The directorial debut of Ghanaian-American actress, Maame-Yaa Aforo has been released.
Titled Brown Paper Pageant, the short film is on the ideas of colorism, and black beauty standards.
The story is told through the creative lens of Akosua Yeboah, a quirky first generation American who enters a black beauty pageant in the South, and must decide whether or not to be authentic when she discovers the dark history of the pageant.
“I made this film for the younger generation of black women to be able to see themselves and see their beauty. It is not a secret that it is rare to see dark skinned in leading roles in films, simply living and experiencing life,” explained Aforo via email to enewsgh.com from her base in the United States of America.
“During my upbringing, I was just black because everyone else was white. There was no other blackness to compare my black to. It was not until I got to college in Atlanta when I was made aware that I was dark-skinned and on the perceived spectrum of darkness, being dark was a bad thing. As I waited for the right time to release this project, I couldn’t help but make the connection between the way white people in America devalue black life and the way we sometimes do it to ourselves.”
The film was written and executive produced by Aforo, who plays the lead role of Akosua. The cast includes actress and Tik Tok star, Tabitha Brown.
A Political Science degree holder from Spelman College, Aforo worked with the Senate Banking committee before leaving Washington D.C to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the movie industry.
Aforo trained and performed at The Groundlings School in improv and comedy for five years before joining improv team ‘Obama’s Other Daughters,’ who host the longest running improv show by black women at Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in Los Angeles.
She worked as a director’s assistant and development assistant on projects including The Good Doctor,’ ‘Atypical’ and the Gina Prince-BytheWood-directed ‘Beyond the Lights’ movie.
The release of Brown Paper Pageant comes at the height of Black Lives Matter protests, discussions about colorism, and the humanity of Black people around the world.
The movement “is one faucet of my generation’s civil rights in America” with the “goal to advocate for equality and justice for the lives of black people in America,” asserted Aforo, a first generation Ghanaian-American. “The killings of unarmed black people in America isn’t new. What is new is that for the first time, it seems Americans of all colors and creeds are fed up with the inhumane treatment of black and marginalized people.”
On the issue of colorism and its effects, Aforo shared a personal issue she grapples with – “always” having an “anxious feeling about someone at the airport saying something crazy to me and without a doubt, it happens almost every time” whenever she travels through the Kotoka International Airport, Ghana’s main airport.
“When leaving Ghana last December, an airport employee asked to see my ticket to verify that I was supposed to be standing in the business class line which I was. I watched in the very next moment the same person usher a white person into the line without asking to see their ticket. I decided to be nosy and ask the person if they were also in first class and she said “no, they just told me to stand here.”
She also added: “even in the land of black Kings and Queens, we still revere whiteness or promximity to whiteness as something that is laudable. It makes no sense that when watching Nigerian or Ghanaian movies sometimes it seems like the creators scour the land and find the lightest skinned people they can feature in movies. Although, they’ve been outlawed, skin bleaching products are still sold in mass around Ghana. This is a problem that needs to end.”
Aforo recently directed a commercial for Kroger Foods. She is currently a writer for an upcoming MTV show, can be seen in ‘The Pledge,’ an upcoming series on American television network, CW.
She previously featured in the official visual for John Legend’s ‘You and I’ song, and has made appearances in several web shows including ‘How Men Became Dogs’ by Issa Rae Productions and All Def Digital’s ‘Blackie Sack.’
She played Tim Robbin’s wife in an independent Kristen Wigg film ‘Welcome to Me’ which premiered on Netflix in 2015.
Aforo is represented by United Talent Agency and Artists First Management.