Introduction by Megan Sheckells; Photographs by Mariah Tyes, Styling by Lisa K. Stephenson / Fall 2021
“When you own who you are, you cannot be stopped, and trust me, the world will bend to your will.” Stated Novi Brown in her interview with She’s SINGLE Magazine. Brown is a leading actress in the Tyler Perry TV series, Sistas, and has much to say about independence, self-love, and being your true self in a world that often asks us to change to fit many imperfect societal norms."
“When you own who you are, you cannot be stopped, and trust me, the world will bend to your will.” Stated Novi Brown in her interview with She’s SINGLE Magazine. Brown is a leading actress in the Tyler Perry TV series, Sistas, and has much to say about independence, self-love, and being your true self in a world that often asks us to change to fit many imperfect societal norms.
While Sistas isn’t Brown’s first rodeo in being an actress, it is the most recent place we can look if we want to see Brown’s acting to date. Her work on Sistas is stunning and subtly commands the viewers attention. Novi Brown owns the spotlight when she is on the screen.
Sistas itself is described in the synopsis on tylerperry.com as a story that “follows four single girlfriends who have reached the milestone beyond young adulthood and are now closer to who they are to become. All the ladies are in their 30s, and they are all still single. Set in present-day Atlanta, Georgia, Perry takes viewers on a roller coaster ride of emotions and hilarious quagmires that single women can relate to on their journeys to finding ‘Mr. Right.’” The show offers a deep look into self-love and friendship along the unique journey of all four leading ladies. With Novi Brown being just about smack-dab in the middle of her 30s herself, she plays the role excellently and with a type of knowing that others could not.
In Sistas, Novi Brown plays “Sabrina (who) is the more sympathetic one of the bunch.” (tylerperry.com) While we tend to think that being independent and chasing your dreams comes precedent to all else, Brown acknowledges the importance of playing the role of a more vulnerable character. She states “people hate seeing a Black woman vulnerable, they hate seeing a Black woman confused, and not knowing what she wants out of life. They hate that, but it’s such a human part of the journey.”
She makes a more than valid point, and it is one that we tend to shy away from. Yes, we want strong Black women as leading roles, but these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Novi’s character is strong and is also vulnerable. She allows herself to admit she doesn’t know everything about what she wants and where she’s headed. As such, Brown plays a vital role in the show and the message that Sistas has to offer its viewers.
Brown is certain that her role as Sabrina who is vulnerable is an important cause. She argues, “We can see it even from the hospital beds where Black women are dying every day just trying to give birth. We can see that vulnerability is not something that we’re quote-unquote allowed to have. But as an artist, it’s my job to make sure that we understand we’re allowed to be in a space of the unknown.”
Dress, Ashford by Sadiq | Jewelry, Dorian Webb
Through this effort alone, Brown proves that acting is a noble effort that goes beyond the world of just storytelling. The messages viewers of all different walks of life can see through her character are bigger than just a fictional story. Sistas, and Brown’s acting show people that it’s okay to not know, it’s okay to get a little lost. Beyond this, her portrayal speaks volumes for Black women specifically who are often not, as Novi Brown states, “allowed” to be vulnerable in our society.
Thus, Brown’s role as a vulnerable or ‘sensitive’ woman in Sistas is an act that belongs in the realm of social commentary. Novi Brown, as well as the rest of us, have something in common with her character Sabrina. Even if it’s in some small way that goes beyond the notice of others, it’s noticeable we’re all human, we all have vulnerabilities and soft spots in this world.
Novi Brown stands for something by playing her role in Sistas, but this is not the only acting role Brown has partaken in. According to her website, iamnovibrown.com, “Novi has played the lead in over fifteen productions from TV to short film to feature films. The entertainment industry has proven a perfect fit for this ambitious young actress - with her eyes on the prize, she is now ready to tackle the BIG SCREEN.” Fifteen productions is no small feat; Novi Brown is on her way to becoming a respected household name in film and television.
However, it seems Brown holds more interests than just acting. She’s also the author of, “FUCK I’M THIRTY, Adulting Has Levels: Here Are The Cheat Codes.” I can’t help but wonder if the characters of Sistas have this book on their to-read list. Novi mentioned some of her reasons for writing this book. The actress confessed, “So, my journey as becoming an actress, shit is hard, it’s not easy. I started thinking about aging and “success”--success in quotations--and what that means to different people. And who the fuck said that thirty equals successful?”
Honestly, this book has to be an absolute page-turner with a statement like that. Novi is definitely onto something. She also confessed that she used this book as a way to release herself in a sense, from unrealistic standards and timelines about living life. Brown said, “It was a way to free myself from the subconscious deadlines that we all weirdly, secretly agree to for no fucking reason, and to put stress on ourselves. I wrote it as a way to laugh at the fact that we try to rush our greatness.”
“I am doing damn good because I’m showing up for myself every day. I’m showing up for my dreams, I’m showing up for my aspirations, I’m showing up for the hard times, I’m showing up for the pieces of me that need extra care, love, and healing.”
Top, Skirt, Jacket, Mahdiyyah Muhammad
Although this is just one of what could be much more books to come, Novi admits, “I’ve been creative writing since I can remember, to be honest, words are very meaningful and powerful tools. That’s why I try to go into a field where the messaging is very poignant.” She explained that a third-grade teacher helped inspire that love for creative writing. “He would always read stories to us from authors like Ronald Doll and be creative and then he would want us to do our own creative writing.” So, whether you believe in nature or nurture, Novi Brown’s love for writing was given some cultivation and enrichment from an early age.
As brilliant as Novi Brown’s work on productions like Sistas is, her motivation to become an actress makes her career even more vital to our media and storytelling that is happening within our society. Brown informed us about one of her main reasons for pursuing this career; “One of the many reasons I decided to become an actress was because people in the world seemed to be confused with how to interact with me. And I realized it was because of the misrepresentation of people who look like me in the mass media.”
Novi Brown is not only helping in the production of empowering stories that entertain us, but she is also partaking in acts of social justice by acting in a realistic portrayal of a Black woman on a show that defies stereotypes, and beliefs such as those that Black women aren’t—as aforementioned—allowed to be vulnerable. Brown went on to argue, “I believe that media is a global teacher, and it can truly connect people from different cultures and walks of life on a very spiritual level. I started to recognize that visuals were a huge part of the spiritual language that humans speak to one another. I wanted to come in and rectify that visual message that many people were receiving at the behest of some very ignorant creators.” Novi Brown decided to become an actress for a cause, and her work alongside the work of Sistas is helping pave the way for a less biased and stereotyped world.