Melissa De Sousa Melissa De Sousa

It Ain't The Huxtables: Melissa De Sousa Talks "Reed Between The Lines"

Afro-Latina actress Melissa De Sousa is widely-known for her sassy, ball-busting role as Shelby in 1999 film The Best Man. These days, however, the Panamanian New Yorker is promoting BET's new show Reed Between The Lines, where she plays a fiery, keep-it-real acupuncturist. Alongside Tracee Ellis Ross' Claire Huxtable-esque role, De Sousa prepares to bring a fiery yet zen-like best friend dynamic to the almost-Cosby Show sitcom that'll fatten BET's fall line-up.

We've seen the pilot already. And while we're still training our brains to say "Gabby," Shelby, um... Melissa, still lights up the screen. There's a tinge of crazy, a pinch of good spirit and a whole lot of charm, that's got us anxious to see how her character develops.

Ready for her recent close-up? Tune into BET every Tuesday at 10pm EST! -Niki McGloster

VIBE VIXEN: Explain the background of your character's role on Reed Between The Lines?
MELISSA DE SOUSA: My character is Gabriella Jimenez. She's best friends with Carla Reed who's played by Tracee Ellis Ross. As you know, Carla [Tracee Ellis Ross] on the show is a psychologist and we share an office space in this building. They were best friends back in Philly before they moved to New York. I actually moved to New York as an inspiring dancer, but things didn't work out how I wanted them to. I took classes and became an acupuncturist, and I guess it's kind of like helping to heal myself and find myself while I'm also trying to find a man.

What's the dynamic between you and Tracee how did that develop onscreen?
Our characters are alike in a lot of ways, but we're different. Tracee's character thinks more with her brains because she's a psychologist, and I think I'm a little edgier. I might be a little more vocal; I might take it to the streets, You know what I mean? [Laughs] I'm just joking. I'll get in your face in a different way than she will.

How is the role that you play on Reed different from who you are on a day-to-day basis?
A work in progress--that's the similarities between me and Gabriella. My character, she'll do saging, meditating and cleansing you know that kind of stuff. Now I never have done saging, [but] I actually thought about doing it one time because I felt bad energy after a relationship. After getting older, I have become a lot more spiritual and more into meditation, and I think that's exactly what Gabriella is doing. She's trying to find herself in that way; trying to come from a more common place as opposed to coming from attack mode. That's how we might be a little bit similar in that way. I always think I'm a work in progress. I'm always trying to progress and change and grow and learn different things.

Everyone is a work in progress, and that's awesome that you recognize that. Do you watch the other Black sitcoms on BET? The Game and Let's Stay Together?
Of course! I'm friends with Wendy Raquel; we did Miss Congeniality together several years ago. I've know Wendy for a long time, so I support the show and all those actors. I have watched Let's Stay Together since it started airing. It's really great what BET has been doing; I think it's necessary. You know all these other cable networks have their new things going, and it may not be as diversely cast, so BET is giving Blacks and Latino/Latina actors a place. It's great. And Asians. We've had Asians actors on our show as well. It's definitely diverse which I love.

Very culturally diverse. What do you think Reed will bring to that line-up? Do you think it will bring something new, that BET hasn't had?
Definitely. It  will totally bring something new, because it's more of a family show. I think The Game is more of a singles, sexy life. This show, I may be the single [person] on the show, but it's sexy because of Tracee and Malcolm [Jamal Warner]. They play a 30-something married couple that's still sexy and having a good time with kids. It's more of a family show, and The Game and Let's Stay Together are more for singles. I don't want to label it like [The Cosby Show] since Malcolm is on the show. It will be compared; it's inevitable, [but] it's different with them being younger and the issues in America are different. The things they are going to tackle are going to be more modern. Bill Cosby was a comedian, and he was brilliant. It was just a different kind of feel, and [Reed Between The Lines] is a little different than that.

Let's talk about the style of the show. How does the style fit the characters?
Tracee will be in more modern suits with pantsuits, but a little bit different than what you'd see a normal psychologist wear with just a jacket and a skirt to the knee. It's a little bit more fashion-forward and hip. With my character being more spiritual, she's wearing a lot of long skirts. They were putting me in flow-y tops, but I tried to make it more tailored and sexy than earthy, since I'm trying to looking a man.

It's a bit bohemian chic?
That's exactly how they describe it.

