Amanda Seales isn’t afraid to have provocative conversations. In fact, tackling tough topics seems to be her niche. Now, the Insecure actress and comedian is partnering with Bumble to launch Dating in Boxes, an improv series that combines romance with honest discussions about social issues and—in true Seales fashion—some of her signature humour.
Through her comedy, Seales has perfected the art of weaving together cultural and political conversations. The series will tackle topics such as the gender wage gap, her pro-choice stance, and misogyny. And while these issues can be controversial and in some cases taboo, Seales wants to dispel the myth that you need to “dumb yourself down” on a date. To her, it’s all about authenticity, not whether a potential partner meets a certain unattainable set of criteria.
Over the phone, Seales tells R29Unbothered that Dating in Boxes has a double meaning. “Right now, it means dating in these square boxes on Zoom,” she says. “But for a lot of people, ‘dating in boxes’ means you have to compartmentalize; my friends have very clear wants and [they’re] like do these people fill these boxes? But at the end of the day, you just want someone who values you and that’s the only box that matters.”
Seales is a millennial and I am a proud Gen Z-er, but we both check two boxes that come with their own set of dating difficulties: being Black and a woman. In our conversation, Amanda shared dating horror stories of being chastised for prioritizing her career or daring to take time for self-care — things I can absolutely relate to. I felt like she articulated experiences I’ve had but haven’t always had the language to explain them. Seale’s outlook on dating is radical and refreshing, and includes the theory that Black women’s focus on self-evolution before marriage will soon be copied by white women like cornrows at Coachella.
Here, Seales talks about how the “angry Black woman” trope and colourism affect our relationships, why Black women are ahead of the curve on self-care, and what we can expect from Dating in Boxes.
What do you hope viewers will learn from your Dating in Boxes episode?
I think they’ll just have a good time. For what it’s worth I wrote a sketch that was true to me and my comedy and from my point of view of dating and womanhood. For a lot of people, there is this idea that you have to dumb yourself down and dim your light to [date] the person you want. I just wanted to show a woman who feels she has to do that, but at the end, the dude is very direct and she realizes that she didn’t have to.
What comes to mind is that Black women have become very focused on our self care and wellness. In doing so, we have really focused on making changes that the patriarchal society that we live in doesn’t support yet. So, typically we are a head of the curve and this demonstrates that.
Some of the topics the series will be exploring include sexual freedom and being pro-choice. How can women use sexuality as a tool for self liberation?
The truth of the matter is we live in a world that has intended to make sexuality a taboo. [This mindset] has been used to oppress. In terms of using sexuality as self expression, it’s really just about owning your sexuality. That is so radical, even to this day. It’s about taking the reins of your identity and not [doing] what society tells you what to do.
I think in reality it’s bigger than just Black women being underpaid. We live in a world that has made actual efforts towards dismantling the Black family. We are in a society that consistently undervalues us.. We are constantly in a political fight that gets in the way of our romantic togetherness. I believe that our power dynamics within relationships are less about whether we are getting paid equally or doing more work. It goes deeper historically and with the representation of what the Black family is. Look at the amount of images of couples in the media. It’s not Black couples. It continues the pervasiveness that Black men and Black women can’t exist together. It’s beyond whether we are getting paid
Can you expand on what you’re seeing with representation of Black couples in the media and how this depiction of Black love impacts us?
Black love is represented in media by in large by interracial relationships. Or a dark skinned Black man with a light skinned Black woman with curly hair. Let’s stop the madness. It’s the same thing with gay couples. The world is not just cisgender heterosexual couples Love is love but this one image is so pervasive. Why do we rarely ever see Black couples in casual spaces in commercials? I watch a lot of TV and I’m like where are we at? I am the light skinned girl with the curly hair and even I am like where are we at? I saw a J Crew catalog cover the other day and I was like look at these two dark skinned Black people loving on each other! It’s like Thank you.
I hear people say, “Black women just aren’t easy.” Well, what the fuck is easy? Is it that you like to not be held accountable? Are you claiming that other women don’t hold you accountable? Or does it feel different when other women hold you accountable because they don’t remind you of your mama? That’s really what’s going on. They are saying, “I don't mind when this white woman holds me accountable but when Shanita holds me accountable, it feels like I’m being scolded because she reminds me of my Black mother.” Those are challenges specifically related to being a Black woman.
What have been some other personal challenges you have experienced as a Black woman dating?
Black women have really centered our mental health and our wellness. There is a revolution among Black women and our independence. We have done the work but there seems to be a constant imbalance between us and what our partners are expecting of us. You get things like “Oh,you’re so intimidating” or “Oh, how do you make more money [than me]?” Things that feel archaic to somebody who has supported themselves their whole life and it starts to feel like you’re being punished for being on point. I had somebody break up with me because I was a good person. Literally, they were like, “You’re a good person and I would feel better if you were shady too.” I just love myself and I don’t want to do anything that is gonna bring harm to me or fuck up my karma. I want the best for me and my spirit.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
You can watch Bumble's Dating In Boxes below!