The Other Black Girl paints Diana Gordon as the villain of the series, who forces her hair grease on other black women so they become amiable members of white workplaces. She’s a sinister old woman who gets these women to dance to her tune after converting them to members of the Other Black Girls. But the real villains of this story are, of course, the racist workplaces that don’t give these women the promotions they deserve, the work they are more than capable of doing, and the respect that they ought to receive. Diana’s methods are not the best, and she is, in fact, exploiting her own people because of the position she has reached. The Other Black Girl follows the story of a young woman named Nella, who gets sucked into a web of crazies when another black girl joins her otherwise completely white workplace. Hazel is the new, more confident, quirky, and super stylish co-worker that Nella has always dreamed of and also wants to be at the same time. Hazel soon starts playing psychological games on Nella to try and recruit her into Diana’s network.
The true question posed in this show is: are you willing to lose your identity for your ambition, or does your identity come before work? For all the black women in the OBG network, work comes before all else. They’re willing to lose themselves, or, as they call it, “sell their souls,” in order to become top players in their chosen fields. Nella, on the other hand, is adamant about keeping her integrity intact. Interestingly, along with Nella and Hazel’s story, we also see Diana and her best friend Kendra when they were young and ambitious. Just like confident Hazel, Diana had her mind fixed on writing; she knew exactly what she wanted and would do anything to make that happen. On the other hand, Kendra had no idea what she wanted to do and left her small town to go to Harvard and decide what to do next. Kendra goes on to work for Wagner Books, the same place Nella works for now. On one fateful day, Diana shows up to take her friend out for lunch with no fears.
Kendra is, of course, petrified, but Richard Wagner, owner of Wagner Books, shows up at the same time, and Diana doesn’t lose the opportunity to tell him how she wants to be a writer. Immediately, Wagner is smitten by Diana, not to the knowledge of anybody. Because of Diana, Kendra brings about a change in the organization and becomes Wagner’s first black female editor. Together, they work on her book “Broken Heart,” which becomes an iconic book for black girls for generations to come. Nella and Hazel are two of them. Strangely, in the middle of the success of the book, Kendra found herself alone. During this time, Kendra has visions of flickering lights, headaches, and other strange occurrences, so she decides to run away. Later, we realized these are the side effects of using the special hair gel. Diana became the leader of this special network from then on and started to recruit the women under her. Diana chooses to do this because she sees an advantage in being accepted. Diana hopes that this new light of confidence, better hair, a makeover, and overall subversion can help black women become big names in their industries. All she wants is their success, or so she thinks.
It’s not that Diana thinks she’s better than Kendra in any way. They both chose their ambition, but Kendra didn’t let it take everything from her. Diana’s manipulation probably stems from how she forgets the things that truly bother her. One of the working signs of the grease is that these women forget the things that hurt them in the system. It makes them agreeable and relaxed, like nothing in the world can affect them. Diana, too, uses the grease on her own hair, meaning she too is forgetting her own vices. So, we can imagine she’s building this sisterhood because she truly believes she’s helping them the way she helped herself. Kendra wants to fight the system from within; she’s capable of doing so when she’s actually working for Wagner until Diana shows up. But now, instead of helping the other women, she chooses to run away from her problem and hide from her best friend. The big difference between Nella and Kendra is that one is selfish and afraid, whereas the other is supported enough to fight for others by herself. Diana feels powerful in the position she is in; she thinks building this network of black women will lead her to become a woman to look up to and a force to reckon with.
The end of the series (which differs from the book) has a rather open ending and hopes to set the stage for a more powerful second season. Diana’s new opposing force is Nella. Just as Diana attacks the system from within, Nella plans on getting to Diana from within. In the end, we know that Nella is not in support of the grease, but at the last moment, she shows up with a new wig and a new mindset. Of course, this leads to Hazel and Diana believing she’s joined the dark side. But, from how she treats Hazel, we know that Nella will waste no time building trust with Diana so that, at the right moment, she can show her who the boss really is. Diana thinks she’s getting to girls who are gullible and broken, but in truth, these girls should not forget their hardships and just need motivation and support.
Diana is a product of her circumstances. She’s forced to act in this way because she thinks that’s the only way she and other ladies like herself can find success. But through the process, Diana tastes success and lets it get to her head. The fact that the women in the new generation are willing to join Diana’s OBGs is a testament to the fact that the system is just the same even today.