Amanda Seales attends the premiere of NBC’s “Bring The Funny” at Rockwell Table & Stage on June 26, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.Photo: David Livingston (Getty Images)
On Sunday night, the fifth and final season of the critically acclaimed HBO series Insecure premiered on HBO and HBO Max.
While most fans were discussing and tweeting to their hearts desire about their favorite awkward Black girl aka “Issa Dee” and her, umm, insecurities, a whole different sector of folks were in a tizzy about a certain character, namely Tiffany Dubois (played by Amanda Seales) and her portrayal as an AKA member (for those of you who are unfamiliar that stands for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.) on the show.
Though it’s long been established that “Tiffany” and Yvonne Orji’s character “Molly” are both fictional members of the organization on the show (like since season one), for whatever reason some real-life members decided to call Seales’ character out for wearing what appeared to be official Greek paraphernalia prompting the comedian and actress to address it on her social media pages.
“I don’t know why people keep asking me if I’m a soror. I am not a soror,” Seales explained in her Instagram story. “Tiffany is a soror. Tiffany is a character on a tv show. I didn’t write the character, I played the character. I am not a soror. I’m an actress and I’m playing a character on a TV show. And I think reality tv done really got folks fucked up because, you know, it’s like: ‘it’s all the same.’ But I’m just playing a character. That’s it. Y’all know that though. But some of y’all dont. I feel like some folks really forget. It’s a tv show.”
She later clarified in a separate Instagram post: “I would be honored to be a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha but I simply am not. When I am Tiffany, I wear the letters with pride and regard and respect for those who did cross the burning sands.”Issa Rae also eventually responded to an upset user in the most Issa Rae-way possible on Twitter, writing: “Oh shit. Let me @HBO to delete one of the upcoming episodes then, hold on.”
Other notable figures and celebs also spoke out in support of Seales’ and her character. 2016 Root 100 honoree and cultural analyst Marc Lamont Hill wrote on Twitter: This @amandaseales / AKA thing is a non-controversy. If someone wears Greek letters but didn’t pledge, that’s a problem that should be handled in the way such matters are handled. But if an ACTOR is positively portraying a member of an org, which approves it, that’s different.”
Emmy-nominated actress Yvette Nicole Brown also shared her perspective as a member of the organization: I am a Silver Soror of @akasorority1908 and I had NO problem with how hard “Tiffany” reps my beloved AKA. & I feel @amandaseales’ pain in this. Folks think I’m Shirley. Folks CALL me Shirley. Shirley is a character on a TV show. She is not me & I am not her. #MakeBelieve.”
In addition to the online chatter about a non-Greek person wearing Greek letters, there was also a broader conversation of how networks are able to get away with using real life brands and imagery in their content. In a 2015 article from Business Insider that cited a similar scenario with HBO, its series Ballers starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and NFL paraphernalia, legal experts determined that as long as trademarks and logos are “used as they were intended to be used, and do not disparage or tarnish it, there is no need to ask for permission.”
“It’s alright to say, ‘This Coca-Cola tastes awful,’” explained entertainment lawyer Michael C. Donaldson. “You can say, ‘I hate Coca-Cola.’ What you can’t say is something that misrepresents it, such as you drink a Coke and you drop dead and someone says, ‘That happens all the time.’”