Tracee Ellis Ross, in an essay on Lenny Letter, shares how former First Lady Michelle Obama made room for her character Rainbow Johnson on ABC’s Black-ish.
Our show Black-ish is a family comedy, and what we’re playing is an American family. We don’t happen to be black. We are black. Mrs. Obama made room for my character, Rainbow Johnson. She validated a Rainbow Johnson for people who had never met a black woman with the revolutionary experience of being joyful. A black woman who is not only surviving but thriving. A black woman who is actually in love with her husband — not an image we usually see in American pop culture. A black woman who can be goofy and sexy, who can be smart and empowered and soft and lovable and vulnerable.
Eight years of watching Michelle Obama as a person, not just relegated to doing “woman things,” provided an antidote to all the false representations of black women that have inundated us for centuries — images that don’t represent the reality, or the humanity, of who we are as black people. Of who we are as people. And then to have her name prefaced by two things that are rarely associated with black women — “First” and “Lady” — well, it shattered everything.