So, recent discussions about diversity and race in the entertainment industry have got me thinking about diversity within the Movie Trivia Schmoedown and my feelings on being, at the time of writing this, the only black female competitor. Let me preface this by saying that I have no intentions of airing any grievances or being negative. I Just want to talk about my experience.
Growing up in a predominantly white area, I tended to be the only black person in most situations. In school I had kids ask me about my big lips, why my hair was different, why the insides of my hands were “white.” All my friends were white, so I found myself looking for representation in the thing I loved, Entertainment; Comics, tv, cartoons, movies; From Shayna in Jem and the Holograms, a sassy fashion designer and rockstar, to Ghostbuster’s Winston Zedmore, the non scientist guy who spoke for the audience, to Dionne, the rich and stylish best friend in Clueless. I was always looking for that inclusive voice to help me see that people who looked like me were a part of the story too.
So enter the Schmoedown into my life.
A white male-dominated entity in competition and fan base. Just another thing I enjoyed that happened to be that way; And while I loved it as it was, heck Dan Murrell was what got me continually watching, of course I wanted to see more, and I did. More ladies and people of color started to put their stamp on the game and that made it even more exciting for me. John Rocha pioneering “the character” concept, Hector Navarro winning the IG belt, Andrew Ghai becoming a force of “dastardly” perfection, and don’t even get me started on the ladies, too late… Emma on the mic, Clarke killing it in teams AND singles and of course Rachel Cushing. To see how shy she was coming into this was so relatable for me and to see how she overcame that to be such a dominant entity, made all of this feel tangible to me one day. Then Jay Washington coming onto the scene, managing the female duo of the Missfits, sealed my fandom and showed a shift into consistent diversity.
Cut to my first match. Days before, just feeling nervous, not just about the lights and the cameras, but by how I would be received by the audience. A mostly male, white audience. Questions spinning in my head, from the trivial to the substantial; What if I lose? Would the fan base get me, my perspective and embrace my character? Would I just be filling that “angry black Woman” stereotype as a heel? Would I be considered not black enough to black fans because of how I spoke? Should I come in with hair and make up done, because there’s most likely no one there who can help me with that? I’m representing something different, can I take that on and succeed?
Then the day before my match I saw Black Panther, the embodiment of the impact black people can have on the industry and those nagging questions dissipated and were replaced with a sense of pride and empowerment. I could be me, a heightened, slightly exaggerated version, but still me and that was ok. The inclusion I was always looking for as a kid was out there in all it’s glory. Going from that, to the next day and walking in to see Jay, with all the swag and confidence, just days out of the hospital, to Winston Marshall And Devon Stewart also making their debut that day, signaled to me that yes, I could rep something different and awesome and that winning wasn’t the only way to succeed at that.
Now here we are, end of season 5 and now season 6, we get the first female team and singles champs, an epic all female entrance, Danielle Radford calling matches, Markeia McCarty and Roxy Striar managing , Emma Fyffe as a Co-commissioner, Chance Ellison, Ethan Erwin, Jay Washington And myself all being a part of the NY live event and a black films trivia match.
While I’ve had my moments of feeling different, it’s been inspiring to be a black female in the Schmoedown and to hopefully make women, and particularly women of color feel represented. It’s still a struggle to see this industry really reflecting the world as it is, with all kinds of people but I’m happy to see that more and more, the Schmoedown is becoming an entertainment source that is thriving with diversity and I’d say… we’re definitely an amazing part of the story.
– The Machine