Yara Shaikh Talks … Dating Black

Dating Black separates fact from fiction by passing the megaphone to everyday black men and women to speak on their experiences in the pursuit of love. 

The series showcases thought-provoking discussions around love, healing and transparency with a healthy dose of hilarious anecdotes from both sides of the conversation that promise to give viewers unfiltered realness and relatability.

We spoke to executive producer Yara Shaikh about the show and what what Dating Black means to her …

Please introduce yourself …

I’m Yara Shaikh, an Entertainment Executive and proudly an Executive Producer on BET and MFT Media’s Dating Black.

Why Dating Black?

The mastermind behind Dating Black, Tonye Mak, happens to be one of my closest friends. She called me one summer with an incredible idea to produce content that discusses love in a more grounded and honest way from within our community. The intention behind this series has had integrity behind it from the very beginning, especially as it was inspired from a personal experience of Tonye’s. Working with Tonye on a project that felt very important for our community was what made me want to be a part of it.

Tell us about your team …

Dating Black – BET International & My5

The team on season 1 were a very special bunch and we wouldn’t have seen a season 2 without them – that goes for everyone behind the camera and in front of it. Dating Black was a project that started off as completely self funded and produced, which meant that more than anything, season 1’s cast and crew believed in something that didn’t guarantee any prospects. The cast trusted us with their vulnerability and the crew banded together to produce something of great quality with a limited budget. Once Tonye had cut a few of the episodes, we hosted a screening, inviting studios and executives down to preview two of the episodes before its intended release on the MFT Media Youtube Channel.

Cicelia Deane, BET UK’s Commissioner, was one of the executives who we invited to the screening. She asked us to hold off on self releasing it because she wanted to acquire it and that began Dating Black’s journey with our now BET family. We couldn’t be more grateful to Cicelia for taking a chance on us and believing in our vision, which put the show on a platform that means it reached more people around the world. Season 2 was then a production that started with BET’s involvement from the beginning, which gave us an opportunity to onboard a bigger and more robust team and reach out to an all new cast. S2 brought on a magic of its own and our gratitude goes out to everyone involved for its success.

What does Dating Black mean to you personally?

To see Dating Black come to life in the way that it has, and start the conversations it has, means the world to me. I would also add that seeing Tonye’s vision come to life in such a way, not only for her but for MFT Media, has been my number one highlight. I couldn’t be happier for her and I couldn’t be prouder to have played a very small part in its success.

Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get through it?

I would echo Tonye’s response to this question. Losing a founding member of MFT Media during the shoot couldn’t have been more devastating but we pushed through in her honour. We hope to have made her proud.

Scorcher – Dating Black

Tell us a memorable moment from idea to final edit.

I think days on set are always the most memorable for me. The heart of the show is very much the cast’s stories and comments. Even though I am on set as a producer, listening to what everyone had to say about their experiences was not only super insightful but mostly really inspiring and thought provoking. There were many times between sets where the cast would stay behind and discuss the questions with the crew off camera. Those moments were really great too.

What best defines what you love about this project?

I love that this project exists. It cuts through the noise in a way that is helpful, honest and thought provoking. It’s also really entertaining, which proves that content doesn’t have to be demeaning in order for it to be funny!

What is the importance of having and building conversations around the Black experience in the dating world mean for audiences?

There is a false and really damaging narrative being perpetuated surrounding love, companionship and partnership within the black community, which doesn’t leave room for our success stories or for growth/healing. I hope that this series can contribute to re-writing some of these negative narratives and offering more positive experiences/stories.

What’s next?

I’m looking forward to getting more projects across the line, especially in the scripted space.

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?

I’m @msyarashaikh on Instagram (although I don’t use it much).

You can stream Dating Black now on BET UK via MY5 & BET International on Youtube


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