First Lady of the United States. A title that only a woman of a certain fortitude and determination can carry. Many times written off as simply the wife of the POTUS, the First Lady usually has an astounding and head-turning list of accomplishments all her own.
Hillary Clinton is a Yale Law Graduate, the co-founder of the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the first female partner at Rose Law Firm and the former Secretary of State.
Michelle Obama, Princeton Alum, Harvard Law graduate, and former Associate Dean at the University of Chicago is the driving force behind one of the largest healthy eating campaigns in the nation.
Though each of their respective husbands currently or have at some point held the title, “Leader of the Free World” each of these women have extensive careers and accomplishments all on their own. Often relegated to the shadows or “the great woman behind the man” status, these women, after further reflection, are just as talented, accomplished, and shrewd as their husbands, if not more so with the added title of “mother” and all of the responsibility that comes along with it.
Numa Perrier is walking a similar path.
When many people think of Black & Sexy TV they think of Dennis Dortch, the filmmaker behind the film, “A Good Day to be Black and Sexy” that preceded the network. Numa Perrier is commonly known in conjunction with Dortch since it’s pretty common knowledge that the two are in a relationship and have a child together. The two co-founded the network with Jeanine Daniels and Brian Ali Harding. What most don’t realize is just how quintessential Numa Perrier is to the success of Black & Sexy TV. Often left unknown or overlooked are her long list of additional accomplishments and artistic endeavors independent of the network.
Known to most Black & Sexy TV (BSTV) fans as The Chick from The Couple, Perrier is much more than an actor. She’s a screenwriter, filmmaker, director, producer, content creator, trans media artist, photographer and a mother.
Perrier calls herself a “media mogul in the making.” After speaking with her and discussing everything she’s working on, from co-writing a biopic to working on a short film trilogy which will be housed at an art gallery, I can’t think of a more apt title for the talented artist.
My editor had given our staff the task of choosing several artists and pitching respective story ideas for The Visibility Project. At the top of my list was Numa Perrier of Black & Sexy TV. A huge fan of BSTV, I knew that Numa Perrier was someone whose work and story we needed to share. I thought it was a long shot – I assumed Ms. Perrier would be busy with the upcoming season premieres of two of Black & Sexy TV’s hit shows, HelloCupid and RoomieLoverFriends, among other things and would have too much going on to grant me an interview. I decided to send the interview request anyway and hope for the best. Imagine my surprise when I received an email from the BSTV co-founder stating that she would love to do an interview as soon as possible.
With someone so accomplished soon to be on the other end of a Skype call, I wanted everything to go perfectly. I tested Skype hours before the interview was scheduled to happen, opened my laptop 20 minutes before the agreed-upon interview time and was fully prepared to start the call without a hitch.
Of course that means there were technical difficulties, but the actress was extremely gracious and soon the interview was underway. It was surreal to be on the other end of a video call with someone I had seen so many times on the screen of my laptop. I can’t deny that my own admiration for the actress left me expecting a very stereotypical Hollywood personality—super professional with a hint of ‘you should be so honored to speak with me.’
She introduced herself by motioning to her make up-free face, saying “this is me.” It was a small gesture that told me a lot about who she was as a person: real, frank and transparent. She maintained a level of professionalism while still candid and honest about the trials running a network, focusing on her own work independent of BSTV and making time for herself and her family.
Numa Perrier attributes much of her work ethic and creativity to her upbringing. Her family moved around a lot when she was younger, still Perrier recalls one particular residence with fondness—a farm in Skamokawa, Washington.
Her parents, who adopted Perrier and her three older siblings when she was a baby, moved to a farm in Skamokawa after the passing of her older brother. Though this was a hard time for the family the simplicity of farm life was refreshing for her and there was plenty to keep her busy.
“All of us got up early, maybe this is where like work ethic kicked in. Every morning I had to be up at 5. Each kid had their own animal that they were responsible for so I was responsible for the goat. I had to get up, feed him, walk him around,” remembers the artist. ”We had our own garden, our own eggs from our own chickens, our own bacon from our own pig, our own chicken wings from our own chicken wings.
Although it was a small town, with a population of 250 people at the time, Skamokawa’s impact on the actress was invaluable. It gave her ample time and space to create.
