Part of This Moment in History
Aisha Dee knew at a young age she wanted to become an actress. She would constantly tell people that one day she would move to New York. However, people would laugh at her because it seemed so far-fetched – she was nowhere near the bright lights of New York City or Hollywood but was residing in the small town of Gold Coast, Australia.
As a child, Dee and her mom would venture to the local library and rent blaxploitation movies. She adored actress Pam Grier and also found herself watching Sweet Charity starring Shirley MacLaine frequently. “Sammy Davis Jr. has this incredible song in it called ‘Rhythm of Life,’ and I would just watch that scene over and over again because it was just so whimsical,” Dee recalls. She even idolized the kids on Sesame Street – it was the first time she saw kids who looked like her and black business owners on television. “I remember asking my mom, ‘Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? How do I get on the show?’ She was like, ‘Well, those kids are actors.’ I then became convinced – that was what I was going to do,” the 25-year-old actress explains.
She moved to California when she was 16 years old and began working as an actress. In 2008, Dee landed a role in the series The Saddle Club. She also played roles on Dead Gorgeous, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, Chasing Life and Sweet/Vicious. Those opened the doors to her latest endeavor on Freeform’s The Bold Type portraying social media director Kat Edison, for who Dee drew inspiration from the 1973 blaxploitation action comedy Cleopatra Jones starring Tamara Dobson: “I figured she was the kind of dog that moved around in the wild like she was ready to fight. She was like, ‘No, I'm not going to back down,’ which is what I'm fighting for, and no one's going to tell me any different,” Dee says. “I think social media really changed the landscape a lot. People are a little vainer, and we all kind of have this idea of our brand. I didn't grow up that way. I didn't have this kind of curated image of who I am out in the world, and now everyone does,” she adds, affirming that there are both positives and negatives when it comes to social media usage, but, according to her, it is beautiful to see people gain a sense of self and feel less alone in the world because of it.
The next role Dee would love to conquer would be one behind the camera – to tell her own stories. “We're seeing these really diverse actors come in, and I think that's so wonderful, but I think we still need more diversity when it comes to the people behind the camera,” she shares. “There's finally a space for that. I might as well occupy that space one day.” As she genuinely values people of all genders, backgrounds, and ethnicities, she wants “to be someone who's a champion for other people because so many people have helped me in my career. It just feels like now is the time to start paying it forward.”
“It's empowering to learn about people who came before you who were kind of the pioneers like Josephine Baker. I hope that I'm part of this moment in history and an example for young girls,” says Dee, who also finds a sense of self-love and resilience by going back through black history. “I don't think that I'm anything special or anything like that. I just think that by existing and by making art, that's kind of my form of protest.”
Writer: Dylan Worcel
Photographer: Seung Lee (www.kokumastudio.com)
Photographer Manager: Phil Kim
Stylist: Andrew Philip Nguyen
Hair: Marcia Hamilton
Makeup: Dana Delaney
Videographer: Mason Kim
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor (@shakeysusa - www.shakeys.com)