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Relationships
fall 2023

Stars of Tyler Perry’s BET Series ‘Sistas’ on Friendship and Faith

The Stars of the Hit Show Tyler Perry's Sistas on Female Friendships, Faith and Following Your Dreams
Written by: WayMaker Journal Team

Throughout six seasons, Tyler Perry’s Sistas has become the highest-rated scripted cable show for a Black audience, winning die-hard fans for its both hard-hitting and heart-warming depiction of friendships between five very different women. Navigating highs and lows in both their professional and personal lives, the quintet test the enduring power of sisterhood as they argue with each other and care for each other in turn.

The twists and turns have prompted one online reviewer to call the BET series a “feel-good Black girl magic of a show,” while another has praised it for its realism: “It shows diversity in love. The characters bring modern-day lifestyles to the forefront in a dramatic and somewhat humorous way. The show is thought-provoking and demands discussions, debates and easy conversations after each episode.”

In bringing Tyler Perry’s Sistas to life together, the female leads have forged their own bond as they not only reflect the world around them but also recognize how the show has challenged and changed them personally. WayMaker Journal gathered them for a free-flowing conversation that has been edited for clarity and length: Novi Brown (who plays Sabrina Hollins), Crystal Hayslett (Fatima Wilson), Mignon (Daniella “Danni” King), Ebony Obsidian (Karen Mott) and KJ Smith (Andrea “Andi” Barnes).

WayMaker Journal: Do friendships like you share on the show really exist, where women break up and get back together? Do you have these kinds of relationships in your personal lives?

EO: Sometimes people grow individually, they learn more about themselves, but I think real friends, lifelong friends [endure].

M: There are some people that I haven’t rekindled things with… I’ll take my space. Life is always in flux. Everyone’s not supposed to stay with you. I’ve grown out of a lot of different circles; it’s not always like a breakup, it’s just some people you grow out of that circle, especially if you’re constantly trying to grow. Some people are just for a season, some people probably never really were supposed to be there and some people you make your way back to.

KS: I agree with that 100%. You go on your separate journey… My philosophy is I try to lock in friendships as long as possible because good friends are hard to find. And if someone has to go on a journey with another friend for a while and be super close with another person for a while, I completely understand: I’m gonna be here… Like, my friends from elementary school, we’re not in the same place, but we love each other so much and it means something different now and all our time is extra special. It doesn’t mean that we fell out, it doesn’t mean that they no longer belong in my life. It just means that it looks different.

WJ: Did you always want to be in acting?

CH: Since I was five years old, since I can remember, this is all I’ve wanted to do. My life has taken me on many different paths and different journeys, but it all led back to what I initially wanted to do as a little girl.

NB: I wanted to explore the world and be a veterinarian and a lawyer; I just wanted to try different things in life. But I always resonated with art as a young child. I just didn’t know how to put it all together and live the life that I wanted to live. And then I started understanding what art really meant, and especially in our community—it’s really a learning tool. Then, when I started putting those layers together, I said, “Oh, I want to be involved in creating visual arts.” Sistas is a cultural zeitgeist; this is a moment in history, for real, so I’m really grateful for that and for this experience.

EO: The funny thing is when I was a kid I was always acting, I just didn’t know it. I would recite whole scenes from movies to my friends and my family. I was a really, really shy kid [though] so I never wanted to do the talent shows… It took a while to figure out that people do this for a living, that the people that I see on TV are working, that this is their job, that this is what they do, and they love it.

WJ: Your characters in the show have overcome different challenges. How do you deal with them in real life?

NB: It depends on the situation, of course, you know? You’ll talk to whoever’s closest to who you think can really [understand… your friends, your circle of people, your tribe, the people that you really connect with. Maybe it’s a parent or somebody who raised you, somebody in that capacity, or your therapist. A lot of us, I think, gravitate toward people who’ve been through similar situations or who maybe don’t come off judgmental or harsh… Getting your thoughts out some way, whether it’s journaling or calling someone you trust, is one of the ways that you really can get through any challenge, because at the end of the day, we are all going through the same thing.

