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Martine Syms

She Mad Season One

Jul 02, 2022 - Feb 12, 2023

Martine Syms (b. 1988, Los Angeles, CA; lives in Los Angeles, CA) is widely recognized for a multidisciplinary practice that reflects on contemporary visual culture with humor and biting social commentary. This solo exhibition features Syms’s She Mad series, an ongoing conceptual project that takes the form of a semi-autobiographical sitcom about a young woman trying to make it as an artist in Los Angeles. Drawing from a range of sources including early cinema, television shows, advertisements, and internet memes, Syms dissects the ways Black experiences are mediated on television, in film, and online. The show marks the US premiere of the fifth and newest episode of She Mad—and the first time that the series will be shown in its entirety.

The exhibition situates these five video artworks within an immersive sculptural installation constructed from exposed aluminum studs painted in the artist’s signature shade of purple—a reference to both the chroma key backdrops frequently used in post-production of films and television shows and Alice Walker’s 1982 novel The Color Purple. Like the exposed walls of the installation, Syms’s videos lay bare the structures that shape the images and videos we consume.

The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Bergen Kunsthall. The MCA presentation is curated by Jadine Collingwood, Assistant Curator, with Jack Schneider, Curatorial Assistant. It is presented in the Bergman Family Gallery on the museum’s second floor.

Lead support is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Zell Family Foundation, Cari and Michael Sacks, R.H. Defares, and Susie Karkomi and Marvin Leavitt.

Major support is provided by Citi Private Bank, Anne Kaplan, Karyn and Bill Silverstein, and Charlotte Cramer Wagner and Herbert S. Wagner III of the Wagner Foundation.

This exhibition is supported by the Women Artists Initiative, a philanthropic commitment to further equity across gender lines and promote the work and ideas of women artists.

Pilot for a Show about Nowhere, 2015

Transcript for Martine Syms, Pilot for a Show about Nowhere, 2015. Courtesy of the artist; Bridget Donahue, New York; and Sadie Coles HQ, London

TV1: Are you going to take a shower?

TV2: Oh my god! Why was I up until four in the morning finishing that fucking website?

TV3: We subscribe to Free Love, Joan subscribes to Essence and those sisters live by a different set of rules.

TV4: I read that article, you’re not supposed to date your girlfriend’s ex but he dumped her Joan.

Narrator: My show would be called She Mad. The opening sequence would have an establishing shot of Los Angeles. Probably the 1-10-10 interchange downtown, none of that Hollywood shit. It’s set in Koreatown, so maybe the Wiltern, Swadesh, Dan Sung Sa, the Gaylord, signs around the neighborhood. I’d be running out of the apartment, power walking down 6th street.

Something different would happen each time, like on The Simpsons. Then it would cut to me running down the escalator into the Metro station at Wilshire/Western.

TV5: My take has a lot to do with representation and one of the things I’m looking for in the exhibition is images of myself, and it’s a search for that, you know. And in doing that, I search through the evolutionary history of television, and question the value of representations and the images that we see on television, you know, presently and historically.

TV6: He’s waking up. And now there is a letter. I would be too, I would be so turned off if that happened to me.

Narrator: In 1971, Paul Klein, then VP audience measurement at NBC, wrote an article for TV Guide titled “Why You Watch What You Watch When You Watch.” The piece focused on his theory of the least objectionable program. Klein believes that viewers consume the medium itself, rather than the content. He argued that viewers didn’t turn on the TV searching for their favorite shows, instead they were happy with whatever didn’t suck. What he called the LOP. Klein was wrong. Television viewing has always been highly personalized and highly politicized.

45 years ago, sociologist Robin Williams published the essay “Individual and Group Values” in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. He identified 15 beliefs that influence American culture.

TV7: But my idea today is not to debate whether there is such a thing as good TV or bad TV. My idea today is to tell you that I believe television has a conscience. So why I believe that television has a conscience, is that I actually believe that television directly reflects the moral, political, social and emotional need states of our nation. That television is how we actually disseminate our entire value system.

So, to begin to answer these questions, we did a research study. We went back fifty years, to the 1959-1960 television season. We surveyed the top 20 Nielsen-shows every year for 50 years. 1 000 shows. We talked to over 3 000 individuals. Almost 3 600. Age 18-70. And we asked them how they felt emotionally: “How did you feel watching every single one of these shows?

