Black & Sexy, Baby!: The Mastermind Behind the Digital Network

Friday, 03 May 2013 23:21 Written by  Dana Weems

If you haven’t heard of Black & Sexy TV and Dennis Dortch by now, you may be living under a rock.

Hailing from Norristown, Penn., the 30-something director of the 2007 Sundance film, A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy, is also the founder and creative director of Black & Sexy TV. With over 34,000 subscribers and a list of web series such as The Couple, The Number and That Guy, that will have you laughing and saying, “This is so my life,” Black & Sexy TV is taking web content to new heights.

Dennis Dortch chatted with GlossMagazineOnline (GMO), telling us the secret to his working rhythm, how characters are developed, and why he says Black people are the ish!

GlossMagazineOnline (GMO): What lead you to becoming a director? Did you always want to work in the film industry? Had you ever studied film and video?

Dennis: No, I actually was in music. I wanted to actually produce music. And I got sidetracked in college. I just kind of went in that direction.

GMO: When and how did Black & Sexy TV come to be? What's the purpose behind it?

Dennis: I guess the best way to look at it is, I had an independent film called A Good Day to be Black & Sexy. Allegra Dolores had a couple song on there. It was my first feature. Black & Sexy was sort of born out of that. [I had] the desire to have total control over my content and go directly to the audience.

GMO: When was Black & Sexy TV born?

Dennis: Officially, early December 2008. We first situated it sort of like a spinoff from my film. We never really released them, so by the time we really officially decided to go for real on it, it was November 2011. And that was the first appearance on YouTube.

GMO: What inspires you to create content for Black & Sexy TV?

Dennis: Real life really. Just experiences and sharing that black people are pretty similar to everybody else, they don’t have anything different. Their desire to be seen as real people and [that] they have the same quirks, desires, worries and issues that other people do. So, just having strong black people in that light is what pretty much inspires me to do what we’re doing. At least in this current incarnation of Black & Sexy TV.

For those people who are producing things online, it’s that instant gratification. You are biting your nails, but what inspires us to keep doing it is, it’s kind of a rush. It’s a little bit of a drug to get that instant response from an audience. I think for a lot of us who are doing things online, we’re inspired by the people. We really want to please the people out there. (At first) your plan is very selfish. You’re thinking about yourself. Once you get a taste of the audience and their response, even the negative stuff, it fuels a lot of your energy and momentum. You just put your nose down and you keep going and going and going. Why? Because you get this instant response from real people. They don’t lie to you. When they love you, they love you, and when they have something to say, they say it. Really for us, we think about the audience more than we were initially.

GMO: As an avid Black & Sexy TV viewer, I notice that the actors are so relatable and don't seem like they're acting at all. How do you find your actors, and where do you draw inspiration to create such characters?

Dennis: Well, the inspiration is real people, real relationships and real experiences. All of us on Black & Sexy TV write from personal experiences, or are people that we know ourselves. When we cast, we have that same thing in mind. We want someone who can improvise number one. We try and write scripts and memorize all the dialogue, and it’s not always the greatest performance in the end. It’s very hard to be fast and nimble and cheap with so much content, and trying to write scripts and memorizing. So we like to look for actors that are able to improvise; feel like real people that aren’t overacting. They’re just very natural. Even if they have lines that they follow, they have to make them their own.

So, when we casted [in the] early days, [the majority] were from our friends, people that we already knew. We’re already in the industry, we already know actors, we’re already attracted to people that are like-minded so that was an easy way up front. Then we got lucky cause certain people started getting attracted to the material and that’s just what happens. For us, lately, we’ve been using a casting director to help us as we reconfigure.

GMO: You’ve worked with amazing talents such as Issa Rae. What is it like working with her and The Couple star, Numa Perrier?

Dennis: Issa Rae is, well she’s a natural. It’s great because we have a similar desire to make a splash online. She’s definitely inspired us to do what we’re doing. She had Awkward Black Girl and there was this huge explosion and just like everybody else we were like, “Wait a minute. What’s going on?” We weren’t really sure what was going on online; I didn’t even understand YouTube at all early on. Directing episode 7 of the first season [of Awkward Black Girl] was our first collaboration. Then she became a character on The Number and after that we just sort of were like we have a great chemistry we got to keep this going. So, Roomie Lover Friends was kind of next. We’re continuing our relationship and she’s just good people.

As far as Numa, as a disclaimer, she’s actually my girlfriend. So, we have a relationship that we can create and she can act in front of the camera; behind the scenes. That variant is unique because we’re together. We have the unique ability to be able to move faster than most collaborators. And we have similar common grounds.

