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Are Black Actresses Forced To “Ugly” Themselves Up?

Avatar • Aug 8, 2011

I came across this very interesting post on the black film website Shadow and Act. Check it out;

Tambay’s post about Viola Davis putting on 25 pounds and then padding herself up for her role in The Help immediately brought to mind a piece I wrote a year ago on S & A in August 2010 (I’m always ahead of the curve) raising the question about black women being forced to deglamorize themselves and to look bad so that white actresses can look better.

The subject came up when I had a conversation with a regular S & A reader involved in the theater as a director about how often black actors and actresses I’ve met in person, are much better looking than they appear on screen.

I told the reader one person who immediately came to mind was Taraji P. Henson. Meeting her, I was stuck by how just adorably cute she is in person. However that vision of her has yet to appear on the screen, where either she’s made to look awful (think Hustle and Flow or her matronly appearance in Benjamin Button), or even in films where she’s “normal,” such as The Karate Kid, Not Easily Broken, or Date Night, where she’s made to look haggard and not at all well photographed.

But the worst case I mentioned must be Viola Davis. I’ve met Ms. Davis, and the person I met was incredibly attractive, and with a trim, fantastic body (speaking as a guy I tend to notice things like that…). But that’s not the Viola Davis you regularly encounter in movies. She almost always looks awful, and I suspected at the time perhaps sometimes padded to make her look bigger. And now as she revealed in The Help she was. I mean was that really necessarily for her to gain all that weight and have the padding as well? You mean there are no thin black maids?

The reader then told me about a quote she read once by Kelita Smith who played Bernie Mac’s wife on his sitcom. According to Smith, when she reads for a role in a casting session she purposely de-glamorizes herself to appear as plain as possible, because the filmmakers don’t want to hire attractive black actresses for roles, preferring them to look bad, in order to make white actresses appear better looking which proves what I suspected.

So this is what it comes down to? You’re telling me that someone who looks like Smith has to, in effect, “ugly” herself up for the chance of getting work? That’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

Interesting!! Ladies, what are your thoughts on this??
Check out Shadow and Act for more excellent commentary on black cinema.

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blaqueinfinite
blaqueinfinite
9 years ago

This is not a surprise at all. If you’re a minority in Hollywood, you will be relegated to certain roles, especially if you’re a black woman. This is the business. That’s why you see certain black women always playing the Mammy role (Viola), or someone’s wife/girlfriend (Kerry Washington). Not all black actresses are relegated to deglamorized roles, but the ones who aren’t, are often the “select few” they call on to be in interracial relationships (Kerry Washington, Sanaa Lathan). Otherwise, take your pick out of the slew of stereotypes they have for us, and you’re bound to get one of… Read more »

deena
deena
9 years ago
Reply to  blaqueinfinite

You took the words right outta my mouth with this one, especially the last paragraph. These women make enough money to make their own movies instead of subjecting themselves to these roles. People can say whatever they want about Tyler Perry but at least he adds more than he takes away. When you own the thing, you can control the images.

Why would any white woman want to highlight black womens beauty? it goes against their own interests. Black people need to stop whining about fairness and start fighting through ownership.

jaebeah
jaebeah
8 years ago
Reply to  deena

I am very sure that the black women in those days were extra fine, just look at how many “masters” wanted them. They had to look better than the white women in those days, housework is not easy chore. I think that the white women had to be extra fat, think about it, they never did any work. They never lifted a finger. They never did work, exercised, or did anything to break a sweat. The African American women worked and exercised. The masters wanted that creamy so soft skin, all the different hues of brown deliciousness, those extra fine… Read more »

Nonya
Nonya
8 years ago
Reply to  jaebeah

Apart from the “masters” wanting to force his penis in the slave woman’s vagina because it wasn’t something that the white woman did, you have an interesting perspective. I’m sure that there’s some truth to it.

CarmelStacks
CarmelStacks
9 years ago
Reply to  blaqueinfinite

This. 100%…I always wonder about the black men and women who take on these roles. It’s almost like all they care about is, “look at me! I’m on TV!”

LH
LH
9 years ago
Reply to  CarmelStacks

I respect your comments, but that’s easy for you to say when you’re not in their position. We don’t have any idea what their financial state is. Maybe they are in the stage of “working thier way up” like Halle Berry did. Anyone remember Losing Issiah?

DaliSalvadorAde
9 years ago
Reply to  LH

Exactly.

MzMainyc
MzMainyc
8 years ago

ooo remember her excellent work in Jungle Fever with Sam when they were both Crack heads? she was so good in that role…let’s not forget that actresses, some of us, have had to do soooo many things, take tiny walk ons’ /roles, small parts, get cut from film, get fatter, too slim, get bad weaves, etc etc to get a role and do the work you are trained and work so hard to have the opportunity to do. Movies are strange, how a director and producer looks at a cast, who is opposite, who has “numbers” it’s all in there.… Read more »

DaliSalvadorAde
9 years ago
Reply to  blaqueinfinite

Although I agree with your first couple of paragraphs, I couldn’t disagree more with the last. Do you understand how difficult it is to get a film green-lighted? Even before it is green-lighted, the amount of work that is put in to get a good script written, good producers, and a good director is immense. Add that to the fact that black women have stereotypes following them everywhere, “furthering their careers and getting paid” is all that they can do.

