Dentist looks to increase positive images of Black women in the media
By Charles Hallman
Misee Harris in her early teens wanted to be a dentist. Last year she wanted to be network television’s very first Black Bachelorette. “Once I reach one goal, I get another one. I’m never done,” says the first Black woman in 2011 to be accepted into the University of Kentucky Pediatric Dentistry Residency Program.
Dr. Misee [pronounced ‘Me-see’] Harris graduated with honors from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2006, and then attended the University of Kentucky Dentistry College and earned a Doctorate of Dental Medicine degree.
Then, why go on a reality romance show?
“When you put all of your time into education, you end up like me — 29 years old” and single, admits Harris in a recent MSR phone interview. “I hate to say that a lot of Black men are sometimes intimidated by [successful] Black women. I’ve been open to interracial dating.”
Last year, she tried out for ABC’s The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, which during its 10-plus year run has had no bachelor or bachelorette of color on the show. Even as she went after a final spot, Harris recalls that if she had made it, the Tennessee-based pediatric dentist wondered if she essentially would be “a token” among the eligible candidates.
“Is this just for myself, or for minorities in the media? Is this a platform to do something meaningful?” wondered Harris, who has also used social media to push her campaign forward.
Although she didn’t make the final cut, the dentist nonetheless got noticed, being interviewed by such national outlets as HLN [formerly CNN Headline News]. Time Magazine and HuffPost Live both “championed her cause,” and Harris later wrote a blog for CNN.
Therefore while one door closes, another opens as Harris “is spreading her message” for better representation of Black females in the media, “particularly on television.”
According to the Women’s Media Center’s 2014 “The Status of Women in the U.S. Media” report, only 12 percent of female acting roles “with speaking parts” in 2012-13 primetime shows were Black. Essence Magazine last year found “a glaring lack of authentic, inspirational images” and that there are more negative stereotypes whenever “younger Black women” [ages 18-29] are featured.
“We don’t have anything positive in the media that portrays Black people at all,” reiterated Harris. “We are letting [the] media use the stereotype against us.”
Although she likes watching other reality shows, an admitted guilty pleasure: “Those shows are very entertaining, and I wouldn’t put them down for a minute. All I am saying is that there also needs to be something positive” as well, stated Harris. “We need shows with real Black women.”
As her web site (www.miseeharris.com) proudly displays, there are several hats Harris wears besides being a dentist — she’s also a philanthropist, model, and entertainer. “I feel more comfortable wearing the ‘Positive Black Woman,’ [hat] period.’ I think it is great that I am able to do so many different things.”
She currently is one of three Black women featured on a pilot reality show, On the Rise, which follows them “as they go about their everyday lives and chronicles events that take place on a daily basis. They are all single and have a strong desire to succeed in life… go-getters and work from dawn to midnight,” states the show’s press release.
“There are minorities out there who are well behaved and well educated [and] entertaining,” explains Dr. Harris of her, Fawn Stone, an actress from Los Angeles, and Lakesha Yvette Walker, a Graceville, Fla. screenwriter.
Besides her Columbia, Tennessee dental practice, Harris also gives back to her community through her Project Smile organization by treating children ages 4-18 from low-income and rural families. She also provides dental care to domestic violence victims as well. “I have been able to do complete makeovers on several women,” she points out.
Her Project Prom provides prom dresses for high school seniors throughout the U.S. — over 75 prom dresses were handed out this year. “I did about 25 my first year. I want every girl to be able to enjoy [attending a prom],” said Harris, who is also active in print modeling and works with aspiring models as well.
“I’m only 5-foot-5. You don’t normally see a 5-foot-5 model walking on the runway,” she said proudly. “My face is used more than anything else. I’m also a size two, so that doesn’t go well for urban, either.” However, the dentist’s “extracurricular activities” has prompted some criticism from colleagues, but Harris says, “It doesn’t bother me anymore. Not everybody is going to love you.”
Finally, “Dentistry definitely is one of my professions. But I also enjoy modeling,” says Dr. Harris. “I want to be doing things I enjoy.
“I don’t want to work just to live. I want to be living — I want to be happy. I want to be giving back,” she concludes.
To read more on Dr. Misee Harris’ work in sports dentistry, see the story online in www.spokesman-recorder.com’s sports section.
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