Actress, comedian, and artist Amanda Seales drops by The Blackest Questions to share some laughs and talk about the evolution of her career.
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Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:06] Hi, and welcome to the The Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Dr. Christina Greer, politics editor at theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. In this podcast, we asked our guest five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present. So here’s how this works. We got five rounds of questions about us Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, everything. With each round, the questions get a little tougher and the guest has 10 seconds to get it right. If they answer the question correctly, they’ll receive one symbolic Black fist and hear this. If they get it wrong, they’ll hear this. So still love them anyway. And after the five questions, there’ll be a Black bonus round at the end. Just for fun. I like to call it Black Lightning. Our guest for this episode is Amanda Seales. Amanda is a comedian and creative visionary with a master’s in African-American studies Columbia University, and she seamlessly blends humor and intellect with her unique self. Smart, funny content spans very sharp. As across the entertainment and multimedia landscape. She’s best known for her iconic role as Tiffany DuBois on HBO’s Insecure, her debut standup comedy special I Be Knowing, and her podcast Small Doses, as well as her variety game show Smart, Funny and Black. Amanda Seales keeps us laughing, thinking and living in her truth.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:27] Hello, Amanda. Thank you so much for joining the The Blackest Questions.
Amanda Seales [00:01:31] Hello, Dr. Greer. Hello. Hello.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:34] I’m going to try not to be too silly this episode with you.
Amanda Seales [00:01:37] Why?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:39] Every time I’ve been with you on some sort of podcasts we act quite little fools and I love it.
Amanda Seales [00:01:44] Yes, we should, because this world is absolutely ridiculous. So, like, you know, I heard a white man say that, you know, he didn’t believe that unmarried children should have access to consent to contraceptives. A South Carolina state senator, unmarried children. And I was just like, you know what? Let me go into some Black ass questions.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:07] Yes. So here’s the thing, because you you blend seamlessly with reality, the harsh realities of this insane world, especially how Black folks are just trying to not just survive, but thrive. But you’re really, really funny doing it. So when did you get into comedy instead of in particular like it? Were you always writing it? Were you always thinking about it? Like, How do we make this transition from getting a masters at Columbia to moving to Hollywood and starring as Tiffany DuBois?
Amanda Seales [00:02:39] I mean, there’s a big chunk of time in between there where I was actually very immersed in hip hop. And I was a veejay on MTV. I was a deejay on the ones and twos. I was writing for XXL and for The Source. I then was doing my own music and I have like four albums that I’ve put out, and I was on Q-tips album, The Renaissance, and, you know, I really had like a whole entire existence in hip hop as Amanda Diva.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:12] Oh right! Snap! I’m now remembering this!
Amanda Seales [00:03:17] And I was doing spoken word I was on Def Poetry Jam for two seasons. So like I had this whole other track of life and then around 31 I just kind of started to realize that like the business of hip hop had taken over the creative, the creativity that made me love it so much. And I was also just realized I didn’t want to be Amanda Diva anymore. I felt like there was like a I don’t want to say serious, but just a more adult, more mature, like direction I needed to go in. And I had to go through, I guess, what people call a rebrand, but other people might just call it evolution. Like just.
[00:03:55] Yeah, or I like to call mine my Renaissance periods.
[00:03:59] Yes, it was a renaissance of period. And I had to kind of just go back to the drawing board. It’s like, what am I passionate about? What am I interested in? What do I see myself committing to? In a real earnest way that’s not going to drain me, but will sustain him. And I’ve always been obsessed with comedy, like I’ve always been a humorous person myself, but I’ve always been just, like, obsessed with, you know, Seinfeld and Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy and Saturday Night Live. And then A Different World like these were not just pop culture, pop culture, smatterings of of content. This was, like, lifeblood for me.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:42] When you were sorry. Go ahead.
Amanda Seales [00:04:44] Well, no, I was going to say, like when I was a kid, like I would carry around Chris Rock’s book, Rock This, you know, like people carry around the Old Testament. Like, it was very serious, you know, like memorizing bits, but like, to what end, you know, like just getting it to go.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:02] So when you were like, who was if you think back? Who was your favorite comedian as a child? Like, who’s your first favorite comedian?
Amanda Seales [00:05:10] Annette Seales My mother. She’s hilarious. My mother is a fool. I have a brother. My mother. See, the thing is, it would take I think it would take like 30 minutes for her to really, like, settle in. But my mom can give you just a dagger, you know, like, she has the sharpest tongue that I know. And I feel like that was where I got my first chops was, you know, you got to keep up. And, like, my whole family is like that. Like, they they will roast you and you better be able to roast back, like, you know. So I think that was my first comedian, my mom.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:47] And who was your first famous comedian. Not saying Annette Seales isn’t famous.
Amanda Seales [00:05:52] No, no. I mean, I would. I would say my first favorite comedian who I consider to be like a comedian would have been Eddie Murphy. I mean, Coming to America, I’m obsessed with.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:07] Girl, I wrote a book called Black Ethnics, which is basically my love letter to Coming to America.
