Y'all remember the show Girlfriends? It was my first introduction to what my 20s could possibly look like with my closest friends. For me, it was a nice dream for little ol' me to look forward to when I grew up. Now that I’m grown, honey, adulting is not a joke. There are many responsibilities to have, mistakes to make, and breakups to recover from. It is a struggle but a beautiful one. Today, there are a few shows that still highlight amazing Black women living their lives and navigating the ups and downs with their day-ones by their side.
These are the types of shows that remind us that while we all have our not-so-good moments, our girls are there for support, making life just a little bit easier. If you haven’t heard, there's a fairly new Amazon Prime series, created and executive produced by Tracy Oliver, called Harlem. This series is a comedy narrated by a character named Camille (played by Meagan Good) and includes her three best friends as they navigate their 30s in Harlem, N.Y.
One of the three best friends is Tye, a queer woman who left the corporate world and created her own dating app for LGBTQAI+ people of color, and she's played by the vibrant and loving actress, Jerrie Johnson. I figured it was only right to have a chat with Jerrie for an exclusive xoNecole interview and get to know the woman behind the Harlem series' tech entrepreneur.
xoNecole: [In 'Harlem'], we definitely see Tye's development throughout the show in her portrayal of what it looks like to show up for yourself and your friends. What's an important lesson you’ve learned about showing up in your own personal life?
Jerrie Johnson: Well, I’m a very drop-everything-for-someone-who-is-going-through-something type of girl. Literally last night, I was preparing to wash my clothes. My friend was having some issues and I felt she wasn’t in the best headspace. I got dressed, met up with a couple more of our friends, and we all went down to Brooklyn to see her. Now, mind you, I live in Harlem. People ain’t just hopping over to Brooklyn any given day. Now the thing with [my character] Tye is, she's really good at setting boundaries.
She mentions in a scene that she is not comfortable to share her business contact with her friend. For me, I would have been quick to text it for my friend without even thinking about it. Not to say that what Tye did in that moment was wrong or right. It’s just something that I am incorporating into my life now. Showing up for people differently than they show up for you doesn't make you a bad friend. You may not always be able to just get up and go to Brooklyn when your friend is in trouble. So, I am learning to show up by setting more boundaries.
"Showing up for people differently than they show up for you doesn't make you a bad friend. You may not always be able to just get up and go to Brooklyn when your friend is in trouble. So, I am learning to show up by setting more boundaries."
The show also talks about the trope of being a strong Black woman. There's a moment where we see Tye not wanting to be seen as weak by her friends. Are there moments during your day where you put self-care at the top of your to-do list?
There have been multiple moments in my life where I have learned to prioritize self-care. One example is when I was in undergrad, I was in a lot of activities. The amount of things I juggled with the amount of time I had still baffles me to this day. This was around the time of the Michael Brown incident, and I personally couldn’t even get out of bed. It was probably a combination of exhaustion and depression. There is a thing that happens with my body when I am exhausted. I start to lose my voice, so when that happens, I [know I] need to slow down.
What is real for me is that I like to show up 100 percent in every room I am in, but sometimes I have to gauge the amount of energy I can realistically give. I say to myself, 'Alright Jerrie, we only have 20 percent to give right now.' My body has been trained to go to that 100 percent level, but I have to reel it in and only give the 10 out of the 15 percent or just the 20 percent.
Admittingly, there is a guilt that we, as Black women, feel when we practice the act of self-choosing. What advice do you have for other women who struggle with saying the word “no”?
When a person first starts to create boundaries, guilt is a normal response, so don’t feel guilty about feeling guilty. I would say the first thing you should do is forgive yourself for the moments that you didn’t put yourself first. The second thing I would say is to recognize what the [reason] is for feeling that you cannot set boundaries. I am one of eight children—seven who are still alive—and I grew up in a household where my mom didn’t hug me. My mom didn’t come to my shows or give me that kind of support others seek from their parents.
Because of that, I overcompensate support and do not want people to feel the way I felt growing up. I leave myself on the line for others more than I should. It’s really about healing those childhood traumas to understand why we do the things we do. We like to celebrate people who are caregivers and people-pleasers. There is nothing wrong with tending to other people’s needs, but if it means leaving yourself in the dust, then it does turn into something that’s not okay. Lastly, empower your 'no.' Be proud of your 'no.' Practice saying 'no,' and revel in that good feeling you get after you say it.
"There is nothing wrong with tending to other people’s needs, but if it means leaving yourself in the dust, then it does turn into something that’s not okay. Empower your 'no.' Be proud of your 'no.' Practice saying 'no,' and revel in that good feeling you get after you say it."