Did you feel a sense of moral ambiguity? Did you feel outrage? Did you laugh? What did this mean for you?”

TV8: Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? Well, it’s you girl, and you should know it. With each glance and every little movement, you show it. Love is all around, no need to waste it. You can never tell, why don’t you take it? You’re going to make it after all.

TV9: If we could make a successful show out of, a show starring Mary, that that would provide an opportunity to try to do another show, and maybe another. I really didn’t have the company called MTM in mind, which might have done quite a few shows.

TV10: Did you have a model in mind? TV9: No.

TV10: Did you have Tandem Productions in mind?

TV9: No, I didn’t. In fact, I don’t know that Tandem was much of a company at the time. I think my first awareness of Tandem was the All in the Family show.

TV11: Hey, Jefferson, I seen you hosing down your porch yesterday.

TV12: Oh yeah? When am I going to see you hosing down yours?

TV12: Bartender?

TV13: Yes, sir.

TV12: Give the man a drink, please.

TV13: What will it be, sir?

TV11: Ah, whiskey.

TV13: Any particular brand?

TV11: Yeah, the expensive brand.

TV13: And what about you, sir?

TV12: Scotch and soda, please.

TV13: Yes, sir.

TV11: Hey, hey, Jefferson. There’s a switch for you. This guy giving you the big “Yes, sir”.

TV12: Why, he’s a bartender, isn’t he?

TV11: Yeah, but what I meant is I’m used to having it the other way around.

TV12: Oh, yeah? How many servants you got in that mansion you living in?

TV11: What do you mean by that?

TV12: Let me tell you something about people.

TV13: There you are.

TV12: Thank you.

TV12: That bartender is willing to work for me because if you got enough green in your pocket, then Black becomes his favorite color.

Narrator: The sitcom format originated in radio, though there is little consensus about the very first. Sam ‘n’ Henry, later Amos ‘n’ Andy, is considered one of the pioneering sitcoms.

First aired on WG in Chicago, the show was about two Black men who’d recently migrated to Chicago from the rural south. Voiced by white comedians Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, the show relied on dialect, malaprop and stereotype.

The silly, fast-paced banter between Amos and Andy was directly inspired by Tambo and Bones, the inn men of a minstrel show. The conventions of minstrelsy set the tone for ethnic performances in popular entertainment.

TV14: Look man, you can’t put Redd Foxx on national TV. I worked with Foxx 30 years ago at the Apollo, you know what I mean. There’s nothing, not one word he said that could go on national television. You can’t, it’s impossible.

TV14: He was like a student of, a protégé, I should say—he, and Slappy White, and Willie Lewis at the Apollo—they were Moms Mabley’s protégés, you know. She taught them how to do comedy. So, I mean everybody was familiar with Foxx, everybody knew Foxx.

Narrator: Red Foxx cut his teeth in vaudeville. He brought a vernacular, comic style to the small screen. By the mid-1970s, leading sitcoms had adopted some of the narrative techniques from controversial stand-ups, like Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. Direct, extended conversation would become a hallmark of the form. Pryor even wrote a few episodes of Sanford and Son.

Foxx had a traditional style. There was a sharp distinction between the character Fred Sanford, his comic persona Redd Foxx, and his true identity. Foxx told one-liners, and the show featured guest stars from his Chitlin’ Circuit days. From co-star LaWanda Page to cameos from Billy Eckstine and Scatman Crothers, the show gave visibility to a private, Black sphere. Sanford and Son was a huge success throughout its six-season run.

TV15: But you do love Sanford and Son. We both do.

TV15: That’s what I’m talking about.

TV16: Nobody ever told me that I was an African woman. Nobody ever told me what the history of African people were. Nobody ever told me that America is business, and without business you will have nothing and be nothing. And nobody ever told me how to organize business, so that I would be able to develop institutions in my own community. So now the sincerity, the sincerity of all of the programs and all of the education has to be questioned, and guided, and convicted

TV17: I’m just shocked and appalled, you know, at her behavior of, you know, of trying to blindside me in front of a bunch of people who I feel didn’t care if we had a friendship or not. So, no respect

TV18: I’ve never seen NeNe this emotional. It’s something real behind this type of hurting.

TV19: Hi, my name is… and I’m not sure that I remember when my parents bought a television set, but I know that we had a very large set set in a furniture cabinet. It was very large, maybe it was Philco or something and somehow I remember that name. At any rate, we would watch shows like Howdy Doody on Saturdays, my grandmother

Narrator: At the height of Sanford and Son’s popularity, Redd Foxx was invited to perform at the Jean Pierre Stadium in Trinidad.

