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Zendaya Coleman: ‘I Don’t Face the Same Struggles as a Woman With Darker Skin’

• Jul 12, 2016

It’s no secret that Hollywood favors lighter skin on black female entertainers. But some black actresses, while perhaps observing that fact, resist publicly acknowledging.

But in her June Cosmopolitan cover interview, 19‐year‐old Zendaya Coleman spoke about colorism with maturity and poise.

Zendaya-Coleman-Cosmopolitan-Magazine-July-2016-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-1

I feel a responsibility to be a voice for the beautiful shades my people come in. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers… Like people question, Would you listen to Zendaya if she wasn’t the same skin color? And that’s an honest question. Can I honestly say that I’ve had to face the same racism and struggles as a woman with darker skin? No, I cannot. I have not walked in her shoes and that is unfair of me to say. But I’m completely behind that woman. I want to be a part of the movement and growth. And if I get put in a position because of the color of my skin where people will listen to me, then I should use that privilege the right way.”

Zendaya’s response shows far more insight than other actresses who have been questioned on colorism.

In a March interview with XONecole.com, 23‐year‐old actress and singer Tinashe side stepped the issue of colorism altogether when asked about it;

Again, the way I see it, obviously, is if a Black girl is winning–whether she is lightskin, darkskin, or any type of shade in‐between, that should be a win for the Black community, period. But it’s not necessarily always perceived as such. It’s like ‘Oh, she’s on the more lighter spectrum, so that is why she wins.’”

And while 22‐year‐old actress Kiersey Clemons acknowledged the existence of colorism in a May interview with BET, she also made the bizarre assessment that it couldn’t have played a role in her recent film Dope because the director and casting director were married to dark‐skinned people, or dark‐skinned themselves. (Despite featuring dark‐skinned men in key roles, Dope featured only light‐skinned women in key roles.)

I got some tweets about how none of us were darker, and I got very defensive because I took it personally. Because… well… I didn’t cast the movie; I didn’t make the movie… But also, we have to realize [director] Rick Famuyiwa is married to a dark‐skinned woman. Kim Coleman, the casting director, is a darker skinned woman. And this was an indie film that was made and Rick’s casting was purely based off of talent and, unfortunately, I feel like maybe some of the girls didn’t make it into the room because maybe they’ve been discouraged by the people that allow you to get into the room, which are your agents… But when you look at the bigger picture, it’s society. And until society changes there’s not gonna really be a change in Hollywood.”

Ummm.…

giphy

Well‐intentioned as they might be, both women are off base. The ‘trickle down’ mentality (a light‐skinned actress who breaks barriers will pave the way for a dark‐skinned one) is not how Hollywood has worked. For decades now, lighter skinned women have been disproportionately represented while the (much smaller) percentage of roles for darker‐skinned black women has not significantly increased. Some would even argue that, after a brief golden age of black television in the 90s, it has actually decreased.

The good news is that black influencers in Hollywood can disrupt this trend. Black showrunner Shonda Rhimes cast Viola Davis and Aja Naomi King in lead roles for How to Get Away with Murder. And black directors Ava Duvernay and Mara Brock Akil have regularly cast darker‐skinned black women in leading and primary roles in their productions. Issa Rae, whose new show Insecure debuts on HBO this Fall, has cast darker‐skinned actress Yvonne Orji opposite her in the comedy.

But disrupting a trend means acknowledging that it exists, as Coleman eloquently does. And we appreciate her for speaking up when so many are silent.

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TWA4now
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TWA4now

So true!

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[…] put, especially considering how stars like Zoe Saldana and others are missing the mark when it comes to discussing the issue of colorism in Hollywood and beyond.  As young, talented, […]

A.P. Millz-CT
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A.P. Millz-CT

I respect her honesty, but this young girl isn’t that pretty. She’s right, the only reason she is chosen is b/c of her light skin and hair possibly. I can name about 5 REAL black women that are better actresses, more educated and more beautiful than this girl, but, hey! Colorism is a sad thing. Look at Lil Kim.

P.S. a light skin woman.

