With five years of viral success, Dennis Dortch, Numa Perrier, Brian Ali Harding and Jeanine Daniels have transformed their budding company into an entertainment powerhouse.
Black & Sexy began as a brand that would usher in creative content for the Now Generation. Aimed at young, progressive, well-versed African and African American consumers of entertainment, Black & Sexy’s goal was to create a truer representation of what was shown to persons of color. Their first venture was the 2008 Sundance Film Festival entrée, A Good Day to be Black and Sexy, which was directed by Dennis Dortch and distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
It has since gone on to become a cult classic, widely available through Reed Hastings’ Netflix streaming service, but the group did not stop there. The Couple, RoomieLoverFriends, Hello Cupid, and The Number, which also starred Issa Rae, were tasty offerings for those who wanted to see themselves and their stories.
Through the course of Black & Sexy TV’s existence, they have given us more than enough — from music to captivating tales. In hopes of doubling-down on their popularity, the company has shifted their model to a pay-per-view design, which would allow users to subscribe monthly for Black & Sexy TV starting February 2015. Whether you’re a newcomer or a longtime viewer, subscribing is important as interested parties will be able to have access to full length episodes, premium content, films, music and other perks.=
With viewers around the world all captivated by Dennis Dortch and Numa Perrier’s one-of-a-kind story lines, the group now has almost 100,000 YouTube subscribers and 8.6 million views. If you’re an appreciator of web series and innovative content online, then this is the destination that you should already have bookmarked. BlackEnterprise.com had a chance to speak with the duo about their humble beginnings, how they’ve diversified their business, and offers the latest news about The Couple‘s HBO plans and that Lorraine Hansberry biopic.
What did the group behind Black & Sexy TV feel was missing within the entertainment landscape?
Black & Sexy TV: It was more about what we had to offer to the perspective and also feeling like pioneers in a brand new landscape — the digital one — or as we like to call it, “The Wild, Wild West.” As filmmakers, we knew that we all shared similar sensibilities, and there was an audience who desired that type of content. We learned this from Dennis’ feature film debut, A Good Day to be Black and Sexy. That film was a reflection of the every day lives that we’ve experienced, and we knew that others could relate to it as well.
What were those formative meetings like when coming up with the first batch of content that the team wanted audiences to see?
BSTV: It was truly an exciting time. We started off creating content tied to the film in hopes of creating support for the DVD release. We would do short vignettes featuring characters and what happened to them after the movie. The next idea was to secure our brand by going directly to an audience through online. Our brain trust was in this nubile stage where, honestly, anything was possible. Keep in mind that this was 2009.
We started off doing skits just to cut our teeth on developing short-form content. Then, we discussed the possibility of retaining long-term engagement with serialized content. This was an early debate between the two of us. If you’re interested, Numa won [laughs]. That outcome allowed us to produce our first episodic series, The Number, which originally began as a skit, and The Couple.
Discuss with us some of the initial obstacles that the company has endured that others don’t really know a thing about.
Numa Perrier: [Laughs] Can we?! Thankfully, we can laugh about some of these things. Back when we were first getting off the ground, we had about seven subscribers and we made up four of those. The initial obstacle was proving doubters wrong and dodging all the salt that gets thrown at you along the way. All the while, we had to retain the vision and continue to work toward building something substantial.
Through blocking out all the noises, distractions and side-eye glances, we found out how important it is especially if one is going to stay in this thing seriously. Of course, there’s financial obstacles, but those can be talked about and serve as an interesting story to one’s growth. In the end, it’s really about the mental stamina and the determination to see your vision through that must be dealt with the most.
Dennis Dortch: Time management is also critical in one’s success. With a startup, there is always too much to do and yet you still have a life to maintain and key relationships — both personal and professional — to manage. We had to learn a lot about this the hard way, the way it actually happens to most people on the job. We sacrificed a lot to get to where we are now… even almost our relationship.
Numa, what were some nuances that you discovered when it came down to depicting love and intimacy between Black couples?
NP: For us, it’s not new. It has just been such a neglected area that it feels very new and fresh. Our intimacy, our sensuality, and the overall fabric of our relationship are all very familiar in our day-to-day lives. Our conversations and our stories serve as elements that our audience reflects on when they view them on the screen. We are in control of our own images and people can feel and respect that. When Dennis wrote the film it was about updating the slogan, “Black is Beautiful” or “Dark and Lovely”. He really took that on as a mission statement and created one of the earliest independent films that approached this neo-realistic theming.
Please, if you will, describe the other person’s duties and responsibilities when it comes to creating and distributing content for Black & Sexy TV.
NP: Dennis is our Founder and Chief Creative Officer. He created the Black & Sexy brand and all of its underlying sensibilities. All final decisions rest on his shoulders. He oversees growth strategies and he’s the mechanics behind much of what the audience sees.
In addition to all that, he’s also very hands-on as a writer and director of episodic content. Plus, he is one of the strongest music curators on the planet! When you watch one of our shows, that’s his ear and his rhythm that you witness as he hand selects music for everyone’s listening pleasure.
We all took personality tests recently to better understand each other. He has the same type as [Apple Founder] Steve Jobs. So, in that regard, he’s our Steve Jobs. He sleeps very little and is always in strategy mode from how we can improve to developing new ideas for what we are doing.
DD: Numa is Co-Founder and Director of Programming and Development. Her responsibilities include identifying new talent, both in front of and behind the camera; developing new series; and serves as an instrumental part of Black & Sexy TV’s overall direction. She represents our key demographic, which is 75 percent African American women, ranging from 24-35-years-old.
She cultivates a vision for the company from a branding point of view and discovers the heart and pulse of our audience. She is an absolute leader in generating ROI, income and going after potential investors. She is the go-to-spokesperson for the Black & Sexy brand and the company as a whole.
On the next page, Black & Sexy talks about expansion and original content…