Quinta Brunson’s heartwarming sitcom Abbott Elementary delivers comedy so delicious that male comedians have literally dropped like flies in the face of its acclaim. Though the ABC show only came out last year, Brunson has already won an Emmy Award for Writing for a Comedy Series (along with two other Emmys), making her the third Black person and second Black woman to ever win the title. Despite these accolades, she’s never been called a “genius” for her work—a label that she’s noticed has been generously and indiscriminately doled out to her male counterparts. “You see the word applied to [men] more often,” she observed in a recent Cosmopolitan interview.
It’s a pattern that she’s noticed among her fellow women of color show runners. Of Mindy Kaling, who has masterfully graced us with one hilarious hit series after the other, Brunson said: “Her Netflix show Never Have I Ever is downright incredible. And if it were Ryan Murphy’s show, we’d all be like, ‘Ryan Murphy is such a genius!’” she pointed out. “I haven’t heard the word ‘genius’ thrown around for Mindy. She’s created multiple hit shows! Mindy Kaling is really the GOAT at this shit and doesn’t get enough credit.”
Brunson also cited Issa Rae’s Insecure, which was nominated for numerous awards and similarly scored an Emmy during its five-season HBO run, as a show that should’ve earned Rae the “genius” label. “I don’t think anybody can do that. That was unique to Issa and her version of storytelling,” Brunson told Cosmo. “It’s just funny because often with men, it’s like, ‘Whoa, they’re revolutionary!’”
Brunson, for one, is more than aware of Abbott’s brilliance, genius label be damned. “How do I try to word this without sounding like an asshole? I don’t think that Abbott is easy to do,” she said. The anxiety of coming off too cocky isn’t something she should have to grapple with, and yet women—especially women of color—have been so conditioned to underestimate their own abilities and be humble, to seem more palatable and less antagonistic.
Perhaps surprisingly, Brunson has said in the past that she doesn’t suffer from imposter syndrome because she “refuses to pretend” that she’s not great at what she does—an attitude that not everyone appreciates. “Some people have been hesitant to work with me because I’m very firm in my beliefs, which I don’t think is a bad thing,” she said. “That’s really healthy to be like, ‘This is not gonna work out and that’s that.’ Why would I compromise?”
I get it. In a rather angsty fit of online shopping, I recently bought a shirt that says, “Seize the day with the unearned confidence of a mediocre white man.” It’s fine advice, but moving forward, I’ll be seizing the day with nothing other than the rightful confidence of Quinta Brunson.