Photo by Kassa/Warner Bros TV/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Back in January, when Hulu announced that trailblazing ‘90s sitcom Living Single would be available on its streaming service, I happily cancelled plans and settled in to binge the series from start to finish for the very first time. I was craving the nostalgia.
As a twentysomething who missed out on the magic of a “90s kind of world” in real time due to, well, birth and potty-training, I was so ready to becoming fully-invested in the personal and professional friendships of Khadijah, Maxine, Régine, Synclaire, Overton, and Kyle once again.
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In what became a ritual, I’d pour myself up a glass of wine, queue up an episode (or two or three), curl up on my couch and get lost in the adventures inside the Brooklyn brownstone where it all took place.
The more I became immersed in the series, largely written by the acclaimed executive producer Yvette Lee Bowser, the more I noticed something rather refreshing about a show that is now the same age as me.
In Living Single’s Khadijah — brought to life by the illustrious award-winning phenom Queen Latifah — I found that, unlike some of my other favorite fictional heroines, she was curvy with broad shoulders, like me, and going against the TV norm of the time, she had a fair share of sexy romantic love interests.
From the time the series made its debut some 25 years ago in August 1993, Khadijah wasn’t afraid to take ownership of her body and her curves, to flaunt them in ways that made her comfortable and to demand the attention, affection, and respect she deserved from each and every one of her male suitors. And she had plenty of them!
In season one, Morris Chestnut starred as Hamilton Brown and indulged Khadijah’s flirtatious fantasies. Although he wasn’t the ideal mate for her, he still managed to be what eye candy dreams were made of — douchebag and all. Season three led to a cameo from Grant Hill (like THE two-time NCAA champ, future Hall of Famer Grant Hill), who was so infatuated with Khadijah that he wrote a song dedicated to his desires and found that not having her in his life disrupted his game after they broke up.
A Different World’s Bumper Robinson found his way from Hillman to the Flava Magazine newsroom in season three and four as an intern, who vied for the editor and owner’s affection. While their age difference kept them apart, the sheer thought of Bumper bagging someone of Khadijah’s caliber comforted me.
Lest we forget, Dr. Charles Roberts, played by Grey’s Anatomy’s Isaiah Washington in the latter part of season four. With his deep chocolate hue and voice, his mere existence on screen sent a tingle down my spine each time he uttered Khadijah’s name. Perhaps if it wasn’t for that pesky schedule of his (you know, saving lives and all), perhaps their love could have stood a chance.
Washington played one of Khadijah's many love interests, a well-connected doctor who took the magazine editor along to one of his banquets, where things got a little tense after snobby guests insulted her.
But the most important of all of Khadijah’s romantic interests was her on-again, off-again love with childhood friend turned forever-bae, Terrence “Scooter” Williams.
The ever-fine Cress Williams (Side note: Have you seen Black Lightning? That man has aged with the grace and goodness of God) came in and out of Khadijah’s life over the series, but every time he appeared onscreen it was like he and Khadijah’s souls just called out each other’s name. Through all the ups and downs of their relationship, Scooter never once found fault in her size, celebrated her career accomplishments, enjoyed life with her, and ultimately, gave her all she needed, wanted and desired in a man.
That’s love—but identifying with Khadijah’s character meant more than just that.
Seeing her attract men who were drawn to her intellect, saw her ambition as a turn-on, found something worthwhile in her charm and loved how she flaunted her full-figured frame was refreshing, and I can only imagine what that meant to other curvy or plus size women in the mid-90s. Another glorious facet here, is that however long or short their connections were, the men in Ms James’ life weren’t unhealthy or toxic, and they didn’t see dating her as a means of fulfilling some sort of fetish. (As we’ve also seen happen with curvy women onscreen countless times before.)
Khadijah meant a lot to me. I, a girl who has been thick most of her life, had the right to love and be loved by men who exist in a society that often deems me unworthy or less-desirable because of my size.
After all, Khadijah acted alongside the legendary Kim Fields, the beautiful Erica Alexander, and the hilarious Kim Coles and stood out in a room not because of her size but because of her finesse—and she attracted men because of it.
In the years since Living Single went off the air in 1998, there have only been a handful of instances in which a fuller figured Black woman on TV has had success in finding a worth-while love.
Grey’s Anatomy’s Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) explores all of her bedroom desires with her husband, Ben Warren (Jason George) and that’s all due to Shonda Rhimes’ genius. Gabourey Sidibe added to the representation list thanks to her role as Becky Williams on Empire, and caused quite an unnecessary stir on social media when she and her boo, MC J Poppa got it poppin’ during primetime. A guest appearance from Jill Scott on Mara Brock Akil’s Being Mary Jane, contributed to the moment—but isn’t that list a little too short in a desire to feel represented on mainstream television…in 2018 nonetheless.
In all the ways that Queen Latifah has pioneered and paved the way off camera, I’d like to think that on Living Single she did the exact same. Not in showing the hustle of a Black woman owning her own magazine, but in the heart of her plus-sized romantic manifestations.
Living Single taught me to be glad “I’ve got my girls,” but more importantly showed me a reflection of myself — a curvy queen who was working to become a boss on all fronts and pull fine men in the process.
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