Black Ladies Journalists Mirror on Brown Sugar’s Sidney Shaw

20 years in the past at present on Oct. 11, 2002, Rick Famuyiwa’s basic rom-com “Brown Sugar” made its theatrical debut and launched the world to a cinematic hip-hop love story like no different. After twenty years, the nostalgic movie stays one of many blueprints for Black romance and hip-hop storytelling. However one thing else from “Brown Sugar” has additionally stood the take a look at of time: Sanaa Lathan’s incomparable Sidney “Sid” Shaw.

On the floor, “Brown Sugar” tells an affectionate story about Sidney and her childhood friend-turned-lover, Andre “Dre” Ellis (performed by Taye Diggs) — a journalist and music govt, respectively, who discover love by their shared appreciation for hip-hop. As a child, that is all I acknowledged the film as — a easy rom-com. However at 25 years previous, I’ve discovered extra widespread floor with the movie past simply being a fan of hip-hop, and that is all because of Sidney.

“I do not suppose there’s ever an quantity of phrases that might probably be mentioned for what number of younger women do see themselves in Sidney Shaw.”

To me, and lots of different girls in my place, Sidney was greater than only a hip-hop journalist. She was a imaginative and prescient that impressed a era of younger Black women to comply with in her footsteps. Her come-up in a male-dominated business was nearly too good to be true. Firstly of “Brown Sugar,” we watch Sidney make her transition from being a music critic for the Los Angeles Instances to an editor at XXL — a high hip-hop media outlet. Oftentimes again then, and even nonetheless at present, girls gaining respect in hip-hop — whether or not they’re on the forefront or working behind the scenes — was an uphill battle. However “Brown Sugar” put Sidney in a world the place, as a Black lady, her esteemed fame allowed her to rub elbows with hip-hop greats like Widespread, Technique Man, Angie Martinez, Black Thought, Jermaine Dupri, De La Soul, and extra. She was dwelling the dream — one many people needed to manifest, too.

BROWN SUGAR, Sanaa Lathan, Taye Diggs, 2002, TM & Copyright 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved./Courtesy Everett Collection

“With ‘Brown Sugar,’ I do not suppose there’s ever an quantity of phrases that might probably be mentioned for what number of younger women do see themselves in Sidney Shaw,” Kia Turner, author and content material creator for Okayplayer, tells “From the feel of her hair to the way you watch her evolve from being the tomboy hip-hop author . . . at the same time as you watch her strive to determine her love state of affairs . . . her attempting to [do that] whereas additionally determining her love for what she does, I really feel like that occurs to us, too.”

Dallas-based music and popular culture author Taylor Crumpton provides: “What I like in regards to the movie is that she actually had this deep love for hip-hop . . . I am unable to actually identify [another] movie the place we see a Black lady music journalist be a full three-dimensional character . . . She’s actually the pioneer. I am unable to consider [anyone] who, off the bat, was additionally younger and classy and present.”

“Watching her go arduous for this tradition . . . Greater than something, that is the a part of me that I actually join along with her.”

Other than Sidney’s career-driven perspective, her easeful method of transferring by life helped many people discover ourselves as younger adults as properly. As a school pupil, I did not have the slightest clue about what skilled path I needed to pursue. All I knew was that I had a present for writing and a fiery ardour similar to Sidney. Again then, seeing her — somebody who seems like me, walks like me, and talks like me — go after the issues that motivated her in life impressed me to wish to do the identical.

Nadirah Simmons, founder and CEO of The Gumbo — a web-based group devoted to documenting and celebrating Black girls in hip-hop — is among the many many Sidneys of the world who discovered herself enormously influenced by “Brown Sugar.” The truth is, the movie’s (and Sidney’s) well-known query, “When did you fall in love with hip-hop?” impressed her hub’s very first month-to-month theme. Like many people, Simmons’s private connections to Sidney made her fall much more in love along with her impactful work. “Watching her go arduous for this tradition . . . Greater than something, that is the a part of me that I actually join along with her,” she shares with Simmons, Crumpton, Turner, and I agree that we are able to all relate to Sidney’s stubbornness, indecisiveness, and impartial nature. However the principle factor that unites us is the truth that, in a roundabout way, form, or kind, we are Sidney.

We rejoice Sidney for being a loyal profession lady, placing in time exterior of (and through) work to complete her e-book, “I Used to Love Him,” and hitting up stay exhibits along with her partner-in-crime. However probably the most helpful classes she and “Brown Sugar” taught us is the worth of indulging in life’s joys. As educated, working Black girls, we really feel like we now have to be married to our work and nothing else as a result of we’re continually advised it is inconceivable to stability all our wishes and maintain a demanding profession — Sidney dispelled that delusion for us. As a result of we noticed her have a life exterior of her job — which included happening dates, being in a relationship, and sustaining friendships — she confirmed us that we may have one, too.

“The film confirmed me that you may have that work life and that romance,” Simmons says. “I do know the large factor is that, oh she finally ends up along with her finest buddy [at the end], however the film can also be saying that you may have each . . . Particularly for Black girls, they attempt to make it seem to be you may’t have each, however watching [the movie] once more as an grownup, I like seeing Sidney, not simply excel at her profession however [at life, too].

BROWN SUGAR, Sanaa Lathan, 2002, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

For many people, Sidney is the explanation we felt like we may have profitable careers as journalists. The business energy she possessed was mannequin of what we could possibly be in the future. And 20 years later, we now produce other Sidneys we are able to look as much as. There’s Kierna Mayo, former editor-in-chief of Ebony and cofounder of Honey; Clover Hope, whose writing credit embrace Vibe, XXL, and Billboard, and writer of “The Motherlode: 100+ Ladies Who Made Hip-Hop”; Danyel Smith, former editor-in-chief of Vibe and Billboard and writer of “Shine Vibrant: A Very Private Historical past of Black Ladies in Pop”; and Ivie Ani, whose work has been featured in every little thing from Teen Vogue and Vibe to The Fader, GQ, and OkayAfrica. These journalists’ drive, willpower, and affect are what we aspire to. That is what “Brown Sugar” and Sidney gave us as properly.

“Seeing her exist in that area is so essential and I would just thank her for that greater than something.”

If there was something to be mentioned to Sidney at present, for all the ladies she’s impressed, Simmons says she would thank her. “Thanks for letting us know that we are able to have all of it,” she mentioned. “. . . that we are able to go after our desires, go after that individual, and we do not have to sacrifice one or the opposite simply because folks really feel like your profession is extra essential . . . Creating a task the place the Black lady is in a fundamental character function and an authority on one thing . . . Seeing her exist in that area is so essential and I would just thank her for that greater than something as a result of it not solely resonates inside that ecosystem, however in on a regular basis life, too.”

The fantastic thing about Sidney’s story in “Brown Sugar” is that it is clear it continues previous the place the movie ends. And for these of us particularly , we all know Sidney had one other journey to comply with method earlier than then, too — that point in between assembly the kid and grownup variations of her character. What was Sidney like as a young person? Did she have journalistic ambitions rising up? What triumphs and tribulations did she endure on her method up the profession ladder? What would Sidney’s story and “Brown Sugar” appear like at present? These questions are what make us revisit the timeless movie over and over as a result of each time we watch it there’s one thing new to be unearthed.

Now, that is by no means a case for a “Brown Sugar” sequel or prequel, however there’s positively room for one more story to be advised to encourage future generations of Black girls journalists. Simply as her legacy has aged finely for the previous 20 years, the nice Sidney Shaw will proceed to be celebrated for years to return. Per Crumpton, “. . . She’s going to be round for some time till we discover that pantheon [of her character] expands and opens.”

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