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Golden Brooks sheds light on breast cancer in ‘A Long Look in the Mirror’

Golden Brooks stars in “A Long Look in the Mirror,” a new short film that shines a light on breast cancer.

“Sadly, [breast cancer] is a condition that really hits African-American women,” says Brooks (“Girlfriends,” “Blunt Talk”).

“A Long Look in the Mirror” is part of BET Her’s initiative called “The Waiting Room,” which promotes Breast Cancer Awareness. Written by Deshawn Plair & Sade Oyinade — and directed by veteran actress Vanessa Bell Calloway — it takes a look at a broken relationship between Cynthia (Brooks) and her daughter, Tianna (Trinity Hawkins) that’s tested after Cynthia receives a cancer diagnosis and struggles to cope with the disease and with Tianna. Victoria Rowell co-stars as Dr. Williams.

“It’s a scary moment when you hear the diagnosis that you have breast cancer,” says Brooks. “What’s important when something like that happens is that it becomes part of your story. Early detection is everything. As women, we just have to really be on it — so it’s good to get those Pap smears and mammograms.”

Brooks, best-known to viewers for playing Maya Wilkes on “Girlfriend” for eight seasons, says she felt “really female-empowered” during shooting, since “A Long Look in the Mirror” featured a predominantly female production team. “I love the fact that BET Her pays attention to the female side of the story,” she says. “There’s a female producer and director Vanessa Bell Calloway. It felt great to be a part of this machine that was running on all this estrogen.”

Golden Brooks and Victoria Rowell
Golden Brooks and Victoria RowellSteller Life Photography

There’s a scene in the movie where Cynthia removes her wig after undergoing chemotherapy — and that, says Brooks, took a real emotional toll on her.

“Hair is our crown. It’s our call to fame, our morning glory,” she says. “It’s not the be-all and end-all, but I think what’s so interesting is that [Cynthia] is very youth-obsessed. She has a very young boyfriend and looks are everything to her — and then it all comes full circle.

“When all is said and done she has to take her wig off and look in the mirror and see this is really who she is,” Brooks says, “and that’s a hard thing for her to do … and she gets angry.

“But that moment is real,” she says. “[Her wig] is just a vanity aspect of us as women, especially as black women, and to take that journey was definitely eye-opening for me. I think it exposes us, and it’s important for our community to see us as actresses strip down to that role — the make-up, lashes, the hair, the outfit, the nails …it’s really shedding light on breast cancer but, at the same time, freeing us to say ‘I can take roles where I can be the person who’s not completely put-together.’”

Golden Brooks and Victoria Rowell
Golden Brooks and Victoria RowellSteller Life Photography

And, Brooks says, the movie has made her view life differently, particularly when it comes to her 11-year-old daughter.

I look at [the movie] as a coming-of-age story about a mother and a daughter,” she says. “It goes into so many
different chapters from birth to toddler to preteen to adult and all of that. God forbid that something should happen to me or vice versa.

“My daughter and I are so close and mothers are expected to be superheroes,” she says. “I feel like that with my own mom. It doesn’t matter what color, race, culture or gender your mom is — she wears the cape.”

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