In the series, we see how important it is to have a sense of community as you navigate through life. How important is it for you to have your main tribe or crew?
Growing up, I didn't really have a clique nor was I ever a cliquey person, so, when I was in undergrad, I yearned for that. You hear the stories from other people stating that they have been friends since their freshman year of college or they go on vacations together—you know, stuff like that—and I didn’t really have that. Now I have friends. But most of my friends already have their friend groups, and I’m like the plus one. So to be a part of the group now, with the friends I mentioned before, allows me to really appreciate adult authentic relationships. It is near and dear to my heart.
Life isn’t always easy, especially when you are juggling a career in the entertainment industry. When you feel overwhelmed, or you don’t feel at your best, how do you usually handle it?
Well first, I listen to a ton of Abraham-Hicks videos and that gets me in my bag! Then I like to listen to a playlist of my favorite songs that I know are going to get me out of the funk. I also try to write things out since I’m a writer as well. But if there’s any resistance to the first few things, I practice tapping, and I recite affirmations for myself. I will say things like, "I am feeling really unbalanced right now, but I love and accept myself." After that, I feel so much better.
Let's talk about the importance of wellness and self-care again. How has practicing self-care helped you become a better person as well as a better actress?
My favorite type of self-care is watching my campervan shows. I like to light my candles and maybe indulge in some vegan ice cream. I love HGTV, interior design videos, and I am obsessed with watching people create their own campervans and go off the grid. I think, when it comes to self-care, when we do certain things because it works for other people and it doesn’t necessarily work for us, we get further away from our true essence. If my first instinct is to go on YouTube and watch a campervan video, I can’t judge myself for it. I can’t say, “Jerrie, you can’t watch a campervan video for self-care. That is so weird. You should be taking a bath instead, or [to] do some yoga.'
If I end up doing yoga, I know deep down it’s not my truest desire. My philosophy is to always follow my desire. If I do what I desire for self-care, when I get a script or I’m on set, I’m not judging my instincts or desires for my character, either. It just helps me not to put restrictions on Tye or any other character I play. People do weird things. I know I do weird sh*t all the time and that’s okay. If I were to put limitations on Tye, it would have closed the box of all the possibilities there are for her to be.
"My philosophy is to always follow my desire. If I do what I desire for self-care, when I get a script or I’m on set, I’m not judging my instincts or desires for my character, either. It just helps me not to put restrictions on Tye or any other character I play."
What is your motivation to keep working toward your goals?
I do this for my hood n****s. I feel like I haven’t seen a lot of people just doing it for the 'hood. Because I have transcended into different areas in my life, people assume that I have this certain way of living, but in reality, when I go back home, I go back to the 'hood. My main goal is to really heal the 'hood. There are so many things I have learned from where I came from.
We are so used to being consumers and there are people who still do not know how to economize or capitalize off of their gifts. We can really branch out into fields that we didn’t think were possible, similar to what Tye is doing in Harlem. We are so used to having limited resources, [so] we have been forced to be creative in so many different ways. I don’t care to make things for rich people. I care to be an inventor or a creator for my people in the 'hood that are trying to find a way to be better but keep getting pulled back into the same cycles.
What does success mean to you versus happiness?
I think success and happiness are directly correlated. I feel like success for me is living in my authentic truth. Success for me isn't attached to any worldly possession. All of that comes and goes. I’m interested in figuring out how I can elevate the human species, spreading light and joy, and getting to the truth about what our purpose is. When I reach that level of seeing the results of my manifestations, then that is what happiness means to me. I am able to share the information I have learned to others. I want everyone to know everything that I know.
Reflecting on where you are in life right now, what would you say to your younger self?
I would say that everything is going to be alright. Don’t be so hard on yourself, and allow yourself space—room to breathe. I didn’t have the luxury when I was growing up to not be in survival mode. People would also say I was "too much" of something. So I would internalize that and be cautious about how I came off to people. I didn’t want people to criticize or judge me for simply trusting my own instincts. I'd encourage her to give herself grace and to understand that she is not responsible for other adults' feelings or behaviors. In my adult life, I have been reparenting myself.
I would [also] say to my younger self, I love you. There are so many people who love you and will love you. Everything will happen for you and don’t be stressed out about the how or when. Celebrate the now!
For more of Jerrie, follow her on Instagram here.
Featured image by Cecile Boko
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'K' is a multi-hyphenated free spirit from Chicago. She is a lover of stories and the people who tell them. As a writer, 9-5er, and Safe Space Curator, she values creating the life she wants and enjoying the journey along the way. You can follow her on Instagram @theletter__k_.
