Black girl squads go back. Like Waiting to Exhale after getting rid of a fuckboy, like Living Single singing “My Girl” in the bathroom, like Girlfriends deciding if dating a man with hips is okay. Real-life black girlfriends save lives. Gayle and Oprah are black girlfriend goals. How would Rihanna deal with fame without her childhood girls from Barbados holding her down? And Hollywood’s constant shenanigans could’ve made Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan and Gabrielle Union crumble a long time ago—if they didn’t have each other. Girlfriends are our rocks. Sisterhood keeps us sane. So where in the world are the black girlfriend squads on shows starring black women?
Mary Jane (Being Mary Jane), Olivia Pope (Scandal), Annalise Keating (How To Get Away With Murder), Cookie (Empire), Rainbow (black-ish) and Tasha (Power) all need squads. Seriously, half of Liv’s personal problems could be solved if she had just two black girlfriends to reign her in when she’s thinking with her vagina. Obviously Scandal does not need to be Girlfriends. The friends don’t even need to be a permanent fixture in the show. But it would make it a bit more realistic, considering how important black women’s friends are in real life.
Take Liv, for example. The first order of business for her black girlfriends would be to drive her to the Asian-owned beauty supply store in the hood so she could purchase a bonnet or silk head scarf. Because it makes no sense that five seasons in, Liv is going to bed without wrapping her hair. It’s not even like she’s natural! You know what else her black girlfriends wouldn’t be here for? Her consumption of wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, without ever eating a proper meal. By now, black girlfriends would have intervened with a plate from grandma’s house. That plate would include pork chops, mashed potatoes, greens, macaroni and cheese, cornbread and some good ol’ peach cobbler. The red wine would be an addition to the meal, not the meal itself. As far as her relationship with Fitz goes, black girlfriends would love her through the mess, but they’d insist on taking her to church to wash away the sins of sleeping with a married man. When her black girlfriends were through with her, his number would be blocked. Liv would’ve only made it one season in that seesaw affair before her girls told her, “Girl, he ain’t shit. You need to move on.” I’d also like to hope they would’ve introduced her to some high-powered black men to date. I mean, they do live in D.C., a.k.a. Chocolate City.
On Being Mary Jane, MJ has Kara. We love their friendship. We love their honesty. But Kara can’t even find the time to bake brownies for her kids. MJ needs someone more available, who will check her when she’s being insufferable and selfish. My theory is that MJ, like Liv, makes terrible life decisions because of her lack of black girlfriends. Black girlfriends would’ve showed up to MJ’s house ready to get it cracking when they heard of CeCe’s extortion. Black girlfriends would have also cautioned her against being everything to everybody. Taking on that Strong Black Woman role is going to give her high cholesterol. MJ suffers from what author Danielle Evans calls Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. A black girlfriend squad could save her.
Since we’re all friends here, let me be honest. HTGAWM's Annalise Keating probably couldn’t keep any black girlfriends. She covers up murders. She lies. Black women are not about to become complicit in your illegal activities. No ma’am. She's also not very nurturing, along with being calculated, rude, and oftentimes cold. She’s a complex mess, and we love her for it. Her black girlfriends would have a lot of questions. Why’d you marry Sam? Did you kill him? Why aren’t you close with your mama? Who is Wes to you? Girl, you used to like women? Cool. Do you want a girlfriend now? When are you going to start dating again? Why all these damn law students always at your damn house? See, questions. Annalise is not ready to do that kind of explaining—but she could surely benefit from having someone question her for once.
Cookie gets a pass. The Empire lioness has been in prison for 17 years. I’m not sure any of my girls are doing a bid with me. At least she has her sisters; they have each other’s back when push comes to shove. Cookie’s life is not in shambles because she doesn't have girlfriends to hold her down. Her life’s greatest problem can be summed up in one word: Lucious. I can only imagine Cookie’s black girl squad at her sons’ shows or them all ki ki’ing in the studio. It would be debauchery of the highest levels. And anyone thinking of crossing Cookie? Lord, help ‘em. Now that I think about it, Cookie needs at least one black girlfriend. I have to know what this looks like on screen. (Porsha doesn't count. She's an employee.)
I understand why Rainbow (on black-ish) doesn’t have black girlfriends. She was raised by hippies in a trailer. Not to mention she and Dre had their first child young while she was pursuing her career as a doctor. The road to success doesn’t always leave time to cultivate friendships. But where are her girls from Brown University? Medical school? Are there no other black female doctors she’s built a bond with? Certainly they catch up once a year at a girls' retreat in the Hamptons.
Power's Tasha has LaKeisha, but they’ve had sex with the same man. That would sully any of my friendships. Something tells me LaKeisha envies Tasha’s lavish lifestyle. You can’t have friends that want what you have. If Tasha'd had a black girl squad, they would’ve concocted a plan to get rid of Ghost’s mistress, Angela; had Ghost sign over half his fortune with full custodial rights; found her a new apartment; and set her up on a blind date. All in one episode. Tasha needs a few black women in her corner, with enemies like the Feds.
I’m not making any ultimatums here. I’ll keep watching, even if I’m yelling at the screen, “Liv, you need black girlfriends!” I’m just curious how the black girlfriend got written out of shows that otherwise portray black female characters in authentic, nuanced and smart ways. Gina had Pam. Whitley Gilbert had Kim. Melanie Barnett had Tasha. Black girlfriends enhance our lives in every way. It’s why we don’t trust women who say they have no female friends. To watch black female characters navigating the world without their squad every week is just weird.
Of all the characters, Liv and MJ desperately need that black girl realness, tough love and encouragement. At least then I’d know someone was in Liv’s ear to leave Fitz’s jam-in-Vermont-presidential behind alone. Whether or not she listens would be totally on her, but I’d feel better knowing her homegirl tried to warn her.
Bené Viera is a journalist who writes about pop culture, race and gender. When she's not writing magazine cover stories she's somewhere in Brooklyn rapping the lyrics to "Ether."