Amanda Seales [00:06:12] There you go. I mean, “to be loved,” I mean, don’t get me started. Between Coming to America quotes and Color Purple quotes like that would be the whole show.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:21] That’s it.
Coming to America [00:06:21] Do you think perhaps just once I might use the bathroom by myself? Most amusing, sir.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:25] I think one day we should just do a quote unquote reading of Coming to America but without a script, because both of us could probably site the movie from start to finish. I mean, I will do the opening credits where it’s talking about John Landis and we’re like, you know, going across. It’s like, Oh, I’ll do the music. So before we get some Blackest questions because you know, my favorite comedian that oh, I remember was Joan Rivers.
Amanda Seales [00:06:54] But you had let me tell you. So Joan Rivers has a joke that many consider racist. But.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:00] She sneaky racists. It’s OK. Nobody’s perfect.
Amanda Seales [00:07:05] Sometimes things kind of just, like, exceed, like the funny can exceed. Yeah. And the joke is, she was like, you know. Michelle Obama. She has style. She has her own impeccable style. You know, she’s even more stylish, I guess, than, say, even Jackie Onassis. So I guess we should call her Blackie-O.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:26] And she got in a lot of trouble for that. She she really did. But, you know, I loved her talk show. I was just like I would rush home after school to see her talk show at 3:00 every day. We went to school across the street from my house and I was like, I think this woman is hilarious. So, I mean,.
Amanda Seales [00:07:45] She, you know, she was biting.
[00:07:46] Yeah. She I mean, edgy. And for, you know, a frickin seven year old, I’m like, this woman is talking, she talk in like double entendres as a, you know, for kids to listen to I was like, okay. Okay, so listen, maybe you would,.
Amanda Seales [00:07:59] But you would ask, how did I get to comedy? And it was because at that, like, I realized if I really want to, like, advance in my career, I need to do something different than what I was already doing. And when I looked at the landscape of people who are already doing the things I wanted to do, who were basically making a career for themselves on their own, like on the merit of their own point of view, not because of a character or what movie they were in or a book they had written, but just like what they thought about things. I looked at Chris Rock, Ellen. Chelsea Handler. And I was like, They all do all the things I can do. Except for one thing. They all did standup and I didn’t do standup, and I was like,.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:38] Let’s do it.
Amanda Seales [00:08:39] So I need to call that to, to my space. And, and then I did it and I was like, Oh, you need to be able to do this very well. And so I, like committed myself.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:47] And shout out to Marina Franklin, the stand up comedian who introduced us, who is just like a solid, solid person on all things. And I just love the way she supports stand ups all across the country. Okay. You ready to play the Blackest Questions?
Amanda Seales [00:09:03] I’m ready.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:04] I’m so excited to have you here.
Amanda Seales [00:09:05] The Negro preguntas. Let’s go. Negro. Okay. .
Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:10] Okay. Question one.
Amanda Seales [00:09:12] I’m ready.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:13] After Christmas, many people celebrate both Boxing Day and this holiday. What is it?
Amanda Seales [00:09:21] Kwanzaa?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:22] That is correct. So Kwanzaa was created in the 1960s by Maulana Karenga, a Black nationalist who later became a college professor. And he created Kwanzaa as a way of uniting and empowering the African-American community in the aftermath of the deadly Watts rebellion. And so he modeled his holiday on traditional African harvest festivals, and he took the name Kwanzaa from the Swahili phrase, Matunda Ya Kwanzaa, which means first fruits. So it’s often thought of as an alternative to Christmas, but many people actually celebrate both. So Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. It’s a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality, says Karenga. And so African-Americans of all faiths can and do celebrate Kwanzaa. And it centers around seven principles. I won’t give you a quiz on the seven principles, but.
Amanda Seales [00:10:05] I was like, Are you going to ask for three of the seven?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:07] You want to name some. I can I can name some.
Amanda Seales [00:10:11] I can give you three. Nyah.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:13] Nia.
Amanda Seales [00:10:15] Sorry, Nia, Umoja and Kujichagulia.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:19] Everyone knows Kujichagulia. Girl, you know, I was about to say Kujichagulia. So Umoja is unity. Kujichagulia self-determination. Ujima, that’s what I always forget, collective work and responsibility. We’ll have my therapist figure out why I was forget that one. Ujamaa That’s cooperative economics, Nia is purpose. Kuumba is creativity and Imani is faith. And so they’re three of the seven candles are red which represent struggle. Three of the candles are green, represent the land and hope for the future. And one of the candles is Black, which represents people of African descent. So some families to celebrate Kwanzaa, dress up or decorate their homes in those colors. So we started with Boxing Day. Did your did you and your family celebrate Boxing Day or Kwanzaa growing up? Because I know that your your people are from Grenada.
