Black Boy Joy and Styling Hollywood

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It’s black girl magic, black boy joy, and possibly one of the most important series Netflix has produced. “Styling Hollywood” was so pleasantly refreshing as it chronicled an awards season in the life of celebrity stylist Jason Bolden and his husband and business partner Adair Curtis. I’m not sure I’ve yet to witness a gay black couple shown in such a tender, expansive and practical way on a platform as large and popular as Netflix and it mattered in a big way. I found myself thinking the whole time, representation matters, in between cackling at Jason, of course. 

Every gay black man may not be chasing the nuclear idea of a husband, a kid, and a dog, but I would guarantee that the representation of that is just as important as it was for brown girls or mixed kids or urban kids to see themselves on screen. At the basic level of being human beings, we want to feel seen. And to me, outside of the beautiful gowns, private showrooms and A-List celebrities, the most important part of “Styling Hollywood” was that. A black gay couple on display for all to see, applaud, and fall in love with.

In my opinion, in many cinematic and television projects, gay black men can often be made to appear as caricatures of real people and not ones with real emotions, stable relationships, and booming businesses. See black folks being nannies, thugs, etc. Latinas always being spicy and any other stereotypes that Tinsel Town seemed to perpetuate in the past. With their business at JSN Studios as the centerpiece of the show, we’re also given a more robust picture of their lives that includes their relationship, their struggle over having a baby, managing friendships and professional relationships, and challenging business decisions. And yes, Jason is dramatic, but in the best and most engaging way. 

You can easily see that Adair is the much more calculated and reserved partner while Jason is the whimsical wildcard that’s hard not to love. He cares for his clients in a deep way as we see him interact with Eve, Yara Shahidi, Ava Duvernay and acquire his vision board dream client, Serena Williams among many others on the show. His clients’ comfort and loyalty easily translate on the screen. He’s detailed and thoughtful about how to make them shine and encouraging in a fierce, girlfriend kind of way. Although he likes to appear to have a tough exterior, it’s clear even when yelling at his assistant, John, that he cares and genuinely wants to see people reach their full potential and it’s so endearing.  

Within the series, Jason and Adair are presented with an opportunity to shoot for Out Magazine to Adair’s apprehension. His fear that his story, their story, was not impactful enough because they didn’t go through the stereotypical chastisement or difficulty with family after coming out. To which Jason assures him that a story of acceptance, especially in black families, is not insignificant. Other black boys need to know that sometimes, it’s okay. Sometimes there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and that spoke to me. 

I remember someone very close to me coming out in a very nonchalant way. Many people had known, though I didn’t. And it was at that moment that I wanted to be better because of how much I loved them. I’ve had various outlooks in the past but what I knew for sure at that moment was that I would stop at nothing to protect them, to let them know that they were fiercely loved. I know that for many gay black men that may not be their narrative, but it’s important for them to know that it’s not the only narrative that exists. 

So, although the show provides enough drama and celebrity to be entertained, some of the most important moments were in between the lines for me. In a testimonial, Adair mentions his reserved nature in public displays of affection because of growing up in New York and the very real threat for your safety as a gay man. It was very matter of fact and heartbreaking to me that we live in a world where that’s such a real concern among many others as black and brown people. Jason voices concerns about being enough to be a dad in a tender moment with his good friend Itika. We get to see the challenge of compromise when two people in a relationship are on two totally different pages with something like starting a family. And we’re able to see the dynamics of a small team who love one another but also have a business to run and deadlines to meet. 

As marginalized folks in all areas, I think we’ve been screaming for more varied spaces for us onscreen, opportunities to showcase depth within our communities and “Styling Hollywood” represented that expanding viewpoint. I loved going goo-goo eyed over gowns that I may never see in my lifetime, but most importantly, I felt so happy about a safe space for these black men to welcome us into their lives. 

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I’m looking forward to what’s to come and hopefully a follow-up season.