SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2019

The Queens Celebrated Blackness at Sundance

BY ALLIE WAXMAN

Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson were at the festival to discuss surviving in a kings’ universe.

Over mimosas and tea in Park City, the queens candidly opened up to moderator Angela Rye about how they define their blackness and why they decided to fill a void in the entertainment industry. Here’s what they covered.

On fighting self-doubt when starting 2 Dope Queens

Robinson and Williams made sure they represented their authentic selves and covered relatable topics when forming 2 Dope Queens. “There were no variety shows in New York that were hosted by black women, so we said, ‘Why don’t we?’ instead of waiting for it to happen,” Robinson explained. “That’s part of why people like the show: We talk about black hair, microaggressions, interracial dating — all these things people are going through. We’re able to just be ourselves.”

Williams added that there are different ways to be black and that their focus was on authenticity. “The fact that people of all races respond to 2 Dope Queens is really telling of where society is heading. We really wanted to let it rip and be like, ‘Here I am, guys!’”

On revoking “black cards”

In an episode in the new season, Robinson and Williams have a hair-braiding competition with Lupita Nyong'o, where their lack of braiding aptitude is on display. “We just wanted to let Lupita shine and be super-competitive,” said Williams about the segment.

Aware of how this put her “black card” in jeopardy, Williams acknowledged: “The only blackness I can speak to thoroughly is mine.” Robinson jokingly pressed Williams about other reasons to revoke, and her co-star copped to a moment earlier in the trip: “When we landed I saw three Mormon men and thought, ‘Yeah, they’re attractive.’”

For her part, Robinson claimed she couldn’t freestyle, but busted into a killer beatbox over which Williams rapped.

On celebrating Black History Month

To honor the occasion, Robinson and Williams plan to elevate black voices on their platforms. “I’ve been going to a lot of bookstores and I’m only buying books by black authors. That’s my goal for this year,” said Robinson. “I’m not in a position to publish people but I can use my dollars to support.”

Williams promised to use her time in Wikipedia rabbit holes for good: “I want to look up stuff about black history and post it,” she promised.

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