WildMelee
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WildMelee

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and life can be quite tough for the blind

Eliza Graham
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Eliza Graham

Your comment sounds unnecessarily hateful. Her lighter skin tone may be advantageous, but she wouldn’t be in the elevated position that she’s in now if it weren’t for her talent, good work ethic, winning personality and fearlessness. Her savvy use of social media has also played a major part in her success. She presents herself in a way that sets her apart from most of her young contemporaries.

Esha Fowlin
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Esha Fowlin

Thank you for your honesty. I would also add I love zendaya for this. I agree she’s not a stunner but she is a honest leader and our community needs that now

Pamela A
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Pamela A

The only thing I disagree with is that she isn’t that pretty.

Pinga_dulce
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Pinga_dulce

I have to respectfully disagree with you. Zendaya is a talented, pretty young lady; even her name is pretty, not the typical urban name ending with -mica -isha etc. In fact, she is has been cast by Marvel to be in the new Spiderman movie. Anyone, who says this young lady is not talented or pretty, are looking through the glasses of hate and jealousy. Furthermore, we need to get behind and support actors of colors, regardless what side if the rainbow they find themselves. Color shades, are a different animals, and it requires in debt analysis, time, and a… Read more »

Tossing out the trash
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Tossing out the trash

You are petty and that was a petty comment. She may not be attractive to you, but that doesn’t make her unattractive! Matter of fact somewhere someone probably thinks you look trash. Can’t believe you found other people to co‐sign your ignorance. You can keep you 5 “real” black women and whatever that was supposed to mean.

Kay Lewis
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Kay Lewis

This recessive genes bitch is vile looking. Get White supremacy out of your head.

LovelyAfros
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LovelyAfros

I could name some dark skin actresses prettier than her too, but that doesn’t mean she’s ugly. And she’s talented and smart. No need to start comparing her to people. This article was not about her beauty

Eyroni Anubissium
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Eyroni Anubissium

Yeah she isn’t that pretty and looks like a totally different without the layers of makeup. It shocked the hell out of me when I saw a video of Zendaya walking round LA without makeup nor extensions. I thought “That’s not her it’s an imposter!” lol Also I think she is a MOUTH piece for someone else with all these extra preachy statements/commentary in every interview.. .. Also seems that shes on the same subliminal bullcrap like most attention seeking celebs, in the form of “just defending a fan” just to stay in the media. Her & Keke Palmer {especially}… Read more »

Thatregulargirl
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Thatregulargirl

So she acknowledges her privilege and all you guys have to say is that “she’s not really that pretty” and that you don’t trust her? If Jesse Williams said it would you feel differently?

Kay Lewis
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Kay Lewis

How can recessive skin be a privilege? That bitch need to get some sun lotion, before she burn. I can tell that white bitch.? No Pro Black person buy into Hollywood white supremacy BS. Can you imagine a Black women like Naomi Campbell, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey being presented as white women to the white public? They will have you up for fraud. THIS BITCH IS WHITE AND NASTY LOOKING.

tiff Christie
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tiff Christie

Careful you don’t get too sick from all of that venemous, cancerous hate in your heart …

tiff Christie
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tiff Christie

You sound extremely petty and mean spirited.. I don’t give a crap what a person resembles on the outside, it’s what’s in the inside , and from what it sounds like you seem to be uglier than her.

King Ariicha V
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King Ariicha V

Wow, so hateful. You don’t sound like someone who even loves yourself. People who are happy with themselves don’t tear down others.

BB Shark
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BB Shark

I feel the same way about solange

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Comments like these are why some light‐skinned women are loath to admit or acknowledge any kind of privilege on their part. Colorism is not an excuse to demonize light skinned black women, remember that they’re still seen as BLACK women first and foremost to the rest of society and they suffer from a racist status quo as much as they benefit from it.

P.S. Your skin tone doesn’t determine whether or not you’re a “real” black person. You sound like an idiot.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Comments like these are why some light‐skinned women are loath to admit or acknowledge any kind of privilege on their part. Colorism is not an excuse to demonize light skinned black women, remember that they’re still seen as BLACK women first and foremost to the rest of society and they suffer from a racist status quo as much as they benefit from it.

P.S. Your skin tone doesn’t determine whether or not you’re a “real” black person. Your comment reeks of ignorance.

