It could’ve been so easy for the Insecure writing team to make fans blame Tasha for the demise of Lawrence and Issa’s troubled relationship, turning her into an opportunistic, scheming side-chick character. She could’ve been the subtly sinister homewrecker and gold-digging floozy with the ostensibly boring and low-paying profession of bank telling, seducing wannabe app developer Lawrence with her pillowy, always-exposed bosom and gorgeous curves. Every time she hung out with Lawrence on her lunch break, or he came into the credit union to cash his unemployment check, there could’ve been a moment when the camera lingers on her face, the ever so slight hint that her warm, inviting smile hides a Jessica Rabbit in working class form.
In fact, that’s exactly how many misguided Insecure fans seem to view her. Recently, the actress who plays Tasha, Dominique Perry, told Essence that she’s gotten a ton of hate mail since the show’s first season, even having one woman reveal that she wanted to fight her. But Tasha has never been a shady man-stealer, even if her first appearance in Season 1 may have suggested that she had a little crush on Issa’s estranged live-in boyfriend. And as of Sunday night’s episode, her slow evolution into a three-dimensional secondary character is complete: Lawrence has finally decided to be upfront about what he wants (or doesn’t want), but only after stringing her along for some time. Fans outraged at Tasha have gotten it all wrong—as she so eloquently put it, coming from a rightfully hurt emotional state: Lawrence is a “fuck nigga who thinks he’s a good dude.” Tasha, on the other hand, with her straightforward approach to her career and relationships, should be #lifegoals.
At first it was unclear whether Tasha was even aware that Lawrence had a girlfriend (he does mention her later), but it was obvious there was a flirtatious spark between the two of them that no longer existed between him and Issa. When he was at a low point, Tasha showered him with compliments, providing him with the deft stroke his fragile ego so desperately needed in ways that an understandably frustrated Issa, fed up with his perpetual unemployment, couldn’t. “You’ve got a lot going for you,” she told him. “You’re out here trying to make something of yourself, right? And with no kids? Better keep your head up.” It’s an all too familiar set up: in comparison with bougie black folk who went to prestigious colleges and/or are on a fast-moving career track—people, that is, like Issa and Molly—it’s easy to look at Tasha and judge her as basic. Of course Lawrence is interested in her, because her expectations are so low and he’s lazy and stuck in a rut and she’s out here buttering him up, we might sneer. But in a later episode, it became clear that even if Tasha isn’t attending haute art gallery events or getting boozed up at buppie day parties, she’s still someone who’s got her life together.
Really, she’s the only character on Insecure who’s not a hot mess, at least as far as you can tell. While Issa hates her job and is struggling to try to make it meaningful for herself and Molly is resisting introspection in her therapy sessions, Tasha’s taking night classes so she can eventually become a bank manager. She gives useful advice, encouraging Lawrence to pursue his dreams and get his app off the ground. And most of all, she’s candid about what she wants, but not pushy or manipulative. Yes, she shows up at his job at Best Buy to see if he wants to grab some food after work, flashing impeccable, impossible-to-ignore cleavage, but when he sheepishly reminds her that he has a girlfriend, she backs off immediately, embarrassed.
It helps that Perry imbues her character with a sweetness and down-to-earth touch. She’s cute and matter-of-fact when she pulls hot sauce out of her purse while sharing her lunch break with Lawrence—and awkwardly quotes Beyoncé, who, let’s not forget, bragged about doing this very thing in an effort to prove how “down” she still is, even while basking in her millions. In one scene from this season, we get to hear her complain about planning a family barbecue, and while it’s a small throwaway moment, it also makes her instantly relatable. In the latest episode, when the barbecue is just getting underway, we get an even better glimpse into her colorful social circle—Lawrence briefly meets her “play uncle,” there’s a woman twerking while playing the flute as her friend records it on her phone.* When he blows the barbecue off to go to a work party that is rumored to be hookup central and then decides to tell her he’s “not looking for anything serious,” it’s rude, and it’s the final straw. While he was getting over Issa, he wasn’t honest about his feelings and made Tasha believe there was a possibility she could be more than just the rebound—wooing her with sushi outings and half-hearted apologies for sleeping with Issa after their breakup, showing up outside of her apartment in an apparent state of contrition.
She’s “just caught in the middle of Issa and Lawrence’s situation,” Perry said of her character. “I feel like she’s just innocent in it all, to be honest. I think she just sees good in him and … she just wants to let him know, ‘This is just a phase you’re going through in life and it will be great. And I would love to walk that walk with you, if you’ll have me.’” Indeed. That’s why her kiss-off to him in Sunday’s episode is so satisfying, and exactly what Lawrence needed to hear. “I knew it wasn’t nothing serious. But then you fronted like it was, apologizing for shit you wasn’t even sorry for.” And while it’d be sad to see the most clear-eyed character on the show disappear, it’d be very empowering to know that Tasha stood her ground and has no more time for Lawrence and his games. We should all aspire to be more like Tasha.
Correction, Aug. 7, 2017: This post originally misidentified the instrument the twerking BBQ attendee was playing as the clarinet.