Some of the most talented and well-known people who are among the best at what they do reach a point in their careers when they reinvent themselves. This happens when they mature and enter a more intellectually seasoned phase of their lives.
In the worlds of television and film, some of the greatest on-screen talents have made this transformation over the course of their illustrious careers. Movie and television icon Will Smith has given a masterful example of how and why this creative shift occurs. He started his career as a goofy good guy and rap artist turned television actor.
On The Fresh Prince of Bel-air, Smith oozed the same fun-loving, comical, and jovial personality on camera that he did in his music. After the long-running Fresh Prince show ran its course, Smith made a hard-earned transition into film that has turned him into one of one the highest-grossing screen actors in box office history.
Over many years, fans have watched the Independence Day star’s on-camera persona blossom from the hilariously non-nonchalant boy next door into a focused man with the gift of fury. In addition to portraying the outspoken and legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali (2001’s Ali), Smith also played forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu.
Dr. Omalu’s story was told in the compelling film Concussion, which talked about the CTE epidemic that adversely affected the lives of many former NFL players. However, Smith’s journey as a celebrated Hollywood thespian exemplifies the path of a black man. There is a much different experience for black women in the television and film industries.
Djakarta “Deena” Jacobs (pictured) is a contemporary artist, comedienne, and television actor. Jacobs was born in Washington, D.C. and comes from a traditional black family of artists, whose father worked for the Federal government while her mother stayed home to raise the kids and run their art gallery.
She holds a Bachelors in Psychology & Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography, which she received at D.C.’s prestigious Corcoran College of Art and Design.
Four years later, she relocated to Los Angeles, California to fulfill her dreams of having an acting career. In 2010, she started an entertainment production company called New American Divas.
She began producing plays written and directed by black women which caught the attention of the local theater scene, members of the Ivy Awards & the NAACP’s theater committee.
By 2010, Jacobs had brilliantly and strategically crafted her image into a character the world would soon see. The “Deena Jacobs” character she created on social media via Deena Jacobs RANTS on YouTube projected the epitome of America’s “angry black woman.”
Her hillarious YouTube rants and jokes about pop culture icons, such as Kim Kardashian West, propelled her into the popular lane of reality TV.
In 2012, Jacobs really began to blow up. She started out working with the eccentric hip-hopper Tyler the Creator and his band Odd Future. She was a reoccurring character on the group’s sketch comedy television series called Loiter Squad. 2012 was also the year my career in journalism began.
In the summer of 2012, I wrote my first columns for the Your Black World online news network, which was founded by Dr. Boyce Watkins. Dr. Watkins is a black American economist, entrepreneur, and social pundit. Jacobs eventually saw my work for this black media source, which is still one of the most popular black online brands in the nation.
I began corresponding with Jacobs in the fall of 2012 and we communicated via telephone. We would brainstorm about ideas related to popular culture from the black prospective. Nowadays, Jacobs focus has shifted as she continues her re-branding phase.
Her new mission is titled Mindset Evolutionary: Guiding Black Women to Freedom from Negative Conditioning. One of the ways she fuels her new vision’s engine toward the masses is her live talk series, which can be viewed weekly on FlyNubianQueen.com Facebook and YouTube pages.
This digital platform is also affiliated with the Your Black World online media network. Jacobs conducted an exclusive telephone interview with me earlier this month. She spoke with me about her decade-plus career in Hollywood, her views on feminism, and her image transformation that went from stereotypical to serendipitous.
HVY: The “Deena Jacobs” image you ran was hilarious and showcased pure genius. When did you start seeing yourself evolving away from her?
DJ: The earliest YouTube videos, entitled Deena Jacobs on Facebook, elude to this transformation, specifically the video, Deena Brand New where at the end of the video she whispers, “I am removing the mask and becoming. I am becoming. Won’t you join me?” From there I shifted from an innocent wide-eyed black girl trying to find her way, to the Angry Black B*tch ranting about all of the injustices she was facing. Deena Jacobs is an archetype that lives through me, she is an extension of my own personality. Now, joining the FlyNubianQueen.com Network, she demonstrates how to break free of her mental slavery by encouraging the Queens to join her on this journey of self-love, spiritual healing, and forgiveness.
HVY: So did you use the leverage opportunities to start giving fans the real you?
DJ: In a sense, yes, but it was bigger than me. It was more so a variation on the stereotypical theme of black women that was present in me & becoming very popular again, especially on Reality TV and social media. As a performance artist, the ability to create, embody and then shatter the illusion of the Angry Black Woman/Jezebel/Mammy as she’s evolving in real-time has always been at work. When I was a guest on H8R during my Kim Kardashian faceoff, the show’s producers were kind of taken aback when I didn’t come off toward Kim as angry. I started gaining leverage in the reality TV game by giving the producers just enough of the stereotype they wanted while infusing her with grace and humanity.
HVY: Feminism is a subject that is frequently discussed by the different black women who are social commentators on the Fly Nubian Queen Network. What are your views on the subject?
DJ: One of the Facebook Live recent segments I did for Fly Nubian Queen dealt with detaching fear from vulnerability. Feminism has created what I see as a great deal of mental dis-ease in our community. A number of us have succumbed to the Strong Black Woman AKA “Superwoman Syndrome” where some of us believe that we have to do it all on our own. Taking responsibility for everything except our own well-being.
HVY: Where do you see the unfriendly competition among black women occur the most?
DJ: Competition among women is normal in society, however, it can become unhealthy when it is used to silence the voices of those who do not or will not fit into the stereotypes imposed upon us as Black women by the greater society. Of course, this behavior seems to stem from slavery when it was not safe to stand out or be different, where competing to the be the prized possession of the plantation meant life or death for so many.
It may have also grown out of a form of over protection for the younger girls to dull their shine as to avoid catching the eye of the Master or the ire of the Mistress. I discourage this type of thinking during my live streams by infusing my messages with love, acceptance of all who are present and non-judgment.
So far the feedback has been very positive from the women watching. I believe that Black women are the most brilliantly, beautiful, gifted beings and it’s time we own it, band together and reclaim our throne.
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Courtesy of FlyNubianQueen.com’s YouTube channel.