Amanda Seales [00:11:01] Yeah, but you’re really just celebrating Christmas. And even when you’re celebrating Christmas, you’re celebrating a tree and presents. You’re really celebrating decorating. That’s what you’re celebrating in my house. In my house, which is celebrating is, oh, this is an excuse to decorate in a theme.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:20] I didn’t grow up celebrating Kwanzaa and I always felt like, oh, you know, when I’m when I’m older, I celebrate Kwanzaa and I still don’t I feel like I should. Do you have a favorite holiday?
Amanda Seales [00:11:31] Well, you know, my Christmas is my favorite holiday. More so because of the music. Like, I love Christmas music. I mean, it’s a great cannon. And, you know, at the end of the day, I think Kwanzaa is very austere and I think for the most part. Particularly Americans look at holidays as like, you know, let loose festivity kind of vibes. And so I think it doesn’t really fit in with the way Americans celebrate holidays. In other places holidays are attached to like actual real things. And not just Hollywood.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:10] Leave it to the Americans, too, to make it a whole thing.
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Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:27] Okay, so you’re on a roll. You ready for question two?. Okay. Question number two, lasting roughly from the 1910s through the mid 1930s, this period is considered a golden age in African-American culture, manifesting in literature, music, stage performance and art. What is it?
Amanda Seales [00:12:45] Harlem Renaissance?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:48] That is correct. The Harlem Renaissance was the development of the Harlem neighborhood in New York City as a Black cultural mecca in the early 20th century and the subsequent social and artistic explosion that resulted. This was an intellectual and cultural revival of African-American music, dance, art, fashion, literature, theater, politics, and scholarship that was centered in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, spanning the early 20th century period and at the time is known as the New Negro Movement and named after the New Negro and 1925 anthology edited by Alan Black. And so while the Renaissance was not confined to just Harlem, the Harlem District in New York City, Harlem attracted a remarkable concentration of intellectual and talented people and served as a symbolic capital to this cultural awakening. And so the Harlem Renaissance was a phase of a larger new Negro movement that had emerged in the early 20th century and in some ways ushered in the civil rights movement in the late 1940s and fifties. And this embrace of literature and music and theater and visual arts, the participants sought to reconceptualize the Negro apart from white stereotypes that influenced Black people’s relationships to their heritage and to each other. So knowing all of that, I know you and I both lived in Harlem at a time. What can you sort of do feel, did you feel that energy still of the Harlem Renaissance when you were there? And do you think that there’s an element of kind of a Harlem Renaissance taking place now in TV and in literature, thinking about diasporic novels that are coming out or just so many Black TV shows that are showing all these different facets of Blackness.
Amanda Seales [00:14:24] People always say this, what Black TV shows are there? I’d be like, and I’m in this business, but I’m just like, there’s not a lot of Black TV shows compared to what I was experiencing growing up.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:38] Our sitcoms that we had like Martin in a Different World. But I mean, like, you know, you were on a very popular one. I mean, obviously Issa Rae has.
Amanda Seales [00:14:44] She then did another one.
Insecure [00:14:46] If she has real feelings that she needs to let those skeletons out the closet now. Tiff might be right.
Amanda Seales [00:14:54] So that’s two.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:55] There’s the whole Black-ish anthologies, I guess, that people are watching.
Amanda Seales [00:15:02] That’s true.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:02] What’s the new one?
Amanda Seales [00:15:04] See what I’m saying?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:06] It’s on Peacock, it’s the friends. Yeah. I don’t watch It.
Amanda Seales [00:15:08] If you have to. If you have to. What’s that? Like there should be so many.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:15] What about, like, Atlanta or like, I mean, I guess I put Flatbush Misdemeanors in that category. You know what, South Side and Sherman Showcase. Shout out to.
Amanda Seales [00:15:25] We can name, we can name them. There isn’t like an abundance.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:31] What about literature with, like, Caribbean and. I mean Black American young authors?
Amanda Seales [00:15:34] I will say this. I don’t feel like I can’t speak I can’t speak informatively to literature because I am not as well read at this point in my life as I should be. But when I speak, when I think about that question about is there a Black renaissance happening in like TV and film, I just feel like that’s not really the case, considering I have I live in this business and they won’t let a Black renaissance happen. Right? At least right now. Like these people are gatekeeping, like a mofo. They’re saying things in meetings that still make you just like have to reach out to Harriet Tubman and be like, did you hear that? And so I feel like the actual renaissance is happening online. I feel like the amount of content that is created daily by Black folks on these Internets really is where the talent, the challenge to the status quo, where the re-imagining of identity, that’s where it really for me is taking place when I see just the actual comedic genius that people are creating at their desk and they’re doing it while they’re busy doing other things too.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:46] That was like the beauty of COVID lockdown. There’s so many talented people, whereas like you were just a regular person who is at your job. Not even on break,.
Amanda Seales [00:16:56] And just found time.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:59] Not even on break. You just have a smartphone.
Amanda Seales [00:16:59] You stole time and and had time to give us this gem.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:05] This is the true definition of reclaiming my time. The real definition.