What's your style like every day?
I have had my Flashdance moments. I like my shirts with the top cut open and hanging off one shoulder, and I will wear it with tights and boots. I'm a native New Yorker, so I wear a lot of black. If I'm feeling funky, I will wear grey. [Laughs] I live in leather jackets with zippers and black tight pants with zippers on the bottom. I'm very clean and simple and edgy sometimes. Sometimes I wear my big clunky Michael Kors watch. And I like smokey eyes with my make up.

VIBE VIXEN: While you're on this new venture, fans still can't let go of your character Shelby from The Best Man. When's the last time you were recognized for that role?
MELISSA DE SOUSA: Guys are scared to approach me! They're like, 'You're not like her, are you?' But if they're scared to approach me but want to, they say something like, 'Oh shoot, here she comes!' [Laughs] Especially when I'm home In New York, I get recognized all the time. I get a lot of love.

It still resonates strongly for fans. Twelve years later, what do you feel The Best Man brought to the urban community about understanding black love and relationships?
It brought class and let people know that African Americans and love stories don't have to have a color on it. It can be like The Big Chill where a bunch of people know each other from college, get together for a wedding, [and] it can have the same story. Since it's people of color, it doesn't have to be ghetto. They still live classy lives and have beautiful homes. It showed the African American culture in a different light, as opposed to what society likes to portray or usual see. Everybody isn't living like The Wire. It showed a modern middle class story and that exists everywhere.

The show is being shot in Atlanta. Have you gotten a chance to enjoy the city offset?
Our schedule is so crazy, so I haven't had much social time. We went to Puffy's restaurant, Justin's, and Malcolm had his band playing there. You know, Malcolm does spoken word and he has a band. He took us there one night and he performed with his band; we had so much fun. Since then we've been buckled down working, but I've been to Wal-Mart and Target a lot. [Laughs]

That's the regular stuff!
Yeah, my big social hour is going to Target. Me and Anna Maria Horsford, we're Target buddies.

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'Boomerang' Episode 7 Recap: Family Matters And Pride

Bryson and Simone are a thing, like for real for real. They can’t keep their hands (or tongues) off of one another. As the two of them get steamy in the jacuzzi, a sexually riled up Simone tells her new beau that she wants to treat his face like a bean bag. They are in it, y’all. There’s just one problem — they may be half-brother and sister (insert vomit emoji here). The excitement of finally landing the girl of his dreams is shut down when he reveals that his mother, Jacqueline, informed him that Marcus Graham may be his papa. (Wait. Does that mean Marcus cheated on Angela back in the day? Regardless, what a way to ruin a mood.)

As they wait for the DNA test results, Simone and Bryson still try to be business as usual, you know, chillin’ like they used to. Speaking of business, Bryson is all that. Ari may be his boy and all, but when it comes to directing Tia’s music video, Bryson wants an Italian dude to shoot it instead. He just doesn’t believe Ari can execute. All great directors have vision and through Bryson’s eyes, Ari has none. Simone can’t help but agree. It’s obvious that Tia and her bae are not at all pleased with the video production of her single. Bro gotsta go. Tia has never been one to hold back and in a fit of frustration, she does what Simone couldn’t verbalize; she fires Ari.

Like the “big bad boss” he is, Bryson harshly tells Ari that not only will he basically fail at being a producer, but people will notice that he doesn’t belong here. Hold up. Are we sure Bryson and Ari are friends? Tough love is understandable but to completely obliterate the dreams of someone you’ve been rocking with? That’s foul. Unlike Ari, Bryson knows that he was brought up with the keys and basically helped himself to whatever role he wanted in the industry, a luxury he can afford to extend. Why not help your friend out now even with a little guidance knowing his career aspirations?

Bryson may be able to but Simone is not willing to give up on Ari just yet. She lets Ari collaborate Bryson’s pick, Shayan, who is also seemingly having a hard time capturing dope shots. A conversation with Simone about perfecting his craft leaves Ari somewhat disappointed but open to the constructive criticism.

While enjoying the Atlanta Black Pride festivities, an old filing recognizes Ari and waves him down. In catching up, the discussion quickly takes a turn to sexual orientation labels with a judgemental tone and Ari is not having it. Sure, while he was with her, he liked women but sometimes he’d rather be with a man. “Bisexual,” “Gay,” call it whatever, he just likes who he likes, refuses to be put in a box, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is not about to happen is him being judged by a woman with five kids and three baby favas. Yikes.

