Belinda, Natasha Rothwell’s Hilarious Wellness Practitioner, Stands Out in HBO’s ‘The White Lotus’ – Black Girl Nerds
For thousands of years, cultures in East and South Asia have regarded the white lotus as a symbol of purity and transformation, as this beautiful flower grows from dirty water. Not only is Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and enlightenment amid ignorance, seated on a white lotus, but she is often depicted holding the flower in her hands, embracing the perceived purity of a flower that grows best in manure. HBO’s limited series The white lotus is a mystery murder on a group of wealthy whites vacationing at a luxury resort in Hawaii and the multiracial hotel staff who care for them. In fact, the series is also a clever commentary on the American caste system.
From the moment guests meet the staff in Episode 1, audiences are drawn into the power struggle between the rich and the working class. Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) gets off the arrival boat complaining. She moans that she desperately needs an immediate massage. Spa manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) gently informs Tanya that all appointments are made, but Tanya is rich and the rich don’t take no for an answer, especially when it comes to taking care of yourself. Belinda makes room for Tanya, scheduling her for a sacred cranial massage treatment for Belinda to administer. Tanya is blown away after the massage and is immediately infatuated with Belinda’s talent. Tanya pays Belinda money for a tip, schedules more massages, insists that Belinda have dinner with her, then later offers to be her angel investor.
Belinda is the exhausted working class. In episode 2, we immediately see how the concern for others weighs down his soul with a simple exit, in slow motion, of an elevator. Belinda’s talents are not fully realized as a spa manager, so when Tanya believes in Belinda’s talent, Belinda allows herself the opportunity to actually be able to secure the financial investment to create her own vision for her. ‘a wellness center and earn a living doing what she loves, with autonomy. What black woman doesn’t want this level of freedom?
Tanya is the worst kind of rich parasite. Yes, she’s going through the real trauma of grieving the death of her violent mother, and Tanya is bossy, still in crisis and shameless, taking all the oxygen in the room with her stories. Belinda’s empathetic nature allows Tanya to dominate Belinda’s precious time. But Belinda honestly believes that Tanya will be her way out of the working class, so she keeps saying yes when she really means no, hoping this white woman will recognize her worth.
As Belinda, Natasha Rothwell’s performance is flawless. Any black woman who works in the wellness industry can relate to Belinda’s desire to leave the corporate and industry wellness machine that The white lotus represented. In The cupin the August 2020 article, “Wellness Does Not Belong to White Women,” several black women who work in all facets of the wellness industry, from yoga teachers to inclusive educators diversity, share experiences of being undervalued, overworked and abused. In the article, internationally renowned yoga teacher Sara Clark notes, “I mainly taught in white spaces. My intention has always been to treat everyone equally in my classes, in my retreats and in my workshops. Those who practice with me have always been kind and caring in return. However, the companies and companies that I have contracted with have been incredibly damaging. They used me as a product even after claiming that they brought me in as someone whose work they admired. I had to fight for the same essentials that my white counterparts have access to. For example, a colleague confirmed that a teacher on the same platform that I was able to buy a house with the money [they] won. My salary was nowhere near enough to buy a property, let alone rent a decent apartment in New York. Fed up with the white-dominated corporate wellness industry, Sara Clark moved to Granada and started her online yoga practice just at the start of the pandemic, and her business is booming.
The tragedy of Belinda’s situation is that she depends on Tanya’s money to mend her life in an industry focused on a form of unspoken “purity” that centers on whiteness. Once the seed of angel investing is planted in Belinda’s mind, she laser-focuses on Tanya’s money being the only way out.
Belinda’s faith in Tanya as a financial “white savior” gives her the heart to be utterly broken by the classic liberal white woman who makes promises she really doesn’t want to keep. Through the little-known prism of the class, The white lotus writer / director Mike White (HBO’s Enlightened) actually wrote a series on the impact of white domination, toxic capitalism and colonization, using the luxury service industry as the ideal setting. Rothwell beautifully embodies Belinda’s complexity, giving us flawless comedic timing with elegant undertones. As Tanya, Jennifer Coolidge is on hand. It’s maddening to see Belinda getting small because she thinks she needs Tanya’s money, given that we instantly love Belinda. She just radiates unconditional love and is a really good person. How much of herself will Belinda have to give up to make her dream come true? Will Belinda be the person who finally cracks? We can’t wait to find out.
The season finale of The white lotus, directed by Mike White, premiering on HBO on Sunday, August 15 at 9 p.m. EST. The entire series is available to stream on HBO Max. The white lotus was picked up by HBO for a second season.