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago

Hon are you serious? There are so many independent films it’s ridiculous. No-budget to low-budget films shot on film or video.

K Nicole
K Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

It is hard to get a film green lighted and independent films are only as successful as the distribution deals one can get. I understand where you are coming from in terms of Hollywood’s love affair with Mammy or Jezebel, when it comes to the portrayal of black women in film, however we do not control this business and Tyler Perry at this point is the exception and not the rule. Also BAPS came before Monster’s Ball.

Tuscan
Tuscan
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Out of all the umpteen films, independent, no budget films coming out, do you think they are the only ones being made. For every one no budget film that is successful there are countless projects that don’t ever get scene. And some are great films. I hate when ‘outside looking in’ people make judgement on things they know nothing about!!

lyn
lyn
9 years ago

I don’t know if this is really happening, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

Maria
9 years ago

“the filmmakers don’t want to hire attractive black actresses for roles, preferring them to look bad, in order to make white actresses appear better looking which proves what I suspected.” I think this APPEARS to be case because of a lack of roles for black actresses rather than a purposeful effort to make white actresses look better. Let’s face it, there are not a lot of good roles for black women, and they are usually not the leading lady, but rather the fat mammy, the smack-talking ghetto girl or at “best” the side-kick. So these roles do not call for… Read more »

CurlyInTheA
CurlyInTheA
9 years ago

Interesting points. Personally, I think it depends on who you are. Someone, like say, Beyonce, is usually not portrayed “unglamorously,” though it would be acceptable if she were, given her status as a recording artist. But it’s interesting you talk about Viola Davis. I saw her on GMA last week and she was absolutely stunning ‑gorg skin, flawless makeup, toned body. Same with her recent cover on Essence. Funny, I always said when I saw her earlier work on Law & Order a while back that they had her looking a HAM. Bad foundation, busted wig, ill-fitting clothes. Clearly, they… Read more »

Chyeahbella
Chyeahbella
9 years ago

this article made me really think about how the media wants us to be viewed. Then i thought now the media is trying to pass darker complexcted hispanics as black women. For example Zoe Saldano, has been used as a black women in hollywood that is getting big roles. Yet, her ethnicity is from the domincan republic a latin country. Will hollywood now graviatate towards hispanics to portray black women? Leaving black women to one day not even be on the screen anymore.

Viviane
Viviane
9 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

But Zoe Saldana is a black woman. She is a black hispanic.

alyse
alyse
9 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

Being black does not automatically mean you are African-American. Anybody with a darker complexion can be considered black. So one can be hispanic and still be considered black.

Chyeahbella
Chyeahbella
9 years ago
Reply to  alyse

i understand and respect both of your points. i do not totallly agree when @Viviane said ” Anybody with a darker complexion can be considered black.” there are middle easters and people from india and other places that have dark complexions but are not considered black. what i was trying to convey in my post is that i hope that the media is not choosing black enough looking women to play a black women. yes, zoe is black hispanic; my issue is i want the media to portray us black women the way we are. I do not know a… Read more »

eSPy
eSPy
9 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

Yes Zoe Saldana is an Afro-Hispanic. Her descendents are Africans just like yours are. A lof of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, dominicans, South americans etc. are decidents of African slaves…

HISTORY LESSON!

eSPy
eSPy
9 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

I see what you are saying about the “every day women,” but in all actuality, there is NO every day woman. Black people come in all diff shapes, sizes and colors. She looks like a normal black person to me. (I didnt even know she was hispanic in that one dance movie she was in YEARS ago.)

People Kill me looking to see a certain type of looking black woman for a role. A black woman is a black woman, no matter what color etc. she is…

Renee
Renee
9 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

What’s the problem with Zoe Saldana? She looks like a typical black woman. In fact, she looks like many women in my family and we’re you’re typical, plain old African-Americans. I seen and met plenty of black latinos who look like regular African Americans. I’m just happy that as a BLACK woman, Zoe Saldana is getting roles.

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago
Reply to  Renee

Just because they look ( and probley are) Afro Latina(o) doen not mean they accept it and if your from NY and know about Dominicans ask them Are they black or how they feel about black people!

AJ
AJ
8 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

TRUE DAT — dont you dare call them black!!

elle
8 years ago
Reply to  AJ

+1 million.
they are ready to swing as soon as you do.

EG
EG
9 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

Like the others I’m going to disagree with you. Zoe considers herself black, and that is good enough for me. Not every black woman is from America. I get your point, but you probably should have picked a better example. I love Halle, but Zoe is blacker to me than Halle.