That frustration instantly births inspiration. Instead of dryly shooting Tia performing with Pride weekend just happening around her, Ari points out how the world needs to see all black people not caring about what anyone has to say about them, especially when the world includes women rocking $12 jewelry. Sashayers, milly-rockers, and twerkers galore, the video shines on the culture, highlighting Kings and Queens of all shades, ages, genders, and sexualities. It’s a good time. Even Bryson can give up his props and that lead director credit to Ari. You see, Bryson? You gotta have a little faith like David always has.

Speaking of our fave pastor, unlike many Baptist churches, it’s amazing to see that David embraces and participates in the Atlanta Black Pride weekend. With the help of Crystal, David is preaching a message of loving who you are and loving others. His sermon last week no doubt spoke to the soul but if you recall, Crystal did notice that a lovely lady attended the service moreso for David and less so for Jesus. That obviously triggered something. Crystal and David may not have been able to work out their marriage but the attraction is absolutely still there. Could it be one-sided though?

You didn’t think we forgot about Bryson and Simone, did you? It should be noted that for his entire life, all Bryson ever wanted was to be like Marcus Graham, but not like this. David is right: be careful what you pray for. No matter the outcome of the paternity test, Simone and Bryson will undoubtedly be in one another’s life (maybe less like Whitley and Dwayne and more like Denise and Theo).

Well, folks, the results are in (insert Maury voice). In the case of Bryson J. Broyer, Marcus, you are NOT the father! But, you may still have some ‘splaining to do. Now that they are officially not related, Simone can finally go ahead and have that seat. We know, sis has been tired all day. Ow!

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Yvette Nicole Brown and Gabourey Sidibe were some of the actresses who were vocal about the treatment of actors of color when faced with beauticians in Hollywood.
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Celebrities Use #ActingWhileBlack Hashtag To Point Out Pitfalls Of Hollywood's Beauty Scene

While being a working person of color in Hollywood is something to admire, those fortunate enough to be working in these spaces often have difficulties finding the right person to do their hair and makeup with the right amount of diligent care.

Model Olivia Anakwe took to Instagram earlier this month to detail the issues she faced before a runway show, when she was disrespected by haircare professionals who refused to work on her textured hair.

"Black hairstylists are required to know how to do everyone’s hair, why does the same not apply to others?” she wrote. “It does not matter if you don’t specialize in afro hair, as a continuous learner in your field you should be open to what you have yet to accomplish; take a class."

The hashtag #ActingWhileBlack began to spread on social media over the weekend, and people of color chimed in to share their stories.

Actress Yvette Nicole Brown shared that she often carries her own hair extensions and clothes for shoots, and that having stylists who are untrained in black beauty often runs the risk of them looking bad later on. Oscar-nominee Gabourey Sidibe shared a similar sentiment.

Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell hit the nail on the head in her tweet about the issue with not hiring the right people to work with ethnic hair.

“If you cast a POC— And thank you for doing so!—you also have to hire someone who knows how to do ethnic hair,” she wrote on Mar. 11. “Not someone who's "comfortable with it" but someone who actually knows how to style ethnic hair types.”

Check out some tweets from celebs on this issue below.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

This message is to spread awareness & hopefully reach anyone in the hair field to expand their range of skills. Black models are still asking for just one hairstylist on every team no matter where your team is from to care for afro hair. I was asked to get out of an empty chair followed by having hairstylists blatantly turning their backs to me when I would walk up to them, to get my hair done. If I am asked to wear my natural hair to a show, the team should prepare the style just as they practice the look and demo for non-afro hair. I arrived backstage where they planned to do cornrows, but not one person on the team knew how to do them without admitting so. After one lady attempted and pulled my edges relentlessly, I stood up to find a model who could possibly do it. After asking two models and then the lead/only nail stylist, she was then taken away from her job to do my hair. This is not okay. This will never be okay. This needs to change. No matter how small your team is, make sure you have one person that is competent at doing afro texture hair care OR just hire a black hairstylist! Black hairstylists are required to know how to do everyone’s hair, why does the same not apply to others? It does not matter if you don’t specialize in afro hair, as a continuous learner in your field you should be open to what you have yet to accomplish; take a class. I was ignored, I was forgotten, and I felt that. Unfortunately I’m not alone, black models with afro texture hair continuously face these similar unfair and disheartening circumstances. It’s 2019, it’s time to do better. || #NaturalHair #ModelsofColor #BlackHairCare #HairCare #Message #Hair #Hairstyling #Backstage #BTS #AfroTexturedHair #Afro #POC #Braids #Message #Spreadtheword #Speak #Awareness #Growth #WorkingTogether #BlackGirlMagic #Melanin