GMO: Are there any other actors that have a writing or producing role besides Numa?

Dennis: Yes. Her co-star Desmond [Faison] is actually one of our co-producers. He is family of the co-creator, Jeanine Daniels. That’s how we found him. He actually supplies a lot of the equipment. That’s how we’re able to do things very fast and very cheap, cause he’s actually a filmmaker as well as an actor himself.

Jeanine Daniels, as I mentioned, is one of our partners in the company and she’s supplied a lot of things including money and food. Her mom is one of our biggest supporters. I wouldn’t even say supporters; she’s part of the team. But every time something needs to happen, she’s a key part.

And then we have a fourth partner who is Brian Ali-Harding. He was the cinematographer on my film and my short film so we’ve been long time collaborators. As far as all the visuals, it’s his responsibility, so he’s a very integral part of how we are seen.

As far as outside the team, our first series that was created outside of us ... our internal team didn’t create it ... was Hello Cupid. That was brought to us by Ashley Blaine Featherson and Lena Waithe, who are in our circle and have been around. They brought the project to us, we developed it with them and then we produced it in-house and released it on our network.

GMO: You’re clearly a creative and a visionary. What makes your creative juices flow? Is there a certain genre of music or being in a particular atmosphere that helps you foster ideas?

Dennis: Well, music is a large part definitely, definitely inspiring. And even thinking about working with Allegra Dolores, when I heard The Music OK I was like, “I have to have that in my movie.” It definitely inspired some of the images as far as editing and how it flowed. And when I (went) to them for the Roomie Lover Friends theme and for (the) Hello Cupid theme, I knew that they were great collaborators and had ideas of what they would sound like. I think music is very much like editing and writing—it’s much about a rhythm. So since I have a pretend background in music, or a background in music that I wanted to have that I never had, I’m living it through these creations. They do feel very much like musical compositions to me. So, I think yes, what inspires me is music. It’s also how I get into my groove, it’s really thinking about imitating real life. I want you to watch it and feel like, wow, that felt kind of real right there, that was something that I experienced or felt like someone I know, or like a feeling I’ve had or a moment that felt authentic.

GMO: As a black filmmaker who promotes black productions, how important is the African American influence in film?

Dennis: It’s completely important because we’re underrepresented. For me, it’s not a mission it’s just an interest. What I want to do is what I know. It’s not even about being black. Because we know that every time we see a black person in any production whether it’s white, black, whateverHollywood, independentwe have a very strong presence. We have a lot of heavy sexuality without even trying. Everybody looks at us for any cultural relevance in anything, anything that’s trending. We are very influential in this country and around the world even if we’re marginalized. So, my desire and my excitement is all that energy of knowing I just think black people are the sh*t. That’s just it. That’s how I operate and that’s just where my interest is at this time in my life. That’s why we’re called Black & Sexy. There’s a huge market, a niche, that is not being served well, so why not?

GMO: What do you do when you're not directing?

Dennis: That’s hardly ever happening these days. I do have three kids, so that’s a large part of my off time and they are incorporated into everything that I create because they’re all creative kids. Off time? Yea, Ive been pressured to do more things, so I can't really say that I haven’t done anything in like two years other than writing, directing, editing and social media. The question is what would I do if I could [have time off]? I don’t know. I enjoy it so much that this is what I wake up thinking about.

GMO: With Hello Cupid being the newest web series on Black & Sexy TV, are there others in the works? What's next for Dennis Dortch and Black & Sexy TV?

Dennis: There’s always something in the works because we’re running a network and not (just) web series at this point. There’s some new content I can’t talk about right this second. We’re looking at a different direction. We’re looking at doing things that are more lifestyle oriented now and how we can expand our brand.


Dennis told GMO that The Couple movie is coming this summer. Black & Sexy TV is also planning to bring you premium long-form content digitally.

You can keep up with the network by visiting and subscribing to its YouTube channel. There are new episodes every Sunday at 4 p.m. PST. Every Wednesday Black & Sexy TV live streams and chats with viewers.


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Dana Weems

Dana Weems

Dana Weems is a contributing writer and a fashion/beauty columnist for GMO. A Chicago native, Dana earned a MA in journalism from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in broadcasting with an emphasis in broadcast news from Grand Valley State University. She’s interned and worked at WLS-TV; ABC 7 Chicago’s entertainment show Windy City LIVE. Still freelancing, Dana has written for news sites, public affairs-based publications, fashion websites and other organizations.

She can be contacted at and