'Token' recounts black actress' upbringing in 'white' Naperville
Born and raised in Naperville, Kaye Winks says she's had plenty of experience being the "token black person."
"It was very white," she says of the demographics. "As a little kid, I didn't realize what an anomaly I was. It wasn't weird. Then middle school hit, and some friends and parents started acting differently, and it was like, 'Oh wait, I'm black, I'm not like anyone else.' I've had some interesting experiences, some negative, but I'm no longer blind anymore. I see the world differently."
Today, Winks is an actress and writer whose solo show, "Token," runs through June 9 at The Second City Training Center's Judy's Beat Lounge. The hourlong show explores race in a humorous and ironic way.
Winks, who now lives in Chicago, says she had a lot of cousins and family who grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She often felt isolated because their backgrounds were so different.
"I'd be around other black people, and I felt uncomfortable. I was like the 'white' black girl, and I got made fun of a lot by black kids. I felt very isolated. I had a hard time making friends."
In "Token," Winks shares her funny and often cringe-worthy adventures of being a solo black person, offering an ironic look through portrayals of 30 characters, including family, friends and strangers. She hopes to challenge the way people think about race, assumptions they may make and how uncomfortable the topic can be to discuss.
"'Token' is unapologetically un-PC, but it's fair in its political incorrectness because I pick on everyone equally," says Winks. "The show actually brings people together by 'telling it like it is.'"
For example, she shares a story of going to the clubs with her white girlfriends. If they were being hit on by guys, she was the one they turned to to help make the men stop, "like it was my job as the aggressive woman to get him to go away."
"I was the protector of the white girls," she says. "So I'd put on my 'black voice,' tell them to leave my friend alone, and my friends would say: 'I love when the real you comes out.'"
Winks would share stories like these with friends. Then, one day, a comedy mentor encouraged her to turn her material into a show. Winks wrote her first draft in 2012, but shelved the project before returning to it this past January.
Winks did improv training at Second City Chicago and has been featured in national commercial and print campaigns for Honda, Sony and Hot Pockets, among others. "Token" is her first show at Second City.
"I want people to laugh at the absurdity of this concept of race as far as how people are meant to behave or think," she says. "I just feel people are very uncomfortable talking about race. If we make the topic more lighthearted and we're more honest with each other and share more, then people might lighten up about it."
"Token"When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays; through June 9
Where: Judy's Beat Lounge at the Second City Training Center, 230 W. North Ave., 2nd Floor, Chicago, (312) 337-3992, secondcity.com