Amanda Seales [00:17:09] And then you’re like, you’re giving unto us. And it’s like, thank you. Namaste. I mean, listen, I. When we do Smart, Funny and Black as a show, it is meant to like exist in this space. It is meant to exist in a space of like constantly reminding us of the work that was done in the Harlem Renaissance and in the civil rights movement. And like the it is, exists in a space of celebration with the goal of inspiring another renaissance, with inspiring radicalism and revolution. And just like self love of Blackness.
Smart, Funny and Black [00:17:42] How Black are you feeling today? That’s how we always start the show. We want to know how Black are you feeling? How am I feeling today? Yes. I’m always in a good feeling of Black.
Amanda Seales [00:17:51] And so I feel like that is something that kind of has also come from me being on the Internet so much and really getting to see just how much of a monolith we are not. .
[00:18:05] We are not.
Amanda Seales [00:18:07] But living in Harlem, I live in Harlem from nine from 2003 to 2015. And I went to Columbia. And. I will say that I think the Harlem Renaissance. There’s like, little pockets. I distinctly remember this one thing. So my homeboy Marvin shouts, Marvin, who’s a new father. Marvin was like, I want to take you to this place I discovered on Strivers Row. It’s a stretch of stretch of block that’s named for Strivers Row, Frederick Douglas and. This woman had every Saturday would turn her apartment into a jazz life.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:18:52] Oh, yeah.
Amanda Seales [00:18:53] Like not a speakeasy, but just like a jazz hall.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:18:57] But then they wrote about it in the New York Times,.
Amanda Seales [00:18:58] And then it ruined it?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:01] I mean, any time, you know.
Amanda Seales [00:19:02] Right. I mean, I went when it was not in The New York Times and she was passing around like watered down kool aid in Zippy in like little shop, you know, like the Dixie Cups and.
[00:19:12] The paper cups.
[00:19:12] Yes. You know, and you’re just like, man, this is this is these are some jammin cats.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:19] Yeah. But the thing I think that’s well before we move on to the number three, but I think that’s what makes me so sad about so many parts of Harlem, like, you know, all these sort of dive bars that I went to back in the day, you know, the gentrification and kind of culture vultures.
Amanda Seales [00:19:34] I lived down the block from St Nick’s Pub.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:37] Uh huh.
[00:19:37] And St. Nicks pub is exactly that. Dicta.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:42] Lennox Lounge, Lennox Lounge is now a bank.
Amanda Seales [00:19:44] Lennox Lounge is now a bank.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:45] I mean, St. Nicks Pub, I think is like it’s a grocery store.
[00:19:48] I was going to say, I remember when I was moving to L.A. and I ran into the owner of St Nicks Pub and he was like, Yeah, I’m selling it. But that was where I had first heard Gregory. Damn, he’s a jazz musician. And Gregory Porter. And Gregory Porter is like this big old jazz singer now. But I have an audio recording from when I had an iPod with a microphone attachment, and I was there and he went onstage and I was like, Oh yes, because I have purposely gone and I have him singing Be Good, like in Saint Nick. But I probably should like, you know, put that out there. But I got to go there and be in the mix of like the I feel like the last kind of. Yes, the last wave of Harlem Blackness before the gentrification.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:43] Right. Well I mean the expansion of Columbia and hyper-gentrafication and, you know, $2 million, two bedroom apartments ushered in a whole different kind of renaissance.
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Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:23] Okay. We ready for question number three? You are killing the game over here.
Amanda Seales [00:21:25] Okay, let’s do it.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:29] So this popular area in Paris, France, is regarded as little Africa. What is it called?
Amanda Seales [00:21:37] I didn’t know we were international with it. Yeah, you lost me on that one.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:43] Okay. It’s called Chateau Rouge.
Amanda Seales [00:21:45] Okay.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:46] African quarters. And it’s a metro stop in 18th arrondissement. This is my fake French accent, and it’s vibrant with African vendors, restaurant tourism, tradesmen. And Chateau Rouge is similar to this stretch on 116th Street in Harlem, just like Paris. So it’s this thriving area with folks from the Gambia and fabrics imported from Nigeria. And so it’s at the foot of the Montmartre Hill and is a popular district in Chateau Rouge. It is one of the meeting places of people in the African community. And so it’s despite urban and residential changes.
Amanda Seales [00:22:26] The foot of Montmartre?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:26] Uh huh. So it’s got exotic grocery stores and beauty and cosmetics stores and fabric shops and halal butcher shops, taxi phones and restaurants. And so we’re we’re thinking about, you know, sort of so much of your comedy is rooted in Blackness and sort of Black solidarity and collective action. Do you travel quite a bit and have you been to say Black countries and have you performed in Black countries? Because I’m always fascinated to see if the comedy translates or transfers to other Black people in other spaces.
Amanda Seales [00:23:02] I mean, I will say I think my comedy is very specifically Black American, just as it relates to our experience.
