The Bold Type's Aisha Dee calls out Kat's 'confusing' season 4 romance, lack of representation
Aisha Dee is taking a page out of her onscreen character's book and speaking her truth.
On Wednesday, The Bold Type star released a long, thoughtful "call to action" on Instagram asking for better representation both onscreen and behind the camera. In her statement, posted ahead of Thursday's season 4 finale, she calls Kat's relationship with rightwing, conservative Ava (Alex Paxton-Beesley) this season "confusing and out of character."
She begins the statement by detailing her childhood, saying she grew up in "very white, very conservative spaces" in Australia where she "was always an outcast." She explains how she "spent so much time searching for a reflection of [herself], and [she] found it in art."
"Knowing the power that art had to shape my mind and experience, I have to speak up," Dee writes. "The Bold Type came into my world at a moment when my self-esteem was at an all-time low... For the first time in my career, I got to play a character who was centered in her own narrative. She wasn't just the white character's 'best friend.' She was empowered and confident, she approached the exploration of her queer identity with an open heart, and was met with nothing but love and acceptance from her friends."
Dee notes that while she's proud of what the character and the series have accomplished over four seasons, "I always try to bring up my concerns in a positive and constructive way, conscious of the realities that come with being the only woman of color in the room. I never wanted to come across as ungrateful, negative, or difficult." She adds that in speaking out, she's taking a cue from the outspoken and passionate Kat and is "ready to push harder and speak louder for what matters."
"The diversity we see in front of the camera needs to be reflected in the diversity of the creative team behind the camera," she writes. "It took two seasons to get a single BIPOC in the writers' room for The Bold Type. And even then, the responsibility to speak for the entire Black experience cannot and should not fall on one person. We got to tell a story about a queer Black woman and a lesbian Muslim woman falling in love, but there have never been any queer Black or Muslim writers in the room. In four seasons (48 episodes) we've had one Black woman direct two episodes. It took three seasons to get someone in the hair department who knew how to work with textured hair. This was impactful on so many levels, and I'm grateful for the women who showed me how to embrace and love my hair in a way I never had before."
Dee goes on to reference a season 2 story arc in which Kat is promoted to be the first Black female department head of the fictional Scarlet Magazine, pointing out that they've "never had a Black female head of department" on the actual show.
"The level of care, nuance, and development that has gone into the stories centering white hetero characters is inconsistent with the stories centering queer characters and POC," Dee says. "I do not believe this is intentional. We cannot bring specificity and honesty to experiences we have not lived. And when there is a lack of representation, the way marginalized characters are treated is even more important because they have the potential to empower or perpetuate damaging stereotypes that have a lasting and real effect on real people."
The actor's statement then pivots to "the decision to have Kat enter into a relationship with a privileged conservative woman" and how that "felt confusing and out of character." "Despite my personal feelings about the choice, I tried my best to tell the story with honesty, even though the Kat I know and love would never make these choices," Dee says. "It was heartbreaking to watch Kat's story turn into a redemption story for someone else, someone who is complicit in the oppression of so many. Someone whose politics are actively harmful to her communities."
Adding that she's "critical because I care," Dee explains that she believes in the show's "potential to be better." She says she's seen "firsthand the incredible impact of this show... but it struggles to understand the intersections many of its characters live in... For a show that frequently uses words like intersectionality, inclusion, discourse, and the various ism's, I wonder how its stories may have been elevated had they been told through the lens of people with a more varied lived experience."
Dee reveals that over the last few weeks, she's "had conversations with the writers and producers, as well as the executives at Freeform and Universal TV" about these issues. "I'm hopeful we will have the opportunity to tell more authentic stories by hiring, promoting, and listening to diverse voices across the entire production of The Bold Type and beyond," she says. "This is an opportunity to walk the walk, to really practice the things The Bold Type teaches, by acknowledging mistakes and making commitments to be better in the future."
She ends her message by saying that everything she's written "is said with love."
"By speaking out, I'm taking a risk," she adds. "It's scary, but it's worth it. This is not judgment. This is a call to action. We deserve to see stories that are for us, by us."
Read her full statement below:
Shortly after Dee posted on Instagram, The Bold Type executive producers released a joint statement along with Freeform and Universal TV in response. "We applaud Aisha for raising her hand and starting conversations around these important issues," the statement reads. "We look forward to continuing that dialogue and enacting positive change. Our goal on The Bold Type is and has always been to tell entertaining, authentic stories that are representative of the world that Kat, Jane, and Sutton live in — we can only do that if we listen."
Dee's costars Katie Stevens (Jane) and Meghann Fahy (Sutton), whom the actress called "an extension of my family" in her statement, praised her for speaking out. Both shared Dee's post on their Instagram accounts with supportive captions.
"Please read what my girl has to say. I am beyond proud of my sister @aishtray," Stevens wrote. "I stand by her through thick and thin and am so proud of the woman she is."
Fahy captioned her post by saying, "V proud of my sister ♥️ @aishtray."
The Bold Type season 4 finale airs Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on Freeform.