TV20: The toughest thing in the world, having to turn to your mate one night and say, “You’ve got to wash your ass.”

Narrator: Expecting the family-friendly fair of television, the audience was shocked by his raunchy humor. He later issued an apology in the Trinidad Express. It was a crisis of identity. Foxx was a crossover sensation who refused to assimilate.

Narrator: The rest of the 1970s saw an abundance of shows imitating the innovative style developed by MTM and Tandem. All the networks wanted a young, white, urban, professional audience. Despite their high ratings Norman Lear’s ghetto comedies were the exception that proves the rule.

CBS, ABC and NBC were losing viewers to cable channels and the newly minted Fox Network. They responded by targeting new demographics for their programming. In the late 1980s, the yuppie fell in love with the hour-long drama, and we took the sitcom.

TV21: It’s a show in which you have the quote unquote normal family. A very strong, committed father figure, who’s a good father, who has all the right answers, who has all the elements of the white fathers of shows like Different Strokes? You have a mother who is a working mother. You know, an attorney, a doctor and an attorney together, and they are comical. But they’re not buffoons. And I think that one of the attractions of The Cosby Show, to Black viewers at least, was that: “Oh, here’s normal life. Here’s something that’s not a cartoon character.” At the same time, it has basically erased, for the most part, the kinds of struggles and realities that the Black poor and working class are dealing with at that very moment.

TV22: And I think one of the high points was meeting Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela said to me: “Thank you. Thank you.” He said: “We watched your show on Robben’s Island.” He said: “I watched it with my guard, and it softened him.”

Narrator: In his book Watching Race, sociologist Herman Gray proposes three practices for representing otherness on television. Assimilation narratives are color blind. Every character exists equally, no matter his background. The themes of the show are quote unquote universal. The social and political realities of Blackness or racism are shown as individual problems, reserved for very special episodes.

The pluralist television show operates by a separate, but equal doctrine. Black characters find themselves in worlds that mimic those of whites. Brownsville, Harlem, Southeast D.C. or Watts are merely versions of other neighborhoods. Occasionally our protagonist finds herself in a fish out of water scenario.

Multiculturalism situates Black culture at the social and cultural heart of a show. The narrative acknowledges the structural implications of race and class. There’s an explicit construction of Blackness in the show’s aesthetics through music, costuming, language and style. These shows usually only last for one season, but we treasure them nonetheless.

TV23: Testing, testing, one, two, three. I guess there’s enough light here, so I hope this works out. I can’t really tell with the focus here. But hi. My name’s Arthur Jones and I’m 27 years old. And as you can see I’m a young, Black male, which makes me something of a rarity in this museum. Nevertheless, I’m going to take us through a tour of the New Museum’s, the New Museum of Contemporary Art

TV24: Okay, you and Julio had sex, but it’s just wrong.

TV25: Not according to my G-spot.

TV24: It was one thing when you were having casual sex with people that we don’t know. Okay, I’m way past being a prune about that. But having casual sex with a friend. Our friend. My friend.

TV24: And the other one. And then feelings get hurt, and then it gets all awkward between the two of you. And there we are, stuck in the middle, having to choose between you and William. I mean, don’t you see? God

TV26: Calling all Black people, calling all Black people. Man, woman, child wherever you are. Calling all Black people, calling all Black people. Man, woman, child wherever you are.

TV27: My most memorable experience with the television is, when I was in college and I got a television set for Christmas, as a gift. And I thought it was the worst gift that my parents could give me, because I was kind of, kind of going through a depressed stage, and I was midway through college and, and I would sit in front of the television and

Narrator: This is a quote from Larry Wilmore, creator of The Bernie Mac Show and star of The Nightly Show: “When I was developing the pilot for The Bernie Mac Show, there were a couple of things I was looking for. I wanted to use Bernie as he really is, a successful comedian. And I wanted him to be unapologetic about his success. I didn’t want him to be a fish out of water. I wanted us to be drawn into Bernie as he is as a person. I went to Chicago and talked to Bernie personally. Talked about his childhood. Heard the kind of guy he is. I knew the single camera format would let me introduce the person.

Sometimes when he talks to us directly, we can see things played out. Bernie’s life has been colored from his cultural perspective, and he can share that with an audience that might not be familiar with his background. He’s very familiar emotionally, but in the context of a Black lifestyle.”

