Two-time Emmy-nominated TV producer Mandi Price, of Spokane, reflects on identity

By April Eberhardt The Black Lens

Identity. Womanhood. Representation. Art. These are the themes that arose from a candid conversation with a hometown “shero,” Spokane native Amanda Kay Price, who most call Mandi. Price is a twice Emmy-nominated producer.

Her credits include: “Boomerang” (BET), “Little Fires Everywhere” (Hulu), “Daisy Jones and the Six” (Amazon Prime), “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” (Paramount+), and the newly released documentary “Becoming King” (Paramount+). She has worked with powerhouses like David Oyelowo, Lena Waithe and Kerry Washington. She transparently shared about her own relationship with identity growing up without much connection to Black culture here in Spokane, and her personal journey in understanding her identity as a Black woman.

Price was adopted and grew up in a white family in Spokane.

“I didn’t know a single Black person, ever; until I went to college (it) was like the first time I’d genuinely interacted with another Black person.”

Price recalls attending Shadle Park High School and seeing only one Black teacher at the time. She saw Black basketball players at Gonzaga, but it was when she attended college at Southern Virginia University that she first had real connections with other Black people; it just wasn’t the norm for her in Spokane. On her first day of college, she recalls being enthusiastically greeted by other Blacks on campus. She laughs at the surprise she felt in that moment, as she looked around and asked, “Are you talking to me?” She was not privy to the cultural insights that many Blacks relate to.

With the nuances that skin complexion and hair type add to the equation of Blackness, there is just a lot to unravel when it comes to understanding the nuances of Black identity, including assimilation, stereotypes, and colorism that have caused controversy for centuries.

“Everyone has to define what Blackness means to them. Or maybe we shouldn’t define it at all,” she said.

The shared collective history is ours, yes. There are certain cultural markers that anchor us as a people. But there are nuances. There are different paths that Black peoples’ lives take.

“Often what we forget about … to me a big part of being Black is community,” Price said. “Because we rely on our community.”

When the world watched the murder of George Floyd, Price recalls the reckoning of race that she could no longer ignore. Though her limited exposure to Black culture made it hard for her to relate to some things, watching the scene of a knee on the neck of Floyd smother the life from his body unfold on national television triggered something in her. It was a question on the value of humanity. She talks about this being the moment that she owned the reality of her identity. While she related more to the experiences of growing up in a predominantly white world, there were also her experiences of being pulled over and profiled.

Price recalls the disbelief that some in her life had when she shared these encounters with responses like, “but Mandi you’re not Black … you’re just really tan.” Her response? “You might see me as that, but someone else very much identifies me in … the otherness of myself.”

Herein lies the conundrum of understanding oneself through the complexity of identity in America, where questions like “where exactly do I fit?” or “how do others actually see me?” emerge. And this was the impetus for Price deciding to own her place between two races; between two different lived experiences.

“That is what made me decide that, no, I need to own this,” she said. “If I can bridge the gap, then I feel like that’s what my role is.”

In Hollywood, she is aware of how identity can provide both access and denial. Being a woman can equate to being sought after less, she reflects. As a woman of color, there are times when she is sought after even less. She knows that there are some projects she has gotten because she is Black and there are some that she has gotten because she is a woman. More often than not, Price sees her womanhood as the first barrier in the industry.

When asked what strong womanhood looks like, she stated these traits: perseverance, endurance, humility, and fierceness.

“Like this idea that … you can walk into a room, and you are not just there to be someone to look at. You know that your purpose is exact. To me that is so important,” Price said. “When I look at the women in my life, they have all those qualities.” At the intersection of race and gender live undeniable realities that impact a person’s personal and professional journey. Lest we forget, skill and talent preceded each of those markers, and those are the traits that got Price through the door to begin with, despite the convolution of identity.

As Price is evolving into understanding her own identity more, she realizes that the media has a major influence on how people relate to each other. This is directly in her lane as a producer. It is here that she also sees a duty to tell stories that provide insight into identity, culture, and personhood. Representation matters.

“I love that I get to celebrate, especially in the arts and … that I get to celebrate all sorts of Blackness,” she said.

Her work is the window through which the world can see and understand what they don’t know, what they have never learned, and what they may have never even considered.

“We need to do better, and I think we need to be exposed to more,” Price said. “I am just as excited about getting into these deep dives. The great thing about my job is that I get to focus my time and energy on whatever project I am doing.”

Each project affirms for Price that she can reach into unchartered territory to tell new stories about people the world does not know. And she welcomes that. Equally as important is making sure that she holds the door open for others like her to enter through so the work continues to elevate.

“I may be the first…but I won’t be the last,” Price said.

This is where Price sees herself as both a student and a bridge to bring new learning to life.

“If someone can look at me and say, like, ‘Well, she did it. I can too’ then I’ve done it. Like, I did the thing.”

When asked what she would tell a young woman on her journey, Price replied: “Your dreams are not big enough. Dream bigger. There will be a lot of tears … You will have to fight your way through it, but I promise you, the other side is so worth it … and it’s not instant. There’s no such thing as overnight success. Give yourself 10 years and then ask for help. It’s OK to ask for help.”

This is the sound of community.