I Be Knowin’ [00:23:11] I consult with LaTravious and the mirror because LaTravious is a gay Black man, and gay Black men have more confidence than any body on the planet.
Amanda Seales [00:23:20] I will say I feel like London may be able to get it and South Africa may be able to get it. But like if I’m taking it to like Sierra Leone, I don’t know that they would necessarily, like, be tapped in in the way that Western Black American culture has become. It’s pretty common in those areas. But ultimately, I have not I have not performed stand up much out of the country. You know, the thing about it, too, is I really dedicated myself from like 2017. I said I told myself from 2017 to 2019 that I was not going to travel. I was going to know it was 2018 to 2020. I was like, I’m going to travel. I need to focus on my career. So like 2017, I went to Togo, I went to Ghana, I went to Cuba, I went to Grenada. But it was like all this travel is is incredible and it’s mind blowing. But I knew that I needed to, like, plant my feet here to kind of just, like, get some done.
[00:24:27] Oh girl, I feel like you’re speaking to me because it’s like. I feel like I need to sit down. Right. Because with COVID, I was locked in. And so I’ve been I’ve been traveling a ton. But the thing is, for me, as someone who does American politics, I feel like just like Mark Twain, I need to leave America on a frequent basis.
Amanda Seales [00:24:44] Of course.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:44] The same way that the mountain needs to climb or the climber needs to leave the mountain. So the mountain is clear to the climber. But I hear you on this, like being still and sitting down and getting your your stuff done. Yeah. And I think I’m resisting that, you know, because I’m like, where else should I be going? And it’s like, hey, sit down, sit down someplace.
Amanda Seales [00:25:03] It’s real. It’s the urge, you know? I mean, and I ended up like for my birthday, I randomly, like, booked a show, a game show that shot in Ireland and like I wasn’t really that interested in going to Ireland, but it was like, Oh, but I can go to Ireland on someone else’s dime. During July 4th weekend. So I could be like, out of here.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:25] Let’s do it. Let’s roll. So for our listeners, when is your birthday?
Amanda Seales [00:25:30] July 1st.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:31] Oh, I’m July 13th. This explains a lot.
Amanda Seales [00:25:37] Everything. Yea.
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Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:53] So we’re going to move on to question number four.
Amanda Seales [00:25:56] Okay.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:56] Okay. Let’s do it. This world famous Ghanaian artist was the first to have artwork featured in outer space. Who is he?
Amanda Seales [00:26:08] How do we go from Kwanzaa to like these obscure.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:14] We’re diasporic.
Amanda Seales [00:26:14] This is like the New York Times crossword from a monday to a Saturday. Um, again, I don’t know. So it’s Amoako Boafo is born in Accra, and he’s a graduate of Accra’s Ghana College of Art and Design 2008. He was awarded the Best Portrait Painter of the Year award. He then moved to Vienna in 2014 to develop his work and he’s featured obviously lots of exhibitions and so he’s got these paintings self-portrait with pink tulips, shamans, gold earrings and white and gold head wrap, which makes make up his sub audible triptych, which adorned three parachute panels on a spaceship. And so one image is a self-portrait, and the other is a portrait of his mother, and the other is a portrait of his childhood friend. And so he’s become one of the generation’s most coveted contemporary artists. And I hadn’t heard of him, you know, before we started doing this research. I mean, I know Kehinde Wiley.
Amanda Seales [00:27:17] Yes.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:27:17] But like this brother has worked in outer space and so his name’s Amoako Boafo for those who want to look up his work. And so I know that you’re a jack of all trades. I mean, you know, I totally forgot about Amanda Diva, I can’t even believe it. And, you know, you stand up, you write, you act. Did you ever dabble in art? Because I feel like people like you always, you know, like you’re talented in one. It’s kind of like you’re talented in all of them. Like, did you draw? Do you paint?
Amanda Seales [00:27:42] I’m like a full visual artist. Like, I’ve done exhibits, like I have sold paintings, I have like, I design all my logos.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:27:52] Who’s your favorite artist?
Amanda Seales [00:27:52] If we were in different rooms, I could show you some. Who is my favorite artists? Kehinde is up there. I really, really, really love Bisa Butler and Harry James Marshall.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:28:14] Mm hmm.
Amanda Seales [00:28:15] Big fan. And, you know, I was. I was already like a fan of Amy Sherald. And then I got the I got the opportunity to interview her. And it made me just yes. Like I was like already love your work. But then it was like, oh, I like, love you now. Right. Which makes me love your work even more right now.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:28:39] Here’s a question, though, for people starting out. And I think a lot of people like you and you sort of touched on this, but. People like you who have a lot of these talents. What advice would you give them to sort of not focus on one, but like how did you know to kind of say put the visual art stuff not to the side choices? How do you make those choices of like, now I’m going to focus on standup or now I’m going to focus on my acting career. Now I’m going to sort of leave the music behind really quickly so I can I can do a little bit more writing?
