May 3rd, 2018, 01:28 PM

Of Curves and Cursive: A Moment of Defiance

By Fernanda Sapiña Pérez
Image Credit: Unsplash/Alexander Krivitskiy
Nicolle Rochelle: actress, feminist and activist.

On the 29 April 2018, Bill Cosby faced the long-awaited conviction he was most fearful of: guilty. After sexually assaulting over 60 women throughout his years as an American TV staple, Cosby now faces jail time over his actions. Nicolle Rochelle, an ex-actress of the Cosby show and the protestor that made headlines outside his sexual assault trial tells her story and perspective of working with Cosby, facing up to adversity and defying stereotypes.

Image Credit: Nicole Rochelle

“They will never believe it if he doesn’t admit it,” she began, when talking about the ongoing trial. “We can’t think objectively about these issues since race is so present,” she said. Rochelle explored the difficulty of the situation and the adversity that she faced for her protest since there is this “racial line” that inhibits people from seeing clearly. She also touched upon past predators such as Nassar and Weinstein and asked, “Why didn’t you protest the white men?” Rochelle also received a lot of backlash from the black community, saying, “I’ve been called a disgrace to black people and women. I’m the traitor, I’m the disgrace, but they won’t take Cosby off his pedestal.” But Rochelle has a different perspective towards the issue, saying, “Bill Cosby abused women of all races, so race doesn’t have anything to do with it. None of what I was doing was about race.”

“I lent my body to the cause since the women who faced assault cannot.”

When asked about the backlash on her protest, “I got a whiff from the hate,” she said. But her cause remains noble, as she explains the reasons why she protested in the way that she did, “I lend my body to the cause since women that have faced assault cannot.” Rochelle is an explicit critic of Cosby due to his actions, “There is this betrayal of black people; he ruined his own legacy.” Rochelle faced extreme scrutiny as she attempted to give a voice to the voiceless, “They’re calling [the victims and her] crisis actors. I’ve been an actress since I was eight years old. Why would I want more attention? Because apparently, my career is dead.”

“It is about changing the passive body into an aggressive one.”

Rochelle is part of the feminist group, FEMEN, which started in Ukraine and focuses on the empowerment of women. “We’re protesting white men and we are considered an extremist group,” she laughed. They focus on making passive bodies aggressive with writing and actions and protesting topless in order to make abusers or sexual predators uncomfortable just like they made their victims feel. “FEMEN’s job is to represent women peacefully. It is about changing the passive body into an aggressive one.” It was surprising to hear Rochelle’s own personal experience with Cosby, and how her perspective of him has changed, “As an actress on the show, I say "Wow. I would’ve trusted him. He was this kind of father figure.” Reflecting upon this “father figure” idea that she had of Cosby, she also spoke about the meaning of the “Bill Cosby Show” for the black community, saying, “a part of people is dying through this; the blinders are on.”

Image Credit: Nicole Rochelle

Cosby has been convicted, but it has been a long time coming. People defended Cosby by saying “jurors are tainted by the #MeToo movement,” said Rochelle. But women have been coming out against Cosby for years now; 62 women have come spoken up but hadn’t been heard, until now. “Women did speak out,” says Rochelle. “They did come forward; they did try and they were laughed out of the station, told by their agents to shut up.” Cosby even went as far as to threaten them. But as the trial comes to a close, these women are being heard and action is being taken, “He doesn’t get to be comfortable.” said Rochelle.

Image Credit: Nicole Rochelle

“I always wanted to be an activist,” said Rochelle. “Instead of a think tank, I want to be in an action tank.” She highlights the issues of today’s society, such as the Cosby trial and demands a call to action. “Where are we changing the world?” she asks. Through FEMEN and becoming an activist, Rochelle wants to keep spreading this call to action and highlight why her protest had the impact that it had, “If I weren’t naked, we wouldn’t have been talking about this.” Rochelle will keep up the fight for women’s rights, African-American rights, and overall human rights. “Thank you for sacrificing your body,” supporters say in gratitude to her. For now, Rochelle is thankful for the support she’s been getting from the people around her and will continue using her voice to speak up and defy the status quo.

Special thanks to Nicole Rochelle and Ashlee Pitts.