Mix the stoner bromance of Broad City with the biting race critiques of Master of None, and throw in a dash of the L Word queer drama, and voilà — Leah Byrd’s new comedy web series, Hot and Bothered.
Once upon a time, Byrd was a young black queer girl growing up in an ultra Christian household in Dayton, Ohio. Education was no sanctuary either — thirteen years of Catholic school. Then, one day, she stumbled onto Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo's site, everyoneisgay.com, and everything changed for her. She laughed, cried, etc. She saw herself.
“That space and so many other online creators helped me realize there is truly nothing wrong with being gay,” says Byrd, “during a time when I needed to hear it and when I felt like there was no one in my real life I could reach out to. That sparked a desire in me to create something, to become a part of this community that had helped me so much growing up.”
Hot and Bothered follows the life of a young, fat, Midwestern black queer woman and her awkward white straight boy best friend as they navigate living, dating, queerness, and race in their hometown of Dayton, and their misadventures as they try to launch "SCZR," the lesbian version of the app GRINDR.
The series began as a Byrd’s senior thesis project for film school. Byrd wrote the script, tracked down queer actors based in the Midwest to play all the queer characters, and shot the first episodes in Dayton right before her 21st birthday. When Byrd decided to extend the idea into a full series, she turned to Kickstarter. Autostraddle gave the project a bump and it reached its goal in ten days. The series has since been selected as a finalist for the Sundance New Voices Lab. It's also been screened at Black Star Film Festival (where it was nominated for Best Youth Film), and at Citizen Jane Film Festival (where it opened for the Emmy-nominated web series Brown Girls), and has also been awarded a grant from Cee Smith Media Group, which helps fund LGBT creative enterprises.
Byrd thinks that her work is gaining traction because it fills a hole, specifically in offering a representation of humorous, thriving, queer life and in that it highlights the Midwestern queer experience, rather than being set in a coastal city like New York or Los Angeles. “There really aren't a lot of people trying to do what I'm doing here in this region,” she says.
It’s also important to Byrd that, like Broad City (which she loves, and has the PowerPoint presentation to prove it), her content start as free and available to anyone, particularly to queer youth who might not be able to pay or for whom asking parents for access might not be safe.
The full first season of Hot & Bothered will be dropping on Facebook on April 20th, all at once for maximum binge-ability. You’re welcome.
published April 9, 2018
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Emma Copley Eisenberg writes about gender, queerness, Appalachia and crime for places like The New Republic, Granta, Slate, Salon, The Marshall Project, and others. Say hello @EmmaEisenberg or at emmacopleyeisenberg.com.