How Queenie Explores the Complexities of Casual Interracial Relationships (Plus an Exclusive Clip)

Before I watched Queenie, I hadn’t heard of the novel it’s based on. I did not know what to expect going in—all I knew was that some thought it was controversial. Within minutes of the first episode, however, I was hooked.

To be fair, I am a little biased: I am rapidly approaching 25, and as a mixed woman, I also straddle two worlds and struggle with belonging in both. to top it all off, I spent a significant portion of my childhood living in South London (big up Crystal Palace!). I saw so much of myself in Queenie and her anger at the world around her, to the point where it felt like the writers plucked some core memories and experiences from my mind to showcase to the world.

Hulu’s newest show is based on Candace Carty-Williams’ 2019 novel of the same name. Set in South London, the series follows 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins, a British Jamaican woman navigating the complexities of her identity and turbulent personal relationships amidst nuanced societal and familial expectations.

Queenie straddles two worlds: she struggles to connect with her Black family and community, and she works for a national newspaper with primarily white, middle-class colleagues who she constantly has to compare herself to. When her long-term and also white boyfriend breaks up with her, Queenie seeks solace in some problematic places and learns some tough, intersectional truths.

While I definitely feel a kinship, Queenie isn’t about me: it’s about Queenie. After her boyfriend leaves her, she spirals. Queenie struggles to find motivation at work and she seeks sexual validation from men who see her as an object to toy with and not what she actually is: a young woman struggling to find herself in a storm of abandonment issues, mental health struggles and casual (sometimes internalized) antiblackness. The series does an excellent job of showcasing the suffering in silence that many Black women in predominantly white spaces often experience. From her skeevy coworker to her clueless friend Cassandra, many of the people Queenie is surrounded by simply don’t understand how isolating it can be to experience the world as a curvaceous Black woman.

Dionne Brown as "Queenie." Image: LaToya Okuneye/Lionsgate.
Dionne Brown as “Queenie.” Image: LaToya Okuneye/Lionsgate.

One of the reasons people might think Queenie is controversial is because of her choice in men: with one exception, they’re all white. Queenie even tells a close friend that she prefers not to date Black men because she witnessed the terrible ways her Black father and stepfather treated her mother, and she refuses to subject herself to that. I’m obviously not going to condemn Black and white relationships—like I mentioned earlier, I am the product of a happy and healthy interracial marriage. But, committed romantic relationships, especially those between Black and white individuals, take difficult work. And not every relationship is strong enough to survive that hardship. 

Queenie seeking validation from white men who objectify her is unfortunate but not unrealistic. I’ve witnessed plenty of my friends fold for a man who clearly was only interested in their “exoticism” as a woman of color. I’ve nearly folded simply because a mediocre man gave me attention. It’s the nature of living in a patriarchal society—I don’t think Queenie’s search for acceptance through sex is controversial. In fact, it’s a breath of fresh air to see an accurate representation of what a lot of young women of color experience every single day. 

Queenie is disarmingly authentic, heartwarming and heartwrenching all at once. For anyone who loves to laugh and cry in the same episode, loves looking at beautiful Black people or wants to learn some South London slang, Queenie is the show for you. 

Queenie premieres June 7 on Hulu—check out EBONY’s exclusive clip from the series below (strong language advised).

Updated: June 5, 2024 — 3:02 pm