At one point during the first episode of Styling Hollywood, the new Netflix series about black gay power couple Jason Bolden and Adair Curtis, Curtis bends down to wipe gunk out of their dog’s eye. It’s a subtle show of affection, one that’s likely familiar to anyone who owns a dog. But there’s something moving about watching Curtis do it onscreen. Here are two black gay men having a normal conversation and engaging in such normal, banal behavior, defying everything I’ve come to expect of seeing black gay men on reality television.
Black queer representation in reality TV typically takes the form of comic relief. Black gay men are often reduced to the role of sassy best friend. We’re good for some meme-able shade throwing but rarely do we have an entire arc. Rarely are we humanized with realistic portrayals of our work and personal lives. Rarely are we thriving onscreen. Rarely are we wiping the crust from our dogs’ eye sockets. But Bolden and Curtis are changing that narrative in an impactful way.
Together, Bolden and Curtis run JSN Studio, a multidisciplinary business that encompasses celebrity styling and interior design, with Bolden known for the former while Curtis handles the latter.
The show captures the ins and outs of their daily lives as successful entrepreneurs and doting husbands. In the season premiere, Bolden is tasked with styling Zazie Beetz, Yara Shahidi, and Taraji P. Henson for the Emmys while Curtis helps Gabrielle Union find antique pieces for an interior design project. A large chunk of the episode centers around Bolden, who finds himself in a bind when Henson’s dress arrives damaged.
But what really stands out about the episode isn’t the A-list glitz and glamour and the wardrobe emergencies of Hollywood’s black elite. It’s the spotlight on Bolden and Curtis’ marriage.
Their love story, including a comical tale of how they met, is interwoven with the innerworkings of their business. We see them narrating scenes from their lives, shoulder to shoulder, smiling and caressing one another. We see them at home in their new house arguing about who’s going to unpack what boxes. We see them talk about starting a family and finding a surrogate. And we see them at work, managing a team and running a business.
They live an extraordinary life together, but they have an everyday love. It’s a love that we usually don’t even see in the margins, let alone at the center of an entire series.
Styling Hollywood reinforces for black gay viewers that who we are and how we love is 100% normal and worthy of documentation. And the show peels back the layers of black queer life to show everyone else that we’re not monolithic.
Here’s a show that doesn’t just break the mold but shatters it into a million pieces. It’s empowering to watch black gay professionals build a life and love together. What they’ve accomplished is something to aspire to and admire, not laugh at. We aren’t watching them come out or break in; we’re watching them run things.
Yes, the show is fun and lighthearted in many respects, but it’s also quietly revolutionary.
Cover photo: TV Insider