How ‘Girlfriends’ Taught Us Hard Lessons On Letting Go And Inspired Us To Aim Higher


Dec. 9 2020, Published 3:20 a.m. ET

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There’s something magical about seeing a Black woman leading in a television show or movie. This sense of pride comes over us and the “yes sis” comes out like we know the actress personally.

Watching Black women gracefully own the big screen makes you feel seen. Like when Kerry Washington demanded attention in her groundbreaking performance in Scandal. Or when we saw the character of Mary Jane Paul played by the infamous Gabrielle Union in Being Mary Jane, or seeing DeWanda Wise’s portrayal of Nola Darling in She’s Gotta Have It. These roles showed different sides of Black women that weren’t often seen. Each one of those characters showed Black women navigating adulthood while being a boss, but also highlighting that it’s okay to be vulnerable.

It’s all so very similar to the show that Mara Brock Akil gave us back in 2000. Although I would still watch the show, as a 12-year-old, I couldn’t relate to Girlfriends or what four Black women living in Los Angeles were experiencing. Remembering how much I still managed to be obsessed with the idea of my life mirroring Joan, Maya, Lynn, and Toni, I decided to rewatch the show now at 32 years old. While seeing myself reflected in each character in Girlfriends, I was forced into deep self-reflection.

Here are the lessons that I’ve learned from the four women on ‘Girlfriends’:

Joan Taught Me To Go With The Flow

Tracee Ellis Ross’ tenacity and grace are admirable, making her an automatic fan favorite. When it comes to her character on Girlfriends, not so much.

Although portrayed as the crew leader, it took Joan several seasons to truly find her voice as her controlling and judgmental ways blocked the blessings she could have. While many of us take pride in being a “go with the flow type of woman,” watching Joan be consumed with the “next step” made me realize that we are one and the same. Especially when it came to love. While dating Brock, she had to have things her way which caused her the love of her life. With every line, it was like, “that’s something I would say.” Do I want to be like that? Or more importantly, is this something I can really change?

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Lynn Exposed The Fear Of Letting Go

I’m not quite sure who told us we’re supposed to have it figured out by now but they lied. Lynn is the perfect example of just the opposite. She struggles with finding her passion and has no clue what direction she wants to go.

She also clings on to her friends like a crutch, expecting them to guide her every step of the way. All because she is scared. There was an episode where Lynn finally had to get a job and a place to live but used every excuse not to. I laughed as I’ve been talking about doing many things and when the opportunity presents itself, I cramp up and back out.

While yelling at Lynn through the television, telling her “that’s not cute at her age,” I’m pretty sure if she could yell back, she’d say “you should talk.”

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Maya Showed The Power In Dreaming Bigger

The second time around, Maya is my favorite character. She keeps it real at all times, well other than her “entanglement” with Stan. And that’s the reason she’s my favorite now.

Miss ‘Oh Hell No!’ made me realize that settling is not an option. Some of us identify as dreamers, sometimes with dreams seeming a bit outlandish to others. Maya’s character makes it clear that you’re never too old to want more or to dream big. The most important lesson learned from her is if your dream is so big that you can’t take everyone with you, then so be it. Boundaries are necessary to succeed.

Toni Revealed Self-Sabotaging Ways

While Toni was a handful, I truly believe that every woman needs a friend like her. The one that tells you like it is and won’t beat around the bush.

But her constant self-sabotaging ways made me look deep into the mirror. Sometimes we tend to question the good things that happen to us and why. We preach about having faith and the importance of manifestation, but are not intentional about putting in the work to receive these things. Just like Toni did with Greg, Todd, and her friendship with Joan. When I know I’m a decent person, why do I question when good things happen?

She showed me a characteristic deep inside that I didn’t want to recognize. It’s time to change or loneliness will take over different aspects of my life.

Other television shows that have premiered on Netflix’s Strong Black Lead are Moesha, The Game, Sister Sister, Half & Half, The Parkers, One on One, and more.

Rewatching Girlfriends 20 years later is the last thing I’d ever think would make me look in the mirror. But in a way, I’m so glad it was something out of the norm. Have you ever realized that you find something as soon as you stop looking for it? That’s the feeling I received as these four iconic female characters made me identify traits and feelings that I once wanted to keep hidden. I guess that’s what your true Girlfriends are supposed to do for you.

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By: Sharelle Burt

Sharelle M. Burt is a content writer, marketing specialist and podcast host. Originally from Long Island, NY, she has been living in Charlotte, NC for the past eight years. Sharelle found her love for writing and content curation on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. After receiving her bachelor’s in Journalism & Mass Communications, she has written for several publications including the NY Daily News, Lioness Magazine, &; Travel Noire. Sharelle enjoys working with nonprofits that benefit women-owned businesses by helping them scale their business. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, singing out loud, hanging with friends & family and taking her best friend Patrick for long walks. Keep up with Sharelle on IG and Twitter: @_sharelleb.

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