Written by Montez Louria
Art by Rachel True
Since I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed the horror genre, and it didn’t take very long for me to begin enjoying fantasy. I developed a fascination for the magical and fantastic. I watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Harry Potter, The Worst Witch, and Scary Godmother. I desperately wanted to be magical, to fly away, to be somewhere else where everyone was other-worldly. That is, until I realized there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me in these worlds I loved so much.
One of the first horror films I ever watched was John Carpenter’s Halloween. From there, I wanted to explore more films in the genre. I saw Halloweentown and Hocus Pocus, which I enjoyed, but I wanted to diversify my options. I’ve always felt like I was one degree away from the Goth girls or the scene kids. My grandmother was too religious and traditional to allow my mother to buy leather or plaid skirts. Eyeliner was not allowed until after high school. I had most of the interests, including horror films, but I grew up in a very religious and “status quo” household. My grandmother wanted us to be as “normal” as possible.
One night, when cable television was still a thing, I put my shame aside and found myself snuggled next to my mother, who was secretly an inner goth, watching The Craft.
“It’s a cool movie. I think you’ll like it,” she said. My mother loved to show me movies that brought back her mid-’90s nostalgia. Together, we had our movie nights. She always wanted me to be as fanatic and magical as possible.
My eyes widened when the credits came rolling in. The magic, the witches, and the first Black actress I had ever seen in a movie related to horror, being witchy, and feeling socially outcast.
“Mommy, who is that?” I asked, readjusting myself.
“Who? …Oh,” she smiled, realizing I was pointing to the only Black actress in the film. “Well, that’s Rachel True. She was on that other show…”
Her words swirled around my head and became inaudible. I was hyper-fixated on the screen. At that moment, my heart fluttered, and I felt the same feeling in my stomach that you get when the roller coaster drops. I had never seen myself until I saw Rachel True, a witch with brown skin and curly hair. (By this time in my life, my hair had always been “contained” or chemically straightened). That moment froze perfectly in my brain because everything I had ever been interested in had been affirmed. I was called weird at school and at home. I had maybe two close friends, and I was a chubby kid. I liked to read books like Harry Potter. I had a big, overactive imagination. Kids poked fun at the way I spoke. I was a “goody two shoes” who was scared to sneeze incorrectly. That was not the recipe for a “cool” kid. My peers were all interested in more mature things and knew a bit more about some mature subjects. They were the epitome of adolescent “coolness,” and I yearned to be accepted by them.
That was until I watched The Craft (and a string of other creepy, scary films). I started to accept who I was because I started to feel like it was okay to be a little strange or a little weird, whether people liked it or not. From what I saw, Rachel, whose character’s name is Rochelle, is the only Black girl at the school. She experiences racism that is brushed off as bullying. She is on the swim team, which I thought was amazing because I didn’t swim. Although she is the main character, she doesn’t have a lot of speaking time. She is sometimes treated as a side character, yet Rochelle had a lasting impact on me. I felt like Rochelle—my few eccentric friends with similar interests, big issues being brushed off or overlooked, and having an interest in things that people kind of frowned upon. Like many other girls, I assume, Rochelle was my favorite, and I wanted to see more of her. I rewatched that film so many times just for Rachel True.
Nowadays, I must watch it every Halloween, every Thanksgiving, and even on random afternoons in the spring when I am cleaning my house. I know True had some discrepancies behind the scenes, including having to “fight” for an audition because the role was written for a White actress, and that after her casting, it was tweaked to fit her “circumstances.” She experienced racism during filming and promotion of the film. From being ignored in interviews to being told, “You’re just not as famous as us,” and being excluded from Horror-Con conventions in the past, True hasn’t been given her cultural flowers. I write this as a full bouquet. I thank her for her presence. I thank her for who she is today—still fantastic and still magical. She let me know that Black girls can be magical too. She let me know that it was okay to be interested in fantasy, spells, and “witchy” things. Before her, I hadn’t seen a Black girl in the genres that I was growing to love. Through Rachel, I felt seen. I felt okay.