This BET (“Leimert Park”) series explores the sexuality of black women | VIDEO


Mel Jones (Leimert Park)

* Mel Jones Black Millennial Digital Series Focused on Women, “Leimert Park”Explores a field rarely attempted in film and television. He explores the sexuality of black women, with the prism of normalcy rarely attempted on screen. Black women are often hypersexualized in movies and videos, but the normal everyday black woman, career women, who live outside the limelight and glamor, and their sexuality, rarely make it onto the big picture. screen, or on any screen for that. question. But what made Mel Jones want to explore this question in the cinema?

“Because I’m a woman and having sex,” said multi-talented producer, director and screenwriter Mel Jones with a laugh. “It’s a normal part of life that I don’t understand why it was sort of taken away from storytelling, especially around black women. It is an important part of our life experience that we should see reflected in video and on screen.

Set in Los Angeles ‘artistic Leimert Park district, and inspired by Jones’ real-life roommate experiences, the show stars Ashley Blaine Featherson (Dear Whitese, Bad hair), Ashlí Haynes (“Twenties”), Asia’h Epperson (“Greenleaf”, Straight out of Compton) and Wade Allain-Marcus (“Insecure”, “Grown-ish”).

“Leimert Park” was written, directed and produced entirely by black co-creators Mel Jones, Davita Scarlett (OWN’s “Sugar Queen”, CBS “Evil”) and Kadiatou “Kady” Kamakate (YouTube Rewind, Drowning).

The show was designed out of Jones’ desire to see images of black women shamelessly exploring what their desires are and being themselves while seeking to find their authentic voices. Not only focused on the characters’ sexual escapades, the series seeks to showcase the Leimert Park neighborhood and women exploring self-love, play, and pleasure in various ways without trying to ‘fit in’.

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“Leimert Park” chronicles the sexually positive life and misadventures of three best friends as they navigate the complex worlds of dating and sexuality in search of love, happiness and professional fulfillment. Featherson plays Mickey who is dissatisfied with his marriage and career; Haynes plays Bridget, a desperate romantic, who falls in love with a visiting artist in residence; and, Epperson plays Kendra who documents her sexual experiences in hopes of career advancement.

Television, film, video and news often highlight certain stereotypical images of black women.

“These are either women who are hypersexualized and engage in sexual acts in order to control in order to gain some kind of power, or it is completely violent,” she said. “It’s usually you’re either you’re not sexual at all on a TV show, like you’re a secretary and delivering a few lines or you’re just the object of desire, but that’s just sexually, there is no other kind of dynamism in your character. There is no in-between. Women just live their lives and have sex, and their whole life doesn’t revolve around that, but it’s important. “

“I wanted to create something that was representative of the life I lived there and also because I know Leimert is gentrifying and changing,” said Mel Jones, originally from Richmond, Va. “I wanted to tell a story that existed in Leimert Park that I knew and loved before it became something different.”

Parc Leimert - posterOne of the themes explored in the series is the issue of gentrification, an issue in the black community and a hotbed of controversy. Leimert Park, a desirable neighborhood due to its proximity to several Los Angeles centers, has become attractive to the wealthiest and whitest consumers, and often black cultural centers are wiped out as a result.

“I think this is a very important and pervasive issue,” she said. “Our communities are fragmented and once we have been completely devalued against the dominant culture, the result is that the value of our properties becomes low, then they come to value them again and we are not allowed to participate in the rehabilitating communities that a lot of times have been destroyed by capitalism and redlining and all that stuff. I think it’s unfortunate that the rich culture that draws anyone to the neighborhood is not revered and protected.

Although Mel Jones is releasing one of her own productions, she is not a newcomer to television and film. The Howard University alumnus holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Radio, Television, and Film and went on to earn her Masters of Fine Arts in Production at the American Film Institute.

“I think going to Howard University allowed me to look at my experience and make it relevant and valuable, not to feel the need to compare myself and my experience to others,” said Mel Jones, who eventually worked at Stephanie Allain. Homegrown Pictures for 8 years and rose through the ranks, serving as President of Production for 5 years.

“It (Howard) demonstrated that we as black people are not a monolith. There were amazing people from all over the world, whose experience of black people was unlike mine, and because of that, I felt emboldened to talk about who I was and to understand just how great my journey of being. individual and specific life, my experience and perspective are important. I think going to a college like Howard University allowed me to refine and create my belief system in a world where it’s not a fully supported world.

Parc Leimert - poster3She produced a film each year of her tenure. Jones’ credits include Sundance Film Festival hits, such as “Dear White People” by Justin Simien and “Burning Sands” by Gerard McMurray.

“I love working with filmmakers, I love telling stories,” Mel Jones said. “I believe that stories are deeply healing – that they can change people’s minds and change people’s hearts and I think it’s really important that people who aren’t normally portrayed in movies and on TV be seen because if you are not seen through your art you do not exist in many ways. So all of these films are an extension of that belief system and I am very proud of all the work that I do. have done so far.

His other films include the original Netflix film “Juanita” starring Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood and “The Weekend”, starring Sasheer Zamata and Y’lan Noel, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Mel made her Sundance directorial debut with “Leimert Park,” a MACRO / Homegrown Pictures digital series and also produced the feature film “Really Love” for them, starring Kofi Siriboe, which debuted on SXSW and AFI in 2020.

As a director, however, for “Leimert Park,” Mel found herself in a different position than she had in her roles as a producer for several films. “As a producer, there is a level of responsibility that you don’t have for the result of the film, you can give them all the resources, but if the director is wrong, it’s up to them, they are called upon to. that, “she explained.” So there’s an extra level of pressure to get it right and do a good job, because it’s all coming back to me. “

The Homegrown Productions and MACRO produced the dramatic comedy “Leimert Park, Premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as Jones’ first director and is now available to stream on BET +.

Instagram: @LeimertSeries // Facebook: Leimert Series // Hashtag: # LeimertSeries

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