Growing up in Finland and then America, Sofia Bryant rarely saw women of colour on her favourite TV programmes. Until she noticed Keke Palmer on the Disney Channel, that is. “I wouldn’t have considered acting had I not seen someone who looked like me do it first,” Bryant explains. “It shows how important it is to have diversity in this industry.”
Now a New York-based actor, Bryant is delivering wisecracks as Dina on Netflix’s new coming-of-age series I Am Not Okay with This. Adapted from a comic by Charles Forsman (The End of the Fucking World), the way-more-than-okay show follows a pair of BFFs, Dina and Sydney (It’s Sophia Lillis), with two twists: Sydney harbours all-powerful, telekinetic powers, and, even more importantly, she hides a mega-crush on Dina.
While Dina lacks superpowers, Bryant imbues the performance with superhuman levels of charisma and understanding. She'll continue to do just that in, among other things, the upcoming Hannah Marks-directed film Mark, Mary & Some Other People. “My inspiration is knowing I can be someone else’s Keke Palmer,” Bryant says. “I want young boys and girls of colour to see me and know that this world is for them to have at.”
When it comes to your work, what are you most proud of?
Sofia Bryant: It makes me especially proud as a POC actor when someone feels that they have not only been heard and accurately represented on screen through my work, but empowered by it as well. As an actor, we are able to have fun with our characters and really make them our own. But it is also our job to draw attention to, and accurately represent, everyone – including sometimes overlooked communities and issues happening in our world.
What issues or causes are you passionate about and why?
Sofia Bryant: A longstanding issue I have always been passionate about fighting for is youth homelessness in New York City. Out of the estimated 20,000 homeless youth in New York City, almost 70 per cent of them identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom have been turned away from their homes or have run away from abusive families. Having friends and family that are part of the LGBTQ+ community makes this a very close-to-heart issue for me.
“I want young boys and girls of colour to see me and know that this world is for them to have at” – Sofia Bryant
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Sofia Bryant: I would fund visual and performing arts classes at Covenant House, which is an agency that provides food, shelter, immediate crisis care and other services for homeless youth. I’ve grown a relationship with Covenant House through previously hosting a fundraising cabaret for the facility, and have ever since been passionate about this community. No matter your race, cultural background or how you identify yourself, everyone deserves to have a safe space to learn, grow and excel at what they’re passionate about. I had my start in a performing arts conservatory, and it would mean so much to give that to someone else.
These classes would not only shed light on homelessness in New York City, but would also bring more public awareness to youth homelessness all over the country. It would inspire others to aid in this fight, and participate within their own communities.