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Struggles of being a woman of color in Hollywood

Struggles of being a woman of color in Hollywood

Struggles of being a woman of color in Hollywood
July 20
19:34 2020

From a young age many people grow up hearing about the American Dream, and adults work tirelessly to achieve their version of it. Unfortunately no matter how hard they work, a dream is all it may ever be. For women of color working in Hollywood, it seems like this could be their reality. 

When you think of movie stars, celebrities or entertainers in general, inequality isn’t typically the first thing that comes to mind. Many might assume that because of their status and lifestyle certain things don’t apply to or affect them as much. Yet if that person is a woman of color, dealings with inequality occur and is something we have to be conscious of. 

After becoming the first black actress to receive an Emmy for best actress in a drama series in September 2015, in her acceptance speech, Viola Davis said, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” It was important that a person like Davis spoke such powerful yet regrettable words in a country where equality of opportunity is supposed to be available to any American but really isn’t. 

In an interview at the Women in the World Los Angeles Salon in February 2018, Davis talked about her experience working as a woman of color in Hollywood. She said she felt like she’s had to hustle for her worth in the past, and has a career comparable to white actresses like Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Sigourney Weaver. Although they all had similar paths as her in regards to their education, Davis felt she was “nowhere near them, not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities, nowhere close to it.” 

People have even told her she’s a black Meryl Streep, and in response to that Davis said, “okay then, if there’s no one like me, you think I’m that, you pay me what I’m worth, you give me what I’m worth. Even in terms of roles.” 

Gabrielle Union is another actress of color who has spoken up about being treated unfairly while on the job. 

After being let go as a judge on the reality TV show, “America’s Got Talent,” in November 2019 and participating in an investigation following her exit from the show, Union filed a discrimination complaint against NBC, “AGT” and others in early June. While working as a judge there, she said she was singled out because of her physical appearance. Part of her complaint said “that her hair did not fit within the white image that NBC apparently sought to convey to the audience.”

Union felt that NBC did not stand with her regarding the various instances of racism complaints she had. However, NBC maintains that her claims of racism had no bearing on their decision to not continue working with her.   

In an appearance on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” she said, “We have been so committed as an industry, I mean and every industry is facing the same thing, with going along to get along.” She is no longer on board with that idea and thinks holding the people at the top accountable is something that needs to happen.

In January 2018, comedian Monique Hicks wanted to boycott Netflix for “gender bias and color bias” after they offered her $500,000 for a comedy special. Reportedly Netflix gave comedians Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer multi-million dollar offers and did not want to renegotiate with Hicks on hers.   

Some people thought Hicks was dealing with her issue with Netflix in the wrong way, and in an interview with Steve Harvey, she said, “Inequality is devastating and it’s extreme, and when people said ‘Monique do you think calling for a boycott was extreme,’ you damn right. But isn’t inequality extreme?”

Hicks feels that for black women in Hollywood the finish line keeps changing and that you’re told to build up your resume and then the money will come. “Then you build up your resume and then they’ll say you know what, we see the resume but we’ll get them the next time and you never meet your next time,” Hicks said. 

These women standing up for themselves, having those uncomfortable conversations and making tough decisions will leave a path for others to follow. It is a message to the people trying to make it hard for themselves that they will not choose silence and conformity when facing inequality. Instead, they will demand the same respect, treatment and chance that is given to everyone else. 

Featured Illustration: Ali Jones

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Alexandria Northington

Alexandria Northington

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