Kay Lewis
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Kay Lewis

She NOT Black,

Bea
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Bea

Zendaya is quite the mature 19 year old. No one wants to be told that they got where they are because of something other than their hard work and talent, let alone acknowledge that it may be true. I hate that darker girls are passed over and I hate that lighter girls will have that niggling doubt that they were only picked because of how they look.

ticha st.fleur
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ticha st.fleur

Zendaya is a beautiful young lady and she couldn’t have said it better and it actually takes boldness in her to acknowledge this preference that Hollywood has and society has at large because of the shade of your skin.Today I witnessed siblings bullying their youngest sister because all of them were light skin and she wasn’t,it was so sad to watch and listen to hear her sisters calling her dark monkey, rat etc and their mom were there!!!But we can’t let hollywood decide if we are beautiful or not.Parents tell ur children they are beautiful,sisters tell ur siblings they are… Read more »

maralondon
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maralondon

Yes, it is up to us to instill in our children their self worth not based on skin tone. To flip the coin my aunt was taunted as a child because of her light skin I’ve also heard of countless experiences from light skinned people about being bullied over their complexion or hair. To have someone abuse you because you believe everyone else should suffer for your mistreatment is not the way to go, it’s not going to solve the issues we face.

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[…] Zendaya Coleman is on the cover of the June issue of Cosmopolitan, and not only is she rocking the cover but she is rocking the truth about colorism. […]

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[…] Zendaya Coleman is on the cover of the June issue of Cosmopolitan, and not only is she rocking the cover but she is rocking the truth about colorism. […]

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[…] Zendaya Coleman is on the cover of the June issue of Cosmopolitan, and not only is she rocking the cover but she is rocking the truth about colorism. […]

Christal Davis
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Christal Davis

Zendaya is very mature andt wise for her age

helen black
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helen black

I don’t watch Hollywood movies, SHE NOT BLACK either. Whites are recessive Blacks are dominant. I love my Black skin, I age very well. Hollywood is so finished with. All the actress are whores there have to sex, these old creepier Jewish men. She looklike a ugly white woman with her White recessive genes. White skin is weak and ugly it only 7000 years old, Blacks skin is dominant and strong, ageless and priceless. It’s called social engineering self genocide, it to made Black people stop procreating with their own race. Black women do not want to date outside their… Read more »

eda
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eda

being racist not help.

melimelon67
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melimelon67

Bruh, you have problems. Keep your close minded, pseudo science, hotep opinions to yourself please.

tiff Christie
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tiff Christie

I’m extremely light like zendaya and I think it’s bull that they don’t cast darker skin women for roles, especially as leading ladies..Sure there’s some privilege with being light but not the kind of privilege as being white so of course we are still black women.That’s the way the world sees us light or dark we“re still black. Whenever a darker sister gets passes over for an ambiguous mixed one that’s basically saying we want as close to white as possible.. A slap in my f ace as well.When I see dark skin women on tv , in the movies… Read more »

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[…] community for some time, but actress Zendaya Coleman recently touched upon this complex issue in an interview she did for Cosmo Magazine in June. Coleman was honest, well‐spoken, and very much on target when she spoke to the privileges […]

Kay Lewis
Guest
Kay Lewis

How is this racist it’s a fact SHE NOT BLACK. Hollywood directors, producers agents have sex with these white women. This woman is WHITE. The Black race, is destroying it self by creating recessive, weak, genes people who get skin cancer from sun light. The planet getting hotter, White skin cannot cope with daylight facts NOT racist. Promoting this recessive genes ugly white woman is racist. Coons and Bed Wenches are enemies of the Black race. I do not watch Hollywood movies also. That bitch is ugly and a hoe.

King Ariicha V
Guest
King Ariicha V

You’re a racist too

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[…] magazine because “they haven’t had a black girl on the cover since forever,” spoke out about colorism, and refused to return to Disney Channel unless they gave her a position of more power, which she […]

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[…] but stands firm in her blackness, owns her light skin privilege, even speaking openly about it in THIS […]

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[…] seeing many actors who look like them on‐screen. Even Zendaya herself has addressed this, as she openly admitted to “have a bit of a privilege compared to [her] darker sisters and brothers” in her acting […]

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