Why Are Black Actresses Having Such a Hard Time in Hollywood? Racism and the Film Industry's Limited Vision Contribute to the Scarcity of Roles for Black Women
Givens, Robin, Ebony
Why Are BLACK ACTRESSES Having Such A Hard Time In Hollywood?
Racism and the film industry's limited vision contribute to the scarcity of roles for Black women
EVERY Black actress in Hollywood--established and struggling--knew the numbers before Meryl Streep ticked them off last year in her speech to the Screen Actors Guild: Only 29 percent of all roles in feature films go to women. And that percentage includes all actresses. For Black actresses, the situation is significantly worse. According to the latest figures from the Screen Actors Guild, Black actresses are cast in only 10 percent of all female roles in major film and TV projects. What's more, in 1990, not a single Black actress made the list of Top 10 box office attractions--not one.
A Black actress has never--not ever--won a best actress Oscar, and Whoopi Goldberg--only the second Black actress ever to win an Oscar--became the first Black actress to win since Hattie McDaniel took best supporting actress for Gone With The Wind in 1939.
The paucity of roles for Black actresses--and Hollywood's limited vision of us as maids, hookers, sidekicks and best friends--makes it tremendously difficult for us to keep on keeping on, never mind find steady work. Yet, despite the enormous obstacles we face daily, we do. And we do it, in no small way, because of the legacy left to us by Black actresses who walked this road before us. We do it because of Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne and Josephine Baker--Black women who decades ago fought this very fight and made our struggle just a little bit easier, our triumph a little bit sweeter.
As a young actress in Hollywood, I hope that some little girl looks at me and says: "She's doing it. I can do it." Often that possibility is what keeps me going when I'm tired and frustrated, when I feel like the injustices of the world have taken their toll on me. If I don't do my part, then the dream has died. If Cicely Tyson, as tired and weary as I am sure she must have become at times during her illustrious career, had given up, then the dream would not have gotten as far as me. And I know I'm not alone.
Veteran Black actresses like Janet Hubert-Whitten ("Aunt Viv" on NBC's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and Sheryl Lee Ralph (Dreamgirls and To Sleep With Anger) somehow manage to remain beautiful, strong, proud Black women despite the struggles and--yes--racism which …
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Publication information: Article title: Why Are Black Actresses Having Such a Hard Time in Hollywood? Racism and the Film Industry's Limited Vision Contribute to the Scarcity of Roles for Black Women. Contributors: Givens, Robin - Author. Magazine title: Ebony. Volume: 46. Issue: 8 Publication date: June 1991. Page number: 36+. © 1999 Johnson Publishing Co. COPYRIGHT 1991 Gale Group.
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