You gotta love a good show or movie with a strong black lead and story you can get lost in. Since we're no longer obligated to stay at home, you might find yourself ready to indulge in a little big-screen escapism---social distancing guidelines in place, of course. Even if you might be among those still putting a pause on sitting in a theater or joining a watch party, we've got something for you. (Hey, we don't blame you sis.)
Check out these 10 must-see films and shows featuring black leads, from horror, to comedy, to thrillers and beyond.
HORROR: Lovecraft Country
Jordan Peele (Get Out) is one of the executive producers of this HBO series set to debut in August. Based on a novel by Matt Ruff, it follows a man's journey through 1950s Jim Crow South in search of his missing father. If you're thinking, 'Well, where's the quirky, thought-provoking twist Peele is known for?' you can find it in the inclusion of forest monsters and strange zombie-like characters. The star-studded cast includes Courtney B. Vance (Cork'd, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) Jonathan Majors (White Boy Rick, The Last Black Man in San Francisco), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Underground, True Blood) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Empire).
DRAMA: Greenleaf, Season 5
We can't get enough of this Memphis megachurch drama, slated to see its final season on OWN this summer. The bishiop (Keith David) and his wife (the never-aging Lynn Whitfield) return with other mainstays Deborah Joy Winans, LeToya Luckett, Lamman Rucker, Merle Dandridge, and Kim Hawthorne. Oprah's also set to make an appearance, and there are reports of Patti LaBelle and Rick Fox showing up as well. (A spin-off is also reportedly in the works.) If you haven't caught up to all the drama, scandals, and secrets, all four previous seasons are available on Netflix, so go ahead and get your binge on if you haven't already. Be sure to catch the latest episodes of the final season airing on OWN Tuesdays at 9pm.
Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae. Need I write more? OK, well, if she didn't already wow you in Hidden Figures, at least intrigue in in Homecoming, or have you enjoying the luscious fabulousity of a being a black woman via her 2018 album Dirty Computer, I almost don't know what else to tell you. This psychological mystery, which will be available in theaters if all is back to normal by August 21, centers on an author who is transported into an alternate reality of Get Out vibes and Roots travesties. The thought of being placed back into slavery as a woke woman of the 2000s is already horrific within itself, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
An espionage agent who can bend time, wear the hell out of a tailored suit, survive beatings and near car crashes and doesn't have the name Bond? Yep, that's this film. (We love James Bond by the way, so that wasn't a dig.) John David Washington stars in this flick, set to hit theaters July 17. I'll go ahead and leave out the comparisons to the Original Mo' Betta Blues-giving, Equalizer-fighting, Malcolm X-swagged Zaddy out of this. (I mean, Denzel is his daddy, sis.)
NOLLYWOOD: Merry Men 2
If you like films like Ocean's 11, or Takers, you'll like this action-comedy available for streaming on Netflix. It showcases the glitz and glam of the Nigerian elite in an international adventure to fight corruption, steal from the rich, and give to the poor. Nigerian host and comedian Ayo Makun and musican-actor Falz star in this film along with other Nollywood vets including Ramsey Nouah, Ireti Doyle, and Jim Iyeke. This sequel takes things to the next level with a fierce female mercenary crew who give the four leading men a run for their money. This isn't your typical three-DVD soap opera drama you'd typically enjoy while getting those Marley twists redone at the braid shop, sis. (Though we love those, too.)
COMEDY: The High Note
Tracee Ellis Ross stars as a Hollywood superstar singer (a great nod to her real-life mom Diana Ross) and faces a career and life dilemma when her manager (played by Ice Cube) presents her with an interesting opportunity. If not for the fashion and endearing goofiness of Ross, you'll want to check it out just to see if the (musical) apple doesn't fall far from the entertainment royalty tree.
DRAMA: The Chi, Season 3
This Lena Waithe hit returns with the inclusion of new faces including RHOA's Kandi Burress, who plays the love interest of the show's gangsta lead Douda (played by Curtiss Cook). Actors from the previous season including Common (who plays Selma), Jacob Latimore (who plays Emmett), Yolanda Ross (who plays Jada), and Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (who plays Ronnie). Waithe makes cameo appearances, along with Luke James and La La. It looks like there will be a quite a few plot twists but one is no surprise since Tiffany Boone (who played Jerrika) and Jason Mitchell (who played her chef bae Brandon) won't be returning this season. Tune in July 5 via Showtime.
