Story by Janell Hazelwood

When I heard the recent news that one of my favorite Spike Lee films would be turned into a Netflix series, I knew I’d have yet another show to binge watch during the very rare moments of free time I have. According to Variety, there will be 10 episodes in the remake of the iconic director’s first full-length feature film, 1986’s “She’s Gotta Have It.” Nola Darling, the film’s lead character played by Tracy Camila Johns, was a single, Brooklyn fly girl who rocked a chic short natural and had a free-spirited approach to dating that has since sparked many a debate on sexuality, slut-shaming and monogamy. Her archetype has lived far beyond its progressive mid-1980s roots, showing its influence in hip-hop, feminist commentary and style evolutions. (They’ve even already found an actress to introduce Nola to a whole new generation on Netflix: DeWanda Wise.)

24 Years Later.

A photo posted by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on

The boss factor of juggling three men at once while living in a fab loft space and making a living creating mixed-media artwork—all while wearing mom jeans and taking on the streets of New York braless—was what made Nola that cool chick you either envied or wanted to be like. Nola was living a single woman’s dream—whether you’d admit it aloud or not—and had the best of all worlds in fun-loving B-Boy Mars Blackmon, suave romantic Jamie Overstreet and pretty-boy sex god Greer Childs). I wanted to be confident enough to live my life my way, boldly and independently like Nola did despite the so-called social norms of the time.

I was a toddler when the film was originally released but at that time, my mother was about Lola’s age, a wife working on her third child, my younger sister. (I asked my mom if she’d seen the film when it first came out. Her reply: “I was too busy with a husband and three kids. And when I did finally see it, Lola wasn’t my kinda girl. She did not represent a respectable woman.”)

I’d see the film 15 years later at a movie night during my college years, and even then the debate was quite similar to the one sparked after the film was released: Was Nola, with her active dating life and multiple sex partners, empowered or just a glorified ‘ho?

Many of the men and women I viewed the film with back then agreed with my mother. They were not a fan of Nola keeping her dating options open. We were all ‘80s babies, having been born during the height of the crack- and AIDS-epidemic era and raised by parents who grew up with that ‘60s-and-‘70s mentality that the first man you met, loved, and got pregnant by was the man you’d be with for the rest of your life. After being inspired by the constant power women themes of my teenage years in the ‘90s (and experiencing the challenges my mother faced as a divorcee), I became strongly opposed to the traditional stereotypes applied to women that I felt were discriminatory and hypocritical. Nola represented freedom, power, and rebellion, and her impact on me  would evolve with time.

As a student, I, along with a few other young women including my college bestie, was among the minority, quite angry about how Lee ended the film, as I thought he made a victim and mockery of a woman who was such a breath of fresh air for me, turning the tables on the male ego and society’s constant co-sign of the inequality and objectification of girls and women.

Even today not much has changed. Call it life imitating art—I swear I didn’t plan this—but I too have had my roster moments with spots filled by men who held respective singular qualities I loved that I just hadn’t been able to find in one man. In my 20s, I was a career woman living in New York City and working, quite successfully, at top companies in one of the most competitive markets in the world. I felt no guilt about my love life, as like Nola, I was very upfront about my dating habits with the men I spent my time with, and when I wanted to be exclusive with one man, I would be. I was, and still am, a there’s-the-door kind of gal when dating, and interestingly enough, like Nola, there were guys who stuck around and some who kindly showed themselves out. Some of my girlfriends would say, “You go girl. Turn those tables and do you,” while others, on the path to marriage and babies, thought I was a lost cause trying to date away daddy issues (which is what Nola was also accused of). When I hit my late 20s, I sought therapy, like Nola, thinking maybe there was something wrong with me. Am I a nymphomanic (as one Boyfriend No. 2 actually called me)? Am I emotionally damaged (the words of another man who actually proposed marriage and was turned down)? Am I just a ‘ho? (Again, another adjective used after one very wealthy suitor with a roster of his own found out he wasn’t the only one with several options. Ego, maybe?) I digress.

I was none of the three. I was simply a young woman living out my own chocolate-covered version of Sex & the City and calling the shots in all areas of my life, from my career, to my finances, to my relationships. I’m still a single independent woman in the city, and though I traded in my roster for a focus on entrepreneurship and getting my money up, I continue to battle with the voices—both in my head and from family, friends and society—that say I’m some kind of pariah-like Lola in a sea of upright Ginas (who doesn’t remember “Martin”?).

I’ve worked hard, won career awards, traveled the world, and financially supported myself since I graduated college yet I’m still faced with quips like, “Why are you so old with no kids?” or “When you gonna get you one man?” or “Who’s gonna marry a woman with a track record?” (And how insulting is it to have to constantly remind those stuck in the dark ages that dating doesn’t have to include sex?)

Lee’s latest deal with Netflix, one of the leading streaming platforms, only reinforces the fact that not only has the concept of Nola Darling not gotten old, but the debate about whether women can openly defy the sexual and social stereotypes forced upon them hasn’t either. Nola’s relevance today is still evident in the judgments, societal “norms” and even laws that limit and demean single women all over the world, diminishing their right to safely do whatever the hell they please. I’m curious to see whether this time around Lee will push the needle on the conversation, not reinforce tired stereotypes. (I mean, the original even included a rape scene, some sort of sick reprimand for Lola’s choices of which Lee later apologized about.

Let’s hope Nola is still chic, Brooklyn-savvy, smart and confident, and that she makes a resurgence that will finally give us single ladies the sense that it’s OK to safely explore what you want out of life without facing the scarlet H, Thot-dom (or whatever other word men can come up with to justify misogyny and disrespect.) I’ll be waiting with my wine glass in tow—and maybe even a boo, or two, to Netflix and chill with.

Janell Hazelwood is a journalist and contributing editor for The Tai Life. She’s also founder of The BossMoves, a global media strategy consultancy for minority- and women-owned businesses and nonprofits.