Amanda Seales [00:29:12] So I have a couple of different ways that I make these choices. One, if something goes from a challenge to a stress, I know it’s time to let it go. Right. So there’s that, too. If the love is gone, you know, like, I knew it was time to leave music because the love was gone. And it wasn’t that I was leaving music because I don’t love music anymore. I was leaving music so I could get the love back. Right. It’s like the leaving of the mountain. Right. Right. Like I had to stop working at the Gap because it was making me hate the Gap, right?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:44] As I was like, You have to leave New York to love New York. Like, when you start trying to push people with strollers and wheelchairs, it’s time for you to just leave the city for a moment, either a weekend or for year.
Amanda Seales [00:29:54] Like forever. Like when I was standing outside of a cab in the rain in front of a precinct about to Nicolette buckle up with a Senegalese cab driver. I was like, It’s time to go. I’ve done my time. Right? And then I would say the other the third one, in terms of how I make the choice, is like. What am I willing to give up for? The return of commerce? Huh? So, you know, I protected art because I realized that, like, visual art, I protected my visual art because I realized that I didn’t want to have to meet the market’s standards or the market’s wants. And I was like, you do all these other things, Amanda, like where you’re going to have to do that, like keep something for you. Yeah. So, like, I’ve sold paintings, but not because I was like, let me do, you know, I didn’t have the pressure of having to sell the paintings. It was just like, these are for sale if you want them, you know, which is very different. So like in television, you know, I’m in television, I’m in TV and film, but I genuinely hate it right now because it feels similar to what made me say I need to step away from music, which was that the business has too far permeated into the creatives. And it, it, it makes it hard for someone like me to divorce myself from just the frustration of the business and the creative. Like there’s this compartmentalization doesn’t happen anymore. So that’s how I mean, I think also you go with the flow. Yeah, you go with the flow like I’ve had. So I remember I can tell you a really good example of this. I remember.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:40] And then we get to question number five. Don’t stall on me.
Amanda Seales [00:31:44] Oh, no, no, no, I didn’t. Okay. So I didn’t is a very good example. Like for our listeners, that was a coming to America reference. I’m not calling yet made to feel that I was. I tried deejaying in like 2003. Beverly Bond was, like, training me, but I had to carry crates. And it was before Cerrado. And I just remember standing in the middle of, like, Astor Place in New York with, like, eight crates at 3 a.m. after deejaying at Joe’s Pub and trying to hail a cab. And I was like, This isn’t about what’s going on. That’s it. You can’t do it. So I had to let it go. But then later on in life, I remember I just randomly got a text from a homeboy of mine DJ MOS and he was like, Hey, are you, are you deejay? And I was like, I mean, I haven’t in a while he was like, Oh, I have a new night. He knew I could spin, but I hadn’t. I mean, this is literally ten years, right? And he was like, I have a new night. I’d love for you to come by and just get on the one and two. And I was like, Oh, I don’t know. But he was like, Let’s do it. He was like, I said, he was like, no, like, let’s let’s set you up. And so I went and did it and I had a good time. And they invited me to come back. So I came back and I did it and I had a good time. And so, you know, and and you kind of like. You. You’re like, Oh, this is the universe. Like presenting this to me. Let me receive it.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:03] Hmm. I love it. I love. I love the idea of receiving. I mean, that’s kind of way.
Amanda Seales [00:33:09] And there are my turntables, right here.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:10] The ones and twos. Amanda Seales on the ones and twos okay. But actually to actually let me just put a button in this recently I got the opportunity deejay again and I deejay and they were like, Oh, people are asking us for you to do parties, etc., etc.. And I was like, No, thank you. Yeah, it just doesn’t. I think we have to just go with the rhythms. I mean, at least for me, like in this like COVID era, I’m like, I just need to go with the rhythms of, like, what my inner waves are telling me. And, like, I’m not fighting anybody, am not going against anything.
[00:33:41] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars. Janet Jackson versus Michael Black presidents, Black men, nations and everything Black. Well, listen, today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:13] So question number five. This Florida Democrat Democratic primary winner could become the first Gen Z member of Congress. Who is he?
Amanda Seales [00:34:25] Frost.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:26] That’s right, girl. Maxwell Frost, a 25 year old former ACLU and March of Our Lives organizer. And he was endorsed by prominent progressives, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. And so if he’s elected in November, he will represent. Florida’s 10th Congressional District is a favorite in a very large and crowded field. The district will cover the Orlando area, which became open after Representative Val Demings announced her run for Senate in Florida. And Demings won her Democratic primary. And so she’s going to face Marco Rubio in November as well. And so Frost his roots, a broad swath of American life. His parents adopted him at birth, their Cuban American woman, a white man from Kansas. His birth parents were a Lebanese Puerto Rican woman. And a Haitian man sort of identifies, you know, he’s like representative of all the great things that in America. He identifies as Black. He speaks both English and Spanish at home. And he capitalized on his multicultural upbringing to campaign in a district that’s as diverse as his own origins. So shout out to Maxwell Frost and wish him good luck in November. And so I know you follow politics very closely, especially looking at your Instagram account. Amanda Seales, for those of you who want to take a peek,.
