Mindy Kaling, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Julia Roberts, Queen Latifah, Teyonah Parris and more than 20 industry players are speaking up about the reality of Hollywood.
With the Academy Awards (and their boycott) around the corner, #OscarsSoWhite is trending hard and some of Hollywood’s finest are sharing their real life stories and experiences to get the right message out.
With more awareness being brought to representation onscreen and behind the camera, folks are finally starting to understand the social consequences of what happens when one type of person is given too much power. The New York Times spoke with 27 industry players in Hollywood about exclusion in a recent piece called What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood (*If you’re not a straight white man.)
The struggle for women, people of colour, folks in the LGBTQ+ communities and other minorities in film, television or on stage is bigger than #OscarsSoWhite — and it’s important to understand why. While we’re beginning to see why it’s an issue to exclude different races and stories from the actual screen — attention is also being brought to what happens when there’s a lack of representation behind the camera — and how it affects the stories being told — and how the story-telling is happening.
In what world does it make sense to have one race dictate another’s portrayal? The actors of colour in Hollywood have had twice the struggle as their white counterparts — and even more than that as women.
When talking about getting a foot in the door of the industry, actress and Superstore producer America Ferrera had a rough time getting casted. Forced to white-wash herself for audition tapes by bleaching her hair blond and using makeup to make her skin fairer, she would feel powerless waiting to hear back.
“What do you do when someone says, ‘your color skin is not what we’re looking for.'” Ferrera shared in an anecdote, “Let me tell you: Blond does not suit me. I try not to prove my point on audition tapes anymore.”
Fellow Latina actress Eva Longoria known best for her role on Desperate Housewives has also dealt with her share of racial issues. The Telenovela producer spoke out against the casting demands from white male casting directors — y’know, who dictate and decide what it means to ‘be latin’. Longoria shared an anecdote about the time one director decided she should have darker skin — and would need an accent.
“The gatekeepers are not usually people of color,” Longoria said, “So they don’t understand you should be looking for way more colors of the rainbow within that one ethnicity.”
Longoria, who has worked on both sides of the camera, is in the know about how things work. “Networks say, “We’re on board with diversity,” and they’ll develop it, but they seldom program it,” she said to The New York Times.
From Teyonah Parris being told by a white male teacher to not talk ghetto to Queen Latifah being told to lose weight and female directors to accept lower pay — it’s obvious that the challenges are real and unfair.
Actresses such as Mindy Kaling take their media roles seriously and do their parts to push for a necessary change in the industry. “My role is not just artist,” said Kaling, “It’s also activist because of the way I look.”
The discussion is still happening. It’s important and should be recognized when folks in the industry speak out about it. As responsible media consumers, it’s our job to listen and let them be heard.
Image credit: Instagram/Tumblr/somethingwhosnottaken