Interviews / TV

Renika Williams Wants to “Represent Little Black Girls Everywhere” in “The Sex Lives of College Girls”

Renika Williams announced her presence to the world through theater. The memories are irreplaceable to her. “I’ve loved theater for as long as I can remember. Theater helped me find my voice. Believe it or not, I was a pretty shy kid,” she confesses. “I was always afraid to speak up while playing with my brother and cousins. It wasn’t until I started performing in school plays that I gained the confidence to express how I was feeling through storytelling. I love theater because I love the community that is formed because of it. It’s a live experience that will never happen again with that specific group of people sharing space with the artists on stage.” Her ultimate goal was to transition to on screen roles, in part as a tribute to her beloved childhood shows. “Working in television and film has always been a part of the vision for my life and career. I grew up watching Full House, Sister, Sister, Moesha, Boy Meets World, etc. and I got to follow those characters every week. (I didn’t learn until much later in my childhood that the episodes I was watching were reruns.) I got to see how their stories developed and I felt like I was growing up with them. I low key hated movies as a kid because they ended after about two hours! I got to watch my favorite shows season after season and that has always been a goal of mine as an actress; for my audience to grow and evolve with me.”

Renika got her wish to play a dynamic coming of age character when she landed the role of Willow in The Sex Lives Of College Girls. “The Sex Lives of College Girls is about four freshmen suite mates who are navigating their new found freedom and independence at the prestigious Essex College and all the ups and downs that come with growing into becoming a young woman. My character Willow is a sophomore at Essex, so she tends to know her way around campus a little bit more. Willow is a student athlete on the soccer team, Queer, fun, and one of Whitney’s best friends. And Willow is for sure always about having a good time!” Willow’s confidence sets her apart from many of her peers. She moves with a self-assuredness that Renika appreciates. “What I admire most about Willow is her audacity to be 100% authentically herself. Willow is bold in who she is and completely unapologetic about it. I’d be lying if I said I were 100% my authentic self in college, so I absolutely love that about Willow,” she says. 

Willow is a proud queer woman, an aspect of her identity that Renika enthusiastically celebrates. Portraying someone from the LGBT community is deeply personal to her. “It means so much to me. I do not take the responsibility lightly to represent Black queer girls because they aren’t just imaginary women to me. I’m representing some of my best friends, my cousin, my neighbor, the list goes on! My mission is to represent little Black girls everywhere. And that includes ALL little Black girls. The Queer girls, the shy girls, the little Black girls who feel like they don’t fit in, the little Black girls whose teachers wrote ‘too talkative’ on their report cards. All of their voices matter. And honestly, Willow represents them all. I’m pretty sure if we did a flashback to Willow in elementary school, she would’ve been on time out for talking too much! Class clown energy all day!” In season two, Willow is enjoying life off of the soccer field. “Season two of Sex Lives is off season for soccer! So we get to see Willow outside of soccer practice, training, and games. Her schedule has opened up and we get to see her living her best life on campus with the other girls.”

Renika is just as passionate about her causes as she is about her characters. She’s dedicated her life to raising awareness of sickle cell anemia following the death of a dear friend. “Unfortunately, a few years ago, I lost one of my best friends to complications related to sickle cell anemia. It was definitely the hardest time in my life thus far. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease that many people don’t know much about because it primarily affects African Americans. I believe if more people learned about it, we could push for further advancements in medications, medical care, cures, and knowledge about how to healthfully live with disease. No one should have to lose a loved one to sickle cell anemia.” Outside of acting and advocacy, she’s trying to live in the present. “I’m looking forward to the day that my dog doesn’t bark when I walk even remotely close to the front door! Haha no, but honestly? I’m looking forward to my right now. The right now for me is doing all that I can to remain at peace and full of gratitude. Every day, I am looking forward to my peace and joy in whatever way that shows up in the moment.”  Joy can be found wherever you look for it! Season two of The Sex Lives Of College Girls will premiere on HBO Max on November 17th.

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Renika Williams Wants to “Represent Little Black Girls Everywhere” in “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” Photo Credit: Andrew Parsons.

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