HBO’s Insecure launched its fifth season with a stellar premiere on Sunday. However, the series received backlash from members of the historically black Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. after Amanda Seales’ (My Brother & Me) character was seen on screen wearing AKA paraphernalia.
In the series premiere, titled “Reunited, Okay,” Issa and her friends returned to their alma mater, Stanford University, for their class reunion. Tiffany, played by Seales, was seen wearing the colors of the sorority around the campus. In one scene, she was seen wearing a cardigan with the organization’s letters and shield. The show has indicated that the characters Tiffany and Molly (played by Yvonne Orji) were sorors of AKA during the first season, but Seales herself is not a member.
Seales began trending on Monday after receiving backlash from members of Alpha Kappa Alpha on social media. She responded to the discussion in an Instagram story saying, “I don’t know why people keep asking me if I’m a soror. I am not a soror. Tiffany is a soror. Tiffany is a character on a TV show. I didn’t write the character, I played the character. […] I’m just playing a character. That’s it. Y’all know that though. But some of y’all don’t. I feel like some folks really forget. It’s a tv show.”
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She later clarified her statements in a separate Instagram post saying, “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.”
One fan tweeted at Seales’s co-star and co-creator Issa Rae (The Photograph), and she jokingly responded, “Oh shit. Let me @HBO to delete one of the upcoming episodes then, hold on.” Rae later deleted the tweet.
The episode’s director, Melina Matsoukas (Queen and Slim), defended Seales on an Instagram Story post, saying “Not y’all coming for anyone else for my directorial decisions. @AmandaSeales is an actress who so beautifully embodies a character. We costume her appropriately, that’s how film and TV work. So if you want to come for anyone, I’ll take it. Just doing my job. Representing us. And trying to do it authentically.”
Other actors and known members of Black Greek life spoke out about the recent controversy today and Monday.
Yvette Nicole Brown (Dear White People), known for her role as Helen on Drake & Josh and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha herself, came to the defense of Seales in a tweet. “I’m a soror and I don’t see the problem,” she wrote. “It’s a CHARACTER and she reps us well.” In response to a tweet saying that members were taking the matter too seriously, Brown said, “Those of us who pledged don’t play with our organizations, letters and shield. But hating on [Seales] and Issa for a respectful portrayal on a TV show is dumb.”
😂 I love me some @IssaRae!
I’m a Soror and I don’t see the problem. It’s a CHARACTER and she reps us well.
AND the fact that Tiffany and Molly are AKA’s (on the show!) has BEEN established. Why the outcry now?
I’m so confused.
I need more coffee. https://t.co/kbs8jubolk
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) October 25, 2021
Journalist Roland Martin, a member of the first Black Greek Letter organization Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., spoke out as well. In a tweet, he wrote, “It’s silly for @akasorority1908 to trip on @amandaseales for wearing their colors in @insecurehbo. She’s ACTING. She didn’t demean the letters.”
It’s silly for @akasorority1908‘s to trip on @amandaseales wearing their colors in @insecurehbo. She’s ACTING. She didn’t demean the letters. I felt @apa1906NETwork should have let ALPHAS @willpowerpacker @TheRealRobHardy do it in Stomp The Yard. Free publicity/branding, folks.
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) October 26, 2021
Marc Lamont Hill, host of BET News and Black News Tonight, also defended the actor in a tweet. “If someone wears Greek letters but didn’t pledge, that’s a problem that should be handled in the way such matters are handled,” he wrote. “But if an ACTOR is positively portraying a member of an org, which approves it, that’s different.” Hill is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., another Black Greek letter organization.
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.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) October 25, 2021
According to The Root, it was confirmed that the use of the AKA paraphernalia was not authorized by the organization after an internal email to members from the leadership was leaked on Twitter. In the email, AKA Executive Director Cynthia D. Howell told members of the sorority that the use of the letters and shield were unauthorized, and the organization is taking steps to protect the AKA brand. “Please allow the corporate office to handle this matter. We all have a duty to protect our brand,” she wrote in the email.
Neither Issa Rae’s team or HBO has responded to the recent discussion over the AKA paraphernalia being shown on screen.
Insecure is currently on its fifth and final season which airs every Sunday on HBO and HBO Max.