The celebrity world is chock full of nerds, but just like in real life, it’s pretty hard to find ones who are Black, and extremely hard to find ones who are Black women. Below, I’ve compiled a list of celebrities whom I believe to be Black Girl Nerds. Some you may already know, while others might surprise you.
1. Aisha Tyler
Aisha was one of the first Black Girl Nerds I ever discovered. Even before I watched my first episode of Archer, I already knew the voice actress behind Lana Kane was a bit of a nerd herself, but I had no idea whom she was until I fortuitously checked out her memoir Self-Inflicted Wounds from the library. In the book, she talked about growing up as an awkward Black Girl Nerd and the struggles she faced coming into her identity. Aisha went on to become a voice for Black Girl Nerds later on in life, creating her own podcast Girl on Guy, hosting a press conference for Ubisoft at E3, and even appearing in the open-world hacking game, Watch Dogs.
2. Amandla Stenberg
Most peoples’ first encounter with Amandla was as little Rue in The Hunger Games. Her being casted into that role showed everyone that no matter how old you are, racism can affect Black Girl Nerds at every stage in life. Amandla grew from the backlash she faced for playing Rue and turned that hatred into a platform to speak out against a number of social issues, including racism and feminism. She has since started her own comic book series, Niobe: She Is Life and starred in a variety of films, including FOX’s adaptation of the YA, sci-fi thriller The Darkest Minds and Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, both due out later on this year.
3. Issa Rae
Before Insecure, there was The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae’s first claim to (YouTube) fame. Working within the budget that she had at the time, Issa created a web series with which Black Girl Nerds from all over the world could relate to and learn from. Issa finally showed us, on a mainstream level, that we were not weird. (I mean, yes we were, but that it was certainly fine to be that way!) Issa has gone on to create even more content featuring Black people, in an effort to share our diverse stories with the rest of the world.
4. Janelle Monae
From the release of her first studio album Metropolis, Janelle Monae had nerds, music fans, and physics professors, alike, aware of her status as a Black Girl Nerd. Her lyrics and visuals proved that she couldn’t quite be from this planet, and from that point on, many pieces have been written pointing out all of the afrofuturistic and sci-fi influences in her work. Monae also starred in the movie Hidden Figures, helping to bring to life the untold story of the forgotten Black women working at NASA during the civil rights era, proving that there’s no era she can’t cover. I’ve always been inspired by her futuristic aesthetic, and I’m proud to see her continue to shine in all of her Black girl glory!
5. Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams didn’t appear on my radar until a couple of years ago. I would occasionally see videos from her time as a senior correspondent on The Daily Show pop up on my Facebook newsfeed, laugh, and go on about my day. It wasn’t until I recently watched her Netflix original movie (still think it should’ve been a show) The Incredible Jessica James that I really started to keep up with her. And speaking of keeping up with her, she recently partnered with HBO for a four-part special of her podcast 2 Dope Queens, and she’s also due to be featured in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald later on this year.
6. Keke Palmer
Keke Palmer starred in the movie Akeelah and The Bee over ten years ago, and from that moment on, she was on my “Black Girl Nerd” radar. Watching a little Black girl from the hood (fictionalized, or not), made me proud to be smart. Seeing a movie like that was so important for me growing up in a society where I don’t usually see Black girls being shown as beautiful and intelligent. Keke also shared her rendering of herself as a Sim a couple of years ago and even posted some ads for The Sims on her personal Facebook page. A Black girl that games and owns spelling competitions? Sign me up!
7. Rashida Jones
Rashida, to me, will always be one of two characters, Ann Perkins or Karen Filippelli, but in all honestly, she’s so much more. Rashida’s character on The Office often played Call of Duty with co-workers in the office under the gamertag, “KarenTheJimSlayer.” She also has her own comic book series called Frenemy of The State, featuring heiress Ariana von Holmberg, who lives a double life as a CIA operative. There were talks of her writing coming to the big screen, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…
8. Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson has starred in some of the nerdiest TV shows and movies to exist in our society: Clerks II, Luke Cage, Men In Black II, Jessica, Jones, Sin City, Death Proof, Percy Jackson, Lego Batman, the list goes on. She’s also a huge fan of Star Trek and can understand and speak some Klingon. And much like her fellow Black Girl Nerd celebs Rashida and Amandla, Rosario has also written her own comic book series, O.C.T.: Occult Crimes Task Force. She is also known to regularly attend ComicCon, a place where she can truly feel at home. I understand where you’re coming from, girl. Really. Thanks for everything that you do.
9. Serena Williams
Everybody knows Serena Williams for dominating on the tennis court, but did y’all know that she was a Black Girl Nerd too? She didn’t marry one of Reddit’s co-founders for nothing. But in all seriousness, Serena is a nerd. Her favorite TV show is Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. (She’s got good taste!) She watched the show to keep her spirits up as she dealt with a series of knee injuries in 2005. She loved the show so much that Nickelodeon allowed her to cameo on a couple of episodes in both The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. Serena also plays video games in her spare time, and she’s even appeared in promos for Overwatch’s official eSports league.
10. Tiffany Hadish
The final Black Girl Nerd on my list is the one, the only: Tiffany Hadish. Tiffany has been on the scene for a little while now as a comedian, but here recently, her brand has blown the f*ck up! She’s starred in a number of TV shows and movies, including Girls Trip and The Carmichael Show. She recently wrote and released a book about her life titled The Last Black Unicorn, and she’s been featured on a number of late night talk shows. The biggest tip for me believing Tiffany to be a Black Girl Nerd was seeing her speak Japanese at a red carpet fundraising event. As a Japanese major in college, that video hit my heart. (Seeing Black girls learn Japanese is my kink. Just kidding, but only sort of…) Hopefully, one day we’ll meet and be able to hold a conversation together in good ol’ 日本語.
So what’d you think? Did you discover any new Black Girl Nerds? Confirm some previous suspicions? Disagree with something? Let me know in the comments below. Black Girl Nerds, we outchea!