Lisa B.
Lisa B.
9 years ago
Reply to  EG

Zoe grew up around the corner from me in the Bronx and before she blew up it was/is well known that she doesn’t consider herself “Black” (nor does her sister) so let’s stop spreading that. She represents DR and will let you know that she is Dominican and there isn’t anything wrong with that. In NY you’ll be hard pressed to find a Dominican acknowledging they have ANY traces of African genes running through them so I understand the original point the poster made about finding other races that “look Black” to play the role of Black women. Look at… Read more »

cmc
cmc
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa B.

I agree with most of your point.…but as a black Dominican in Brooklyn, I totally disagree with your opinion of Dominican women. I am black AND latina, and my Dominican friends and family members feel the same way (if they are of African descent). Being black and being Dominican (or Afro-anything else) is not mutually exclusive! I don’t consider myself ‘not black’ just because my family is not from the US.

Although we are really bad about accepting natural hair…is that any different from other black wome though?

nadine
nadine
9 years ago
Reply to  cmc

Girl!!!! The last sentence, you are dead on. I am going to agree with someone above who said zoe zaldana represents Dominican Republican and I believe she does. There is nothing wrong with that. I have seen this many times with many Afro-Caribbean or Latin Caribbean people and Europeans or Asians because culture is important. People are willing or identifies with their culture first and black may or may not be part of the criteria. I can see why some people may not chose to present themselves as black, it’s just that there is a lack of UNITY in the black… Read more »

Bobbie M.
8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa B.

Tiger Woods stated he has different races in his family, black, white, Phillipino (his mother). His dad was a black man, he did not state he wasn’t black, and stating he was only black would be disrespecting his mother.

Dee
Dee
8 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

“I do not know a lot of black women that look like Zoë…” Where in America do you live? Considering there are practically no unmixed African Americans, how could you not know at least one woman that looks like Zoe? Unless you’re from one of the indigenous tribes of Africa, you are not pure Black, none of us are, even a Jamaican such as myself. We are the only race that has the full color spectrum, even within our own families! African-Americans really need to get over this whole “mixed”, “biracial”, “multicultural” BS that the media is trying to feed… Read more »

Gayle
Gayle
7 years ago
Reply to  Dee

Couldn’t agree with this more…especially the part about “Hollywood/LA” media being about power, stereotypes and racism. Bigger issue is that too few of us understand (or act like we care) economics/finance and business to get greenlighted and distribution deals needed to increase control over our own projects and media images.

cheeky
cheeky
8 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

@chyeahbella Oh,give me a break—I see a lot of girls/woman that look like Zoe Saldana every time I walk down the street—here in Detroit, she’d be just another pretty black sister among many others. And if you do your research, she has made it VERY clear in interviews, that she considers herself a BLACK woman,period. She is also an American—she lived in the Dominican Republic in her teens because her mom moved back there, but she’s A New Yorker,though. She looks like a regular black sister to me—honestly, if you’re seen Henry Gates’ BLACK IN LATIN AMERICA, you’d know that… Read more »

Angela
Angela
9 years ago
Reply to  Chyeahbella

Finally, someone who sees the truth!!!!

Monique, Sofull Sista
9 years ago

Viola was featured on the front cover of Essence for August 2011, and I didn’t even recognize her. She is GORGEOUS! I do think a large majority of the bigger roles for black actresses are often less-glamorous roles. However, I would not want to deny a person career advancement for portraying a role that, while it’s not glamorous, is still reflective of a sector of black women at one point in time. If Viola’s role as Aibileen in The Help will get her an Oscar Nomination, I am NOT upset that she took the role. If Viola didn’t take it,… Read more »

Cher Nikki
Cher Nikki
9 years ago

In the case of Viola Davis she is changing her look for the character. In the book “The Help,” Aibleen is a heavy set woman so Viola did not fit the description. They could have found a heavier set Black actress or just have the actress they like, in this case Viola Davis, change her look. I don’t know if it is something that Black women only come across. For example, Renee Zellweger in “Bridget Jones Diary” and Charlize Theron in “Monster” both had to put on weight or change their image to take on the roles because that was… Read more »

jahtik54
jahtik54
9 years ago
Reply to  Cher Nikki

Thank You! My first thought when reading that article was CLEARLY the author did not read The Help or he would have known why it was necessary for Viola to add to her curves in order to stay true to the book.

Shanika@LifeisPichey
9 years ago
Reply to  jahtik54

I was about to say the same thing. The character in the book is heavy. Plus, Bryce Dallas Howard who is playing Hilly said in an interview that her and other actresses had to gain at least 10 pounds because back then women weren’t skin and bones. Before people go off on a tangent and write articles, they really need to do some research.

