Ashley Blaine Featherson-Jenkins Talks Life, Love, and the Legacy of ‘Dear White People’

Ashley Blaine Featherson-Jenkins Talks Life, Love, and the Legacy of ‘Dear White People’

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Nov. 17 2021, Published 4:45 p.m. ET

The Netflix hit Dear White People streamed its way into our souls back in 2017 and it hasn’t missed a beat since. Giving us a firsthand look of what life is like for students of color on a modern-day Ivy League campus, Dear White People takes us through every twist and around every turn that these students are left to endure as they navigate their way through every microaggression and macro-IKYFL so they can finally just be. We see them unapologetically live their lives, search for love, and triumphantly leave a legacy that will last long after they’re gone. And what’s better than getting to play that story out onscreen to serve as an inspiration for millions of viewers? Getting to fulfill it in real life like Ashley Blaine Featherson-Jenkins does…

Reprising her role as Joelle Brooks (originally credited as Curls) from the 2014 film of the same name, Ashley Blaine Featherson-Jenkins has taken television screens by storm as she breathed new life into her character for four straight seasons. With the farewell season being one modeled after one of Ashley’s first loves – musical theater – we really got to see Ashley in her element living it up and loving every second of what brought her to where she is today, while she constantly encourages her people to be the best them they can possibly be – just like Joelle.

Photography by Tisha Brenee, Fashion Styling by Scot Louie, Hair by Alexander Armand, Make-up by Dion XU

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wp content/uploads///PHOTO CREDIT TISHA BRENEE

For the Culture…

wp content/uploads///PHOTO CREDIT TISHA BRENEE

“I knew from the very beginning how important she would be for the culture,” says Ashley of her Netflix alter ego. “How much of an inspiration she would be to Black and brown women and girls around the world is something that I took really seriously, and it’s been an honor portraying someone like that.” Falling right in line with her own point of view and outlook on life, Featherson’s college years at Howard University – studying musical theater no less – was the perfect preparation to play Joelle Brooks, especially in this final season. “It was thrilling! I couldn’t wait to get to work!” That same commitment to community, encouragement to empower, and dedication to bring the drama that only an HBCU can provide proved to be an excellent resource to pull from for whenever Joelle had to fight for her voice and friendships and relationships just as soon as she’ll fight for someone else’s. While her love to keep the fight was instilled in her at her beloved HU, it just may continue to be fueled by another…

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For the Cool in You…

“The most challenging part about playing Joelle has been seeing her suffer so much heartbreak and disappointment,” says Ashley, reflecting on the ups and downs of making Joelle come alive. “The easiest part, though, was just showing up to work every day.” With the support of her castmates, the writing staff, and the rest of Team DWP, Ashley was able to approach each day of acting with comfort and ease that we all look forward to. One of her biggest cheerleaders, however, provides her with all the love and support she could ever ask for: her husband! One of the newest newlyweds, Featherson married long-time partner Darroll Jenkins in September 2021. “Black love is great,” says Featherson. “[Being married] feels so unfamiliar but in the most familiar way, and I’m just enjoying it.”

For the Win

While Dear White People may have come to an end, we surely have not seen the last of Ashley Blaine Featherson-Jenkins. Always fighting the good fight and rooting for everybody Black, she took on and tackled storylines in the Black community – mental health, sexual identity, and the like – that tend to be suppressed but have long deserved a spotlight to educate and spread awareness. She takes the spotlight that shines on her and uses it as a beacon to light the way for others. “Remember us,” she says. “I hope that people remember and hold in their hearts the work that we did, and who it was for, and what it was for, and why we did it. Thank you, and remember us.”

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