TV 28: Man, these little kids, man, you couldn’t get us to stay inside no doggone house.

Narrator: Stand-up comedians provide a model for the self-reflexiveness that characterizes the contemporary moment. Think of your most internet-famous friend. Do you even recognize her life? Does it have a plot? Is there a will they/won’t they romance at the core? Does she find herself in wacky situations? If you can’t think of a friend, you are that friend.

Narrator: She Mad is a half-hour comedy about what it means to be an adult, set against the backdrop of the Los Angeles creative industry. It follows a young, ambitious, Black woman and her friends, as they try to create the lives they want, and deal with the unrealistic goals that they and society have set. She Mad is a show about nowhere. It’s about futility and hope, individuality and community, privacy and fame. The show’s themes are survival, self- performance and the idea that longing for pleasure is the only real pleasure. In each episode, Martine is working on a new project. Each project revolves around a single idea, such as identity, truth or family. And the plot is driven by one of our characters experiencing that theme in their personal or professional life.

Martine is a graphic designer who wants to be an important artist. She’s equal parts over-achiever and stoner. Matt is her husband. He’s a recovering Midwesterner who takes work, and life, very seriously. Brian is her nihilistic studio mate. He runs a successful start-up but would rather be playing with his dog. Nina is her best friend. She’s a fourth generation Angeleno, who has a show on the Cooking Channel. Cady is her other best friend. She’s beautiful, likes to party, and has a new man every episode.

Narrator: In her book Prosthetic Memory, media theorist Alison Landsberg explains that the usage of the word empathy coincides with the birth of cinema. The public imagination made it possible to feel what another person may have experienced. To touch a picture or have that picture touch you. But this public was never a democracy. It was a site in which power was performed. Now the image is even more far-reaching than before. Over four days of video are uploaded each minute. For any given event, there are thousands of images for us to remember and forget.

Every time I talk about one of my favorite Black sitcoms, a well-intentioned friend invariably mentions that he watched the show too. That he never considered it to be Black, as if popularity annulled the specificity. How do I explain that there’s a secret hidden in plain sight? Sometimes Will wasn’t talking to you. He was talking to me.

My shows were infected with the meaning virus. The very presence of a Black family on television is self-reference. The Black sitcom destabilizes the medium’s core vocabulary of close-up, zoom shot and two faces east. Often breaking the fourth wall, compelling viewers like me to respond. Television is the mechanism that makes our beliefs visible. And because we see them, we believe them more. Fictions acquire importance to ritual. These stories shape us, as we shape them.

When my parents were kids in St. Louis, the television broadcast stopped at midnight. My mom and her siblings watched it every night, as if they’d never seen it before. They’d listen to the sign-off speech, while Ray Charles sang in the background. Then the test pattern came on and the set went dark.

TV29: Oh, beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife.

TV30: Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? Well, it’s you girl, and you should know it. With each glance and every little movement, you show it. You’re going to make it after all.

TV31: She’s what keeps the lights on around here.

TV32: Well, then go sue someone and let me do my job. TV33: Clients are away and here is the case file.

TV32: Thank you.

TV31: My client’s already been sta…

TV32: Stop, stop. Please, lawyers, stop. I mean, I get that there’s a liability settlement at play here, but just maybe, just maybe these two

TV34: Thank you.

TV35: Thank you.

TV34: Okay.

TV34: He was high at the time that he lost his

TV36: My girlfriends, there through thick and thin. My girlfriends, there for anything. My girlfriends.

TV37: Who sent these flowers?

TV38: Wary, suspicious

TV38: because the president is not your boyfriend?

TV39: Do you really want to be asking me that.

TV40: What’s Barnes?

TV38: I’ve been racking my brain trying to find a reason why you’d be stupid enough to willingly attempt to defraud the American people

TV40: What’s Barnes?

TV38: and the only reason I can come up with for why you’d be in so deep is because you

TV40: What’s Barnes?

TV38: are his mistress.

TV39: I, that’s

TV40: What’s Barn…

Laughing Gas, 2016

Transcript for Martine Syms, Laughing Gas, 2016. Courtesy of the artist; Bridget Donahue, New York; and Sadie Coles HQ, London

Dental Assistant: Good morning, how is it going?

Martine: Pretty good, how are you?

Dental Assistant: Fantastic. So, you’re here for wisdom tooth?

