I started NYU film school this week -- for the second time. To make a long story short, I began classes with last year's incoming students, but decided to take another year before starting grad school. I'm actually at least 2.5 times more excited this year than I was last year, which is a lot for me, because I'm typically too mellow to get excited about anything that doesn't involve some combination of sci-fi, vegan brownie-bottom cheesecake, or DJ Ian Friday.
In hindsight, waiting was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Unfortunately, unlike last year, I'm the only African in our class of 40-some-odd students, one out of six black students, and one out of two black females. At lunchtime on the first day, instead of talking with the other newbies, I commiserated with my fellow sistah who I abandoned last year, leaving her as the only (self-professed) angry black woman in the class.
She told me that the prof-politics are rough, which I had already heard through the grapevine. Nobody ever seems to understand her perspective or identify with the nuances of her black characters, deeming them implausible or unrealistic. While the most farfetched white characters and plot lines are given a thumbs up. She got so stressed out about having to defend her choices and herself that her appetite suffered, ass disappeared, and hair started falling out. Listening to her story, I finally realized what my secret weapon is, as articulated by one of my friends during a late-night pow-wow about my first day.
He told me that I'm a "non-threatening black female" and not hard to look at. I look like a softie, easily manipulated, swayed, or taken advantage of. Whether or not any of that is true, perception is 9/10ths, and I'm beginning to think it could be quite useful to me. Already I have charmed my way into many fruitful partnerships, but it's that extra 1/10th of "Naija crazy" that gives me the edge it takes to hold my ground and make it in this business. Maybe you have seen it in action.
Your mother goes up to the register in a pleasant mood, setting the groceries on the conveyor belt quite calmly, and then the cashier charges an extra $.10 per pound for her red onion and the corners of her mouth turn up, she starts sucking her teeth and talking in that angry-Naija-woman voice. I promise you, I will pull it out of the arsenal when I need it. I'm fairly certain that, as a result, all of my films will come in on schedule and under budget. LOL.
This whole film school process is really just training for a career in an industry dominated by white, predominantly Jewish, and entitled males -- although I intend to work in the arena of African cinema, which means just change the race, ethnicity, and religion, but play the same sexist game.
All I've gotta say is, GAME ON. I'm tough. I'm scrappy. I'm a survivor. And being a non-threatening Naija female should prove to be quite a useful (and lucrative!) combination. ;)
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