Welcome to Makeup Work, where we tell you what LGBTQ+ series or film you should be watching instead of whatever messy Ryan Murphy project just premiered. This week, it’s Starz’ P-Valley.
No, P-Valley is not a Black Hustlers. That comparison was an easy one to make when it premiered over the summer and garnered attention for its unblinking embrace of female strippers (in the Dirty Delta, as opposed to Filthy Manhattan), but creator Katori Hall and her all-female team of directors have more on their minds than just titillation.
Crafting an entire community within the immediate vicinity of popular strip club The Pynk—while also including enough plot twists and betrayals for a full six months of Days of Our Lives—P-Valley is a sweaty, sexy series that takes its characters’ desires seriously. When was the last time you saw phone sex played straight, rather than for laughs? The Truth About Cats and Dogs?
But just as importantly as its seriousness of intent regarding the interior lives of the female athletes on the pole is its centralizing of the Pynk’s manager, Uncle Clifford. Gender neutral, horny, irascible, and hungry, Uncle Clifford is a masterpiece of performative affectation and sincerity. Plus he has some of the ripest dialogue in a series that oozes equal parts bourbon and sweet tea, and actor Nicco Annan makes a feast out of every syllable.
So forget the Hustlers comparisons, because P-Valley is unlike anything in existence. Actually, a better description of the series might be that a smart, warm-hearted writer took characters who exist on the fringes of mainstream storytelling—the sassy best friend, the tightly wound sister, the messy mother—and put their stories first, leaving the beautiful and banal characters on the sidelines.