Glow’s Sunita Mani Shares Letter Sent to Netflix Seeking Greater Representation

Glow's Sunita Mani revealed that she and fellow actresses of color sent Netflix a letter demanding the streaming platform improve the racial stereotyping on the show—before it was cancelled.

By Lindsay Weinberg Oct 21, 2020 9:15 PMTags
Related: Alison Brie Talks "GLOW" Transformation at 2019 Globes

The ladies of Glow revealed this week that in addition to fighting as wrestlers onscreen, they were fighting for better representation behind the scenes as well.

Star Sunita Mani posted a letter that she and fellow actresses of color sent to Netflix over the summer, asking the streaming platform to improve their experiences on the show and make them feel less "disempowered." 

Mani explained on Instagram that the stars of color in the cast had a "raw and personal coming-together" in June to talk about how Glow reckons with race and how to "hold my show accountable."

Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Kia Stevens, Ellen Wong and Shakira Barrera joined Mani in sending an important note to producers and the show's creators, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch.

The letter began, "We are writing to you today to share some feelings that have been suppressed in all of us for a long time. As the principal women of color on a show tackling racist and offensive stereotypes, we have felt disempowered throughout our time on GLOW." 

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The actresses said their characters "remain less fleshed out and less dimensional" than white characters, who were played by Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and more.

Glow "has planted racial stereotyping into our character's existence," the letter continued. Considering the 1980s-set show "has been marketed as a diverse ensemble," the stars added, "it has been problematic to use our faces ... to serve the in-depth white storylines."

Netflix

As for the root of the problem, the stars pointed out that Glow had "zero" persons of color in the writers' room during the third season.

"It is a huge oversight," the note read. "We feel both devalued in our skillset and only valued for the diversity that we bring. It is a cyclical, psychological pain to deal with one's currency as an actor and a person of color based on a system that values whiteness." 

Since the stars could "no longer be quiet" about their strife, they suggested multiple ways for the creative team to address the racial problems.

The demands included: Hire an executive producer or consulting producer of color; fully address how portraying stereotypical and racially offensive wrestling personas has impacted their character's professional lives and personal dignity; and amplify their voices and importance within the season narrative.

The women requested that during their fourth and final season, "true effort be taken in expanding their involvement and presence on the show beyond servicing a diversity quota."

Netflix

Mani, who portrayed Arthie Premkumar on Glow, said the letter successfully led to "poignant Zoom conversations" with the executive producers and creators, writing that they "HEARD US."

But as Netflix was in the process of making the new and improved season four, a twist came in early October when the show was cancelled due to COVID-19.

"This was a huge deal—creating space for change," Mani reflected. "This is the part of GLOW's ending that I grapple with as a larger metaphor for our times."

She further explained, "A show that tried to tackle themes surrounding women in Hollywood and loaded with racial stereotypes...ultimately got squashed by...a Netflix corporate algorithm?"

E! News has learned that the conversations were "incredibly important" to Netflix. Although the writers' room was not convened at the time, there were indeed plans to address the actresses' concerns in the final season. The talks and proposed changes had "no impact" on the decision to cancel Glow

Erica Parise/Netflix

Along with Mani's post, Noel shared her thoughts on Instagram about the progress that would have been. She wrote, "It was imperative for GLOW to live up to its promise, especially in a post-Black Lives Matter world where real, not cosmetic change, is necessary."

She felt "elated that our producers welcomed us to freely express ourselves... We were all so hopeful and very excited by the opportunity to do a new season with these changes implemented." 

Noel, who played Cherry Bang, added, "now that the weight is lifted off of my shoulders for telling my truth, we won't get to see what could have been. THAT saddens me, more than anything."