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Lifetime Network and Executive Producer Garcelle Beauvais Shine Light on a Neglected Epidemic in ‘Black Girl Missing’

Lifetime Network and Executive Producer Garcelle Beauvais Shine Light on a Neglected Epidemic in ‘Black Girl Missing’

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Garcelle Beauvais is best loved for her iconic role as Fancy in the sitcom The Jamie Foxx Show. She also appeared in the films White House Down, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Coming to America and its sequel.

Beauvais is now starring in the Lifetime original movie Black Girl Missing, which tells the story of a mother whose teenage daughter is nowhere to be found. Authorities and media dismiss her as a runaway, while focusing greatly on another missing girl who is white. It’s an all-too-familiar story that we see play out time and time again.

According to the National Crime Information Center, a third of the almost 300,000 U.S. girls and women reported missing in 2020 were Black. Yet those cases are often marginalized or completely ignored by law enforcement and national media.

Black Girl Missing is part of the network’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign, and a new PSA for Black and Missing Foundation will be part of the movie’s rollout featuring Beauvais, who is also executive producing the movie.

BGN had the pleasure of speaking with Beauvais via phone to discuss the importance of this movie, how racial bias affects media coverage, and a call-to-action.

First, praises to you for doing this movie. The issue of Black and Brown girls missing is a neglected epidemic. As executive producer, why was this subject matter important for you to bring to the masses?

We are frustrated as Black people that we don’t get the attention that we deserve. Kale Futterman, one of the writers and producers of the movie, came to me and said she had a story and wanted to see how I felt about it. Before she even finished telling me, the first idea of the premise, I said I was in. It’s a no-brainer.

I’m so frustrated when people ask me how I got ready for this role. One, I’m a mother. Two, the frustration of us never being seen enough was all I needed. I think so many times the headlines are not about us. When we got together with the Black and Missing Foundation, it became even more profound that this needed to happen. We went to pitch it to Lifetime, and I have to give them credit because they were like, “We get it. Let’s do it.”

In the beginning of the film is one of my favorite scenes, watching the older sister braiding her younger sister’s hair; Mom comes in and mentions how they both are “tender-headed.” It’s a visual that we don’t get to see much of on mainstream television.

Exactly, it’s one of my favorites too. I really wanted a Black director, Black writer, and everyone to be represented. The director, Delmar Washington, grew up in a house full of women, and he said he knew he had to get that part right!

Also, we’re seeing Black girls battling bullying and depression. Why was it necessary to show these aspects in the movie?

Growing up, no one talked about stuff like that. We didn’t know what mental health was. We would just say, “Oh, you’re crazy,” and “Go sit down.” It was important to show because this is what we’re dealing with now. Kids are much more vocal. My character Cheryl says that she was too busy raising herself and didn’t think about being depressed, and she tells her daughter Lauren that her generation is all about feelings. But that’s exactly what they need to do — we need to hear them. When Cheryl is talking to Loretta from Black and Missing Foundation, and I said, “You want me to see a shrink? No, I don’t do that.” These are the messages that we give. Back in the day, only “crazy” people went to therapy. We can normalize that for our community, because it’s important.

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There was a line in the film: “Racial bias affects media coverage.” What was heartbreaking and frustrating were the blatant differences when a Black girl goes missing, as opposed to a white girl. Can you talk more about that?

When we go missing, immediately she’s a runaway. It’s not about what could happen, how can we help, where can we go. In the movie, it’s the cops not calling back, not doing enough, and saying that she’s 18 and an adult. Well, if she was white and 18, it would be a different story. I think those are things we wanted to put in the movie and not shy away from, because it’s really happening. So, the next time an officer gets a missing person of color on his desk, he doesn’t just put it away as a runaway. That’s why I love at the end of the movie, Cheryl asks the reporter if she’s familiar with Natalee Holloway, JonBenét Ramsey, and Gabby Petitio, and she replies, “Of course.” But the powerful moment is when she asked if she knew Relisha Rudd, and she had no idea who that was. That’s the message right there.

There are countless Black women and girls missing. Can you talk more about the network’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign and the PSA you’re involved in?

In the beginning, the script had a different ending, and we said no we’re not doing that. Too many times our stories are tragically ending. Let’s switch that around, so that it gives people hope. Sometimes, we just get so discouraged and hope is what we need. I love what Lifetime is doing. They are hiring a lot of Black female leads and Black directors. The fact that they are really doing a campaign for Black women is amazing to me. They deserve the credit. After the movie airs, they have a full-hour documentary to highlight missing people of color. So, kudos to them.

After watching the movie, what is the action you want people to take?

My call-to-action would be for people to be aware. I hope the media takes the message and highlights more when we go missing. If you see something, say something. If you see on social media that someone is missing, it doesn’t take much to share a post. If you hear about something, it doesn’t take much to go to your local news and make sure they’re highlighting it. It’s giving people more accountability. Many people outside of our community may not even know this is happening. We all can do something and it all helps.

More information: Black and Missing Foundation was established as a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring awareness to missing persons of color, provide vital resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety. As a companion to the movie, Lifetime will debut the special, Beyond the Headlines: Black Girl Missing, following true stories of Black and missing women featuring interviews with their families and Black and Missing Foundation’s involvement in the cases.

Black Girl Missing premieres Saturday, March 4, 2023, @8/7c on Lifetime.

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