Dark-Skinned Black Actresses Still Have A Difficult Time In Hollywood

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  1. gmwilliams profile image83
    gmwilliamsposted 11 years ago

    An article in Madame Noire dated November 15, 2012, Actor Denzel Washington stated during an interview with THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER  that the best advice he give to his aspiring actor daughter, Olivia, was that because she is a dark-skinned Black woman, she had to be a triple/quadruple threat..    Mr. Washington added that she better obtain all the skills necessary because those skills will be highly instrumental in her success.  In other words, she has to work HARDER in order to noticed.    Mr. Washington indicated that he wanted his daughter to be like Viola Davis, not the pretty girl actresses, adding that if she depends upon looks, after 40 she would be out the door.     

    Sadly, dark skinned Black actresses  still have a difficult time obtaining high profile/visibility roles in Hollywood.   They are often relegated to paying less positive roles.   Oftentimes, producers and directors are loathe to cast them in the high profile/visibility roles because it is believed that audiences will not find them credible in such roles.   While light skinned Black actresses are cast in high powered, high proflie, and high visibility, crossover roles, their dark skinned counterparts are cast in urban and/or more stereotypical roles.   It is as if a dark skinned Black actress would not be deemed  "authentic" if she is cast in a postive, high visibility role such as doctor, lawyer while she would be "believably authentic"  if she is cast in roles such as welfare queen and other negative stereotypical roles. 

    In the upcoming movie biography about Nina Simone, Zoe Zaldana, a light skinned Black actress is in the lead role.    The premise that if you are yellow, your are mellow; if you are brown, stick around, and if you are black, get way back still applies to Black actresses in Hollywood.    The top box office Black actresses are for the most part, light skinned- Halle Berry, Beyonce, Vanessa Williams, and Alicia Keyes.   Do you believe that Mr. Washington was correct in educating his daughter regarding the skin color caste system pertaining to Black actresses in Hollywood?

    1. Shadesbreath profile image79
      Shadesbreathposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      I think he was definitely right in educating his daughter that having a deep intellectual approach to the craft of acting is going to be better than relying on physical appearance. The rest of this is feed for the parts of society who still look for ways to talk about all the hate and prejudice that don't really exist in the pure form of yesteryear where this kind of activism really was needed. The sixties are not only over, the ideals of equality won (again). The rest is just time and life having to play out. You can relax. It's fine. Find a new cause, this one is handled, or at least, it's on its way to handled. You can't speed up time, and the old bigots aren't going to die fast enough to make this an instant success. Move on, we won. It's all good.

  2. Mighty Mom profile image79
    Mighty Momposted 11 years ago

    A promising exception.
    I do realize that pointing out "one" is like the Republicans pointing to Herman Cain to prove they're integrated.
    Not exactly a trend.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/ar … ardom.html

  3. Shadesbreath profile image79
    Shadesbreathposted 11 years ago

    I think it's blind to pretend like the problem is some big racist block of black actresses.

    PEOPLE like good stories. Tell good stories. Tell stories that speak to the human condition. Hell, just make stories people want to watch.

    I realize this will probably not be popular to say, but "black America" continues to make "black" movies. Regular America, which has lots of black people in it, makes regular movies.

    Denzel Washington makes AMERICAN movies, and EVERYONE goes to watch them. When Wesley Snipes made the Blade movies... EVERYONE went. They were VAMPIRE movies, not BLACK movies. Nobody watched Catwoman because Halle Berry was black, or because she was pale black, which made it okay somehow. They watched it because it was a Catwoman movie.

    I get so tired of the "America is racist" trope. Yes, there are racists in America. Lots of them are white. Tons of them are also black.

    People like good stories. Tell good stories and nobody gives a crap what color the actors are.

    1. Mighty Mom profile image79
      Mighty Momposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      And some fiiiiiine specimens of blaxploitation they be, too!

      http://www.holytaco.com/25-blaxploitati … e-posters/

      1. Shadesbreath profile image79
        Shadesbreathposted 11 years agoin reply to this

        Black Dynamite was freaking awesome. Not even saying I don't laugh. But I didn't make the movie, nor did I threaten the actors and producers into making it.

