Danielle Brooks and a panel of actresses, including Jessica Henwick, Logan Browning, Kate del Castillo, and Gillian Jacobs, chatted about strong female leads being front and center in 2017 during a Netflix panel Wednesday in New York City. Touching on issues of diversity, beauty, and the roles available to women, the panel shared heartfelt messages and inspiring ideas about what they hope to see.
Brooks opened up about her changing views on beauty, the diversity of Orange is the New Black, and seeing women like herself on-screen. The actress started off by revealing that Countess Vaughn and Natalie Desselle-Reid were two women she admired growing up because she saw herself reflected in them: “They looked like me and they could sing and they were chocolate and they had curly hair. And so, for me, I was like ‘I want to find a way to do what they’re doing.’”
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Brooks discussed the diversity of female leads in 2017, touching on Orange is the New Black’s incredible cast. “Now, you don’t only have one female lead. You have a Hispanic lead, a transgender female lead. You have Black female leads,” she said. “It blew my mind to be on a show where there are at least four Black women that are series regulars.” Brooks did add, however, that she would love to see more plus size women in lead roles for action films or as love interests.
Still, for Brooks, it’s the industry’s changing attitudes about beauty that have helped her shape her own. “Coming into this business right out of school I was very confused. How do I wear my hair? Do I gain weight? Do I lose weight? I can’t change my color,” she joked. “But, to be on a show where they say there’s not one formula of what beauty is — you can have a hint of mocha choco-latte, you can have a hint of fat back — it’s still beautiful because people are seeing themselves on TV.”
The fifth season of Orange is the New Black debuts June 9 on Netflix.