Bold Type's Aisha Dee Speaks Out About Show's Lack of Diversity: 'I am Ready to Push Harder'
Aisha Dee is calling for more diversity on The Bold Type.
On Wednesday, the actress, 26, posted a lengthy statement on Instagram about the Freeform series' lack of representation. In the post, Dee recalls growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Australia, where she faced racist remarks throughout her childhood.
Dee explained that seeing herself reflected in art helped her "feel less alone" — inspiring the actress to speak out about her popular television show's responsibility for on-screen diversity, as well as behind the scenes.
"Knowing the power that art had to shape my mind and experience, I have to speak up," she wrote.
The star said she loves her role on The Bold Type, which premiered in 2017, adding that playing Kat Edison was the first time she got to portray "a character who was centered in her own narrative."
"She wasn't just the white character's 'best friend.' She was empowered and confident, she approached the exploration of her queer identity with an open heart, and was met with nothing but love and acceptance from her friends," Dee wrote. "Kat Edison: unapologetic, outspoken, brave, the woman I always wished I could be."
Dee then explained how she struggled with whether to come forward with her concerns, afraid of sounding "ungrateful, negative, or difficult," calling herself "the only woman of color in the room." But taking note from her bold character, Dee chose to speak out.
"I am ready to push harder and speak louder for what matters to me: The diversity we see in front of the camera needs to be reflected in the diversity of the creative team behind the camera," she wrote.
In a statement to PEOPLE, the Bold Type producers, Freeform and Universal Television said: "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. 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."
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Dee also shared concerns with the lack of non-white writers working on the show, which follows a circle of young editors at a women's magazine. She also explained that Bold Type needs more Black female directors — and that finally hiring a hairstylist who knew how to work with Black hair after three seasons was "impactful on so many levels."
"I'm grateful for the women who showed me how to embrace and love my hair in a way I never had before," she wrote. "I want to make sure that no one else ever has to walk onto a set and feel as though their hair is a burden. It is not."
The actress also said she feels that LGBTQ characters and characters of color don't get the same "level of care, nuance, and development" that the straight white characters do.
"I do not believe this is intentional," wrote Dee. "We cannot bring specificity and honesty to experiences we have not lived. 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."
Dee continued to explain that she's speaking up because she realizes the "incredible impact" of the show and believes in its "potential to do better." She added that many other shows have similar issues.
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"I could list every microaggression and example of problematic behavior I've encountered throughout my career," she wrote, "but I'm not writing this for sympathy or to incite anger -- I'm writing this in the hopes that the people who come next don't have to experience the things I have."
She added of The Bold Type: "For a show that frequently uses words like intersectionality, inclusion, discourse and the various ism's, I wonder how its stories may have been elevated had they been told through the lens of people with a more varied lived experience."
Dee concluded her post by explaining that the sentiment is "from my heart" and that it is "not judgment" but a "call to action" adding, "We deserve to see stories that are for us, by us."
Costars Katie Stevens and Meghann Fahy supported Dee on Instagram, re-sharing her statement with words of solidarity. "V proud of my sister," wrote Fahy, 30, as Stevens, 27, said: "Please read what my girl has to say. I am beyond proud of my sister @aishtray. I stand by her through thick and thin and am so proud of the woman she is."