#BlackGirlMagic: JustLatasha Finding Humor in Uncomfortable Situations

Part one in an ongoing series called #BlackGirlMagic where I interview interesting black women spreading their magic through positive and progressive platforms.

“I make racism funny, when it ain’t,” said the young budding filmmaker at her premiere screening of her new web-series. Race, always a tricky topic to cover, but JustLatasha is looking to find a bright spot in a divisive topic.

JustLatasha is a Queens, New York native who began her career in Fashion PR. She started her first brand, Dope Files, in 2010, where she was able to interview some of the most established names in Fashion and Music.

After a few years covering celebrities and starlets, she wanted to do work with more purpose. That’s when her vlog JustLatasha was born. A mix between The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams and the social justice side of Black Twitter, JustLatasha became a space to talk race and politics. JustLatasha realized activism, but with a comedic spin was her sweet spot.

Now with her new web-series, JustLatasha is hoping to take her comedic chops to the next level. Described as Broad City mixed with Louie, I think we found the next great series about a beautiful female friendship that breaks down barriers with dark humor. Sit, Black, & Relax premiered on March 14th.

I spoke briefly with Mercer at the screening of “Sit, Black, & Relax” and through emails:

What made you interested in film-making?

I wanted to tell a bigger story about how I felt about color issues, specifically those issues for young Black adult women, than just providing my opinion on my vlog. There are complexities and stories I can’t quite relate through just myself speaking to the camera.

Why a web series?

I feel like now its the ultimate time for web content. People are streaming because they want entertainment on their time. It’s also just the natural progression of the way we’re experiencing technology; tv took over radio, now the internet is taking over tv. We also have the power to access and create our own audiences, rather than having to pitch a show to a huge network and risk losing creative control. It’s the simplest form to get my art straight into the hands of the masses.

How was filming a web series different than filing a everyday/weekly vlog?

A web series is so much more demanding: I have to hire and manage a team of people, scout locations and get permits, and cater to everyone else’s comfort. With my vlog, I only have me to please and take care of. If something goes wrong, all I have to do is hit delete or edit, but when other people are involved my mistakes weigh more.

Give a little summary of “Sit, Black, & Relax”.

Sit Black & Relax is JustLatasha's first scripted work.

Sit Black & Relax is JustLatasha’s first scripted work.

Sit Black & Relax is about an interracial friendship that takes us on a journey of color issue differences, while being living, loving, and learning young adult women.

Who is your favorite vlogger? Filmmaker?

I’m not into vlogs as I am podcasts, and that would be The Read with Kid Fury and Crissle. My favorite storytellers are Shonda Rhimes and Quentin Tarantino.

Let’s talk #oscarsowhite and Nina Simone:Do you think the diversity backlash with this year’s Oscars and now the casting of Zoe Saldana will impact how and where black woman creatives will produce their work? Do you think platforms like Netflix and YouTube (even Network and Cable TV) will become more progressive before Hollywood does?

I think creatives overall are putting the power back into their own hands and not regarding Hollywood as the go-to area for success, especially Black creatives. I think what’s so wonderful about this time is that we are realizing our power and greatness, and have been taking matters into our own hands. Every time we’ve waited for white people to do something great with our stories, we’re left disappointed. I definitely think platforms like Netflix and YouTube will become progressive before Hollywood because in a sense, they’re not in charge, the content creators are. And those platforms follow the mass of where audiences are and who they are interacting with. Hollywood is a social club where only a select few are approved and they keep recycling the handful of the specially chosen actors, which is hella boring.

Favorite film of the past year?

My favorite film this past year was The Hateful 8 and The Revenant.

What did you think of Chris Rock’s Monologue?

Chris Rock did a phenomenal job. Any Black comedian that is brave enough to stand in front of Hollywood’s most elite and make them uncomfortable is ok in my book! I wasn’t too fond of his “Will & Jada aren’t invited” joke, nor the one about how we had more pressing issues to worry about in the past than to boycott the Oscars. I think Black voices and issues are relative and since we are no longer being hung from trees, doesn’t mean that our fight is over, it simply means our fight has changed. So, we can be upset about the Oscars all we want— it’s still wrong!

You talked about your previous web series was stolen, can you speak on that again?

Kid Fury & Crissle of the iTunes #1 rated comedy podcast The Read, as well as Hey Fran Hey and Dustin Austin of The Friend Zone Podcast.

Kid Fury & Crissle of the iTunes #1 rated comedy podcast The Read, as well as Hey Fran Hey and Dustin Austin of The Friend Zone Podcast.

I worked with a young Black filmmaker who I brought into my team simply because I want to uplift Black people and work together in creativity. However, due to a slight misunderstanding, his payback to me was to steal three months of my content. In that moment, I was scared, angry, and at a crossroads. I could quit right then and there because it’d be hard to start over, or I could present the issues to my production team and decide to go against the grain and complete what I had set out to do. Needless to say, I chose the latter, and it was an extreme blessing that he removed himself from the series!

What’s next? Any other ventures?

I want to do more writing, more action and comedy. In film school all of my treatments were about action-flick style violence and murder by bad-ass women. Still at the top of the list.

Any advice for any novice filmmaker, especially any black girl creatives out there?

We all start out as novices. The grooming comes with hitting the ground, creating as you go, moving like water with the universe, and not stopping. Everything and everyone will persuade you to quit, and you keep saying “no” while putting one foot in front of the other. Because more-so than those entities want you to fail, God wants you to succeed.

The leading cast, Shakirah DeMesier and Alison Burke. Lou is the Director of Photography.

The leading cast, Shakirah DeMesier and Alison Burke. Lou is the Director of Photography.

Favorite scene from the web series?

Favorite scene from the web series happens in episode three, where the lead character, Maya, is breaking up with her guy right after sex, while still laying in bed with him. It’s completely ridiculous while the characters are having a serious conversation.

Last few words?

I want to thank every single person who has watched my videos at any point, donated money, bought a t-shirt, and left beautiful comments showing their excitement of my work and encouraging me to keep going. All of that has given me confidence to continue to step online everyday and create.

A new episode of Sit Black & Relax premiers on JustLatasha.com every 1st Monday of the month.

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