Cher Nikki
Cher Nikki
9 years ago

@jahtik54 and @Shanika I think it is important to point out especially when you are dealing with movies that are based off of books. It makes a difference. People were mad about the images of black women in the movie “Precious” but really you would have to be bothered by the Sapphire the author first to be bothered by the character and she is an African American Female. Precious was described as a large Black female…so that is who they found to be accurate to the authors images. Harry Potter looks the way he looks in the film because that… Read more »

df
df
9 years ago

you guys are totally missing the point…the whole article isn’t even about the help…

Ebony
Ebony
9 years ago

I totally agree I read the book also. I don’t entirely agree because there a number of actress white and other races who to got look a certain way to get a moive role(like cherlize throne to play in monster, and halle berry in monster’s ball. that guy who played batman chis-something he had to lose ton of weight and look like a crackhead for some boxing movie 2010. i keep going lol

Jasmine
Jasmine
9 years ago
Reply to  Cher Nikki

@jahtik54 … Not to sound rude, but I think you both are missing the point.

It’s not about Viola having to beef up for this specific role.

It’s about how, in general in Hollywood, the only roles for black women (unless you’re Halle Berry) seem to require black women to tone down their natural beauty so as not to distract from (white) lead characters.

Shanika@LifeisPichey
9 years ago
Reply to  Jasmine

I have seen plenty of roles in which black women have not had to “ugly” themselves. I have also seen plenty of roles in which white, black, spanish, asian women have had to “ugly” themselves. The writer mentioned The Help therefore I spoke my opinion about the book.

Anuli
Anuli
8 years ago
Reply to  Jasmine

I don’t see the need for this article and the pointless debate. There are a host of black ladies who have looked elegant and beautiful portraying different characters. This has nothing to do with a black lady being made to look less glamorous than a fellow white actor.

Please let us stop wasting time pursuing this argument further.

I am black, African and I do not agree with the author of this article.

Salma Hashi
8 years ago
Reply to  Anuli

@Annuli This debate is not pointless. It is a definite problem when our kids have to look at the TV screen and see movies like The Help, with black women who look like the Devil threw them up, next to women who are in their pyjamas looking like they came out of a spa, skin glowing and makeup flawless.You saw this movie, right? Tell me, do you honestly believe that the white women that they were portrayin actually looked like they did, day to day? It’s supposed to be average women, right? I live around average women–no one looks like that.… Read more »

Krystal
9 years ago
Reply to  Cher Nikki

Add Nicole Kidman when she portrayed Virginia Wolff. Well, she didn’t put any weight on though.

Eloïse
9 years ago

Such an interesting post, as all your points of view. I think in the American movie industry ( i’m french )wants to keep spreading caucasian beauty standards, i totally agree with BlaqueInfinite. If we look back, dark black women always had the mammy roles. In the 30’s lighter dark skinned women became to the afro-american what blonds are to the occidentals: sex bombs. But to prevent them from being attractive to the white audience, they gave them “tragic mulatta” roles, beautiful but manipulatives, cultured but impulsives, selfish and ready to deny theri own people. “Imitation of Life”, realised in 1948 with… Read more »

Shirley
Shirley
9 years ago
Reply to  Eloïse

I for one, am very happy that we have at least representation of black people on the big screen here. Growing up, I always thought that Europe was more liberal with race after reading stories of Josephine Baker and other actresses who left the U.S. to make a name for themselves abroad only recently did I realize the truth, that Europe is not as colorblind as one might think. The riots of 2005, I believe that was the year, really shined the light on the reality there for me. I also remember watching a news piece during the time that… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago

This is horrible to read. deep, deep sigh.

Ada
Ada
9 years ago

Many actresses from what I’ve seen from various race backgrounds receive more critical acclaim when they “ugly themselves up” (e.g. Charlize Theron in Monster). I’m not sure why, but maybe, because it seems like they are truly embodying the character they are portraying and going outside of themselves. And by “unglamorizing” yourself (not necessarily to the point of raggedy ann) and appearing plainer, it allows an actress to be a blank canvas, able to become what the role requires and showcases their versatility (as long as they don’t become typecast- or typecast themselves- and start only playing one type of role).

Cher Nikki
Cher Nikki
9 years ago
Reply to  Ada

Completely agree.

Blane
Blane
9 years ago
Reply to  Cher Nikki

I also agree. I don’t think it’s an issue with black actresses specifically. I think it’s an issue that actresses of all races face in the industry.

Emily Collingswood
Emily Collingswood
3 years ago
Reply to  Blane

Nope. Specifically black women are sought for stereotypically ugly roles. Other women are shown as beautiful 1000x more often. ALL other women.

df
df
9 years ago
Reply to  Ada

Yeah it makes sense for intense movies but the difference is that white actresses get more opportunities and are sought after 1000% more to play attractive women (in romantic situations) than black women are…they have those roles to choose from..alot of times, black women are not sought after for roles like that. What if Viola or Taraji wanted to change it up and play an attractive woman in a light hearted movie that wasn’t a mainly all black cast? Think about how much harder it would be for her as opposed to Charlize Theron in Hollyweird…

eSPy
eSPy
9 years ago
Reply to  Ada

I understand… but a lot of people look at things differently when it comes to african americans specifically b/c of our relation to history and our position of power. U cannot seperate ANYTHING from the power structure of society. So a white woman ugly-ing her self up will NEVER be the same as a black woman doing the same b/c of the historical connection we have to being mis-represented. This can go all the way back to minstrel shows etc. It is as if they are trying to play up this look of the AUTHENTIC black woman, which is ugly (to… Read more »

Emily Collingswood
Emily Collingswood
3 years ago
Reply to  eSPy

Thank you. I know im late but correct never expires.