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30 Years Later: Here's Why I Think 'Living Single' Had The Healthiest Couples On TV
I don’t know about (some of) y’all but every time that I see a 90s movie or television program turn the Big 30 (or hell, even 20, for that matter), it definitely makes me feel some type of way. Lawd, where does the time go? Truly. And I definitely don’t feel any differently about Living Single — the show that, for starters, we all know Friends should attribute at least 75 percent of its success to since it basically gypped its entire concept from it. (Don’t get me started! Just know that you can read more about that very thing here, here, here, here, and here).
Anyway, there is so much to adore about the sitcom, even as it (rightfully so) plays in heavy rerun rotation to this day. There are the solid friendships between four Black women who remind me, interestingly enough, of the four hilarious seniors fromThe Golden Girls: Khadijah could easily be Dorothy; Synclaire would be Rose; Max would be Sophia, and Regine would be Blanche (wild, right?). There’s the beautiful friendship between their male sidekick neighbors, Kyle and Overton (Black male bonds are also a very precious and necessary thing). There are the relevant storylines, quick wit, and the kind of entertainment that most television shows today can’t even begin to touch (le sigh). Yeah, Living Single deserves all of the flowers to the point where I’m still pissed that it was canceled in the middle of its fifth season (although, thankfully, many questions were actually answered in the last episode).
Yet, even with all of this said, if I had to name my absolute favorite thing about the show, hands down, it’s the fact that when I stop and think of all of the shows that I’ve watched over the years (and it’s been a lot of them), Living Single is one where I think that every main love connection was pretty damn healthy. Not only that, but there is one couple, in particular, who I think a lot of folks could stand to learn how to love well and right from (heads up, it’s probably not the one you think).
So, in honor of the show being 30, humor me as I take just a few minutes to formally and officially shout out a few reasons why, when it comes to displaying Black love and hell, love in general, Living Single set the bar, raised it and then added tax — thirty years ago and present day.
Khadijah and ScooterGiphy
I like getting t-shirts made with pics of some of my favorite Black love couples. For instance, I recently got one done with Jesse and Angie on it (the real ones know who they are); folks always compliment me when I wear it.
There’s one couple, in particular, though, who’s been triggering the mess outta me for the past several months. It’s because, although I crown them as the healthiest fictional couple in television history (Black or otherwise), it’s hard as hell to find any good shots of them. Yep, that would be Khadijah (Queen Latifah) and Scooter (Cress Williams).
They were childhood friends who stayed friends. They always wanted what was best for each other. They didn’t let really good sex (remember their first time when Khadijah said, “We started kissing, and my clothes fell off!”) infect their friendship. Even when they got engaged, they broke it off because they knew that, even though the love was there, they were doing it (at the time) for the wrong reasons. They supported each other’s careers. Scooter was not threatened by Khadijah’s ambition (or other boyfriends; remember when she was about to move in with ole’ boy and Scooter was basically like, “I mean, I did pop in unannounced. My bad.”) Yet, he was also confident enough to tell her about herself sometimes (because if there’s one thing she hated, it was receiving correction and giving apologies).
On the flip side, when Scooter had to travel away for long periods of time, she didn’t put unrealistic restrictions on him. They both just kind of let each other be and allowed their love for one another to exist — even if it had to change different forms in different seasons of their lives. Their love was so full, real, and special that I truly believe that if Fox hadn’t “foxed” the show (SMDH), they would’ve gotten married — and had a really solid and drama-less union. Because the relationship was about freedom, respect, and friendship. And that is healthy as hell, y’all.
Yeah, HANDS DOWN, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to relationships to me. Who gives AF about Rachel and Ross (from Friends)? Khadijah and Scooter have always run crop circles around them in my eyes, chile.
Synclaire and OvertonGiphy
I already know that most of y’all probably think that I should’ve led with Synclaire (Kim Coles) and Overton (John Henton) since they were definitely the most popular couple on the show (again, I had to go with my personal favorite, though) — and with just cause.
All of the “day ones” remember that the first episode of Living Single featured Overton seeing Synclaire for the first time and instantly being drawn to her and her quirkiness (like that big ass troll doll that she rolled up to the brownstone with). He pined away silently for what seemed like forever as he was low-key courting her in the process (like when he faked being an accounting expert just to spend time with her). When they finally did get together, Synclaire and Overton took their time before having sex and yet were super affectionate and doting on one another in the meantime; this serves as a great reminder that intimacy doesn’t have to require copulation. They openly communicated their needs and expectations. They shared a liking for some of the strangest stuff around.