“I had a lot of time and space to be imaginative and run around. It was over 100 acres of land that I would just run around on and pick blackberries. It was a very, like, Huckleberry Finn life,” says Perrier. “I think those years shaped a lot of who I am. Though we only lived there for three years, those three years were when I was really getting a grip on my own vocabulary, understanding what race [is], understanding that I had dreams…that we lived in a small town, that there was something bigger,” she continues.
It’s easy to tell that the three years she spent there were crucial to her becoming the outspoken and imaginative person that she is today. Her existence in this small town, which now brags a population of 450 residents, is the subject of an upcoming art project.
The exhibit, which is named after the town, is a short-film trilogy that will be housed at an art gallery. She talks about the project with a solemn yet impassioned tone that denotes how closely the project is to her heart.
“I’ll be rebuilding the different aspects of the farm and in each different room you’ll see a different film and each film will be about a different parent in my life,” said the artist. “So it’ll be about my biological mother who I know now, my [adoptive] mother and my [adoptive] father. I did a film about my relationship with each one of them.”
I noticed the excitement that beamed across her face as we discussed other projects she has in the works—two upcoming films, a pilot for HBO, writing a screenplay just to name a few.
Perrier is very much aware that if she can’t get excited about a project or an idea then she has no business putting her name to it. Perrier’s advice for pursuing your dreams is simple: “what you’re excited about may not make any sense, but that’s where you should go.”
Having filmmaker, actress, artist, writer and producer all on her resume can make Perrier look like Superwoman, but she is quick to let you know that it’s not all a walk in the park. Finding balance and equal time to devote to everything she has her hands in is definitely not an easy task.
“It’s just a challenge and I have to take that challenge on every day… my art show that’s coming in August is important to me so I’m going to figure out how to do it.’ I just make it happen because it’s what I [have to] do.”
It is this resolution to finish what she started that made me respect Ms. Perrier the most. Although I have nowhere near as much on my plate as the artist/actress/producer/director/ filmmaker/writer, I can relate to the overwhelming feeling that I can’t get it all done. It is so encouraging to see a woman who has more than enough to keep her busy resolving to keep going because it has to be done.
She doesn’t mind the constant work because she loves what she does. All the film festivals, interviews and hours spent shooting and writing are worth it because creating art—whether it be through acting, writing, photographing or whatever medium she chooses—is what she was put here to do.
Making Her Own path
“I had to pave that path for myself.”
Not one to shy away from opportunities because people have said no, Perrier has had the same ‘if you want something done right do it yourself’ attitude throughout her life. Once turned away from several art galleries that did not believe she had enough experience to have her work displayed at their establishments the young artist did what she does best: she started her own.
“No gallery wanted to put my work in it…I produced my own art show.I did a show called One Night Stand…it was women artists only. I changed a warehouse into an art gallery and I did this like three times in a row. After the third one, it just started getting some attention and press and some other gallerists started inviting me to show my work in their galleries.
Just like the art show, there is nothing that Perrier believes is out of reach. “I kinda broke into the art scene the same independent way by doing it myself because no one would listen to me ‘cause I was an amateur, was new. Now I’m like a legitimate emerging artist now. I had to pave that path for myself.”
“Wait, you should be playing Lorraine and we should make this movie on our own.”
Frustrated, Taye Hansberry, the great niece of Lorraine Hansberry, came to her long-time friend and collaborator Perrier after being rejected from yet another opportunity to play her great-aunt in a film. After hearing that Hansberry was recently passed over for the role of her great-aunt in the highly controversial Nina Simone biopic, Perrier knew something had to be done.
Full of conviction that Taye is a “fine actress” and fully capable of bringing her great-aunt’s legacy and life to the big screen, Perrier started making plans for a Lorraine Hansberry biopic to become a reality. “Why did we never think of this? Why did we never think that we could be the ones to do this…My mind started clicking and going crazy.”
With input from Taye Hansberry’s grandmother, the late playwright’s sister, the film will be as true to her life and her legacy as the writers can make it. With Issa Rae tapped to play Nina Simone, a role the Awkward Black Girl creator has wanted all her life, and a relative who “felt like Lorraine” filling the role of the often overlooked writer, the bar for this film is already set remarkably high, yet there is no doubt in my mind Perrier is capable of exceeding all expectations.
