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How a 'self-worth journey' put ‘Abbott Elementary’ creator Quinta Brunson on a path for success

US actress and writer Quinta Brunson attends the premiere of "Abbott Elementary" at The Disney Studios - Lot in Burbank, California on December 4, 2021.
Michael Tran | AFP | Getty Images

Quinta Brunson reached a new height of success when her new ABC sitcom, "Abbott Elementary," broke records for the network. But before that, she was a viral internet meme and YouTube personality. 

Speaking to Essence magazine, Brunson, 31, shared that ever since she was a child, she'd always been the performer of her family. "They kind of looked at me for entertainment," she told the publication. "They peddled me around the house and around their friends and had me do little dances and little impersonations."

"Abbott Elementary" became ABC's first comedy debut to quadruple its ratings since its premiere in December 2021. Brunson said she couldn't have made it possible without going on a self-worth journey before entering the workforce. "I really want that for more young Black women. It's a lot of stuff that's thrown at us. And if we kind of do the work to know the ins and outs of who we are, it can provide a protective shield," she told Essence.

Prior to mainstream stardom, Brunson found herself at Temple University, "disgusted" to be studying advertising, she said in a recent interview with Mic. She took a leap of faith by quitting school and working at the Apple store to save up for her move to LA. Shortly after, Brunson's friends urged her to post a funny skit on Instagram in 2014, which turned her into a viral sensation almost overnight. Her charisma and comedy allowed her to get a job at Buzzfeed as a producer and content creator before moving on to work on shows like "A Black Lady Sketch Show" and "Magic Girl Friendship Squad", NBC BLK reports. 

"Abbott Elementary" was born from her love for school as a child and her inspiration for teachers like her mother, Norma Jean, and the show's namesake, Joyce Abbott, who recalls Brunson's savvy as a student. "The year Quinta was in my class, we had news coverage three or four different times. Quinta would get up and speak, and one of the newspapers even noted, 'We entered into the classroom and we were met by the articulate Quinta Brunson,'" she told Essence.

Brunson says she created "Abbott" as a response to how brutal the world can be, as each episode demonstrates the characters working through complex issues, but reaching solutions that make the audience feel good. 

"Life can be dark and horrible, but what makes humans so resilient is their ability to find the light in dark situations," Brunson told Essence. "I think that's the only reason why we're still on this planet. It's certainly the only reason Black people are still here. Our ability to shine the light is really strong. That's really important and I wanted to be a part of providing that."

During an interview on NBC's TODAY, Brunson shared that her favorite reaction to the show is people wanting to share the experience with their families. "Generations getting together to watch the show means a lot to me. That's exactly what I intended. I wanted families to watch the sitcom the way I did with my family growing up," she said to hosts Hoda Kotb and Kelly Rowland.

Brunson added that her previous experiences being behind the scenes played a huge role in her preparedness for her own show.

"I was participating in acting and writing for other shows and I knew that eventually I wanted a sitcom of my own," she shared. "But, all the stuff you do before that leads up to that point. Whether it be building relationships with other creators or networks, I loved everything that I got to do leading up to Abbott and I'm still doing more."

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