Overton had a way of being protective yet supportive of Synclaire (like when she was naked in that play), while Synclaire had his back when it came to things like resolving matters with his ex (remember when he kissed his ex and realized he was really over her? Classic). Something else that was cool about Synclaire and Overton is you saw dating go to courting, courting go to engagement, and engagement go to a traditional church wedding. They were sweet. They were old-fashioned (without being super critical of the other couples). They were adorable. They had a not-perfect-yet-very-uncomplicated kind of love. And isn’t it grand to be reminded that Black love can be just that way?
Synclaire and Overton are the kind of relationship that a lot of us probably imagine our great-grandparents had back in the day. And if anyone on this list is probably still together with some grandkids who also have troll dolls and tool belts for toys, it would be them. No question.
Maxine and KyleGiphy
These two right here, boy. Definitely, the couple who was the most fun and entertaining to watch consisted of Maxine (Erika Alexander) and Kyle (TC Carson). And can we take a moment to shout out the trendsetting hairstyles Maxine had and how intentional Kyle was about tailoring his outfits? Salute. Anyway, if any two people are an example that constant banter can indeed be foreplay, they would be it.
The clap backs were top-tier (and daily), and yet, there was a brilliance in their timing and delivery that makes them ending up together (eventually) make a ton of sense. Come to think of it, that’s what I liked the most about them — the way they let life mature some things in them both. When they had sex for the first time, they went on a date and realized (I think it was more Max’s fear than anything at the time) that good chemistry and great sex do not automatically make a solid relationship (which is mature as hell).
When they tried having just a sexual relationship (because the sex was so good), they were careful not to let it ruin their, I’m not sure if it was exactly a friendship (LOL), yet they were definitely solid advocates of one another. Even when tinges of jealousy would rear their ugly head (like when Kyle brought a woman, played by Kenya Moore, on a date), they were self-aware enough to reel it in, and when it came time for Kyle to leave for London (check out the backstory on why TC Carson actually left the show early here), even though he wanted Max to come with him, they didn’t “fairy tale” their journey. Kyle went on with his life, and Max went on with hers. Hey, it happens. Even with great sex and chemistry…to some, it happens.
Yet the best part about these two is how the universe has a way of making sure people who are meant to be have ample opportunities to accept that fact. And while it is a little wild to spin the story to where Max goes to a sperm bank and the sperm she gets is Kyle’s — I do adore that she ended up pregnant at a time when both of them appeared to be ready for a baby and a relationship together. Finally, there was full-circle peace — still loads of banter-foreplay but also a ton of peace. Well played.
Regine and Darryl
Okay. If y’all are true fans of the show, then you know that a fun fact is Regine (played by Kim Fields, who also left the show early; read why here) and Kyle dated briefly — which makes them another healthy couple when you stop to think about it because going from dating to a very sweet brother and sister dynamic? That doesn’t happen every day. And while some of you might be surprised that I didn’t go with fine ass Keith (Khalil Kain), Dexter (Don Franklin), who she ended up getting engaged to, or even the Jamaican writer Russell (Shaun Baker), who always got her to shimmy and who she said was a great kisser…I think there is another romantic connection she had who topped them all: Darryl, who was played by the late and great Heavy D — the ONLY celebrity who, to this day, I can personally say that I haven’t heard one negative thing about whether it was during his life or it was after his death.
Clearly, their relationship wasn’t super long-lasting because I couldn’t even find a GIF for it like I did for the others. Doesn’t matter, though. Darryl was a blue-collar brotha with a heart of gold, a strong sense of spirituality, a profound way of looking at life, and a comfortableness in his skin that actually got Regine out of a lot of her superficialness and materialism — and that deserves a lot of props all on its own. And because he taught Regine to look past the surface, even when they did break up, they continued having a deep respect for one another. So much, in fact, that when Regine found out that Darryl’s bride-to-be, Tina (Vivica A. Fox) was screwing around, she made sure to tell him because that’s how much she still cared for him. Beautiful.
Regine and Darryl are reminders that sometimes people come along to “refine our rough edges” so that we’ll be ready for who our “forever” is actually supposed to be. And yes, that deserves its own round of applause.
Can you tell that I watched Living Single more than a lil’ bit? Indeed and with no regrets, especially these days. Because sometimes, as I’m flipping through channels and I can hear my own self say, “TV really does hate my people” (which is another message for another time), it’s nice to see throwbacks that are full of integrity, humor and yes, healthy Black love. And as you can see, one that was in excellence is Living Single, for sure.
So, from the very bottom of my heart and with oodles of appreciation — Happy 30th, Khadijah and Scooter, Synclaire and Overton, Max and Kyle, Regine and Darryl. You will always be necessary…because healthy Black love always is.
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Featured image by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images