Netflix’s new campaign, #FirstTimeISawMe, asks actors, directors, and other creatives when they first saw a character on screen who looked like them, who they identified with. In powerful short videos, prominent voices in entertainment who work with Netflix like Ava DuVernay (The 13th), Spike Lee (She’s Gotta Have It), and Marlon Wayans (Naked) speak on their experiences growing up without representation in the TV and movies they watched.
“The last 10 years is when I’ve seen more representations that feel like folks in my real life behaving in a way that feels familiar to me,” explains DuVernay. “What we’re seeing now that’s so beautiful in this renaissance of television and film is a centering of folks who have so often been in the margins.”
Lee recalls seeing films that exploited black people in his childhood. “Images are important,” he says. “You want to see yourself reflected truthfully as a child. The problem is, it’s other people telling the world who we are and not ourselves.”
The lineup also includes actors currently starring in Netflix shows like Selenis Leyva (Orange Is the New Black) and Dear White People‘s Logan Browning and Marque Richardson. Leyva says the first time she saw herself was in the character of Detective Nina Moreno (Lauren Velez) on police drama New York Undercover. “Holy crap. She looks like me,” the actress recalls thinking. “I never thought that could exist. There was hope.”
The first video shared by Netflix on its Facebook page features Krissy, who saw herself in a character just recently, on the Netflix series One Day at a Time.
The new campaign joins a broader cultural conversation about creating robust, dynamic characters and plot lines that represent identities across race, gender, sexuality, and ability. The hashtag also encourages viewers to share on social media which character they saw in themselves and why representation on screen matters to them.