Runtime: 88 minutes
Director: Numa Perrier
By Jenni Holtz
Numa Perrier’s feature debut “Jezebel” (2019) is a deeply personal film that makes viewers feel like they’re a part of the action. Perrier, the writer director, and co-star of the film, based the film on her experiences as a cam girl. The film is an important step in humanizing sex workers, a group of people who are often looked down on and disrespected. At its heart, “Jezebel” is about sisterhood and grief through the lens of two sex workers struggling financially and emotionally.
The film follows Tiffany (Tiffany Tenille), who takes on the persona of Jezebel when she starts working as a cam girl. Tiffany’s career is jump started by her older sister, Sabrina (Numa Perrier), who is a more experienced sex worker. The sisters and two other siblings are living in a small apartment with Sabrina and her boyfriend. When the family’s mother dies, financial troubles bubble over, creating a crisis situation. Tiffany’s initiation into sex work comes out of necessity, but it becomes something she’s very good at. On the job, she faces harassment from her boss, racism from a user in the web chat, and disdain from the other girls, all of whom are white.
Tiffany’s Blackness is her defining feature as a cam girl since she’s the only Black woman where she works. She advocates for herself and fights to be treated properly, but learns that her white boss and coworkers just don’t get it and do not make an effort to understand. This specific experience of being a Black sex worker is rarely seen on-screen, making “Jezebel” as important as it is moving and entertaining. It’s also notable that even when Tiffany is facing sexism and racism from those around her, the film itself is not victimizing her. She is not filmed in an objectifying or fetishizing way, making it clear that the film is not perpetuating the things it is critiquing. Instead, “Jezebel” treats sex work as what it is: work. It’s difficult, tiring, and frustrating like any other job and sadly, racism and sexism make their way into the workplace dominated by white men at the highest levels.
“Jezebel” treats sex work as what it is: work. It’s difficult, tiring, and frustrating like any other job and sadly, racism and sexism make their way into the workplace dominated by white men at the highest levels.
“Jezebel” is a strong feature debut from Numa Perrier, showcasing her passion for storytelling and depicting the deep layers of human emotions experienced by all; including sex workers. Perrier’s film is the result of personal experience and it shows. She is the only person who could accurately share her own story and her vision. The film balances moments of sadness, joy, and roadblocks with grace.
“Jezebel” is streaming on Netflix (US) and screening in select theaters.