Why Sister, Sister Mattered

In coming of age narratives, Tia and Tamera were special because they touched everyone at some point in time.  Whether you were an original fan when Sister, Sister had crossover appeal on ABC or were converted after it found its footing on the WB network, it is likely that the duo graced your screen at some point in time.  Tia and Tamera were important because in many ways they humanized growing up in America as a Black girl.  The show was centered around the pair growing up in an unconventionally blended household featuring the mishaps of being a teenager.  The show had cameos from budding stars like Kobe Bryant, Brittany Murphy, and Brian McKnight and ran for 6 seasons, causing many of us to watch them blossom from early high school to their college years.  From 1994-1999, here are some of the most significant elements of Sister, Sister.

Early Discussions of Hair Politics

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One of the coolest things about Tia and Tamera was that the screen imitated their real lives.  We grew up with them, and we definitely would not have let them live down their hair transition without any on screen explanation.  Getting a relaxer served as a rite of passage in every young Black girl's life in the 90s and early 2000s.  Tia and Tamera flaunted their girlish natural style during their early years and when Tamera decided to ditch her sister for a more mature blowout, she gained instantly popularity in school.  This hair change led to a complete rebranding of the show, giving the girls more seasoned opening credits and a sultry remix to their intro song.

Constant Examples of Different Paths to Success

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While Tia was always a straight A student, Tamera loathed school and instead found her interests in high school crushes and Coolio.   In an episode centered around Tia's college acceptance, Tia opens an acceptance letter of Tamera's to everyone's surprise, as no one knew she had been applying to colleges.  Ray Campbell and Lisa Landry also had two different approaches to entrepreneurship.  Ray was a college grad and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. who found success in the limousine industry.  Lisa was forced to drop out of design school because she was unable to afford tuition fees.  She sold Fashions by Lisa out of Ray's house before designing for names like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and the tall one from Boyz II Men's mom.  She was able to use her earnings to put Tia through college, a promise she made to herself when she first adopted her.

Taught Us the Importance of Fiscal Responsibility 

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Sitcoms flourished in the '90s because they were more relevant and relatable to our everyday lives.  Ray, the business savvy entrepreneur instilled in Tia and Tamera the art of good decision making.  In the episode Mo' Credit Mo' Problems, Ray gets Tamera a credit card and encourages her to only use it in case of emergency.  Tamera, being the clueless and fiscally ignorant teen that most of us were, quickly reaches her credit limit while shopping in the mall.  When Tamera's car breaks down in a sketch neighborhood, she is unable to get her car fixed on her own and has to call the parents for assistance.  Talk about not knowing fat-means-greasy.  I thought back to this episode and Ray's look of disdain after getting my first credit card in college.

 

Being "In-Between" as a Black Girl

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As Told by Ginger depicted the life of Ginger Foutley, a girl who's not the most popular girl in her junior high school but not necessarily uncool either.  Before Ginger, there was Tia and Tamera giving voice to this narrative.  They were quirky, clumsy, and as relatable as sitcoms come.  The girls, of course, had their arch nemesis (Rhonda Coley played by the never-aging Bianca Lawson) halting their shot at popularity.  However, they had a taste of the good life through episodes like becoming cheerleaders and Tamera singing "I'm Goin' Down" in the school talent show.

They Got Sisterhood Right  

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Assuming portraying sisters onscreen came naturally to the duo, the writing perfectly captured the lows of sisterhood as well as the highs.  They got into heated debates similar to the rifts with our siblings, based merely on creating your own identity and someone overusing your shampoo.  They even moved into separate bedrooms, causing them to realize they miss each other more than they grew apart.  The love they shared with each other was also extended to friends, like their bestie Diavian who wound up in college with them and later became Tia's soror.

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