Getting 'Hot & Bothered': Interview With Creator Leah Byrd On Her Web Series About A QTPOC Dating App That Transforms The Midwest

By Sierra Blumenthal

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Leah Byrd’s web series Hot & Bothered guides us through the trials and tribulations of queer dating in a small Midwestern city through the eyes of Liz, a black lesbian in her 20s struggling to find love in a hopeless place. Regardless if Rihanna and Calvin Harris were singing about Dayton, Ohio, where Hot & Bothered is set and shot, viewers are given a true-to-form glimpse of the dysfunctional and often uncomfortable ongoings of the queer dating scene. H&B offers poignant racial commentary as well as a nuanced and humorous look at the difficulties QTPOC experience in their pursuit of romantic relationships-- complete with the cringe-worthy interactions and awkward misunderstandings that ensue from “traditional” dating strategies. Byrd stars as our down-to-earth hero Liz, who acknowledges that there isn’t a dating app that caters specifically to QTPOC. She then creates and launches the app SCZR, the “lesbian Grindr”, and soon finds that it has opened the (closet) door for an entire community that had previously been excluded. Hot & Bothered matches the authenticity and slapstick humor of Broad City with Byrd’s knack for capturing just what it means to be young, queer, and out of sync with your hometown.

Hot & Bothered was a finalist for the Sundance New Voices Lab in 2016, was nominated for best youth film at the BlackStar Film Festival in 2017, has opened for the Emmy nominated web series Brown Girls at Citizen Jane Film Festival in 2017, and was a recipient of the Cee Smith Media Group grant for LGBT Entrepreneurs. Here, Leah Byrd speaks for herself and her work--highlighting the successes and challenges she has experienced as a rising force in the film industry.

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Leah Byrd is the writer, director, and star of Hot & Bothered. She was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. She grew up spending 13 years in Catholic school in a small Midwestern city leaving very little room for queer spaces within her childhood. Discovering all of the queer content available online was a real game changer on her path towards self acceptance. This has driven a strong passion within Leah to create diverse characters within her own media. She knows first hand what representation can do to one's mental health and the incredible power that media can have on opening minds. Leah Byrd has a BFA in Motion Picture Production from Wright State University. [Bio taken from Byrd’s website]