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Monday
Oct152012

TV on the Internet: "The Celibate Nympho" with Tanjareen

The third in a series of stories on the people behind your favorite YouTube channels, new and old. Previous entries include Alison McDonald's "She Got Problems" and Patti LaHelle's "Got 2 B Real." This time we take a look at the woman behind "The Celibate Nympho Chronicles," actress, model and comedic performer Tanjareen.

Sex!

Now that I have your attention, welcome to the world of a woman with sexual agency. Tanjareen's "The Celibate Nympho Chronicles" takes on what shouldn't be an all that shocking viewpoint -- that women enjoy and pursue sex. And in the case of the character Tanjareen plays, she's a woman who's sexual desires are often in conflict with her romantic desires in a society that doesn't always play fair about what women want and who they "should" be.

In a Q&A with The Snob, Tanjareen talks about how she concieved the series and how a little free love never hurt anybody.

Snob: What made you decide to create The Celibate Nympho? Where did the idea for the series come from?

TanjareenI once had a three-year bout with Christian celibacy which led me to so many hilarious dating stories that I often joked about writing a book on them. Several of my female friends were also abstaining from sex, and our experiences were very similar.

Recently I started seeing a lot of web series and video spoofs pop up, so I wanted to get in on the fun. I wanted to showcase the fact that I could be funny and easy on the eyes, plus use my TV/Film degree to produce something of decent quality. I brainstormed a bunch of comedic topics and then suddenly remembered, "Oh yeaaaaah!  Why don't I film that story of a woman who can admit she enjoys sex, but needs to approach it with caution?"

I knew there had to be at least one or two other ladies in the world who could relate…Or at least, I hoped.

Snob: How has doing film work on-line been different or similar to your more traditional film and TV work?

Doing film work on-line has allowed me more control. It's my vision, my writing, my cast, my hand-picked production crew. I didn't have to get a studio's approval, nor rehearse in front of the network to make sure I had "the suits" permission. Me having final say from start to finish, was a very different experience for me. 

But at the same time, it was very scary. If I released the product and no one liked it, I'd have no one to blame but myself. Yikes! On the other hand, doing a web series is similar to traditional film & TV because the steps of production are the exact same, just on a smaller scale.

So my previous experience working on various sets, helped me to plan everything out in pre-production, have extremely smooth shooting days, and taught me exactly what I wanted in post-production.  And if anyone wants to see the finished product, they can login from home or even on their phone, and just watch for a few short minutes.  No need to leave the house, spend any money, or give up too much of their time. That's a wonderful difference from traditional film and TV.

Snob: There are quite a few African American female writers, comedians, directors and actresses using YouTube and other video sites to create their own stories and characters. How do you think having a medium like YouTube has impacted black female creative talents? What makes the medium so attractive?

I think having a medium like YouTube (& other video content sites) allows Black females to let their voices be heard. In a day and age where we aren't getting the most glorifying audition opportunities (i.e. Hooker #1 or Crying Basketball Wife #2), we now have the chance to cast ourselves in the roles we want to be seen in. We have no excuse not to showcase our writing, producing, directing &/or acting abilities now. And honestly, I'd like to see more sistahs taking advantage of this outlet.

There still appears to be more men in this arena.  But my hat goes off to all the Black females I've seen with successful or at least consistent content on the web. This medium is so attractive because its open and its free. Anyone with a camera phone can suddenly call themselves a filmmaker. (This is good AND bad.) But hey, there's a niche for it all. You never know what will end up going viral!

Snob: In your series, you are so frank and honest about sex (and a woman's enjoyment of it), which is rare when most women are still dancing along the Madonna-Whore dichotomy. While your series is raw, you don't shy away from the fact that women have sexual urges and enjoy it. What made you decide to take such an approach in your work?

I decided to make my series raw because sex sells! And so does truth! And the truth is -- Women want sex just as much as men do, we just want it to be satisfying! 

Sometimes, that satisfaction is achieved by an orgasm, but it can also be fulfilled by the man genuinely loving her. In speaking to my female friends, I discovered that SOOOO many of them weren't being satisfied in either case. This resulted in them either opening themselves up to yet ANOTHER sexual partner (& thus becoming a "hoe"), or they just shut down completely. We seldom take a look within and figure out what the real issue is.  I will continue to explore the real issues as my web series progresses. 

Snob: Do you feel like The Celibate Nympho is making any sort of political or feminist statement about black women and sex?

Honestly when I wrote The Celibate Nympho, I wasn't thinking about politics or feminism. I just wanted to make people laugh by sharing my pain.  But now looking back, I see the statement is clear: It's okay to take back your sexuality and value yourself at a higher level, no matter how hard it is.  Ladies, you have the power!

Snob: Have you dealt with any criticism from African Americans, who are often culturally or religiously conservative, who are often made uncomfortable about overly sexual images of black women, even if it's an image created by a woman? 

