There used to be a lot of strong black females on 90s network television, on shows like Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, The Cosby Show, Living Single, The Jamie Foxx Show and, of course, Family Matters. But probably the strongest black female lead on 90s TV was Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — the FIRST Aunt Vivian. As you all know, Season Four of Fresh Prince suddenly introduced us to a brand new, much lighter, much more docile Aunt Vivian. Janet Hubert was replaced by Daphne Maxwell-Reid over some kind of contractual breach and ongoing disputes with Will Smith. I remember being sad to see her go, and not just because the beautiful dark queen got replaced by a much lighter Vivian, which doesn’t send an amazing message to people about what kind of blackness is “best.”
Daphne Maxwell-Reid is beautiful and educated — the first black Homecoming Queen at Northwestern and the first black woman to cover Glamour magazine. This is all really wonderful news, but the first Aunt Vivian was SO MUCH BETTER than the second:
She Was A Strong Woman
The first Aunt Vivian had a career and she was strong and powerful, but the second Aunt Vivian basically wore all of those fabulous suits but never really went anywhere. All she did was go back and forth through that amazing kitchen, which is where the show thought she belonged, apparently. The second Aunt Vivian didn’t work — all she did was take care of the house. By the beginning of the 4th season, Vivian became a less in-your-face stay-at-home mom who wasn’t all that ambitious.
Aunt Vivian Had A Fabulous Sex Life
Aunt Helen was probably my second favorite character, right after Aunt Vivian. Here were two older women who weren’t afraid of talking about their sexuality and their desire for sex, without being demonized. Alright Miss Honey!!
You Couldn’t Cross Her
The first Aunt Vivian was a strong and no nonsense woman, on equal footing with her super professional husband Philip. But she will come for you, don’t get it twisted. She was exciting, full spirited, and she wasn’t afraid of anybody. Aunt Vivian would get you together.
She Always Looked Fabulous, But She Would Still Take Her Amazing Earrings Off To Fight You If Need Be
Part of being a strong person with a lot of confidence is the way you dress and express yourself. Having a strong, powerful wardrobe goes a long way in making you feel like you can do anything. Aunt Vivian played the role of the regal, African queen, showing that dark-skinned black women are beautiful and that they deserve to be recognized. Fabulous fashion is a way of staking your claim in space.
And She Was An Amazing Dancer
The real life Aunt Vivian went to Juilliard, so of course she can dance for the lord. This dance video sequence pretty much sums up everything that was fabulous about Aunt Vivian. Here she is serving body-ody-ody in that skin tight pink leotard, just slaying the room. Can you imagine the lighter Aunt Vivian busting a move like this? NO! Because she doesn’t do anything interesting or have any talents!
Long live the first Aunt Vivian.