Intentionally marketed as an “unconventional biopic” Perrier plans to bring the beloved author’s life to the screen in a way we’ve never seen before. The duo, Hansberry and Perrier, plan to not focus solely on the great writer’s accomplishments, which are inarguably legendary in their own right, but shine a light on her young adult life.
On what makes the film different:
“I just wanted people to know to expect something different…This story will be much more pulled down and much more really about her as a woman. Who was this woman? Not just what her list of accomplishments were, which we could easily let some other director do that sort of film about her…that’s what you can anticipate. A little Black & Sexy flavor to the Lorraine Hansberry story”
There have been naysayers asking why these three women—Perrier, Hansberry and Rae—feel they are the right ones to bring this film to life. In the face of those asking questions, Perrier just takes a cue from the brilliant playwright herself.
“They said the same thing to Lorraine before she was the first Black woman to have her play on Broadway and win the critic’s award for it. It’s not something I’m going to let stop any of us who are a part of this project.”
Perrier is determined to finish the screenplay for the film, officially titled Lorraine, by the end of the year. As we have seen with her work with Black & Sexy TV, once she’s set her mind to completing something, it gets done and it gets done exceptionally well. She promises Lorraine to be “an intimately presented and unconventionally told story.”
Black and Sexy TV: A True Reflection of Black People
The standard for anything Numa Perrier attaches her name to. Whether it is directing a series, starring in a show, organizing an art exhibit or photographing the world around her, Perrier will settle for nothing less than the best. She truly believes there are no limits on what she can do.
It was this vision for greatness that led to the beginning of Black & Sexy TV. Riding high off of the recent success of the film festival darling, It’s A Good Day To Be Black and , Perrier knew that Black and Sexy could be so much more than just a movie—it could be a movement.
She had the Black & Sexy TV epiphany while filling up her tank. Perrier laughs as she recalls talking on the phone to boyfriend Dortch while pumping gas and sharing all she believed Black & Sexy could be. Dortch had similar dreams for the brand and thus Black & Sexy TV was born.
The two artists agree most times about content and the way things are run at the network, but there have been some hiccups along the way. Since the founders of the network—Harding, Daniels, Dortch and Perrier—are always striving to make their content relatable there have been some issues when real life was brought to the screen.
The Couple, a satire about Perrier’s and Dortch’s relationship, is largely written from the perspective of Dortch. A fairly infamous episode of The Couple titled “Ride or Drive Chick” portrays The Chick as an incessant nag in what seems to be an extremely long and extremely painful car ride.
“That was an episode that Dennis and I got in a fight about. It was our idea to do it, but it came off like I’m the one bitching and nagging the guy the whole time.”
When she saw the feedback from the audience where viewers were calling for The Dude to dump The Chick because she seemed so unbearable Perrier was uncomfortable with the portrayal.
“I felt like it was being kinda biased, Dennis [is not] this perfect guy. In The Couple, the guy is made out to be such a good guy and this girl is always ranting and raving and she’s obnoxious. Yes I’m obnoxious but you didn’t [show] how controlling you are [or] how grumpy you are.”
It seems that the obnoxious The Chick was not off-putting to the premium cable network HBO who Black & Sexy have partnered with to bring The Couple to TV. Though The Couple is moving on to cable, Perrier still got her chance to put her depiction of a romantic relationship on screen.
The show RoomieLoverFriends is based on an ill-fated experience Perrier had in her early twenties. “The first season is a lot of what really happened just played out for you guys,” the actress bashfully confessed as she recounted how awkward it can be working with her boyfriend on the show.
“I can’t share all the details of a man I slept with for a long time with my boyfriend whose directing and writing with me, but that’s why we are who we are, we’re not afraid to be personal. We’re not afraid to let that take on a life of its own.” It is this intimacy and Perrier’s willingness to bare her soul and her experiences for the sake of her art that have kept the content on the network so fresh.
She had no qualms letting me know though things look polished and well oiled on the outside the execs at B&STV don’t always get it right. Backlash to the newest series on the network, Yellow: The Pleasures and Problems of the Light Skinned Black Man, is a prime example of the creators still working out the kinks. Centered on the life of the main character, Austen, the show is meant to poke fun while simultaneously addressing issues of colorism in the black community.
