If you don’t remember her name, you may recognize Quinta Brunson from her 2014 viral Instagram skit, “The Girl Who’s Never Been on a Nice Date” or “He Got Money,” where her character is impressed by her date’s ability to throw down for candy, pretzels, and popcorn at the movie theater, among other things.
Not one to shy away from uncomfortable topics, Brunson featured in several videos for Buzzfeed and As/Is in 2014 including, “What It’s Like Being the Only Black Friend,” and the hilarious “If Black Women Said The Stuff White Men Say.” Inspired by young people making the content they wanted to see, she did a residency at Buzzfeed and worked there until 2018.
In 2016, while gaining notoriety as a comic Brunson gave a Ted Talk at TedxUCSD titled “I Like Myself, America and You Can’t Stop Me.” In the talk, Brunson describes her experience working in the entertainment industry, her humble beginnings on Instagram, and the importance of sharing your unique perspective with the world regardless of how many other talented people are out there.
In 2019, Brunson joined the cast of “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” executive produced by Issa Rae at HBO, with other queens Gabrielle Dennis (The Game, Rosewood, Luke Cage), Robin Thede (Buppies, Bad Hair, The Rundown), and Ashley Nicole Black (Canal Street, Tab Time). The show features other Black actresses and comedians and this year was renewed for a third season at HBO.
What Makes Abbott Elementary Worth Watching?
Through 2019 and 2020, Brunson continued to shine as an actor, comedian, and voice talent in various different projects. In December of 2021, the first teaser was released for “Abbott Elementary,” ABC’s new education-based comedy, created by, executive produced by, and starring Quinta Brunson.
In a post-Insecure world, space was made for Black women to feel comfortable regardless of how they looked, how they spoke, how they acted. Quinta Brunson is a direct result of the representation Issa Rae helped create when she introduced “Awkward Black Girl” to the Internet.
One of the reasons both women are so hilarious is how easy it is to relate to them. Though Quinta’s character Janine in “Abbott Elementary” faces different challenges than Issa in “Awkward Black Girl” or “Insecure.” Both women are struggling to navigate work and personal relationships, and both women make mistakes. Honest depictions of Black womanhood are so important not only for young women growing up today but for women who are learning to walk in their power and embrace themselves fully at any age. It’s never too late to learn how to love yourself, or how to laugh at yourself!
Since its beginning in December 2021, Abbott Elementary has broken a record, taken the internet by storm, and started a discourse on the critical and underappreciated role teachers play in our society. The show has been compared to other witty mockumentaries; The Office and Parks and Recreation and the sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The show follows shy, sweet Janine, a new-ish teacher at severely underfunded Abbott Elementary in Philadelphia, and her coworkers as they try to do the best they can for their students with limited supplies and uncaring administration.
Brunson plays Janine, while queens Janelle James (Expecting Amy, The Standups), and Sheryl Lee Ralph (Moesha, It’s a Living) join her as high-maintenance principal Ava and tough, no-nonsense fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Howard.
The show also stars Lisa Ann Walter as second-grade teacher Melissa, and Tyler James Edie as substitute teacher Gregory who is set up to be the Jim to Brunson’s Pam (Or the Ben to her Leslie) in the series.
Support for the Show
The response from the Black community, the education community, and the entertainment industry has been overwhelmingly positive, and Black Twitter especially has been quick to support and memorialize iconic moments from each episode.
Fans have been speculating and hoping for multiple castings for new characters in the series, including Tichina Arnold (Everybody Hates Chris), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), and Titus Burgess (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Brunson has hinted that there will be a new character this season.
When the show was first released, Brunson partnered with Scholastic to deliver school supplies to teachers in Philadelphia, New York, and other cities around the country. ABC invited teachers to the show’s premiere, and since the shows airing the network and Brunson have received multiple requests to donate school supplies to real schools in Philadelphia.
The inspiration for Abbott Elementary came from Brunson’s own mother, who was a kindergarten teacher, and her childhood in West Philadelphia. Philadelphia City Council Member Helen Gym submitted a successful resolution to honor Quinta for Abbott Elementary, and for working to uplift teachers and educators everywhere.
If you haven’t seen Abbott Elementary yet, you can tune in every week on ABC network or watch the next day on Hulu. We also have recaps of the episodes. Also, check out some of our favorite Abbott Elementary tweets, memes, and TikToks.