The Bold Type’s Aisha Dee Is Team Adena

Culture


In many ways, Aisha Dee is similar to her The Bold Type character Kat Edison, the intrepid social media editor who worked her ass off to become the first black department head of fictional glossy magazine Scarlet. Like Kat, Dee is confident, honest, and cares about the imprint she leaves on the world.

For instance, when we talk, Dee is hanging out in the show’s writers’ room. The 24-year-old makes it sound completely casual—we’re discussing the relationship between Kat and her Muslim photographer girlfriend Adena, a pairing fans have lovingly dubbed “Kadena”—but it’s hardly that. She most definitely wants to be in the room where it happens.

Dee was 14 when she worked her first job, on The Saddle Club. “One of our producers—her name was Lynn—sat me and the other girls down and she said, ‘I just want you to know that yes, you’re actors, but you’re also really smart, intelligent women, and if you ever have anything you need to talk about, any ideas, you can come to me,” Dee says. “Me being so young and naïve, I really took that literally. I told her I had this dream where I wanted to write an episode for the show, and she let us sit down with the writers and storyboard an episode that ended up being the finale of that series. It’s kind of insane, right? That someone let a 14-year-old do that?”

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So, is she involved in writing the hit Freeform show, too? “I do have opinions,” she says. “I’m sure anyone on this show will say that I like to be very vocal about how I feel.” One example of a pitch she made: “We just started shooting season 3, and there was a scene centering around social media, and I asked them if I could do it with no makeup on. They let me take off all my makeup, acne scars out.” Another one fans might recognize: the body positivity shoot of the just-concluded second season, in which Kat, Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and Jane (Katie Stevens) modeled a series of fine jewelry in a rogue Scarlet photoshoot.

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The Bold Type’s Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, and Meghann Fahy

Kathryn Wirsing

Yet not everything went so smoothly for Kat this season. After Kat and Adena’s whirlwind romance in season 1, she struggled to keep her footing in her first queer relationship. After they decided to open their relationship so Kat could explore her sexuality further, things got increasingly complicated; she eventually realized that all she really wants is Adena (Nikohl Boosheri)—but it might be too late. Now that season 2 is over, there’s a big question mark over their status; it formed a dark cloud over her daring professional victory at Scarlet‘s Paris Fashion Week party.

Dee spoke to ELLE.com about Tuesday’s heart-wrenching season finale, her struggle to find work in Australia as a biracial actress, and what’s coming next for Kat. Plus, watch her Insta-Stalk her cast-mates.

AISHA DEE, NIKOHL BOOSHERI

Aisha Dee (Kat) and Nikohl Boosheri (Adena) in The Bold Type’

Philippe Bosse

You’re in the writers’ room figuring out season 3…any hints you can give us?

Oooh, you know what, I’m terrible at that. I will say, the way that I’m looking at it, it really feels like seasons 2 and 3 are two parts of a whole.

Can you soothe our aching hearts about the status of Kat and Adena at all?

They’re not really in a place where they’ve really resolved anything. I think there is frustration for Adena because she’s pretty much been dealing with Kat’s bullshit for the entire season, you know?

I’ve never met anyone who’s gone into their first relationship and said, “Oh, you know, I handled every situation with complete grace and comfort and I never messed up, not one time.” So it was really important to me that we get to see Kat mess up and also acknowledge her mistakes and her fuck-ups. They’re just in the middle of their story right now. So I think it will be a little bit painful but very interesting, and I think it’s something that everyone can relate to. Kat isn’t as emotionally mature as she’d like to think.

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Seems like if we’re choosing sides, you’re team Adena right now.

Well, shit. I mean, I’m all for Adena because I love Nikohl so much. It seems like two people who have this insane connection but that it’s the wrong timing—Kat was nowhere near ready to be in this committed relationship so soon. They moved so fast—if you look at their timeline as a couple, they literally met each other, decided they wanted to be together, went on a holiday together, moved in, said “I love you,” and never left the apartment after that.

How have you responded to the part of TBT’s fanbase that formed due to the show’s LGBTQ representation?

Everyone involved with the show wants to tell a story that feels real and a story that’s going to be empowering to watch. And you know, we watch TV for the drama but yeah, we also want to make sure that we’re representing a healthy relationship and two people that love each other. It’s unfortunate, but it’s rare to see two women of color in love on TV.

Another one of Kat’s journeys this season was regarding her identity as a black woman. As a biracial actress yourself, did you relate to this story line at all?

My journey is different to Kat’s. I grew up in Australia in a town that wasn’t super diverse, so my ethnicity and my Blackness was kind of pointed out to me very often by strangers, by friends, by family. It was a topic of conversation, so I was never not aware of my Blackness—I was almost hyperaware of it.

For Kat, it’s kind of been the opposite. She’d been sheltered by her family and it was not seen as an important issue. I’m lucky my mom always told me to celebrate who I was. Anytime I’d get teased at school, she’d tell me that they were just jealous because I come from kings and queens. She told me about the Moors and powerful Black women from history like Pam Grier.

I love that—”from kings and queens.” Your mom sounds cool.

Yeah! My mom used to say that to me all the time and now I have this little tattoo on my wrist that’s like a Basquiat crown…. I think that that was kind of a big motivator for wanting to act in the first place; I didn’t see myself reflected in many of the things that I watched. I would have to search for it, and I am so grateful that I get to do it now. It was not something I ever truly believed would be a possibility.

Obviously, you’re from Australia and you have a bit of an accent. But you haven’t broken your accent once in the show. Did you use a coach?

I was having a lot of trouble finding work in Australia as an actress. I’d been on a couple of shows and I did a little Disney movie thing. The amount of auditions I was getting was kind of disappointing. I was feeling pretty frustrated and was actively told by people in the industry that there was a diversity issue and that I should probably move to America.

So I used my savings to put myself in dialect coaching, and luckily it all worked out. I don’t think I realized at 17 when I moved halfway across the world away from my entire family that that was kind of a risky thing to do.

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Wait, what does “diversity issue” mean?

I had casting directors and agents tell me, “You’re the director’s favorite, but we don’t think we want to go diverse on this role.” People had no issue saying that to my face. At the time I knew I felt uncomfortable about it, but I didn’t really know why. It’s so interesting how much the world has changed in the past 10 years, even.

So my journey’s very different to Kat’s, but I think the reason why people connect to it is because it’s specific. You can always identify with something that feels real and genuine.

This interview has been edited and condensed.



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