At the end of the day Perrier brings reality, no matter how awkward, to anything she does. “Black & Sexy is a true reflection of Black people worldwide, living everyday lives, celebrating those everyday lives. So real life plays into everything.”
Black & Sexy TV is a leader in online media of color and Perrier’s own work is heavily influenced by her experiences as a black woman. Of course, I had to ask what The Resurgence means to her.
“I think it’s a great term, I think that it has to do with…this platform now where voices that were quiet or that couldn’t really get through can be as loud as they wanna be now and that’s what I feel it is, for something to surge it’s like a rising tide…that’s what that means to me.”
I have to admit I was a bit taken back by Ms. Perrier’s response. I had never thought about the word surge as a part of the word itself and how fitting it was for the mogul to focus on the root of the phrase. Yet, that’s exactly what playmakers and entrepreneurs like Perrier are doing—surging the entertainment industry with fantastic content and relatable art. I must say that I, for one, am wholeheartedly and completely here for it.
When I asked whether she felt like she was a part of The Resurgence she joked that she wasn’t sure. “Well I don’t know, I have to be invited, that crew over there they got a clique,” she joked when speaking of the conglomerate of artists all seemingly connected to Lena Waithe and her crew of creatives. “I don’t know if I can sit with them…they’re pretty tight knit over there, you gotta ask them.”
Well I’m going to safely call it. With the way Numa Perrier is attacking the industry on all fronts – writing, artwork and acting – all while keeping it Black and Sexy is very much a character trait of The Resurgence. As we established during The Twenties Project, there’s plenty room for everyone in this movement.
Many will have you believe there are limited spots for creators of color, Perrier assures me that there is plenty of room for everyone regardless of what camp (DWP, Black & Sexy or ABG, etc.) they belong to. The various camps working together, according to Perrier, are not an exception to the rule but an understood necessity of the industry.
“I read an interview with John Singleton…He and Spike [Lee] were at Cannes the same year together, like 20-something years ago, and they were at the Cannes film festival and they had a conversation and they said to each other that no matter what the media did they would not be against each other. They would support each other; they would be there for each other.”
Perrier knows first-hand the two have kept their pact for over 20 years.
As manager for Spike Lee’s recent Kickstarter campaign, Perrier informed me that John Singleton was one of the first people to make a video in support of the famed director’s latest venture. She compares that level of respect and commitment to the understanding that she and all her peers in this sphere of entertainment hold.
“We’re kinda the younger generation of that happening. That happened in the Denzel [Washington] generation, you know those circles all worked together too…that’s not anything new.”
Just as Ms. Perrier so eloquently put it there really is “a rising tide” of black media surrounding us, and it’s clear that she is more than happy to make room for even more creators and artists of color. After spending time with this phenomenal woman via Face Time, I couldn’t help but be inspired
Her frankness and honesty about the troubles of working with her boyfriend to create an empire, her sharp and clear vision about where she wants herself (and the network) to be in the next year and her willingness to admit that she doesn’t always get it right is what makes Numa Perrier such a treasure.
She has co-founded a network that is a household name amongst most young adults who watch online content. She makes it a point to live every day to the fullest and she makes time for her family, her man and anything else her heart desires. Numa Perrier is what we would call “that deal” because she is smashing the game with no apologies and no second thought.
She is so much more than the first lady of Black and Sexy TV. She is a black woman who, in her own right, is an entertainment mogul and a maven of the arts. If you hadn’t checked her receipts before this article you can safely say you know her resume now. Perrier’s optimism and encouragement exudes from every facet of her being.
So I leave you with a quote about what it means to be Black and Sexy according to the network co-founder herself:
“It means to have confidence regardless of what society says or does. It’s not even about sex except for the fact sex got you here therefore you’re Black and Sexy. You were born and you were black and sexy because you’re a beautiful human being in a beautiful skin.”
If you want to get like me and keep up with all of Ms. Perrier’s comings and goings follow her on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook and check out her website numaperrier.com. Keep scrolling to check out more of Perrier’s work!