The INTO Interview

‘Glamorous’ Actress Ayesha Harris Is Creating Black Queer On-Screen Representation That We Need

· Updated on October 4, 2023

*photo credit: Kevin Scanlon

Queer visibility, whether it be on TV or film, is important and for actress Ayesha Harris, she’s creating the Black queer representation she’s always wanted to see. For the Southern California native, observation has been her way of navigating the world. Originally an entrepreneur who owned and ran the Ninth Chapter Barbershop in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, Harris’ Black queer establishment serviced the Black community there for years. While there, she would observe the various personalities that fluttered in and out her shop, in addition to the movies and commercials that she would allow to film at her shop. 

But you can only watch from the sidelines for so long. A freak accident destroyed her barbershop, but it gave way to a new opportunity: acting. Harris found work on Abbott Elementary, The L Word: Generation Q, and the Oscar nominated anthology Tell It Like a Woman. But most recently, she’s had more of the spotlight placed on her in Prime Video’s Daisy Jones & the Six and Netflix’s Glamorous

In one series, Harris is a DJ in NYC’s club scene and in another, she’s a graphic designer working at a prestigious beauty company. At the end of the day, she’s just Ayesha Harris, a person finding new ways to highlight Blackness and queerness on-screen. INTO chatted with Harris about her upcoming role in Netflix’s Glamorous, her past life as a barber, and being a fan of queer love stories. 

You have an interesting path into the world of acting. How did you get your start?

Yeah, well, I got my start in acting quite a while ago in my early twenties. And it was just something that I kind of fell into and I fell in love with. But then it was just like, you’re in your twenties, I wanted to explore, I want to go out, and you couldn’t hold me down. I ended up doing other things that interested me. One of the big ones became barbering, amongst many other things. [I owned] an all-female run barbershop in West Hollywood for years. Building community space is really important to me, especially for the Black community.

It was just really coming together because the barbershop was so much more than just a barbershop. So, that’s kind of what started me back into acting. [I was] watching all of these different characters come to the barbershop. It was almost like watching the human condition and acting class real time every day. I would also allow film projects to be shot in the barbershop. I was always adjacent [to acting work]. I always stayed close. 

Then I saw the industry start to shift a few years back. All of a sudden I was like, ‘Well, hey, there might be an opening here for me to get some visibility.’ And so many things happened. The shop was destroyed in a construction accident, which is its own story. I got COVID pretty tough, and during that time I was just like, ‘You know what? You only live once. I’m going to try [acting] one more time, full-time.’ And here we are.

Earlier this year, viewers of ‘Daisy Jones & the Six’ were introduced to your character of Bernie. How would you describe her and how did you connect with her?

Sweet, yet very grounded in what she wants. She’s a people pleaser in a particular way to her partner. She wants to be there for her partner, but always push her. In that time, I just feel like Bernie knew the guidelines of the world in which they lived, but also we can create our own space. I can’t be closeted everywhere. We gone love out loud somewhere. Let’s take our hands and let’s go together. So that aspect of Bernie, I really was able to relate to because that’s kind of how I am. 

I came out pretty early in life and it was a journey. I’ve always been who I am and so being able to play a character like Bernie, who embodied that, but had to live within a certain four lines and still created that type of unapologetically queer space, that’s really special. There’s a lot of men and women who have been overlooked in the past because they’re the quiet heroes, the unsung heroes, and those are our trailblazers in our community. 

There’s plenty of Black queer joy to be shown on-screen.

Ayesha Harris

Agreed! Also, it’s beautiful that we get to see you and Nabiyah Be’s Simone, two Black women in a relationship on-screen, and we rarely get to see that.

Rarely, which was very exciting for me. It’s just the idea of being able to see that visualization of two Black women loving each other, holding each other, holding each other accountable, growing together is a visual that is much needed on both sides, men and women. We need to see happy stories. Everybody didn’t have a terrible coming out. I think we want to embody all the angles of the Black queer experience, for what it’s worth. There’s plenty of Black queer joy to be shown on-screen. I need more love stories.

Next up for you is ‘Glamorous’, which has a pretty queer cast (including Miss Benny, Matt Rogers, Joel Kim Booster, Monet X Change, and Priyanka) and its themes center around the LGBTQ+ community. What was it like, as a queer person, being able to work on this project?

It was like a dream come true! Not only was the cast queer, but so was a lot of the crew, which really made the experience of shooting Glamorous so special. It was like gay summer camp! Everyone got really close over the months of shooting. It made everything flow really smoothly. 

How would you describe your ‘Glamorous’ character, the graphic designer Britt?

Britt, in one word, is loyal. She is the quintessential BFF that everyone wants in their corner! I love how soft, yet extremely straightforward she is with her feelings. I think all of us could benefit from being vulnerable and available to other people. I like how Britt isn’t afraid to show how much she cares about the people in her life.

What can fans look forward to from ‘Glamorous’?

It’s a fun show, but it’s also a show that gives you something to think about, [in terms of] how we categorize our own community with misconceptions, stereotypes, and judgements. I love how Glamorous highlights some of those issues in our community with love, laughter, and radical self-acceptance. This show is just what TV needs and will always need…fabulous gays doing fabulous things!

Circling back to love stories, is there a particular narrative you’d like to tell on-screen one day?

I be on the fence about reboots, but if somebody gives me a Black queer ‘Love Jones‘ vibe, that’s all I want. I would like to see more Black queer love stories. Or not just Black, just queer love stories that more embody what our community looks like. More stories that look more like the reality in which we live would be great.

Fingers crossed for the future! Lastly, were there any defining queer roles or relationships that you saw in TV and film that really left a mark on your acting journey?

Well, not so much acting journey, but more so just in life. The first two women that popped in my head were Celie and Shug from The Color Purple. I was a kid, but something was happening when I was watching it. I was like, “I’m identifying with this in a way I don’t think I’m supposed to.” I can’t think of Queen Latifah’s name in Set it Off right now (it’s Cleo, by the way). I was a teenager when it came out, and I just loved how tough she was. She didn’t give a sh*t. Excuse my French, but she was my idol. Queen Latifah is still one of my top five actresses just because of her longevity and the characters that she’s embodied. I love her. But now, I don’t know if I identify with television in that capacity, but when I saw something I could identify with, it seemed to spark different emotions within me. But my first television crush, which really impacted my life, was Phylicia Rashad. ♦

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