Emily Collingswood
Emily Collingswood
3 years ago
Reply to  Ada

But Charlize has enjoyed many many more glamour roles than ugly. That’s the point.

Melinda
Melinda
9 years ago

WTF!!! I am shocked, dissappointed and appalled!!! It never ceases to amaze me the lengths that hollywood will go to to avoid giving us ANY significant credit even when it is genetic!

Afrochelle
Afrochelle
9 years ago

Any actress, black or white, who wants to be respected needs to expand beyond the typical “glamour girl” roles. Sometimes that means putting on a few pounds of fat and leaving off a few pounds of makeup, a la Charlize Theron in “Monster”. As for Kelita Smith’s account, I regard that report with extreme skepticism.

Jc
Jc
9 years ago
Reply to  Afrochelle

Thank you Afrochelle!!

I definitely agree that actresses are MADE by taking on unglamorous roles. It makes you see that they are not superficial or reliant on their beauty to act.

Charlize Theron put on tons of weight to look like Aileen Wuornos
Marion Cotillard shaved her hairline and eyebrows to look like Edith Piaf
Hilary Swank is the queen of ‘uglying it up’ and a fab actress.

As an actress, you cannot underestimate the value of embodying a character. All the women above are Oscar winners for their ‘ugly’ efforts.

AprilJ
AprilJ
9 years ago

I have to respectfully disagree with this point. Actors are constantly put in rolls where they do not appear how they normally would in everyday life. Plenty of them have played slaves, servants, druggies, drunks, and ugly ducklings. I believe that is just work. Think of Renee Zellweger playing Bridget Jones. She had to gain a massive amount of extra weight for that roll and she looked horrible in the whole thing honestly.I agree with Afrochelle and I don’t believe this is just a black thing. This is an actor thing.

Shirley
Shirley
9 years ago
Reply to  AprilJ

Thank you so much for being one of the few voices of reason on this page.

Chimmy
Chimmy
9 years ago

I first noticed Viola Davis in the movie Doubt, her performance was breathtaking. I felt every ounce of emotion she portrayed and wanted to comfort her. I haven’t been moved like that after seeing a brief scene in a movie in a while. I believe she truly made that movie. Anyways, after watching that, I noticed her more and more. I find her to be very beautiful and she reminds me of my mother so much, strong and beautiful. I am honestly not surprised by this, there’s always a way that hollywood brings down the black actor, or any other… Read more »

shemc
shemc
9 years ago

A Very Stupid Article. “Becoming Ugly” Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With Race She Simply Playing A Part.

Don't Worry
Don't Worry
9 years ago

@afrochelle the difficulty is that they never play the “typical glamour roles” to start with. What has become “typical” is a prostitute, drug addict, pregnant teen etc. This does not reflect the reality of many of us nor does it uplifts. The idea behind all this is that US audience were more comfortable with “like persons” people they relate to but the fact of the matter is that the audience is changing and the movies, and society needs to recognise this. It doesn’t matter that their performance was or is stellar (they rarely get the Oscar so what’s the point?),… Read more »

Channock
Channock
9 years ago

No offense to those that are saying this caucasian actress and that caucasian actress had to do this or that for xyz role but that’s fine in an open playing field where one day you can find yourself playing Queen Elizabeth 1, Joan of Arc, the rom com lead girl, the detective tracking a serial killer, the mother of a murdered girl etc etc ad nauseum. The issue is that there are not a variety of roles for black actresses which is often highlighted by SHOCK HORROR, black actresses, you know those ones who have experience of working in Hollywood… Read more »

Cher Nikki
Cher Nikki
9 years ago
Reply to  Channock

What obligation does the film industry have to provide “fair representation” that? I don’t necessarily disagree completely about the lack of representation (as I said before I think alot of is about the characters that are being portrayed) but we are demanding something from a private industry that cares about their bottom line. They want sales. They go with what they think sells. I feel like we shouldn’t be surprised any more by an industry that has not presented a very favorable image of Blacks until recent history to start doing so with a “fair representation” doctrine unless they think… Read more »

LH
LH
9 years ago
Reply to  Cher Nikki

Very good point! It seems like to me that the black community often supports drama filled nonsence before they will support entertainment of substance. I think that if we want/expect a change in the industry it has to start with us.

