TV & Movies

The Bold Type's Aisha Dee’s Open Letter Calls Out Kat’s New Romance

The actor also called for more diversity behind the scenes.

Aisha Dee calls out 'The Bold Type' for lack of diversity
Freeform/Jonathan Wenk

The Bold Type has earned praise for its diverse storytelling onscreen, but one of the show's stars says things aren't quite the same behind the scenes. In a lengthy open letter shared on Instagram on July 15, star Aisha Dee called out The Bold Type for its lack of diversity offscreen, and stated that the show's homogenous writer's room has begun to negatively affect the storylines. In her post, Dee — who plays Kat, a queer, biracial woman who ran social media at the fictional magazine Scarlet — explained that playing such a strong, outspoken character inspired her to "push harder and speak louder for what matters to me." Namely, that "the diversity that we see in front of the camera needs to be reflected in the diversity of the creative team behind the camera."

"It took two seasons to get a single BIPOC in the writers' room for The Bold Type," Dee wrote. "And even then, the responsibility to speak for the entire Black experience cannot and should not fall on one person. We got to tell a story about a queer Black woman and a lesbian Muslim woman falling in love, but there have never been any queer Black or Muslim writers in the room." She continued, saying that the lack of diversity extended beyond the writers' room. "In four seasons (48 episodes) we've had one Black woman direct two episodes. It took three seasons to get someone in the hair department who knew how to work with textured hair." Dee also noted that while Kat became "the first Black female head of a department" in Season 2, The Bold Type itself has "never had a Black female head of department" offscreen.

Dee went on to note that "the level of care, nuance, and development that has gone into the stories centering white hetero characters is inconsistent with the stories centering queer characters and POC," and while she didn't think it was "intentional," she does think it is a result of the lack of BIPOC writers. "We cannot bring specificity and honesty to experiences we have not lived," the actor continued. "And when there is a lack of representation, the way marginalized characters are treated is even more important because they have the potential to empower or perpetuate damaging stereotypes that have a lasting and real effect on real people."

In particular, Dee called out Kat's current romantic storyline — her character is dating conservative lawyer Ava (Alex Paxton-Beesley), whose father ran a gay conversion camp — as "confusing and out of character" for the queer, liberal activist. "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," she wrote. "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 who's politics are actively harmful to her communities."

Explaining that she's "critical" of the show "because I care," Dee revealed that she has already had several conversations with the show's writers and producers to address her concerns. "I'm hopeful we will have the opportunity to tell more authentic stories by hiring, promoting, and listening to diverse voices across the entire production of The Bold Type and beyond," she continued. "This is an opportunity to walk the walk, to really practice what The Bold Type teaches, by acknowledging mistakes and making commitments to be better in the future."

Though the actor noted that it was "scary" to speak out against her own show, Dee's post was met with support and praise from her costars, including The Bold Type's other two leads, Katie Stevens and Meghann Fahy. According to E! News, the show's producers, Freeform, and Universal TV released a joint statement reacting positively to Dee's post, "[applaud[ing] Aisha for raising her hand and starting conversations" and promising to make significant changes. "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," the statement reads.