Amanda Seales [00:35:38] I’m also from Orlando.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:35:39] Also from Orlando. And so I get this question a lot. And I’m a firm no on on this question. But would you ever consider a political never. I mean, obviously, my students ask me this.
Amanda Seales [00:35:51] First of all, I’m not trying to get assassinated for that.
[00:35:54] I get enough hate mail. But, you know, back in the day, it was I don’t want take my nose ring and change how I look. I think there are a lot of, you know, sort of people in politics now who have braids and, you know, wear bamboo, join actors and do whatever. I just have zero desire to be in the front. And I know that as someone who is an actress who does standup, I mean, you are accustomed to being around a crowd, you know, moving a crowd as a DJ. But is this it’s just not something that is ever of interest.
Amanda Seales [00:36:25] I’m not a public servant. No, I don’t. I don’t have that level of love of engaging with people. I love that people. I want the people to have what we deserve. But I know my strengths. I know my limits and I don’t have the pay girl.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:36:52] I love the fact you said public servant, but we are both cancerian and so we are known for a little light pop up every now and again. I don’t know. I have a lot of discipline in my life, and obviously you do too. But I don’t know if there’s enough tongue biting in the world for me to ever have it.
Amanda Seales [00:37:11] You know, and that’s the thing. It’s not even about like the tongue biting related to speaking in the press or speaking probably at the tongue biting related to like your constituency coming at you sideways.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:37:22] Yeah, I was saying something and it was like, let me you know what? Let me just take this one real fast and have a quick tete a tete. If you, my friend.
Amanda Seales [00:37:34] I also just feel like I serve. I can serve my purpose better. Being free, being free of the limitations of what that role calls for. And I am. I’m just also just too eccentric, I think, for for that space. But I want to say that I know about Frost, because this year, my mom, who was in Orlando, she. Okay. According to her, she said, because of my urging, she decided to really, really inform herself about the go ahead moments. And she said in the past she has to admit that she voted very lackadaisical. It was kind of like, oh, I know this person. And then, oh, I really don’t know this person, but they’re Democrat or whatever. And she said that, you know, in the past two years, just hearing my rants and my passion, she said, you know, I want to really do this right. And so she informed herself and she was like, I had never heard of Gen Z. I didn’t know what that Gen Z was. But this Frost is that 25 Gen Z men. And they said, you know, he’s the one. And I read up on him and I said, you know, like the youth, I think this would be a good chance.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:38:53] I must have your mother back and I’m going to hound you and hound you until you get the feel of this podcast. And, you know, it’s interesting. We have a previous episode with a woman, Nadege Flormont, who’s a Haitian caterer and chef and cookbook author. And we had her on the Black list questions. And she talked so lovingly about her father in a very similar way, you know, her introduction to politics and her introduction of food. And I was like, We got to have your father on the podcast. I think as the podcast gets its sea legs, I need to have like a parent episode. Like I need to have my mama who is a riot and a half, or my father who is low key, just like the funny is see through in character. He’s also from Miami, by the way. That’s Florida. So, okay, so you did fantastically. But here’s here’s the funny part before I let you get out of here. We’re going to do the Black bonus round. I like to call it Black Lightning. So there’s no correct answer is, I just want you to tell me sort of what you feel. What’s that? You want to hear the question. You’re ready.
Amanda Seales [00:39:53] Okay.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:39:54] If you had to choose the New Wonder Years or The Cosby Show.
Amanda Seales [00:40:01] That’s not fair. Okay? Yeah. I love the new Wonder Years okay. But I’m a cancer. Right?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:40:09] Okay. I think I know the answer to this one, but I’ve so go ask it. Coming to America or Black Panther?
Amanda Seales [00:40:15] Oh, coming to America. But also one time that forever. Oh, that right.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:40:19] Okay. So you’re the hottest take, best stand up comedian, Marsha Warfield or Mo’Nique?
Amanda Seales [00:40:26] I have never. I don’t think I’ve seen enough of either of them. But I feel like from this little that I have seen of Marcia, I don’t I can’t say best, but I can say my preferred in line with my style. Marsha Warfield.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:40:47] At heart. Are you an island girl or city girl?
Amanda Seales [00:40:51] Island girl. Look at my outfit? There’s bananas.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:40:54] The know we have this podcast. There’s also a visual component you can get you to agree TV or YouTube. Okay. Do you prefer wearing high heels or tennis shoes?
Amanda Seales [00:41:06] Yeah. You know, pre-pandemic, I had become a very high heeled girl, honey. Very high heeled girl. But then I went back into my kicks. And I will say I’m genuinely in the middle now. Like, I genuinely like both.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:21] Okay. Well, do you call them tennis shoes, sneakers or kicks?
Amanda Seales [00:41:26] Kicks.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:26] If you had to choose, would you rather chill poolside or lay out on the beach?