Channock
Channock
9 years ago
Reply to  Cher Nikki

I think among black people, there is an appetite for ‘other’ black voices and characters as evidenced in the success and popularity of the Youtube series Awkward Black Girl. Many people on this site related to this character and explained that there were not many characters on screen of black origin that they could relate to or identify with. Maybe Hollywood do not supply because they do not believe there is a demand for interesting, alternative black stories. Of course the movie industry is a business but I refuse to believe that a black face in a stretching or varied… Read more »

Cher Nikki
Cher Nikki
9 years ago
Reply to  Channock

I am not necessarily apathetic as much as I am like if we want something done we have to do it. If you don’t want to do anything except talk about how the industry needs to change then one shouldn’t be surprised that it doesn’t. I agree with the economic boycott or leverage would be a good option if Blacks are willing to organize around the issue organize around it. But, I also think the argument that Hollywood is too controlled by Whites is cope out. Tyler Perry was homeless and started a production company, Oprah a poor Black girl… Read more »

African Violet
African Violet
9 years ago

The idea that these black actresses should sit down because they’ve chosen this career path doesn’t sit well with me. This would be a great thought if the playing field were equal. It’s fine to say that other (non-black) actresses have done the same, i.e., “uglied it up” for a part. The truth, though, is that the opportunity already exists for those non-black actresses to *also* go out for roles where it isn’t a requirement to play down their beauty. There a re wealth of acting opportunities available to non-black actresses that simply are not available to black actresses. The… Read more »

Barbara
Barbara
9 years ago

I know race plays a huge role in Hollywood but this article is “reaching”; as a number of posts above state, being un-glam depends on the role and isn’t relegated to black roles not to mention, none of the women mentioned are raving beauties in the first place.

Apples
Apples
9 years ago

I’ve noticed that too with Viola. I’ve always thought she was a very beautiful woman, but have never seen her dressed up in any of her roles (i.e. ‘Doubt’). I have, however, spotted her in Oprah and Essence. In these fashion spreads she looks divine. The woman is clearly underrated!

Inky
Inky
9 years ago

I’ve seen Viola Davis in numerous films and I’ve always been a big fan. When she appeared on the red carpet for the movie “Doubt” everyone in the media seem to be “taken aback” by her beauty and stunning appearance. Even “clown faced” Joan Rivers gave her props. Viola answered one interviewer who was so stunned by her attractiveness “in most of my films ‘they’ really break me down so people rarely see the real me” During her red carpet interview she was wearing a gold colored gown that really highlighted her ebony skin and beautiful smile. Ms. Davis has… Read more »

Totrue
Totrue
9 years ago

I’m a pretty black actresss and the same thing happens to me. I don’t think its so much to make white actress look good but they aren’t casting roles for “beautiful black women”. SO the roles that are available that would consider a black women are not glamourous roles. So us pretty girls have to go in looking like plain jane. Viola lost a lot of weight so if I were her preparing for this role I too would put on weight because maids during that era weren’t very thin. Remember Halle berry had to get ugly to get the role in… Read more »

Selina
Selina
8 years ago
Reply to  Totrue

Black beauty! This is totally true, I have been talking about this for the last few years. I worked at Disney and in the department where they created High School musical. A top executive there, white, blonde female who worked on casting High School Musical 1 and 2. Cast fat girls in most of the shows that were shot in Toronto. Or she cast young girls with braid extensions. On one show she cast several fat young black girls, around the ages of 8 and 9. When I asked her why she discriminated against young black girls by doing so,… Read more »

Livvy
Livvy
4 years ago
Reply to  Selina

Most black people don’t have wide noses’? Then plastic surgery in America must be more widespread than I thought.

Rhonda
9 years ago

I have noticed this pattern for the last few years. Black actresses being de-moralized to look plain in film roles. With the exception of ‘Why did I get Married, and a few others, the majority of roles being portrayed by black actresses have been the ‘Best Friend’ role to a white female lead, maids, hookers, and other demeaning sterotypes.

We have gone backwards in time. And if our actors don’t speak up, this will continue to occur. I know everyone has to make a living, but self-respect and the representation of your race as a whole, as to be reviewed.

Natacha
Natacha
9 years ago

I have not read the book, “The Help” but I would assume that if Black women were heavier during that time frame, so would white women have been heavier because the film takes place in the South during a time when the over all standard of beauty was heavier, even for white women. Kelita is telling the truth. I wholeheartedly believe her. When a white actress and a Black actress share a alot of scenes together, the goal is to always make the white actress look better. This REINFORCES the Eurocentric standard of beauty being superior to Black beauty, which is… Read more »

Meri
Meri
9 years ago

I’m really glad that someone brough this up. And it is indeed a sad state of affairs. It just reinforces my reserves about Hollywood movies. I remember when the movie “Couples’ Retreat” came out and I watched the trailer and I kept thinking why couldn’t they have picked another black actor instead of Faizon Love. Personally I found his antics that I saw in the movie trailer ( I couldn’t stand to watchthe movie) completely off putting. It’s like they needed a buffoon to round up the cast and thought let’s add a fat black guy because he’s not threatning… Read more »

yanoui
yanoui
9 years ago

I live in the Netherlands , Europe and I have noticed no matter where I go to most white people in the world (not everybody of course)black is black. Dont matter where you from. They see you have a color you’re black. Just go and ask some hill billy if they can tell the difference. They wont be able to 🙂 not because they’re racists but because they really dont know.

