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Whitney Peak is one of two Black leads in HBO’s upcoming reboot of the iconic “Gossip Girl” series.
The original teen drama series was based on the novel series of the same name written by Cecily von Ziegesar and aired on The CW network for six seasons from 2007 to 2012.
Peak plays Zola, likened most to the preppy mean queen, Blair Waldorf in the original series.
She explains to The Hollywood Reporter how the new series differs from its beloved predecessor.
“It manages to reflect today’s society without bashing the old show. What I really like about it is we have two people of color as the leads. And like, I was pretty adamant about Zoya sleeping in a headscarf. She has curly hair and that’s just what I do, so I thought, “She’s not going to just wake up with perfectly put-together hair, that’s ridiculous.” I was really nervous about putting it out there, but it was received so well,” she said.
The reboot a decade after the ending of the original series. Deadline reports that the omniscient “Gossip Girl” narrator (Kristen Bell) is back — but instead of a blog, she uses an Instagram account to expose the secrets of privileged upper-class teens in Manhattan.
Despite the original series being hugely popular, the only Black recurring role was Vanessa Abrams, portrayed by Jessica Szohr, who according to her Wikipedia page is a quarter Black. The series was based in New York but painfully lacking in representation.
The reboot is hoping to change all of that.
“[The original] Gossip Girl was how life was seen then. And this version is very much true to this time,” Peak told Elle. “I’m excited for the show to air, and to see what this next chapter in my life is going to look like.”
Peak to a Ugandan mother, a hairdresser, and a Canadian father, a helicopter pilot and engineer. She is the youngest of four siblings. According to her Vogue interview, Peak’s family spent time between Canada and Dubai. She swam competitively and was even coached by a former Sudanese Olympian.
Peak was recently named a brand ambassador for Chanel. “There’s such a maturity and sophistication about Chanel, but I have fun with the idea of making it look street style,” she told The Times. “That’s so sick.”
Critics have delivered mixed reviews for the series, but with the show no longer centering solely on the white elite, a little resistance is inevitable.
“Gossip Girl” premieres this Thursday on HBO Max.