black Women To Tell Their Stories

BOSS UP

Before 43-year-old film and television writer Felicia Pride made a career writing for shows like Queen Sugar and Grey’s Anatomy, she had vastly different plans for her life. A business major in college, she’d been pursuing a path in the corporate world, but got her first taste of the possibility of a career in writing. “In college, I had a professor who saw something in my writing,” Pride tells xoNecole. “[The professor] encouraged me to minor in English, but that’s more time and more money – both of which I [didn’t] have.”


Deciding instead to move forward with her business degree, Pride quickly realized the monotony of the corporate world was not going to keep her interests. On the side, she took on an internship at a Black-owned newspaper to satiate her creative impulses. “My first published piece was a review of Mary J Blige’s No More Drama album,” Pride says. “And when I saw my name in print – the byline – I was like ‘oh this is it.’”

It still took a moment for Pride to find her footing as a writer. “Freelancing is a lot of work,” she says. “You’re typically undervalued in many ways.” After moving to Los Angeles, Pride started working in film distribution – acquiring documentaries as an impact producer – a career that she immensely enjoyed because it allowed her to go to film festivals like Sundance for free. After being laid off, however, Pride saw that as an opportunity to return to her original passion of writing.

When she first moved out to California, Pride brought along the screenplay for her film Really Love – a romantic drama about two Black artists falling in and out of love against the backdrop of Washington, DC.

'Really Love' / Netflix

“There were so many ‘nos’ along the way,” she tells me about her journey to get her film on the screen. “There were so many white folks who were like they seen this film a hundred times and I was like, ‘with Black people in it?’” In her more than a decade-long process of trying to get the film produced, directed, and distributed, Pride met people like director Angel Kristi Williams. Williams boarded on to Really Love as the director after a conversation the two of them had where Williams expressed interest in wanting to direct romantic dramas. From there they took a meeting with MACRO where they pitched the film to a room full of people that included producer and founder Charles King. Even after MACRO bought the script, Pride says that it still took time for the film to get into production, get out of post-production, and then for Netflix to pick it up, and then for the streaming service to release it. Through all of this, Pride says that she learned a valuable lesson in patience and divine timing. “I never want to do a project that takes me ten plus years to get fucking made, but I do know that this project came out exactly at the right time.”

Really Love was slated to premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film wound up premiering virtually at the American Film Institute’s AFI Fest later that fall before streaming on Netflix in August 2021 and cracking the top 10 most watched list on the platform.

The time around which Really Love finally premiered was particularly auspicious for Pride. She was coming off of writing on her first TV show, OWN’s Queen Sugar and going into her next writing job with Grey’s Anatomy. Pride got into television writing because not only did it offer a consistent source of income, but it also gave her the opportunity to write more in-depth. “There’s something about the ability to do long-form storytelling,” she says. “To be able to see characters change over time, to track journeys – that I really, really love.”

Her time on Queen Sugar, which came through her spec script being sent to showrunner Anthony Sparks, taught Pride that it was possible to work in Hollywood and enjoy a respectful, healthy work environment, despite so many examples to the contrary.. “[Anthony] is an amazing leader. He’s kind,” she tells me. “So it shows you can do this job without abusing people.” As for her time on Grey’s Anatomy, an opportunity that arose during what she described was going to be a self-imposed “hot girl hiatus” on writing, she said that it gave her the chance to both write and produce. “It’s a beast,” Pride says.

Outside of her television work, Pride is ready to produce and direct her own work. Her multi-media production company Honey Chile – the name being an ode to Black women over 40 whom she describes as “honeys” – is set in motion to begin putting out projects dedicated to and created by middle-aged Black women, including podcasts (Chile Please), a TV series, and two Will Packer-produced films with Universal. “I came into the business when I was 35. I turned 39 in my first writer’s room, and I feel like I had a different kind of experience,” Pride says of why she’s so intent on making space for seasoned Black women to tell their stories. "I was able to bring the experience of a 39-year-old Black woman with Baltimore sensibilities who had whole other careers."

Pride’s first short film Tender, about two queer Black women that take place the morning after a one-night stand, became Pride’s first foray into directing, something she says she is excited to do much more in the future. “I wanted [Tender] to serve as a calling card for the kind of themes I want to explore in my work,” she tells me. “Which is: sexuality, sisterhood, Black joy, trauma.”

When thinking about the kind of career she wants to have, Pride looks to the novelist Toni Morrison for inspiration. “Writing for Black people is a legacy [of Morrison’s] that I want to continue."

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I was determined to set the mood and engage in some erotic self-focus by way of masturbation, and I wanted to do so with a little more variety than my wand vibrator provides. My commitment to almost daily masturbation was affirmed even further with the arrival of what would become my new favorite sex toy, the viral Lovers’ Thump & Thrust Dual Vibrator.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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