How many people can tell a Chinese from a Korean? And talking about Hollywood it is not only the black people thing; it’s an everything-that-is not-white-thing 🙂

nadine
nadine
9 years ago

I would not be surprise if Hollywood producers or executives are doing this to black woman. I have seen “GLEE” and the only black girl there is just huge. I mean she is very pretty but she is huge, but I think if she decide to lose weight the producers’ would fire her. I remember years ago, they always makes black men in movies to look thuggish with raping, robin and murdering people. There are still movie like this and that is why I don’t watch any movies like this.

nadine
nadine
9 years ago

Also I think Black people want to portray very well in the media, it’s time to get your own script, your own studio and your own people to start playing these roles because whining and crying is not going to get you anywhere.

Rachael
Rachael
8 years ago
Reply to  nadine

yeah, just get a billion dollars and get your own channel in a white racially and economically dominant society where u r only 10% of the population– I mean, look at Oprah, she’s doing so well and experiencing no network backlash for going off on her own.

Smh
Smh
9 years ago

Too many people in the comments section want to act like colorism doesn’t exist. Of course not all “black” women are portrayed as ugly in the media. But they have to be a certain type. Do I really have to spell this out with freaking letter blocks or something? What “black” women get to be portrayed as desirable in Hollywood? 1. Mrs. Creole Gumbo her self a.k.a. Beyonce 2. The reluctant Biracial, Halle Berry 3. Columbiana, Zoe Saldana 4. Acceptable thin nosed Kerry Washington 5. Halle’s replacement Paula Patton… And the list goes on. Are we going to pretend that these… Read more »

tinabobina
tinabobina
9 years ago
Reply to  Smh

They are all BEAUTIFUL. Shame I don’t see actresses more like them in films playing glamourous roles, though nothing against the light-skinned actresses you mentioned.

Tara
Tara
8 years ago
Reply to  Smh

I definitely agree, here. Even as a young teen, I grew frustrated by the lack of attractive black people in movies. One movie that particularly irked me was The Underworld.

Even among the vampires, who were pretty much all svelte and beautiful, they had one black vampire who was big, beefy, and unattractive. Why couldn’t he look as elegant as the others? And a black female? I didn’t even think to look for that…

Kenyetta
Kenyetta
9 years ago

Viola Davis’s character, Aibileen, is described as being big in the novel version of The Help.

Blvdjewel
Blvdjewel
9 years ago

First, I have to say that Julia Roberts (played a prostitute in Pretty Woman), Mira Sorvino (also played a prostitute and won an Oscar), Sharon Stone (has an infamous scene where her private area is exposed in Basic Instinct), Hilary Swank (who played a male and won an Oscar), Nicole Kidman (in The Hours with that prosthetic nose) and Charlize Theron (who looked absolutely horrendous in Monster — won an Oscar) are all examples of what it seems to take for an attractive, talented and confident woman to succeed in the movie business. Sexism, misogyny and age discrimination are rampant… Read more »

Sharell
Sharell
9 years ago

I think a person should be judged by their performance not their looks. You would thought that we have come much further then this by now.”

trackback

[…] Let me just say, I am not here to criticize the looks of any women, nor am I here to promote that one form of beauty is better than another. But, Hollywood has insecurities when it comes to giving recognition to Beautiful Black Women in films. Viola Davis, a very beautiful woman, may receive an Oscar nomination for her role of Abilene in the film adaptation of The Help. I think Davis is very talented and attractive woman, yet it seems that in order to receive recognition in Hollywood a Black woman has to conform to the mammy, jezebel… Read more »

James N Smith
James N Smith
9 years ago

Hollywood isn’t called the glamour factory for nothing. It used to be, and still is to some extent about beautiful (white) people. Sure white actors like Charlize Theron get to occasionally make themselves unattractive, usually in an oscar bid such as “Monster”, but look at all the roles in which her beauty is highlighted. For off there aren’t that many Hollywood films that cast blacks at all or even want to, and there are plenty of behind the scene books and exposes about the film business to despute that. It’s pretty obvious that when it comes to movies about people… Read more »

James N Smith
James N Smith
9 years ago

And the argument that we should support any black production whether it is good or bad is ridiculous. History has shown that even if a quality black film makes money and does great at the box office it does not mean that Hollywood will break their necks to make more of the same type of films, or immediately start looking for quality scripts for those black actors. So quit trying to use that argument! The same goes for supporting any independent, or black films that further stereotypes, it does not mean that those black filmmakers will follow through with a… Read more »

Faith
Faith
8 years ago

Is it crazy that the main statement that stood out in this entire post was “(speaking as a guy I tend to notice things like that…)”?!!!

I’m impressed, I definitely read this as if a female was talking to me. How many writers are on this site?