EO: Something that I’m so annoyed with myself for learning this late in life is that you can be your own sister, your own friend. You can be a lot better to yourself—[giving ourselves the same] grace that we give to our sisters, to our brothers, to our family, to our friends, the patience that we give to [them to] grow and figure things out. We really need to do a better job of giving that to ourselves because none of us are perfect and, like Novi said, we’re all going through approximately the same thing… Grace is a huge component of the right way to exist in life… I’m very annoyed that I just learned this, like, a year ago.

NB: Everyone has their perfect time.

M: No one teaches us that; that’s why you just learned it. We’re taught to be codependent. We’re taught to look for other people’s validation… we’re taught that someone has to echo what we’re feeling in order for it to be valid, so you may actually be ahead of the curve.

WJ: What have each of you learned about yourself through this series?

KS: What haven’t we learned? I have learned to love myself, honestly. Becoming Andi is taking me on this exciting and scary and new journey of loving myself. And it’s been really cool and scary because the journey is so public. That’s why I had to go on it because I know now that it’s bigger than me. Before, it was, “Yes, I want to be an actress. I want that dream role.” Now it’s like, you’re inspiring kids and so a lot of my behaviors, they were fine for just me, but in this new space, with this new opportunity, they’re not fine anymore. So, I had to really reflect on behaviors that I needed to adjust or change or understand why I even had those behaviors to begin with. Becoming Andi helped me to do that because I had to understand her… So, when I say Sistas has changed my life, I don’t mean it in the acting sense. I mean like it has changed my being, like on a molecular level.

CH: I’m the type of person who does not like confrontation at all. I hate it: I want everybody to get along. And Fatima is quite the opposite: she likes to hit things, she goes straight for it. [So, playing] this character has helped me to really be more vocal about how I feel in real life. I don’t hold things back anymore. I’ve evolved as a woman… Even in my love life, getting to an age where I’m wondering, Why aren’t things happening? and just being OK with being where I am and being happy with everything that God has blessed me [with]. Fatima has really helped me look at a lot of things in my real life to realize that it’s OK where you are… Mignon touched on therapy earlier: it has really helped me with [all] that, giving myself more grace and also being very vocal and matter of fact about how I feel.

EO: Being confrontational is one of my favorite parts about Karen. I just feel like it’s so few and far between that Black women have the space to just be angry, to just be whatever it is that they’re feeling… It’s a discipline to not say how you feel out loud, to voice your opinion. It’s just not one that everyone has. I remember reading Karen at the beginning of season one and being, “Oh, this is gonna be fun because she says everything without fear of the consequences of what she’s saying.”

WJ: How have you found your voice, your confidence, through this experience?

M: For me, Danni really reflects so much of the Black female experience. One of the things that I learned is a strength of mine is connectedness and reconciliation of seemingly disparate ideas. I remember years ago seeing this article about how, as early as five years old, little Black girls are seen as less innocent than other little girls. And then there’s this concept called looking glass self: basically, you see yourself the way the world sees you and interacts with you. And so, what does that teach a little Black girl? If you line up a row of 5-year-old girls—Asian, white, Latina, Black—and the Black girl is seen as less innocent, even though she’s the same age, she’s being told that her tears, her fears, her sadness is less valid, it’s less precious. Her very existence is less precious and meaningful than everyone else’s. So, when a little girl cries, when a little girl is hurt, when a little Black girl has something done to her, she’s looked at as more mature and should be expected to behave at a higher capacity than what she’s actually able to. And so, what does that do to the Black female psyche as she gets older? She learns not to cry. She learns not to articulate her sadness. She learns not to articulate her emotions. I see that with Danni, with her friendships, with her relationships… it’s given me this clarity of vision and mission and purpose… I have to tell stories that bring back and refold into society the humanity of Black women, because we learn to suck it up. We learn not to cry. We learn that because people tell us that our tears don’t matter when we’re still just babies. So, we learn to do things that elicit a response, which can look like anger. You might not like my anger, but at least you see me, because you don’t see my depression, you don’t see my sadness.

WJ: What is one piece of advice you would pass on to motivate someone to the next level?