DARK COMEDY: I May Destroy You
British actress Michaela Coel is back with an eyebrow-raising depiction of how a woman deals with the aftermath of being slipped a date-rape drug. The series explores sexual consent, contemporary dating, and reevaluating life choices as a woman in London, and if you liked her quirky Netflix series Chewing Gum, you might be able to give this HBO series a chance.
DRAMA: Miss Juneteenth
This film, which was a Sundance Film Festival selection and a hit at SXSW, centers around Turquoise Jones (played by Nicole Beharie of Sleepy Hollow fame), a single mother and former beauty queen. She goes on a journey in getting her rebellious daughter to follow in her footsteps and how she navigates love, parenthood, forgiveness and redemption in the madness. The film is debuted June 19, the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, via multiple streaming platforms. You'll see a familiar face in Insecure's Kendrick Sampson (Issa's halfway-boo Nathan) who plays Jones' love in this film.
COMIC ACTION: Falcon & The Winter Soldier
Disney+ is debuting this series, starring Anthony Mackie as Marvel Comics' Sam Wilson AKA "Falcon". He's joined by actress Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) for this classic interpretation of the comic, and stars alongside Sebastian Stan (who plays Bucky Barnes AKA The Winter Soldier). Samuel L. Jackson is also rumored to return as Nick Fury in the six-part series set to debut in August. Each show will be released weekly versus all at once, so you'll get to hold on in suspense to see what will happen with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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When Megan Thee Stallion dropped “Hiss,” a shift happened. From the audacious lyrics to the striking visuals, there was no doubt that the song and video would go viral. The opening of the video shows the H-town hottie rocking a barely there Shibari red dress, showing off her voluptuous frame. It was a sexy moment created by Timeekah Murphy of Alani Taylor. The designer exclusively tells us how the opportunity came about and what it was like seeing her design on Megan for the first time.
xoNecole: How did the opportunity to create such an iconic look for Megan Thee Stallion's "Hiss" video come about?
Timeekah Murphy: The opportunity came from a DM from celebrity stylist Zerina Akers. She asked for a unique Shibari piece for Megan, and I needed to get it done in two days. So, of course, I did everything in my power to make it happen. I've always wanted to design for Megan, so this was an awesome opportunity for me.
xoN: What was that initial feeling of seeing the dress on her for the first time?
TM: I was shocked because, at first, I thought it hadn't been used. I saw Megan's last video and thought, damn, maybe it didn't fit. So, to see it on such an amazing video was breathtaking. I was beyond excited to finally say I designed for her.
xoN: Did you meet her? If so, how was that moment?
TM: I didn't meet Megan during the shoot, but during my time in LA, I got the opportunity to meet her at LA Pride with Tiffany Haddish, Common, and EJ King (stylist). Megan is such an amazing person, so it made it even better to know that my designs were going to be worn by her. I was shocked because, at first, I thought it hadn't been used. I saw Megan's last video and thought, damn, maybe it didn't fit. So, to see it on such an amazing video was breathtaking. I was beyond excited to finally say I designed for her.
"I was shocked because, at first, I thought it hadn't been used. I saw Megan's last video and thought, damn, maybe it didn't fit. So, to see it on such an amazing video was breathtaking. I was beyond excited to finally say I designed for her."
xoN: Walk us through the creation of the dress. How did you come up with the look, and how long did it take to make it?
TM: I was the co-designer for a brand called Deviant in 2018-2020, and we used to make custom Shibari pieces. That's how Zerina knew me. So I'm very familiar with making these types of pieces. We made plenty for Beyoncé, Cardi B, Tiffany Haddish, Tyra Banks, and so many others. So Zerina knew exactly what she wanted.
To get it done, it took me a day and a half. It's very intricate and time-consuming, so I spent about six hours making it then I sent an image of it to Zerina, and she didn't approve the first one, so I had to start from scratch again after getting my guidance and understanding of what was needed. The next day, I went to The Lab and created another version, and she approved it. I had to get it shipped overnight so that she would get it in time and fast forward to seeing it on the big screen.
xoN: What's next for you?
TM: Everything. The sky is not my limit, so the Alani Taylor brand is expanding into so many different avenues. We are getting involved in the community more, offering sewing classes to the youth. I've opened up a store for my brand in Atlanta and now preparing for fall/winter Fashion Week.
Megan Thee Stallion "Hiss" video/ YouTube
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Whoever coined the phrase, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” certainly was not referring to the state of our dating scene. Whether online or in real life, you don't have to go far to hear the grievances of singles calling for the immediate repair of all leaks, cracks, and fractures in the dating pool.