Martine: Yeah, it’s been hurting.

Dental Assistant: Well, Doctor Flanagan is a pro, so I think it’s going to be very easy.

Martine: That’s what Yelp says.

Dental Assistant: Trust Yelp. Alright, so she’ll be in in just a moment and just make yourself comfortable.

Martine: Thank you.

Dr. Flanagan: Okay.

Dental Assistant: Martine Syms.

Dr. Flanagan: Martine.

Martine: Hi.

Dr. Flanagan: How are you?

Martine: Good. Just, you know, teeth hurt.

Dr. Flanagan: Yes, it’s hurting? And everything’s, everything is hurting. The old wisdom tooth. Let me see, honey. Open. Okay. Alright. Alright. Well, what’s it going to be? I think I’m going to have three-martini surgery today. You’re going to have strawberry daiquiri or gin and tonic?

Martine: I’ll do strawberry.

Dr. Flanagan: Okay. I want you to start counting back from 2000.

Martine: Can I put my headphones on?

Dr. Flanagan: Okay.

Martine: Yeah?

Dr. Flanagan: Sure. And just relax. Count back and I’ll see you on the other side.

Martine: 2 000, 1 999, 1 998, 1 997 …

Dr. Flanagan: Martine? Martine? Martine? Martine? Hi, hi. Listen, the insurance …

Martine: Sorry, what?

Dr. Flanagan: They’re not responding. They are denying coverage. Martine: What’s the problem?

Dr. Flanagan: Do you have another way we can, we can apply payment for the surgery? Do you have a credit card with you?

Dr. Flanagan: Honey, the surgery is not covered by your insurance. We’ve called them three times.

Martine: Wait, what?

Dr. Flanagan: Okay.

Martine: How much is it?

Dr. Flanagan: You’ve got your credit card with you, dear?

Dr. Flanagan: We need you to cover 1,700.

Martine: 1,700? I do not have 1,700.

Dr. Flanagan: No? Martine, uh, you want to maybe give dad a call or… mom?

TV1: What just happened?

Bus Friend: Hey Martine.

Bus Friend: Hey! What’s up?

Martine: I can’t really talk.

Bus Friend: Are you on the phone?

Martine: My teeth. I was at the dentist.

Bus Friend: They let you out by yourself like this?

Martine: I don’t know.

TV2: I don’t give a fuck.

TV3: Mama no! Mama no!

Martine: I can’t believe it. Oh my god. It’s so stupid. I hate going to the dentist. I hate the dentist so much.

Martine: Hello? Uh, yeah. What was the issue? Okay. You want me to come back today? Uh, yeah, yeah, no, no, I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. I’ll be there. I’m on my way.

Intro to Threat Modeling, 2017

Transcript for Martine Syms, Intro to Threat Modeling, 2017. Courtesy of the artist; Bridget Donahue, New York; and Sadie Coles HQ, London

Narrator: Hi Wu, I hope you’re well. During your Basilica screening you mentioned a writer who theorized against the notion of safe spaces. You suggested that the potential for disagreement was a productive situation. I was looking through my notes and I couldn’t find the name.

Who was it? Appreciate your help.

Narrator: Wow, this is so smart. I have been in Switzerland at the Zentrum Paul Klee Summer Academy, really OD-ing on school. Tirdad Zolghadr shared his research which was a call for being overdetermined in art. And he described the art world as a moral economy in the sociological sense. And our group got into this discussion about why artists should slash should not be concerned with coalition building. And I immediately thought of what you mentioned, and after reading this, this it opened up so many more thoughts that I have in regards to art, namely it not being my home. Thanks for sharing. Hope you are well.

Narrator: Referent model artwork artist viewer contact code. Referent model artwork artist viewer contact code. Referent model artwork artist viewer contact code. Referent model artwork artist viewer contact code. Referent model artwork artist viewer contact code. Referent model artwork artist viewer contact code. Referent model artwork artist viewer contact code.

Narrator: Situation. Something happens.

Narrator: Thought. The situation is interpreted.

Narrator: Emotion. A feeling occurs as a result of the thought.

Narrator: Behavior. An action in response to the emotion.

Narrator: Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Narrator: Requirements drive threats. Threats drive requirements. Threats need mitigation. Mitigations can be bypass. No mitigation. Simplify requirements.