Absolutely! I have a few relatives and one or two close friends who held negative views about my series without ever even clicking the "play" button. And the funny thing is, their sexual repression is exactly what the series is about! I used to be just like them. Afraid to wear fitted clothing for fear of causing a man look at me with lustful thoughts. I was taught that pre-marital sex was just as big an abomination as murder. Even masturbation was seen as "the most selfish act one can ever perform" and should be avoided. All this pinned up sexual tension can't be healthy! 

My people need to be more open-minded to Black lovemaking on screen. Non-urban people are okay with seeing Halle, Angelina, Charlize, and Natalie Portman in the buck. Meanwhile Sookie Stackhouse is raking in the dough by having sex with vampires and wolves. There should be nothing wrong with two African American adults having simulated sex on camera to depict Black Love...or at least let 'em touch themselves for crying out loud!

Snob: Your character is actually empowered and a fleshed out character as opposed to the much derided "video girl" who has no other purpose but to be sexually viable. Was that decision deliberate -- to create a sexy character that is also in full agency of her sexuality?

Yes! I knew that if the lead character was all about sex, female viewers would despise her. And if she was all about men-bashing, male viewers would hate her. I had to find the balance. And the only way to do that was to explore the common problems of my past relationships. WHY was she a nympho? And WHY was she celibate? I didn't want to dig so deep, but I knew I had to. So I started journaling and out came the Tanjareen that you see in The Chronicles.  

Snob: What are your influences as an artist?

I'm influenced by our great Black films of the '90s, like Set it Off, Love and Basketball, Harlem Nights, Boomerang, The Five Heartbeats. Our old feel-good shows like "The Jeffersons," "Facts of Life," and "Living Single." But I also love the mainstream stuff that pushes the envelope like "Family Guy," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Entourage," and "Modern Family."  I adore Kerry Washington, Charlize Theron, Taraji P. Henson, Angela Bassett and Regina King. I'm influenced by anyone or anything that's bold enough to strip down to their truth so we as viewers can watch something we can relate to like "The Boondocks."   

Snob: You seem to have your hand in a lot of different pots -- you model, you act, you write, you're funny -- in the end, ideally, where would you like to end up as a creative talent? What's the your long-term goal?

First of all, thanks for that compliment. I'd like to end up as the Executive Producer of my own long-running series. (Kinda like Sarah Jessica Parker was to "Sex and the City".)  My long term goal is to have at least two different hit TV series on the air at the same time, and to film a sexy fighter-chick blockbuster movie every year during my hiatus weeks. (Specific, right?) So far, I'm closer to my goal, because I have a sitcom ("Family Time") and a drama ("Zane's The Jump Off") premiering on two different networks very soon.  Now I just need to schmooze Quentin Tarantino so I can co-produce and kick ass in his next few flicks. *fingers crossed*

Snob: What's the one thing you hope other women (and men) take away from your series?

Sex may have sparked a person's interest to watch The Celibate Nympho Chronicles, but hopefully the substance of the storyline will eventually minister to him/her.  All in all, my key message is this: When you make a hard decision, you will have to conquer A LOT to see it through.  This applies to abstinence, marriage, diet, exercise, career goals, or just life in general. Good luck!

You can check out all of the award-winning Celibate Nympho Chronicles here. And learn more about Tanjareen on her personal site and Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter hereUp next:Issa Rae's hugely popular "Misadventures of An Awkward Black Girl"

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Reader Comments (3)

Excellent interview! The webseries is really funny and I truely enjoy it. I can relate!

October 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

WOW! seen all the episodes! and I mustconfess I have had countless coversations with my girls that address these seem issues. Hmmmm I hope your show, series, or sitcom is created soon....I already have plans for a weekly girls night. Wine, chocolate, and The Celibate Nympho Cronicles!!!! Good Luck Strong Woman! I wish you all the sucess. Keep us posted!!!

October 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTaj-Zsa

So...brutally honest (unsolicited) thoughts about this show: I watched it for the first time a few months ago, and wanted to like it so much more than I actually did--but I think my disinterest, after watching all of the episodes, stems from the fact that we're seeing a neo Black Rennaissance online in terms of black media--there are shows being created with concepts that would never be shown on TV, because they have an all-black cast and this isn't the 90's anymore. Shows about dating, surviving in the workplace, being the only POC employee in a corporate environment, etc...and then you have this show, about a black woman who's addicted to sex.

And it feels regressive.

I have to say this; I know that its not the job of every black filmmaker to fight stereotypes about black people and our sexuality, but this is a touchy subject, because when I see Tanjareen's work, I think, "THIS is what non-black people think black women are like. Hypersexual, starved for the D, unable to control themselves in pursuit of it," and I think, "...really?"

I know I'm coming down pretty hard on this show, but here's an example of another series that does the same concept much more effectively without looking like a parody of itself:

The Punanny Diaries

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA.
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