No matter the state you live in, your age, how much you earn for a living, or if you’re a chronic app dater, there’s a general consensus that something (anything) must be done to restore the hope of singles looking for long-term, fulfilling relationships. And as many of us hold on to the hope for an unexpected cross-encounter with our next love story, others are leaning on the side of giving up completely. But before throwing in the towel, it might be time to make a few adjustments.
Dating Apps Are In Their Flop Era, Making Connections IRL Is Where It's At
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Many singles agree that spending their leisure time swiping through dating apps is out. What’s in is stepping out of one's comfort zone to make connections in the real world. Scary. We know. But unless you were one of the lucky few to find love on dating apps before its flop era or made a love connection from home during the pandemic, going about your dating life the same way is bound to render the same results: being single with a headache. And we want better for you.
It’s safe to say that constantly meeting strangers off the internet for a chance to find love has lost its charm, leaving singles open to the train, farmer’s market, the gym, or a friend’s house party to be prime real estate for matching up with potential partners.
This shift, as Marissa Nelson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and BLK’s Relationship and Intimacy Expert tells xoNecole, is due in part to a growing concern about the authenticity of online profiles — in other words: is what you’re seeing, in fact, what you’re getting? “From their profile picture, what they say they do, the height they say they are; it’s this fear of, ‘Am I really talking to who I think I'm speaking to?'” she explains.
On our journey to finding “the one” out in the real world, a common question is, “Where do you find the available singles?” The short answer is, everywhere. The long answer is at the grocery store, on a plane, during happy hours, at work, at a conference, on a solo vacation, or, as Nelson puts it, anywhere you are showing up as your most open and vulnerable self.
“You never know where the connection is going to come from, which is why it's even more important to be receptive, to stay open, be curious, and lean into your vulnerability,” she says. In fact, Nelson encourages singles to release themselves of the rigidity around finding the perfect person at the “perfect” place, because, in essence, there isn’t one. “We have to let go of the constraints that we can only go to singles events to meet people,” she says. “We have to be open to however love shows up.”
"We have to let go of the constraints that we can only go to singles events to meet people. We have to be open to however love shows up."
We all can relate to the fact that the idea of shooting our shot in real life is a lot more exciting than the actual act. The relationship expert explains that one of the greatest hesitations to us putting ourselves out there and taking a chance on love is rooted in the fear of rejection. However, it’s important to keep in mind that “we’ve all been hurt” and most importantly, “we’re all afraid of rejection.”
That’s why Nelson suggests the following strategies to make the first move and find love in your everyday life.
1. Don't close yourself off.
“When you relax your expectations, you start to meet really cool people. Some of those cool people became friends and that makes your life richer because now, you have new friends and great people to hang out with. Even if it wasn't a love match, it can become a significant or meaningful friendship.”
2. Don't let your "type" hold you back.
“We all have a type. And a lot of women will say, ‘I like them tall. I like them like this or that.’ When we’re rigid about who we believe we ought to be with versus being open to people who might be more aligned with our values, we close ourselves off. Sure, you're not going to date somebody that you are absolutely not attracted to. But people have a lot of unwritten rules around who they will allow themselves to get to know, and I challenge people to challenge their rules because that can hold you back from expansive experiences.”
3. Make the first move.
“I think that if we can be bold, be brave, and if there's somebody that's good-looking, catches your eye, or just seems like they have a good vibe, we can approach them with curiosity. Ask them how they're doing. Introduce yourself. It doesn't have to lead to all these things; you can just have chemistry and flow from there.”
4. Ask better questions.
“When you meet someone for the first time, asking them ‘What do you do?’ is not the best first question because that only tells you what they do for money, not necessarily what they're passionate about. To get insight into who that person truly is, ask: What are you passionate about in your life right now? What lights you up? What excites you? What are you working towards?”
5. Shift your mindset.
“We've all been hurt. And we can be guarded because we don't want to get hurt again. The brain is a very complex and brilliant system designed to keep us safe, and emotional survival is a real thing. We become super protective, and in that, we come up with a lot of different rules, paradigms, [and] belief systems. The biggest mindset shift is: how can we do our own work to know and believe that we are worthy and deserving of love.”
Whether you’re on a dating app or roaming your local Trader Joe’s, love is everywhere — and the abundance of love is available to us once we remove limiting beliefs that make it feel scarce and out of reach. Vulnerability, shedding our walls, and openness just might be the tweaks we need to snitch up the dating streets and watch it heal for the better.
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