After months of fan anticipation, Insecure’s fifth and final season has finally gotten underway, and its premiere episode made quite a splash with viewers…though not for the reasons one may assume.
During Sunday night’s season 5, episode 1, “Reunited, Okay?!” Issa, Molly, Tiffany, and Kelly travel back to their alma mater Stanford University, where their friendships all began. Tiffany, portrayed by actress and comedian Amanda Seales, spent the entire reunion weekend decked out head-to-toe in colors and paraphernalia from her sorority, in true Tiffany style – very extra, always Instagram-ready.
As soon as Tiffany stepped on the scene in her pink and green Gucci dress, it was obvious to anyone with recognition of Black Greek Letter Organizations who she was repping. Though both Seales’ character Tiffany and Yvonne Orji’s character Molly have made passing references to their panhellenic affiliation throughout the course of the dramedy’s four previous seasons, either verbally or through the use of carefully placed props, Greek viewers took particular exception with a scene in which Tiffany donned a real-deal AKA cardigan, complete with the organization’s official shield emblazoned on the front.
The scene was brief and the organization’s shield was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. But sharp-eyed sorors surely spotted it and quickly took to Twitter to air their grievances that their organization was represented by an actress with no affiliation to their sisterhood outside of her character.
Seales responded to questions and backlash by reasserting that she’s simply playing a role, and doesn’t need to be a member of AKA in real life to play one on HBO.
“I’m not a soror. Tiffany is a soror. Tiffany is a character on a TV show,” she responded on IG Live. “I didn’t write the character. I play the character. I’m not a soror. I’m an actress, and I’m playing a character on a TV show.”
“I think reality TV got a lot of y’all messed up,” she added, insinuating that fans have a hard time differentiating between what is scripted and what is reality.
Star and co-creator Issa Rae was equally dismissive of fan outrage over the use of the sorority’s official letters and shield. In response to a tweet tagging both Rae and the official Insecure account calling the costuming “wildly disrespectful,” she quote-tweeted (and later deleted) this response:
“Oh shit, let me tell [HBO] to delete the one of the upcoming episodes then, hold on.”
Rae even doubled down on making light of the backlash earlier this afternoon, tweeting out a sorority-centric clip from her original YouTube show Awkward Black Girl, featuring Tracy Oliver as an enraged sorority sister, with the caption “Ain’t shit changed!”
The backlash swelled to such a large scale on Tuesday that the Executive Director of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. penned a letter to members, letting them know that the organization’s corporate office is aware and will take official action from this point.
“We were made aware of the unauthorized use of our brand on the HBO show Insecure early yesterday morning and are taking steps to protect our brand,” wrote Executive Director Cynthia D. Howell. “You can do your part by refraining from engaging with anyone involved with the show or anyone, including other sorors, on social media about this matter.”
Showrunner Prentice Penny and director Melina Matsoukas posted their own responses to the controversy, absolving Amanda Seales and Issa Rae of any “wrongdoing” when it comes to the show portraying one of its most beloved characters as a member of an official National Pan-Hellenic Council organization, and inviting all “blame” to be placed on them as concept-drivers of the show. See their responses below.
Rae teased that there will be more scenes featuring characters in Greek letters, so it remains to be seen what the continued fallout will be.