Narrator: Threat models are a way of looking at risks in order to identify the most likely threats to your security. Threat modeling is like hand modeling. Except it’s not. Threat modeling is more like fit modeling, I guess, because you have got to be strong.

TV1: Damn. You’ve got it girl. You got it. You got it. You got it. Go fast. Go fast.

TV2: It’s scary.

TV1: You got it. You got it. TV3: Just do it.

TV1: You got it.

Narrator: Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

TV4: I may be traveling, but I still bring my vitamins. I cook. Got some limes on deck. The chia seed. Green tea. Spinach, berries, eggs…

Narrator: If this were a reality show, I would definitely be the person who was like: “I’m not here to make friends!” Because there has to be that person, and I’m that person.

Narrator: Once you understand your threat model, what you want to keep private and who you want to protect it from, you can start to make decisions about how you live your life. You’ll find yourself empowered, not depressed.

Narrator: What do I want to protect? My image. Oh, that reminds me. Don’t take any fucking photos right now or any other recordings. You haven’t gotten my permission.

Narrator: Who’s trying to fuck with me? Who’s trying to fuck with me? Are you trying to fuck with me? Who is trying to fuck me over right now? Why are they trying to fuck with me?

Narrator: That’s what you really have to ask yourself: “How?” It’s not important why, it’s how. Got to stay vigilant.

Narrator: What am I going to do about it? What the fuck am I going to do about it? I’m not just going to sit here. I am not just going to take it. I am not just going to let anybody and anyone fucking fuck with me. No, I’m going to do something about it. But what? What am I going to do about it? No one is going to profit from me except me.

Bitch Zone, 2020

Transcript for Martine Syms, Bitch Zone, 2020. Courtesy of the artist; Bridget Donahue, New York; and Sadie Coles HQ, London

Friend: So, then last week, I get back into the office, check my e-mails, I end up in a fucking spiral. To have to respond to, you know, whoever. About things that I have mentioned the week before . . .

Wolf: You’re ready?

Camper1: Yes.

Wolf: Okay, one more time.

Campers: No, wait.

Campers: Help me.

Campers: Nice, guys.

Campers: Wow.

Campers: Wait, no!

Campers: Yeah!

Kewpie: All right. Hey, B Zoners.

Campers: Hey, Kewpie.

Kewpie: Um, somebody left this in the mess hall at dinner.

Campers: Ooooooh.

Kewpie: Girls. No one is in trouble.

Kewpie: Okay, okay. Just please come see me afterwards if it’s yours, okay? Kewpie: All right, all right, all right. Tonight, we have another special night, with BBQ.

Campers: Yeah.

Kewpie: BBQ, we are so lucky to have you with us every single night. Campers: Yeah.

BBQ: Hey, y’all. Campers: Hey, BBQ!

BBQ: Let’s give it up for Kewpie.

BBQ: Without her tireless work, none of this would be possible. I’m also clapping for y’all. Do you know you’re all great?

Campers: Aww.

BBQ: You’re great, you’re great, and you’re great.

Campers: Aww.

BBQ: I know the pain of being someone who is too big, or too thin. You’re perfect. Exactly the way you are. When I was eleven, I went through my awkward stage. I grew three inches and lost thirty pounds, in a really short period of time. My ankles looked knobby. I hated the way my ankles looked. I still do. I would get bullied at school. Some kids called me: “Giraffe.” Some kids called me: “Light bulb head.”

BBQ: Don’t laugh. I didn’t believe I was pretty until I was thirteen, when a casting agent came up to me at the Crenshaw mall. This week, we’re here to focus on our minds, body and spirit. So, when we go back into that crazy world of attacking and looking in the mirror and not liking what we see, we can be strong.

Campers: Yeah!

BBQ: Health is super important, y’all. And we got to get our shapes in shape. Not looking like somebody else. A size 16 can be the best shape for you. And you can be healthy. I have a friend who is a size 18.

Campers: Woah.

BBQ: She is a plus size model, and she is so fierce. She can run longer me, and bench press. And there is no cellulite on her body. My ass looks like an orange.

BBQ: We have to appreciate everyone for who they are. As a Black woman, I face discrimination on a daily basis. When I first started out as a model, casting agents would constantly tell me how ugly I was. They didn’t like my hair, my lips. They didn’t like my nose, or my hips. Black women have to scream and shout to be seen in this world. When I was nineteen, my body suddenly transformed again. I had big boobs, and a fat ass. None of the couture houses would hire me, at this point. I went from walking every single show to none at all. I was devastated.