        There comes a point where a guilt-obsessed society has to recognize its addiction to self loathing and admit that there really is a difference between humor and hate, even if both words start with an H. Sometimes you have to look beyond the first/easy observations.

        1. innersmiff profile image67
          innersmiffposted 11 years agoin reply to this

          'Dr Black and Mr Hyde'

          Not that it means anything, but my black friend sent this to me. Everybody has to find this funny!

          1. gmwilliams profile image83
            gmwilliamsposted 11 years agoin reply to this

            Aren't we getting off topic and digressing quite a bit,  stick to the topic please!

    2. A Thousand Words profile image67
      A Thousand Wordsposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      It's not that anyone's saying that America is "racist." However, there are a few aspects of society that are based on the fact that lighter skinned Europeans are considered the standard of beauty (or people of that descent). That's not paranoia, it's fact for the majority. It's the reason that many black women find straighter hair more beautiful. It's why companies that sell skin lightening creams earn a fortune, especially from the African American women population (also many other ethnic women of darker complexions). It's the reason why many Asian women(who I personally find to be the most pleasing aesthetically) are actually having surgery on their eyelids to look more western. Etc.

      This truth is still found in the entertainment industry. While to you it's all just about a good story, to others, especially the people still in this mindset that are making the movies, it does still matter. Things are changing and have improved, but that's still how things go in many places, regardless of how aware you are of it.

      1. gmwilliams profile image83
        gmwilliamsposted 11 years agoin reply to this

        +1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  Totally agree with you, A Thousand Words.    Even though the climate has changed somewhat in Hollywood, a Vanessa Williams or Halle Berry type will still be preferred over a Whoopi Goldberg or Alfre Woodard type!

  4. Xenonlit profile image59
    Xenonlitposted 11 years ago

    There is a show, "Scandal" that has a brilliant Black Actress in the lead. She is fantastic and it's on ABC!

    One of the problems is with lighting. The lighting director can only do the white person or the black person. Victoria Rowell, from "Young and the Restless" complained about this. In the film "Mahogany", Diana Ross looked brilliant while Anthony Perkins looked horrible!

    Otherwise, it's just easier for Black producers to do their own thing, with a few breaking into the so-called "mainstream". I heard that Tyler Perry has about $350 million net worth.

  5. kathleenkat profile image86
    kathleenkatposted 11 years ago

    I'm not sure that's really the case anymore. Yeah, there are a lot of white actors/actresses and performers, but that could just be part of the culture. I notice also in every single Disney Channel and ABC Family comedy, there is a black main/supporting character. Maybe they are just trying to be diverse or PC, but it would seem that the industry is trying to turn itself around:

    LuLu in ABC's 'Jane by Design'

    Lauren in ABC's 'Secret Life of the American Teenager'

    Tucker in ABC's 'Baby Daddy'

    Mr. Moseby from Disney's 'Suite Life on Deck'

    Ty from Disney's 'Shake it Up'

    And in Science Fiction:

    Ensign Travis Mayweather from 'Star Trek: Enterprise'

    Sgt. Ronald Greer from 'Stargate: Universe'

    And in Drama:

    Sheldon Hawkes from 'CSI: NY'

    1. Shanna11 profile image77
      Shanna11posted 11 years agoin reply to this

      Seriously, Mr Moseby in that Disney Channel show was the only reason I ever watched it. He was awesome.

      1. kathleenkat profile image86
        kathleenkatposted 11 years agoin reply to this

        I love Mr. Moseby! The show is totally not meant for my demographic, but I'll still watch it smile

  6. tussin profile image59
    tussinposted 11 years ago

    But most of the black women in those photos above are light or medium skinned, not dark, so you're kind of proving gmwilliams' point that the lighter females are favored for roles.  The actress who plays Michonne in The Walking Dead is a dark skinned actress


    1. A Thousand Words profile image67
      A Thousand Wordsposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      Good point. Actors with complexions like hers, Viola Davis, Don CHeadle etc, you don't see many of them doing such key roles outside of "black movies" although they do sometimes still have to play somewhat of a stereotypical black role. I enjoyed "Reign Over Me" very much because I thought it was glorious that Don Cheadle was not only a man with a good career, but who also had enough character not to cheat on his wife with a woman who was basically throwing herself between his legs. Often black men are shown as having little self-control. That was a great movie, now I'm in the mood to watch it.