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8 years ago

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8 years ago

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8 years ago

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8 years ago

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Supernatural
8 years ago

I rarely comment, however i did a few searching and wound up here %BLOGTITLE%. And I do have some questions for you if you tend not to mind. Is it only me or does it look like some of these responses come across as if they are left by brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are posting on other online social sites, I would like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Could you list of the complete urls of your community pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

ChocolatePuds
ChocolatePuds
8 years ago

Sidney Portier refused roles that played to a racial stereotype and I believe his acting career started way back in the 1940s.….he set a standard for himself as an actor but a talented being, not a black actor who could easily be type cast. He set a standard for his fellow black people by not allowing himself to be viewed on screen as a stereotype. His career went from strength to strength and he has a whole host of extremely well deserved accalaids attached to his name. There is more than one way to get from A to B, to forge… Read more »

A.J. Muhammad
A.J. Muhammad
8 years ago

We still forget that unless you’re working on a Black production, Hollywood does not know how to light, style and shoot Black people/people of color.

Of course in (black) romantic comedies everybody is styled to be beautiful and attractive but it’s different for dramas. Look at Brown Sugar, Something New, Boomerang, Best Man, Love Jones, Waiting to Exhale, Jumping the Broom, and see how groomed and stylized everybody looks and is shot.

Viola Davis looked wonderful in Nights in Rodanthe and it was a contemporary film and Viola wasn’t playing a maid or crack mother… So take that!

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8 years ago

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Cic
Cic
8 years ago

Oh writer hush. They chose these roles nobody forced them. You change things and
Make it wrong

Cheyna
Cheyna
8 years ago

idk.… I feel like WOMEN as a whole are reduced to 1 of these three roles in Hollywood: plain and homely everyday girl, the matronly woman, the jezebel. White actresses are considered over the hill at 30, usually. And at the end of the day unless you’re considered “sexy” by whatever standard, then you’re “the friend.” I mean, to me, this isn’t race exclusive. Yes, they “ugly” up some but then they oversex others. It depends on what box they want to put you in. And they do it to WOMEN because men– black or white — aren’t usually subjected… Read more »

Phoenix
8 years ago
Reply to  Cheyna

Glory hallelujah and amen!!! OMG, I am so glad to FINALLY see a post that makes more sense than any else. Misogyny is the nr 1 enemy in Hollywood and in major film productions, not race. Regardless of the race or creed of the woman, unless the actress fights for herself, nothing will change. In my mind, big ups to women like Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank, Angelina Jolie, Zoe Saldana, Lucy Lawless, Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett, Lucy Lui, Michelle Rodriguez, Milla Jovovich, WOMEN ALL, always portraying STRONG characters, very often and gloriously kicking butt and taking… Read more »

Tata
Tata
8 years ago

I just don’t like how the ladies in hollywood are always wearing the weaves. It’s ok occasionally, but those like Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson wears them all the time. .. It puts down the black women and sends the message that a black woman’s natural attibutes aren’t good enough. I know white people wear extensions too but it’s different when black girls do it. It just looks phony and deperate.

locedup
8 years ago

I don’t know what Hollywood’s inner workings are. But this one thing I know for sure. When Viola Davis showed up at the Oscars rocking her natural hair with a splash of devine red, she was gorgeous!!!! On another note, I wish Black Hollywood would boycott the Oscars, Emmys,SAG Awards, and the like. Until they recognize the talent these actors bring to the screen, then why show up. They let us present awards. It’s like throwing us a bone. In the history of the Oscars only 13, yes 13 Oscars have gone to Black actors. The dang Awards is over… Read more »

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

Don’t ask me how I got here…

I would have to argue. Gabrielle Union looks great in every thing she is in.

But as I white guy, I would love to see more “hot” black women in films.

CocoaNo5
CocoaNo5
7 years ago

The articles examples leave out one important detail, the movies mentioned are period films. The Help, Benjamin Button, etc are not based in current time. Wouldn’t have Viola Davis looked weird as a 50’s maid in Louboutins, fresh mani, slick relaxer and MAC on her face?

Claudette UK
Claudette UK
5 years ago
Reply to  CocoaNo5

What about the weight gain? Was that necessary? Of course it was a period piece, but what did her weight have to do with that?

DZ349
DZ349
5 years ago
Reply to  CocoaNo5

Why can’t she be a maid with a fantastic body? The Help had no problem sexualizing the shit out of Jessica Chastain whose boobs were practically popping out of her dress, I get that it was part of her character, but why feel the need to ‘ugly’ up Viola Davis and manipulate her body into a shape that is not hers by nature, just for the role?

lis
lis
5 years ago

I’m late…but yes they do…it might be industry standard…I remember there was a black sitcom and the leading lady mentioned how she was always told she was too pretty.…can’t remember her name or sitcom name(I was a kid)..never saw her again.….but yeah…I notice how Black men are often given roles in shows and blockbuster movies but not Black women…I always wondered why but then I realized white women are always in those shows and movies and they must always be the center and Black males take nothing away from that…In fact they confirm and affirm those white women places.….anyhoo.…I don’t… Read more »

Emily Collingswood
Emily Collingswood
3 years ago

Afrochele no I dont buy that. The author says thats not the exception but its the rule. He is right. They love to show black hard, masculine, broken down, downtrodden, fat, bald, struggling black women next to light flowing locked, blue eyed trim “attractive” white women in great situations.

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