Campers: Aww.

BBQ: My mom flew out to Paris to take me home. And together we came up with the plan for my career, that embraced who I am.

Campers: Yeah.

BBQ: I was the first black model on the cover of Vogue. Campers: Wow!

BBQ: I was the first Black angel!

BBQ: My journey has been long and hard. And when I tell you how much I wanted to quit, that’s why I am so happy to be here, with y’all.

Campers: Yeah!

BBQ: This is exactly why I started B Zone.

Campers: Yeah!

BBQ: To inspire young women to run the world.

Campers: Yeah.

BBQ: Everyone’s still with me? Campers: Yeah!

BBQ: Okay.

BBQ: Tonight, we are going to do a very special exercise about race. It might be hard at times. This is a very difficult conversation. Just remember, we’re all family here. We’re all here to learn from one another. And get out of our comfort zones.

Campers: No…

BBQ: Like, during the day, we do that physically, like climbing the rock wall. Conquering our fears. But in here, we’re going to do it emotionally. Mind, body and spirit, it all matters. There will be a group leader in each corner. I identify as Black, so I’m going to Lambchop’s group.

Lambchop: Hey.

BBQ: Then, you would say a stereotype about your group. For example: “Black people are all ignorant.”

Campers: Woah.

BBQ: I obviously don’t think that, but some people do. So, then I would point to someone in another group, and I would say a stereotype I’ve heard or seen in the media, at school, or in my family. For example: “Asian people are all immigrants.”

Campers: Woah.

BBQ: And then she would respond … Go.

Tink: I was born

BBQ: Raise your hand to speak.

Tink: I was born and raised in Los Angeles.

BBQ: Perfect. And then Tink would point at someone else. And pass it on. We’ll keep doing that. And afterwards, everyone will have an opportunity to talk about how they felt. Okay?

Campers: Okay.

BBQ: Get up!

BBQ: We are doing this! All of us, right now. However you identify! Let’s go.

BBQ: Whatever you say in this room, stays in this room. This is coming from a place of love. In America, we’re constantly divided by race. I want to bring it out into the open. Take away its power. Kewpie, lights off.

BBQ: Okay, I’ll go first. White people can’t dance. Okay, who’s next? Come on, let’s go. Great.

Wolf: Native Americans only like biodynamic wine.

Campers: Yeah.

Camper2: White people are the color of band-aids.

Campers: Yeah.

Camper3: Um, Black people … er, have thick nails.

Camper4: White people don’t wear socks.

Tink: Woah. Well, um, Hawaiian people are new wave goth.

BBQ: Where are the Hawaiians?

Camper5: White people can’t digest spice.

Camper6: What?

BBQ: She said: “White people can’t digest spice.” What are you going to say back to that?

Campers: Oh.

Camper6: Asians can’t do sleepovers.

BBQ: She was talking about your ability to have fun. Camper7: Um. White people hate dirt.

Campers: Oh.

Camper8: White people only eat cabbage.

Campers: What the …

Campers: True.

Camper3: Asian people don’t have sweat glands. Campers: Oh

Camper9: White people have white hair. Campers: Oh

Camper3: Well, black people can’t see the color orange. Campers: Oh.

Camper8: Well, white people eat standing up. Chomp, chomp.

BBQ: Look at these white people. What do you have to say whites?

Camper1: Asians can’t kiss.

Camper10: What? That is not true. White people are all flat earthers.

Campers: Oh

Camper11: Well, I heard that Asians don’t like grandmas.

Camper2: I love my grandma.

Camper7: I love my grandma.

Wolf: You know what, I heard that Mexicans don’t even like Wednesdays. Campers: What?

BBQ: Oh, my god.

Camper10: White people can’t tie their shoes.

Campers: Oh.

Camper8: Asian people have ashy elbows.

Campers: OH!

Camper12: Untrue! Black people …

BBQ: You guys, you guys. Please don’t, no, please, no. Please, no. Y’all, y’all. No, no, no. No, please. No, please.

BBQ: Stop, please, no. Please.

Friend: …And then I will have to tell her again. Wolf: I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening.

BBQ: I love y’all.

BBQ: I really, really love y’all. Campers: I love you, BBQ.

Campers: I love you, BBQ.

BBQ: I love y’all. I love y’all. BBQ. I love you.

BBQ: So much, yes. Yes. B Zone.