‘We Are Lady Parts’ Is Back When We Need It Most

The first series of We Are Lady Parts was, in my view, a perfect season of television. It felt like the show’s creator Nida Manzoor had caught lightning in a bottle. In the span of six 30-minute episodes, Lady Parts offered complex renderings of five black and brown Muslim women — one of television’s most underrepresented constituencies — with jokes that land and a soundtrack that (still) slaps. The show garnered universal acclaim, won a handful of awards, and finished atop most critics’ list of the Best TV of 2021.

Almost immediately after finishing the first season, I found myself clamoring for a second one. I wanted more time with Amina, Saira, Bisma, Ayesha, and Momtaz. I wanted to see more of the world through their eyes. I wanted more raucous punk anthems to soundtrack my days. That said, I was skeptical that we’d ever see a second season. Despite the show’s early renewal, Manzoor didn’t seem pressed to do a second series solely for the sake of doing a second series…the moment had to be right and she had to have something worth saying. Besides, it’s hard enough to catch lightning in a bottle; it’s damn near impossible to do it twice.

And yet, somehow, We Are Lady Parts‘ second series, which debuts today on Channel 4 (UK) and Peacock (US), manages to do just that.

We Are Lady Parts season two: Dressed in all black suits with white shirts (and wearing black sunglasses), the members of Lady Parts make their way to a gig at a wedding.

We rejoin Lady Parts fresh off their first national tour. The band has real fans — “a following of not insignificant proportions,” Amina notes — and imitators like a new all-femme Muslim band called Second Wife that plays covers of Lady Parts’ classics. Everyone grapples with this new reality in their own way. For Amina Hussain (Anjana Vasan), success with Lady Parts, coupled with finishing her PhD in microbiology, has her walking with some swagger. She’s officially stepped into her villain era. Of course, she’s not actually being villainous: Her particular brand of villainy is just what happens when a woman — and, in particular, a woman of color — sets her boundaries and refuses to violate them.

For Bisma (Faith Omole), Lady Parts’ success leaves her feeling boxed in, unable to showcase the fullness of her existence. She’s the maternal one — a role reinforced by her actual teenage kid at home — and she longs to be seen as more. Ayesha (Juliette Motamed) faces, perhaps, the opposite challenge: Being behind the Lady Parts’ drum kit affords her the freedom to be exactly who she is but is she ready for all that freedom?

For Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), Lady Parts has always been about being heard more than chasing fame. She returns from the tour with a singular focus on getting the band heard by even more people. It’s time for Lady Parts to record their first album. The onus shifts to the band’s manager, Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), to find the band their next opportunity to perform and a way to pay for studio time.

And, of course, the music still slaps. In addition to some excellent covers, Lady Parts also pens three new original songs for their album. First, “Malala Made Me Do It,” an earworm with a country twang whose debut features the actual Malala Yousafzai, in one of the greatest guest appearances in the history of guest appearances. Frustrated by her boss who won’t respect her boundaries, Amina pens her girl power punk anthem, “The Villain Anthem.” But it’s their song “Glass Ceiling Feeling” — a last second addition — that may be the band’s magnum opus. No doubt, these songs will become regular features on your summer playlists.

In its first season, Lady Parts focused its story primarily on Amina and Saira but in its new season the show affords space for all its main characters to have compelling storylines. The characters are richly drawn and given so much complexity. Each of the stories are deeply resonant. For me, Bisma’s story about not being defined by one facet of her identity, to the exclusion of others, struck a chord…though I dare anyone to be unmoved by Omole’s rendition of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Even Noor (Aiysha Hart), Amina’s best friend who shames her for being insufficiently Muslim in the show’s first season, returns and gets some unexpected complexity. I’m astounded by how much depth Manzoor can plumb from these characters in just three hours of screentime.

With a day off from band practice, Ayesha spends her time grocery shopping with her girlfriend, Laura.

That said, it’s hard as a viewer — in particular, as a viewer, who’s used to a TV diet of 22 episodes per season — to not miss what isn’t there. Six thirty minute episodes, with storylines split between five main characters and the band…doesn’t afford the audience the kind of detail to which we’ve grown accustomed. There’s a lot of telling, not showing. For example, this season Ayesha has a new girlfriend, Laura, and things are serious between them…but we know this, not because we get to spend a lot of time with them, but because the narrator — and, eventually, Ayesha herself — tells us so.

At one point, late in the new series, Ayesha and Laura run into a mother and daughter — both Lady Parts fans — at the grocery store. The interaction is charming until the mother questions Ayesha about her relationship with Lucy. It’s a harmless question, posed with no ill-intent, but Ayesha can’t run away from the suggestion that she’s queer fast enough. The public disavowal hurts Laura’s feelings and she gives Ayesha an ultimatum: Come out and acknowledge their relationship or risk losing her. I won’t spoil Ayesha’s decision but, as I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder how much the story would’ve been strengthened if we’d spent more time with Laura or seen Ayesha with her family or in community. Ayesha’s story still resonates but it feels like a missed opportunity.

Ultimately, though, what strikes me as Lady Parts‘ greatest strength — and what, possibly, makes this second season better than the first — is its self-awareness.

In the third episode, Momtaz brings Lady Parts together with Second Wife to squash the tension that’s been building between them. It’s an awkward meeting — a clash between two generations of musicians — and only grows more so when Farah inquires about Saira: “Tell me she’s gay and not just queerbaiting in all that plaid.” She and her bandmate, Ali, proceed to tell a horrified Ayesha that the Internet suspects that she and Saira are dating and that there’s a trove of fanfic about their relationship. The dialogue feels cribbed from so many conversations queer fans have had about Lady Parts‘ first season and incorporating it here felt like a master stroke (though, for the record, the fanfic is mostly about Saira and Amina).

Perhaps the better example of its self-awareness has been in how the show threads the needle on politics. Lady Parts has always been political. A show about five black and brown Muslim women could never not be political, the world doesn’t afford them that privilege. Lady Parts has cloaked its politics in its humor, but how do you do a show about five black and brown Muslim women at a time when Muslim women and children are dying in unprecedented numbers, the victims of a genocide? How do you cloak that in humor?

The show tries to hash it out on-screen after Saira’s music idol, Sister Squire (Meera Syal), dismisses Lady Parts’ music as “funny Muslim songs.” Saira presses the band to be more explicit in their messaging but Bisma and Ayesha worry that the explicit messaging will run afoul of the powers that be. Everything about the way the storyline plays out — including a dose of magical realism that feels reminiscent of Manzoor’s Polite Society — is brilliant, even if there’s ultimately no easy or fully satisfactory answer.

When I pressed play on the second series of We Are Lady Parts, it was hard for me to imagine it being better than the first. But Manzoor somehow manages it. She has continued and expanded the story without missing a beat.


We Are Lady Parts season two is now streaming on Channel 4 and Peacock.

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Natalie

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 406 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. I really didn’t want to binge season 2 in one go but the transition from on episode to the next was pretty much flawless IMO. I was glad to get more time with the ladies outside of the band. Even though we didn’t get enough televised time, what we did get felt powerful as a third party viewer. The generational collide felt authentic not just with Second Wife but also Saira’s idol Sister Squire like they were torn between two world in yet another way. Good stuff.

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