CH: Your blessing is your blessing. Your gift is your gift. You may see other people living the life that you feel is your life, but that’s not your life. What God has for you is only for you, and no one else can live that. The journey may look one way in your head, but it may be a completely different way in God’s eyes. Just trust it. Allow him to order your steps and you’ll get there, I can promise you that.

EO: I 100% agree. I would also say for anyone who is a dreamer, especially, who wants to do something maybe unorthodox, don’t do it for applause. Don’t do it because you want validation. Don’t do it because you are wanting a reward. Do it because you have to do it. Do it because if you don’t do it, you’re not fulfilled, you’re not satisfied, you don’t have joy. Because if you always do things that are at the core of who you are and what you want to be doing, you’ll never be disappointed. There is no losing, because you’re doing what you love.

KS: I think the most important thing is to listen to God. You have to hear God’s voice to even know what the dream is, to even have the vision, to even pursue it, to know the direction. Listen to God’s voice and not the clutter outside, because I cannot tell you how many times all of us on this call have been told, “You shouldn’t be doing this.” I wouldn’t have had this vision; I wouldn’t have had this dream if I wasn’t listening to the source. So, I’m going to pursue that instead of doing things out of lack and fear and things that are not love. Don’t operate from lack. What if you had the world at your fingertips: what would you do? How would you move through life? What kind of confidence would you have? These are things that I’m just learning as a 30-plus-year-old woman.

M: I would tell people to pursue love and healing, and to build their faith, because with faith all things are possible. And it’s not about the size of your faith; it’s about the object of your faith, so I recommend it being in an infinite source, which is of course God. Get to know who you are through the lens of God because he’s so infinite and because he is love. You might find out so much more about yourself than you’ve been told already.

NB: You can get advice from as many people as you want, but you have to live your life. You have to go outside, you have to meet people, you have to talk to people. You have to fail. You have to succeed. You have to try again and get your butt whooped and have a good time and drink a glass of champagne… I just hope people don’t get lost in people’s opinions, because opinions are just processes of thoughts: “I’m just thinking this for this moment right now and I might not be done with this thought,” you know? A lot of social media is people in the process of thinking; it’s like open-book diaries. You need to go outside and live your life. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. Don’t be scared to get your feelings hurt. Don’t be scared to hurt someone else’s feelings. Don’t be scared to show up when you’re not your best self: it’s OK. Just be your true self. That’s really all that you can be. Have fun.

THE SISTAS: OUR WAYMAKERS

Crystal Hayslett: My first waymakers were definitely my mom and dad. After that, I would say my uncle, who let me stay with him when I first moved to Atlanta to pursue music and acting. Most recently, within the past 12 years, I would say Tyler Perry has been a huge waymaker in my life on many different levels, not just careerwise.

Ebony Obsidian: There are so many people that make it possible for anyone to do what they love, but absolutely my mother. She is the smartest woman that I know. She majored in psychology and child development, and I learned so much about people from her. I think a lot of my acting, my curiosity about people and why they think the way they do, came from her and the books that she had around the house growing up. Her work ethic. She never told me I couldn’t do anything… she’s the reason why today I’m the first person in at least four generations to own a house, why I am on television and I’m where I am and have the relationships and the friendships that have made my life what it is. She is the OG.

KJ Smith: It’s really both my parents, but [especially] my mom. Not only did she literally make me, but she made a way for me. Sixty-hour weeks, she still showed up for concerts, still was, “I want you in this program”… she essentially gave me the opportunity to learn and created this pathway. And she’s still doing it today; she’s my best friend.

Mignon: I love my parents, they’ve done wonderful things for me, but because my path is just so different, I think that God has intentionally kind of set me aside and set me apart so that I can’t really give anyone credit but him.

Novi Brown: My mom, 1,000%. She let me venture out in the world by myself and really explore different facets of my creativity and my curiosity and learn different people. It was through that I was able to see that my life could be whatever I wanted it to be… And her fearlessness; I didn’t realize that’s what she really passed down to me, because being an artist these days, you’ve got to be fearless.