Las Vegas looked different in the 90s when Numa Perrier started working as a 19-year-old Internet fetish cam girl. She lived inside a small studio apartment with her family at the time. Her sister, who worked as a phone sex worker to make ends meet, mentored Perrier while they grieved their mother’s death.
Their sisterhood remained strong despite their circumstance. She showed their bond in her directional film debut in “Jezebel.” The movie is the latest project from the director. Her early accomplishments include co-founding the digital platform Black&Sexy TV and writing and starring in the web series titled ‘Couple.’
‘Jezebel’ premiered on Netflix on Thursday Jan. 16th. The film unravels the connection between sisterhood and survival.
“That is the heart of the story. It’s a love story between sisters. It may be an unusual one but its two sisters trying to figure how to care for one another the best way they can while trying to process grief,” said Perrier at the ARRAY Creative Campus in Echo Park.
“I started with the script. I tried digging into my memories and let myself build emotions. I then put those emotions on the page.”
The film first premiered at the SXSW conference with raving reviews and picked up Best Feature Film and Best Director at the American Black Film Festival. Hollywood Reporter included it in their 2019 Critics Choice List. The independent film took ten days to shoot. The limited time only amplified her team, which was led by Black women.
“For me, it was absolutely vital to have Black women on my team,” Perrier stated when asked about her creative process.
“I knew I needed my Black women because there is nothing like when we come together to get a job done. I wanted a Black woman to edit because the story involves the gaze of a Black woman.”
Audiences are thrown into that perspective with Tiffany Tenille as the lead actress. She carries an authentic portrayal of a young Perrier finding her purpose yet taking ownership of her womanhood. The movie marks her first appearance in a feature film.
“My first step was having a meeting with Numa to explore how to take on the role. I sat down with Numa and interviewed her. After that, I really wanted to get into her psyche. I made sure not to be an expert though. I wanted to go through her awakening during the filming process,” said Tenille.
It has been decades since Perrier returned to the same apartments where she lived during that time. The city still gives her memories.
“I try to avoid Las Vegas. I do have PTSD from it. I was in town for an event last year and decided to go by those apartments. Was it that bad? I asked myself that. I don’t remember feeling like it was that bad or maybe it felt so normal that I just didn’t know,” Perrier told the audience.
The movie was distributed by ARRAY. It is currently on Netflix.