But it wasn’t a priority or even an afterthought. It took six years and a loud outcry for anyone to say, “You know, maybe something’s missing here.” Zamata is undoubtedly talented and deserves to be on the cast, but the timing of her addition seems like more like a PR move to quell the angry masses than the genuine result of a teachable moment or even a desire to change.
I’m also a little queasy about what “SNL” will do with Zamata’s talents. I haven’t watched with any regularity since Rudolph departed, but I recall the recent hullabaloo when media darling Kerry Washington took on a hosting gig. The sketch included Washington hurriedly switching outfits and hair to portray different Black women, SNL’s way of taking a dig at the backlash it received from not having a Black female cast member on the show. It garnered a chuckle, but I received it more as Olivia Pope-esque crisis management than funny.
Washington’s sketches were downhill from there – not because of lack of her talent, which isn’t in question, but because the material was lacking. Too many of her characters played into the stereotype of Black women as unsophisticated and inappropriate, which, as a natural part of comedy, would have gone over better if this wasn’t a one-shot opportunity to see a Black woman on the show or if the skits weren’t just plain unfunny. Many who had been waiting for their Black-girl moment were left disappointed.
My hope is that Zamata, for whom I am rooting, will be better utilized and won’t leave folks with a similar feeling.