Amanda Seales Opens Up About Her New Radio Show and the Difficulties in Being Smart, Funny and Black

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Image: courtesy of Amanda Seales

The chapter may be closed on the HBO hit series Insecure and Amanda Seales’ memorable character— the ultra-bougie and proud Tiffany DuBois, but the multitalented actress and comedian (and sometimes EBONY columnist) is always on the move. In addition to tending to her Small Doses with Amanda Seales podcast, Seales, who has 1.9 million followers on Instagram and faithful Patreon supporters for her Smart, Funny and Black movement, has joined Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Radio Channel 96 on SiriusXM with the daily morning show expansion of Smart, Funny with cohosts Taj Rani and JeremiahLikeTheBible, which launched April 18. For Seales, who hosted Breakfast at Diva’s on SiriusXM’s Hip Hop Nation in the early 2000s, the show is a homecoming but with a new focus. EBONY caught up with the hardworking Seales to chat about her latest coup, her Ivy League Masters degree in African American Studies, as well as Tiffany’s impact and why being smart, funny, Black and female scares people. 

EBONY: How did you and Kevin Hart make this happen?

Amanda Seales: Kevin and I spoke for the first time on his podcast, Comedy Gold Minds, which is also on this medium. It was a very candid convo that folks got to see in real time and he said, ‘you know, I’m gonna meet with Amanda and we’re gonna see how we can work together.’ And I think a lot of folks, myself included, probably called bullshit. But he’s a man of his word. And this was a very familiar space to me, and also something that I knew we could get off the ground pretty quickly. It really was a matter of everyone cohesively saying ‘let’s make this happen’ and that’s super-duper encouraging. As someone who is constantly creating things, you want to be able to actually see them elevate, and coming to this space, on his network, I consider this to be just that.

What do you think you’re bringing differently than before?

I think what I bring differently this time around is just a very clear, decisive goal of edutainment. And I always want to be in a space where I’m making people laugh while they learn about something. And if it’s not learning, it’s at least encouraging folks to ask more questions or to think with broadened perspectives. We are in a time where I feel like ignorance is being touted as something that we should be aspiring to, which is an oxymoron, and I feel like at this point in my career, I’ve done a consistent job of letting folks know that my effort, even if some don’t agree, is always to try to come at things from an intellectual place and encourage all of us to do so.

What kind of power does radio give you that Hollywood doesn’t?

On one just basic level, it gives me creative freedom. The ability to speak freely is encouraged at SiriusXM. To speak passionately and, in some cases, subversively and controversially, they run to it, not from it, which I think is not quite often the case in Hollywood. It also allows me to really directly speak to folks who are my fans and get new fans without the thought process of ‘well, is this going to reach everybody?’ That can oftentimes be a huge hindrance because the truth of the matter is not everybody likes everything so the consistent goal to try and create things that are for everyone at all times is, to me, pointless.

If you knew you wanted to be in entertainment, why get a M.A. in African American Studies from Columbia University?

I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. At the end of the day, what I feel like makes me unique and a special entertainer is that my form of entertainment is backed by this other element of academia, of scholarship. And when you look at the work that was coming out of the Black Arts Movement of the 70s, the goal was how do we teach each other about each other? How do we embrace our Black identities? How do we learn more about our history to inform and empower us? And, so, my studies were in African American Studies, and I infuse that into my work in the tradition of those who came before me with the same goal.

For you, who is Tiffany from Insecure and what is her impact?

I think Tiffany is a truth teller. In a group of characters that were very much trying to find their way, Tiffany was also trying to find hers but, over the course of the series, I love seeing her become the grounded friend. And I think she was somewhat more advanced in her acquiring what she wanted whereas her peers on the show had a different journey of that. But I think that was necessary just to show the different routes that we all go and that there really isn’t any wrong version, but that there’s just the unique choices that we make. And I think when we see these different types of representation of Black women, the biggest contribution that we’re giving is the fact that we are being shown that we can be way more than just these archetypes that are, oftentimes, set upon us. And Tiffany was definitely not an archetype. I think she started [that way] . . . but she grew, and she expanded, especially with her storyline around postpartum depression. You know, I’ve been told she really touched a lot of Black women who saw themselves in that storyline in a way that they had never seen themselves represented on television. And it made them feel less isolated in their experience. So that’s, an honor, of course.

Do you think being smart, funny, Black and female scares people?

Well, yeah, they didn’t want us to read. So. It was literally illegal. It was punishable by death to want to educate yourself. And, even with that, Black women were the last to be able to vote. So us being able to write our own narratives and find humor from our dark places, from our joy spaces, etc. and be able to use that as a tool for change because that’s how I use it, I think that is frightening for folks. I think any time Black women are unabashedly owning their space it is frightening for folks because they know that we are in possession of immeasurable power. We’ve demonstrated it time and time again.

Amanda Seales’ “Smart, Funny and Black” airs Monday mornings on Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Radio on SiriusXM

Ronda Racha Penrice is the author of Black American History For Dummies and editor of Cracking The Wire During Black Lives Matter.

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