  7. janshares profile image95
    jansharesposted 11 years ago

    There is truth in what Denzel Washington said, there is truth in your position, and in the replies of A Thousand Words and Xenonlit. There are only so many movies roles and good stories to go around for everybody, and even less for the black actress. The black actress may not fit culturally in most of those "good stories" that Hollywood produces most often, regardless of how great an actress she is. As Xenonlit points out, it really is about production and money. Unfortunately, that translates into darker-skinned actresses being last choice for so few roles which translates into the feeling of being marginalized. The intent may not have been about racism at all but the end result feels that way for some. We would be naive to believe that in 2012 there aren't any racist intents still left in some Hollywood studio lots. In the 1940s, Lena Horne (who is as light as they come) was forced to put on make-up that made her skin match the tones of those around her. It made lighting and production easier. For more on this truth, google and read the chapter on Blacks in the Film Industry in "The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans, 1992, by Kathy Russell, Midge Wilson, and Ronald E. Hall. It's quite an eye-opener.

    1. gmwilliams profile image83
      gmwilliamsposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      What you have elucidated is indeed very true!  By the way, I have that book.    When dark skinned Black actresses are cast, they are oftentimes cast into roles as the female thug(Vanessa A. Williams in NEW JACK CITY), the down, out, and abused outcast(Gabourey Sidibe in PRECIOUS), the cast aside girlfriend or baby mama(Julia Pace Mitchell in NOTORIOUS), the asexual Sapphire(Gabriel Union in DELIVER US FROM EVA), the maid(Viola Davis in THE HELP), and the unattractive sisters in the movie SCHOOL DAZE.     

      Contrast this with roles light skinned Black women are given-Halle Berry as a CIA operative in  DIE ANOTHER DAY and as the sexy secretary in THE FLINTSTONES,  Vanessa L. Williams as a high powered executive in ERASER, a police superindent in BOOMTOWN, and as a high powered fashion executive in UGLY BETTY,  and Mariah Carey played a social worker in PRECIOUS.   Light skinned Black actresses are more likely to be chosen for crossover roles than their darker skinned counterparts as they have more mass appeal.   They are deemed not to be too ethnic/racial and are considered to be homogenized.   This mass appeal, of course, translates into more $$$$$ for all involved.   Dark skin means too ethnic/ exotic/racial and such people often do not have wide appeal.

      1. janshares profile image95
        jansharesposted 11 years agoin reply to this

        Exactly. Nobody screaming racism here as some would think. It's about money, culture, comfort level, and mass appeal. Sometimes truth is uncomfortable, eh?

      2. tussin profile image59
        tussinposted 11 years agoin reply to this

        It's not just the lighter skin tone that gives them "cross over appeal" as you say, but also their more European looking features.  That's because the term "light-skinned" really means part white. Halle Berry's mother is white for example.

  8. justateacher profile image84
    justateacherposted 11 years ago

    Although I really know better, it would be nice to think that producers/directors hire the best talent and not the color or tone of the skin. I'm sure there are many dark-skinned actresses that can do as good or better than Halle Berry et al. When I watch a movie, I don't look at the actor/actress on the screen and say "Is he too dark?" or "Is she too light?" I watch the story and the acting and think "Wow, she's good" or "Wow, he's not a very good actor." I think if more people thought this way, the world would be a better place. (I'm not saying I am perfect or anything - it's just my opinion...and I try to be fair to everyone...)

  9. FatFreddysCat profile image93
    FatFreddysCatposted 11 years ago

    I don't think many people watched the "Catwoman" movie, period...haha. It was one of the biggest bombs of Halle Berry's career, but it had nothin' to do with whether Halle Berry was "black" or "pale black," the movie just sucked.

  10. paradigmsearch profile image60
    paradigmsearchposted 11 years ago

    Time for this thread to die...


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