6 Actresses Who Brought Black Girl Magic To Sitcoms

Photo: Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock.
The tide is finally turning for Black women on television. We are dominating shows as strong leads on screen, and as visionary minds behind the scenes. From drama to daytime, Black women have been sprinkling little flecks of glitter behind whenever they grace our television screens.
The sitcom is one of the few genres that has made room for Black culture to thrive on television. When Tracee Ellis Ross took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy, she was standing on the shoulders of Black actresses who have been making our sides hurt from laughter. We wished they were our mamas, best friends, aunties, and colleagues.
Even though Black sitcoms are often only appreciated as sub-genre classics, they were a beacon of representation when Black people, especially Black women, couldn’t see ourselves elsewhere on television. I’ll never forget how annoyingly enamored I was with Hillary Banks when I first saw her on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or how afraid I was that high school would get too real, as it did for Moesha.
I don't take lightly that I was able to see myself in these women. Cheers to the actresses who brought so much Black girl magic to sitcoms.
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Janet Hubert As (Dark-Skinned) Aunt Viv

Trust me, the delineation matters. The only Aunt Viv real fans of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air acknowledge is the one played by Hubert. Even Will Smith admits that it was a mistake to let go of the actress who played his on-screen aunt.

She brought a sense of authenticity and flavor to the role that her successor could NEVER. And there is this dance sequence that puts the Carlton to shame.
2 of 6
Tichina Arnold & Tisha Campbell As Pam & Gina

Before there was Rachel and Monica, Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell were defining #BFFGoals for Black girls across America, as Pam and Gina on the ‘90s sitcom Martin. They bickered, laughed, danced, defended, and competed against each other as young professionals in Detroit.

Arnold was also the family matriarch on Everybody Hates Chris, while Campbell played a similar role on My Wife & Kids.
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Tracee Ellis Ross As Joan Clayton

Obviously, Ross has been killing it as Rainbow "Bow" Johnson on ABC’s Black-ish. But this is not her first ride on the sitcom train.

For many of us, Ross’ iconic role as Joan Clayton on Girlfriends is our fondest memory of her. She was the original awkward Black girl on a show that could easily stand in as the fictional version of Real Housewives.
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Erika Alexander As Maxine

For all the girls who are called too independent, too rough around the edges, or not ladylike, Maxine was the heroine for us on Living Single (the show that was poorly imitated by inspired Friends). Alexander played a stubborn attorney with strong opinions and an even stronger will to see them through.

Alexander also appeared in The Cosby Show as Pam Tucker.
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Jackee Harry As Lisa Landry

Tia and Tamera Mowry were the obvious stars of Sister, Sister. They were the sisters, after all. But it was their adoptive mom Jackee Harry who often stole the show with her inappropriate humor and tendency to help get the girls in and out of trouble. So many Black girls are raised by women who did not physically birth them, and it was refreshing to see that role played out on television.

Harry is Black sitcom royalty, having also played Sandra on 227.
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Karyn Parsons As Hilary Banks

She is the original definition of Bad and Boujee. Enough said.