Interview: Ava DuVernay And 'Queen Sugar' Cast Talk Women Directors And Family Intricacies

Ava DuVernay and the cast of OWN's Queen Sugar give a brief introduction into their complicated family dynamic and the characters they play.

Academy-Award nominated director Ava DuVernay takes a step back from the silver screen for the small screen to deliver Queen Sugar, a story about a family struck by tragedy as they collectively and individually gain their footing in the after. The 13-episode season premiere, which kicks off Sept. 6 and 7, will show viewers not only a reflection of the human intricacies families often go through, but Ms. DuVernay was not shy about casting actors rich in talent and melanin.

VIBE caught up with the Selma director and cast at this year's Essence Festival where DuVernay spoke in detail about why this season is directed solely by women, and the cast goes in depth about their individual roles and their complicated family history.

VIBE: What complexities will the women directors bring to the show and what humanities will they bring?
Ava DuVernay: I think you bring yourself to it but the idea is who is the self, who is the person dictating what it's like. Does that self, or does that person who has the job of dictating what we see always have to be a man? Does it always have to be a white man? Does it always have to be the same kind of voice? I don't know what they're going to bring, I mean we're looking at it right now, we're editing it together but I know it's going to be different from what we usually see and that's what I want. I want something that's going to shake things up a little bit.

How do the female directors and the writer's room change the feel of the show?
The writer's room is a diverse writer's room with the majority of the writers being people of color and women. Every director is a woman and the whole crew is diverse. It's a inclusive crew as we say, so I think that chemistry, that alchemy, that idea of having all different kinds of people comes out in the show. It feels different, its a bit of all of us in there.

Tell me about your character Nova Bordelone.
Rutina Wesley: 
She is the oldest. She's a healer with her hands and also with her spirit and energy. She's a leader in her community, the world community, her home community and she's an activist. She's sort of a modern day woman who's a beautiful mess. I describe her in that way because your going to see a lot of different facets of her. For example, she has high morals, but her lover is married. And as far as her siblings go we've been estranged so now we all have to come back together after a family tragedy and figure out how to navigate our relationships that have been distant and she serves as the head of that as far as trying to get us all together in that kind of way.

What about your character?
Dawn-Lyen Gardner:
I play Charley Bordelon West. When you meet Charley, she is a manager to her husband Davis West who is a major NBA superstar. She's a mother to a teenager son, and she's very defined by her achievements and success. It's how she establishes her self worth and that's all turned upside down within the first episode and she's confronting who she is without those things defining her anymore. So we find her back in Louisiana and back with her family whom she's been estranged from and figuring out her relationships again and figuring out who she is in this new environment. It's sort of like a new world strategist because she's a master strategist in an old world and how does she move forward.

When I was doing my research, I learned that the family now has to learn how to run a sugarcane farm?
DLG: It's inherited land and it's also how the family has to find itself as a farming family and there's been a lot of problems with that and it sort of reflects the state of black farmers in America. There's a lot historical obstacles that are very specific to that community so we being to unearth that through the season.

What were some of your first expressions and reactions when you learned you landed the role?
RW: When Ava called me, it was the day after my 37th birthday, and she said, 'I would love for you to come on Queen Sugar.' I was silent, and then it was kind of crazy, and then she told me that she also cast Dawn and I am losing it. I was just so proud. Honestly, we really get to the work because we know each other. We can really get deep and nasty and then be like, 'Love You' when its all said and done. And that's the kind of work that your'e going to see coming from all of us because we are there to serve a story and we're really going to give you story and characters. We really allow ourselves to be completely free in our play and our work.

Your character is the youngest and he's searching for redemption after doing time in prison. Tell me about your character a little bit. What's his name?
Kofi Siriboe:  Ralph Angel Bordelon. Ralph Angel was in prison. He has a son that he left behind and he's just looking for his identity. He's been a victim to his choices in the past and now he's trying to actually form what he believes he is, which I don't think he completely knows but through his family dynamics, his sisters, his auntie, the loss of his father, the absence of his mother, there's so many things that are playing with his mental, then the reality of him being formally incarcerated hits him. He doesn't have the freedom and choices that the average man, or human being has, so he has to navigate that world but at the same time navigate the internal life of all this stuff that you have to deal with.

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Comedienne Jess Hilarious Under Fire For Xenophobic Comments Toward Sikhs

Jess Hilarious came under fire Sunday (March 17) after she uploaded a video showcasing relief after four Sikhs were removed from her flight. The Lil Rel star defended her statements and said she was scared.

"If I'm scared I'm scared. F**k y'all. F**k how y'all feel," Jess said. "Y'all mad at me because I don't side with any other black person, because I don't side with every other race. F**k y'all. I feel how I feel. I felt threatened and that was it. F**k y'all, and I'm not flying there. We were evacuated, bitch. Why? Why? with no technical difficulties or nothing."

The Internet quickly sent the comic a digital side eye for her xenophobic comments, which came two days after 51 Muslim men and women were gunned down in New Zealand. The youngest of which was 3-year-old Mucaas Ibrahim.

what if Jess Hilarious’ middle name is Notthat?

— Jamal (@JamalJimoh) March 17, 2019

A day after Muslims were ambushed and murdered while praying (death toll now at 51), Jess Hilarious hops on Al Gore’s internet to brag about+defend getting 4 people with turbans kicked off a flight because she didn’t feel safe.

— Candice Marie Benbow (@CandiceBenbow) March 17, 2019

Xenophobia is really disgusting.

The hate for Muslims is disgusting and Jess hilarious is trash and not worthy of a platform. https://t.co/qotZ9AwMLO

— Mistress George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) March 17, 2019

One Twitter user, a DJ who goes by the name DJ The Gypsy pointed out Jess' comments run rampant within other parts of the black community.

Jess Hilarious’ anti-Muslim rhetoric sheds light on a very important topic; Islamophobia within the black Christian community

— dylan (@dylanthegypsy) March 17, 2019

The backlash Jess merited did, however, highlight not everyone shared her sentiments.

Just a word of thanks to everybody calling out Jess Hilarious on her awful, islamophobic actions & her endangering of innocent Sikhs. Means the world to see folks stepping up & speaking up.

— Anil Dash 🥭 (@anildash) March 17, 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.


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.


View this post on Instagram


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



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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Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Drake And Toronto Raptors Unveil OVO Athletic Center

"Introducing the OVO Athletic Centre, the official training facility for the Toronto Raptors," Drake wrote on Instagram when he gave his followers a look at the OVO-inspired renaming of the Raptors' training center.

A display of partnership between the 6God and the Canadian professional basketball team, the Raptors announced Thursday (March 14) that their training center would embrace the October's Very Own's moniker with pride. The " Nice For What" rapper and the franchise celebrated the joyous collaboration by showing off the OVO owl symbol.

Introducing the OVO Athletic Centre, the official training facility for the Toronto Raptors. 🇨🇦 just wanted to add that I am so proud of my brothers and so proud to be from this city I swear this one feels like a high school dream and it’s a blessing to be able to raise up the levels and make the human mind stretch when it comes to thinking about what is possible in your lifetime!! Much love to everyone involved

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Mar 14, 2019 at 8:25am PDT

We made it happen. Introducing the OVO Athletic [email protected] | #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/8Z2Trv6evi

— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 14, 2019

Drake's relationship with the Toronto Raptors began in 2013 when the rapper agreed to be a team ambassador. The support between the two continued into 2018 when OVO-inspired jerseys were introduced by the team.


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