A post shared by Olivia Anakwe (@olivia_anakwe) on Mar 7, 2019 at 9:07am PST

#ActingWhileBlack Makeup & Hair in one bag. The other bags are filled with clothes because some wardrobe stylists don’t know that cute clothes exist in sizes larger than size 10. “Here try on this mumu, I know it’s a little big, we’ll just belt it!” #ActingWhileBlackAndChubby https://t.co/gl3b64Omtj

— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) March 11, 2019

Most black actresses come to a new set w/ their hair done (me) or bring their wigs & clip-ins w/them. It’s either that or take a chance that you will look crazy on screen. Many of us also bring our own foundation. One too many times seeing no shade that matches you will learn ya! https://t.co/mGAzpuoKtb

— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) March 11, 2019

Most black actresses come to a new set w/ their hair done (me) or bring their wigs & clip-ins w/them. It’s either that or take a chance that you will look crazy on screen. Many of us also bring our own foundation. One too many times seeing no shade that matches you will learn ya! https://t.co/mGAzpuoKtb

— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) March 11, 2019

If they don’t have the budget to hire a black hairstylist for me, or won’t, I just get the director to agree that my character should have box braids or senegalese twist.

— Gabby Sidibe (@GabbySidibe) March 11, 2019

PSA: If you cast a POC— And thank you for doing so!—you also have to hire someone who knows how to do ethnic hair. Not someone who's "comfortable with it" but someone who actually knows how to style ethnic hair types.

Congratulations on advancing to the next level of inclusion! https://t.co/A1Q9ZpvXmH

— Natasha Rothwell (@natasharothwell) March 11, 2019

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Kim Kardashian is seen on February 7, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Gotham/GC Images)

Kim Kardashian Credited For Making Crimped Hair Cool Like Beyonce, Janet Jackson And Naomi Campbell Don't Exist

Spring is nothing without doses of cultural appropriation from those out of touch with black culture.

Insert Vogue, who decided to give props to Kim Kardashian for bringing back crimped hair on Friday (March 15). The businesswoman has been on the move lately, rocking a mix of kanekalon and yaki ponytails during fashion month, Chance The Rapper's wedding and other Kardashian-related events.

“What makes this look so modern is that the front is sleek,” explained her stylist Justine Marjan. “This gives a cool contrast to the texture.”

The texture? 

With many trends from the aughts coming back to the mainstream, this is one that hasn't really gone anywhere. But black beauty markers (layered gold chains, perfect baby hairs, name chains) paired with media ignorance and the Kardashian's own fascination with black culture has made it okay for her to receive all the props.

But we can't forget those who have slayed kanekalon, yaki and crimped styles like...

Janet Jackson

The singer's look for her comeback has been a uniform-like one, with Ms. Jackson rocking all black and her now signature ponytail.

Beyoncé

This. was. last. year. How could anyone forget this? The entertainer rocked various styles of kanekalon hair for Beychella.

There was also this amazing look at Serena Williams' wedding.

 

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A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Nov 19, 2017 at 9:01am PST

Ruth E. Carter

The Oscar-winning designer made the look all her own while on the red carpet for Black Panther. 

Nicki Minaj

Fans of the rapper are aware her early looks included fun crimped and wavy styles. When she made to move to ditch her color wigs in 2014, she's kept the crimped styles close to her heart.

And we cannot forget about our queen, Naomi Campbell

She's owned the look her whole career, from the runway to the red carpet, Ms. Campbell has always been on the forefront of casual beautiful looks.

Social media also got wind of Vogue's post, including actor O'Shea Jackson who like many of us, is just over it.

Maaaaaaan come on now. Come ooooon now. Bringing it back? Vogue stop this https://t.co/FEGSw3GM9V

— Stone Cold Shea Jackson (@OsheaJacksonJr) March 15, 2019

https://twitter.com/SassySouthpaw20/status/1106642402448732160

https://twitter.com/riridotxo/status/1106924628851728384

Perhaps there's a bit of truth of the theories of fashion outlets trolling readers but this just deserves a permanent eye roll.

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