Photo Credit: Jon Kopaloff
Kat Graham Shares Why Seeing Black Women Traveling On Screen Is So Important
If Netflix and chill has been on your schedule lately, chances are you’ve seen the film Love in the Villa in the New Releases category on the app. Its lead star, Swiss-born American actor, singer, model, and humanitarian Kat Graham, recently spoke with Condé Nast Traveler about the film and her lifelong love of travel.
Exposure to International Travel as a Child
In the interview, Graham shares how her West African and Israeli heritage sparked travel as a youth. Graham also shares the fun fact that she toured with the Grammy Award-winning group Black Eyed Peas as a singer and dancer.
“A lot of it came from my travels with the Black Eyed Peas when I did a world tour with them, singing and dancing and running around with will.i.am. That was my first real exposure to traveling aggressively internationally. When I was younger I would go visit my father, who is West African and grew up in London, so I spent a lot of time in the U.K. We [also] spent a lot of time in France together. My mom’s side of the family is Israeli, so I spent a lot of time in Israel and in that area. I’ve spent a lot of time in Jordan for my mission work. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road,” she says.
Representation on Screen
When asked about the motivation to take on the role of Julie–an American–on a trip to Verona, Graham’s perspective on representation points out an often missed opportunity in stories told on screen. For much of film and television’s history, international travel and adventurous experiences have been reserved for the elite and, in many cases, non-Black. Particularly in the romantic comedy space, many stories depicted have been centered around white women and white couples jaunting around the world having experiences that felt just out of reach for many Black people.
“Very rarely do we get to see Black women explore and have all of these different feelings and dimensions to their experiences,” says Graham. “It was a huge reason why I wanted to do this film.”
Without spoiling the plot for those who have yet to see Love in the Villa, watching a Black woman choose herself and travel solo to another country is a signal to Black women everywhere that it’s possible for them too.
“It’s so much more than just another rom-com. It’s showcasing a Black experience. Not all Black women experience things in the same way. Why can’t we get the romance at the end? Why can’t we get this beautiful trip? It really matters seeing yourself on screen. It matters for young Black girls to see other Black girls on screen, being happy, having fulfilled lives, and being intelligent and successful,” Graham says.
She is absolutely right. Black women and girls need to see themselves in lands far from home. Black women need to know there are endless possibilities available to living a dream life if and when a new chapter is calling them. Black women need to know fairytale endings aren’t exclusive to white women and that they, too, can live a life filled with adventure, love, and unforgettable experiences.
“A lot of people, which, in a lot of ways I do appreciate, will chalk Love in the Villa up as just another romantic comedy and I like the fact that people don’t see skin color and they are just looking at the storytelling. But for the critics that are like, ‘It’s just another rom-com,’ please name other rom-coms with a young Black female that is doing comedy. I’ll wait.”
Well, she’s got a point.
Graham also discusses prioritizing mental health while traveling as well as her commitment to giving back to the places she visits. Check out the full interview on Condé Nast Traveler here.
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