UPDATE: Agency Apologizes For Shady “Straight Outta Compton” Casting Call, But Did It Really Promote Colorism?

July 17, 2014  |  

*UPDATE: A rep for Sande Alessi Casting got in touch with TMZ and called the wording in the casting call for women in the Straight Outta Compton film an “innocent mistake.” They said that they are actually looking for women of a variety of shades and body types to play “poor” in the film. And as for the A, B, C and D “rank” (coincidentally the finest multicultural woman was A, while the poor, medium to dark overweight black woman was D) is just the method used to look for various types of people for projects. They didn’t mean to upset those who were bothered by the casting call…

I was forwarded an article from Gawker with the title, Straight Outta Compton Casting Call Is Racist As Hell, and the first thing I thought was, “uh oh.” After I read the casting call once, I was a little confused. The second and third time I was just disappointed. The fourth time, finally clear on what I was reading and seeing, I said out loud, “Oooooh…that’s f**ked up.”

I’m sure you’ve heard about the upcoming NWA biopic, Straight Outta Compton, which will be directed by F. Gary Gray and will be released next year. The young men playing Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E have been cast, and now all that’s left to find are the extras. According to Gawker, the following casting call was posted on Facebook by Sande Alessi Casting and it calls for very specific looks to portray women in the ’80s. However, the way it reads, including the rank of the beauty of the women, has people heated:

SAG OR NON UNION CASTING NOTICE FOR FEMALES-ALL ETHNICITIES- from the late 80’s. Shoots on “Straight Outta Compton”. Shoot date TBD…

SAG OR NON UNION FEMALES – PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR SPECIFIC BREAKDOWN. DO NOT EMAIL IN FOR MORE THAN ONE CATEGORY:

A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: A GIRLS

B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: B GIRLS

C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: C GIRLS

D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: D GIRLS

At first, it just seems like an ordinary casting call: they probably want women who looked like the ladies NWA was around growing up in Compton, but also are looking for the ladies they started encountering once they got on. But the rank of everything (A = “hottest” models, D = “poor” and medium to dark skin” girls) and the descriptions for each woman, are kind of disturbing. And I’m also wondering who would read the “D GIRLS” description and be geeked up to audition?

As for the men’s casting call, it reads a lot different of course, because they’re not looking for the fellas to be beautiful…:

BIG, HUGE AFRICAN AMERICAN GUYS: Height 6’2 or taller. BIG guys you wouldn’t mess with. Well-built, security types. Age 20 to 35. Please email a current color photo (not smiling please), your Union status, height/weight and age range to:SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com Subject line should read: A GUYS

AFRICAN AMERICAN RECORD PRODUCER: Males, age 38-35. Rap producers with a very cool looks. Please email a current color photo (not smiling please), your Union status, height/weight and age range to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com Subject line should read: B GUYS

AFRICAN AMERICAN STREET THUGS: Big, huge guys, very intimidating. These are guys you absolutely would not mess with. Males, age 18-30. Please email a current color photo (not smiling please), your Union status, height/weight and age range to:SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com Subject line should read: C GUYS

LABEL EXECUTIVES: Males, Any ethnicity, age 25-35. Music industry label execs. Please email a current color photo (not smiling please), your Union status, height/weight and age range to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com Subject line should read: D GUYS

The ranks are more subtle. But Alessi (who is not black in case you were wondering) also received criticism on her Facebook page when she put the word out for the casting of Blood gang members in the film and asked for the following: “SAG OR NON UNION Bloods: Age 18-28. MUST be black and thuggy.”

As I said, people have been up in arms online about her agency’s casting for this particular film, and the complaints range in anger:

“Is it racist? Absolutely. It is the very affirmation of white supremacy. It defines beauty in a Eurocentric way. “Hottest of the hot” Women with long natural hair. That description has been used to exclude black women from being considered beautiful for years. It doesn’t get truly noticeable until you read the B section. “You should be light skinned.” That affirms that somehow dark women can’t be attractive. Then, to explicitly identify African American girls as “C” list. Medium to light skin. They don’t mention dark skin until it gets to D.”

“What sticks out to me if the ranking of A, B, C & D.”

“I can understand wanting to break the different looks into groups, but making African-American the lowest rank carries a really negative connotation.”

“I hope your casting agency gets all the disgustingly bad press it deserves.”

“It’s sexist and racists[sic] because that is the truth about NWA. Deep internalized racism and sexism. It’s in the music. Why are we surprised about the casting?”

But what do you think? Are we all overreacting, or is the casting call dead wrong?

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