Amanda Seales [00:41:31] Beach.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:32] If you had to choose L.A. or New York.
Amanda Seales [00:41:37] You know, in my thirties I would have said New York, but as an adult who doesn’t want to run for the train, I’ve got to go with Los Angeles.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:44] Do you prefer writing jokes or telling jokes?
Amanda Seales [00:41:49] I don’t write any of my jokes. I actually come up with all of them off the top of my head when I’m on stage and I hone them in that way. I don’t write them down.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:59] Audiobooks or reading the old fashioned way. Cover to cover.
Amanda Seales [00:42:04] Depends on what we’re doing. You know what I’m saying? I feel like I like reading fiction in cover to cover, but I like nonfiction.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:42:12] Okay. Last question. Favorite Grenandian food.
Amanda Seales [00:42:18] Oh, skin up. Well, I mean, skin is not really a great food. I mean, it’s a Caribbean, but we needed Scarlett’s skin up. So I would say my favorite Grenadian food. I love a good fish waters, which is really just another name for fish fry tastic. Oh.
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Dr. Christina Greer [00:42:50] So Amanda you said come up with your jokes in the moment on stage tell us a little bit more about where we can see you on stage and about that process.
Amanda Seales [00:43:00] So I had actually not been on stage for two years because of the pandemic and I just wasn’t into it. And then around March, there was just so much I called it a fountain of fuckery that was happening in this nation and in the world that I just felt compelled to like come back to the stage. And I had things I wanted to say and talk about, and that morphed into me saying, it’s time to go back on tour. So I’m on the Black Outside Again tour and getting to talk about Roe v Wade and gun control and just the maniacal madness of fascism. And these Christians who are just they are just Shane and Jesus and then also talking about, you know, Hood and and tell me more and vaginas and, you know, there’s a myriad of topics that I discuss, but it really ends up becoming a conversation on stage because I don’t write things down. So what does it feel so formal? Don’t get me wrong, there’s punchlines. I mean, I’m telling jokes and there’s beginnings and ends and stories. But being on stage right now feels very fluid because we are in the midst of so many shifts that are immense. And I want people to feel seen in my comedy because I know people are at home like, This is crazy, this is what? And when I come onstage, I want people to feel like, seen and heard and like, yes, this is crazy. Yes, this is wild. Let’s laugh about it while also learning about it and something I’m doing at the end of all of my shows. Instead of having openers, I’m having closers and my closures are organizers from the city that I’m in that night.
Amanda Seales [00:44:40] And so I’m bringing up organizers to talk about what they’re doing, what the work is, why they’re doing that work, and how the audience can get involved. So that’s some of the things that I’m trying to do to make sure that I keep using my platform in other ways other than just telling jokes. Also partnered with HeadCount. We are registering voters at my shows as well.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:44:59] Amen. Amen. And I say, and this is the Black outside.
Amanda Seales [00:45:04] This is the Black outside again Tour because we are Black outside again because we was inside and hallelujah like that again. And so it’s combined there’s shows that are stand up shows and there’s shows that are smart, funny and Black shows. So you got to look on Amanda Seales icon to see which shows coming to your city.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:45:21] Oh, I cannot wait. Well, I know that you’re coming to BK, so I will see.
Amanda Seales [00:45:25] And you know what? This is the perfect show for that, because for our BK show, we’re asking folks to come dressed as their favorite Black characters. And, you know, we talk about that right here on Black Question, Blackest Questions. So who would you be?
Dr. Christina Greer [00:45:37] At least you’re giving at least are giving me some time. I mean, I feel like in solidarity and, you know, as like an homage to Amanda Seales, I need to dress up as a character from coming to America in some capacity. I would, but I don’t know. I mean, maybe I’ll get a little Jheri Curl. Maybe I’ll come as one of the rose bears like. I don’t know.
Amanda Seales [00:45:59] I feel like you’ve become one of the. My name is.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:46:04] My name is Peaches and the best all the deejays. What about this? Oh, maybe I could just be. I was doing it all for myself. I mean, I could come as all. Yeah, I’m like, Well, what are you going to do is be an actress. I didn’t star and like movies to do, like, films and movies that I got to do. You are R.I.P. Louie Anderson. So yeah, I need to think about that. I feel like I should dress up as someone coming to America, but I don’t know. I’m going to surprise you and it’s going to be for you.
Amanda Seales [00:46:36] I love it. That’s all I love it. Surprised me. I’m going to show it’s going to be good. AmandaSeales.com to get your tickets.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:46:41] But can I say, Amanda Seales, I just want to thank you so much for joining us here on the Black Ops questions. Thank you. I’m so excited for all of the next projects that you’ve got coming up, and it will tell our listeners about coming out in October. But I also just want to say to our listeners, thank you so much for listening to The Black’s questions. And this show is produced by Akilah Cedric, Jesse Vargas and Sasha Armstrong. If you like what you heard, please download theGrio app to listen and watch many more great shows and share it with everyone you know.
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