International Women’s Day is upon us and there is no better woman to celebrate other than the illustrious Joie Lee.
The younger sibling of legendary filmmaker Spike Lee, Joie is a screenwriter in her own right who’s acting style is still as natural and refreshing as it was when she burst onto the scene in 1986. Described by model Veronica Webb in 1992 as “the Geechee woman in a head-on collision with the fly-girl,” Joie succeeds in bringing an authentic touch of lightness to the autocratic gloom that permeates reality has been surpassed by none.
Debuting on the scene in her brother’s hit film, She’s Gotta Have It, Joie regularly portrays characters who represent a voice of conscience. Her ability to represent every woman, while remaining true to self serves as the mother to the “Awkward Blerd Girl” movement we see today. Long before Issa Rae and Solange, Joie was onscreen screaming don’t touch my hair while representing women and girls who look like me. At a time when most women were lighter hued and donned straight hair, Joie was more than proud of her cocoa skin and 4c hair. Rocking unconventional attire and headwear, Joie showed that there is power and something sexy about owning who you are and daring to be different a trait she attributes to her late mother Jackie.
“She started experimenting with African hairstyles long before anyone else did,” Joie said in an interview with Rosen and Hutchings. “We’d walk down the street together wearing beads and cornrows.
When it comes to her ability to work with her older brother and remain professional, Joie attributes that to growing up as the youngest of six boys. In an article in the LA Times in 1990, Lee states that she grew up being treated as one of the guys.
“I considered myself one of the boys,” she said. “My brothers didn’t spoil me at all, not at all. I was very tomboyish. It wasn’t as if I was like a princess or anything like that.”
But her acting bug started well before 1986 when her parents encouraged her to pursue her dreams.
“They were never daunted by the fact that there were so few black images on screen. I’d like to break all the standards as an actress, and as a black actress. I’d like to bring a different image to the public. I want to see something other than what I’ve seen. Insightful portraits of black women. I’m only one person, but I’d like to perform in every genre of film: sci-fi, gangster, comedy. There are so many barriers to be broken down.”
It is the confidence and innate ability that Joie Lee carries that not only helped her along with countless others forge a way for the new school of Black women and men in film, but also helped give Black women the assertive poise to boldly create shows, roles and characters being unapologetically human, smart, funny and awkward. Today we celebrate and honor you, Ms. Joie Lee.
Check out some of her work below.