"What would Kat do?"
That's what the actress Aisha Dee, who plays Scarlet magazine's social media director Kat Edison on The Bold Type, recently asked herself when, on Wednesday (July 15), she took to Instagram to point out the Freeform show's failure to reflect the diversity seen on-screen behind the camera. "I’m ready to take a cue from my girl Kat," she wrote in a heartfelt open letter. "She would take a stand and advocate for herself and all other marginalized voices to influence change."
The Bold Type, with the finale to its fourth season airing tonight (July 16), follows a trio of young women who work at a Cosmopolitan-like publication (Cosmo’s former editor in chief, Joanna Coles, is even an executive producer) as they navigate their lives and careers in New York City. As Kat, Dee plays a queer Black woman whom the actress describes as "unapologetic, outspoken, brave, the woman I always wished I could be." But Kat said that this diversity is not present behind the scenes.
"It took two seasons to get a single BIPOC in the writers’ room for The Bold Type. And even then, the responsibility to speak for the entire Black experience cannot and should not fall on one person," Dee wrote. "In four seasons (48 episodes) we’ve had one Black woman direct two episodes.” She noted that there were no LGBTQ+ Black or Muslim writers behind the scenes when an arc was created for her and a lesbian Muslim woman, Adena (Nikohl Boosheri). Dee also expressed frustration with a recent storyline in which her character enters a relationship with a woman named Ava (Alex Paxton-Beesley), whose father operated a gay conversion camp.
"The decision to have Kat enter into a relationship with a privileged conservative woman felt confusing and out of character,” Dee said. “Despite my personal feelings about the choice, I tried my best to tell the story with honesty, even though the Kat I know and love would never make these choices. It was heartbreaking to watch Kat’s story turn into a redemption story for someone else, someone who is complicit in the oppression of so many. Someone whose politics are actively harmful to her communities.”
Dee was adamant that her letter was not a judgment but a plea for Freeform to do better. "I’m writing this in the hopes that the people who come next don’t have to experience the things I have," she wrote. And per a statement issued to Variety, the producers of the show, as well as Freeform and Universal Television, have been receptive to Dee's critiques, even showing their support.
“We applaud Aisha for raising her hand and starting conversations around these important issues. We look forward to continuing that dialogue and enacting positive change," they said. "Our goal on The Bold Type is and has always been to tell entertaining, authentic stories that are representative of the world that Kat, Jane and Sutton live in — we can only do that if we listen."