All Articles Tagged "black actresses"
I thought I had really sworn off ratchet reality TV, but something about seeing famous (or in some cases, semi-famous) Black women come together to create something piqued my interest enough to make me tune into “Hollywood Divas.” Featuring Paula Jai Parker, Golden Brooks, Countess Vaughn, Elise Neal and Lisa Wu, “Hollywood Divas” is a close sister-friend of “R&B Divas.” What I mean by that is, has-been or struggling celebrities of a certain craft come together to become relevant again, constantly listing their credits to validate their current staked claim (READ: struggle).
I’m not sure if I was wrong for expecting a bit more (this IS reality tv), but I was all kinds of confused and disappointed by the rollout of the episodes and the catty/shady behavior of the women on-screen. In my mind, if I’m a struggling actress trying to get my name on somebody’s marquee or credits, I’d come into a collaborative situation with my game face on and my pettiness tucked clean away.
These women don’t think like I do, apparently.
The first two episodes jumped off with tears, fake high-pitched greetings, half-hugs, shade and catty backhanded compliments. One thing that struck me in particular as crazy with a capital C is the fact that Golden Brooks, best known for her role as ‘Maya Wilkes’ on Mara Brock Akil’s groundbreaking show “Girlfriends,” spent every waking moment shading reality stars and blaming them for the reason that “theater-trained” actors with a “certain pedigree” couldn’t get work.
Um, you’re on a reality show now, boo.
She also stated that in order to get work nowadays, actors have to be active on social media with millions of followers. To say that I was annoyed and that I highly disagreed would be the understatement of the year. There are so many examples of actresses, BLACK actresses, who have made it – in RECENT years – based off of their talent and strategic choices in roles not their standing on social media.
Viola Davis, a newcomer to Twitter, gained acclaim because of her work in recent movies like The Help and now her incomparable work as the mysterious and driven Annalise Keating in ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder.” Her Twitter followers are climbing, but it’s not because she’s so active online. It’s her talent.
Though she boasts 1.8 million followers on Twitter, Kerry Washington was on the map before she ever became active on social networks. Having masterfully portrayed Ray Charles’s wife, a former Black Panther, Kay Amin, a slave woman and now political pistol Olivia Pope, she has garnered a fanbase. This fanbase comes not because of selfies and tweets, but because she has put in the work and taken on roles that align with her values and trajectory.
“Soul Food” actress, Nicole Ari Parker, spoke candidly at last year’s Woman Thou Art Loosed “Girl Talk” segment about hearing a thousand nos before hearing the yes’ that have helped her have success.
The bitterness and jealousy seen within the first few episodes of this show has left a bad taste in my mouth, but I’m still hoping for the best. We, as Black women, already have it tough without blaming one another for what we lack. There is room for all of us to shine, we just have to get in where we fit in and be resilient.
I’m hoping “Hollywood Divas” will eventually showcase strengthened friendships, uplifting creative projects, and a positive answer to the portrayal of Black women, but I won’t hold my breath. However, it’s still early, so we shall see…
La Truly is a writer, higher education professional, and young women’s empowerment enthusiast. She mixes her interest in social and cultural issues with her life experiences to encourage thought, discussion and positive change among young Women of Color. Follow her on Twitter: @ashleylatruly and check out her site: www.ashleyjh.com.
“Hollywood Divas” is premiering tonight on TV One at 10 p.m. ET. The show stars actresses who have struggled in the past few to several years with their careers and staying in the limelight: Golden Brooks, Countess Vaughn, Elise Neal and Paula Jai Parker. Also starring is reality star Lisa Wu who is sure to bring the drama. But MadameNoire feels as though there are more black actresses who can use “Hollywood Divas” as a platform to revive their careers — especially if the show branches out into other cities and future seasons.
Terri J. Vaughn Dishes On New Film “Girlfriends Getaway” & Shares Thoughts On The Mike Brown Tragedy
MN: Can you tell us about your new movie, Girlfriends Getaway?
“Well, the movie Girlfriends Getaway was a concept that me and my producing partner, Cas Sigers, came up with about a year and a half ago. Cas wrote the script and we really wanted to create a film much like Bridesmaids or The Hangover but featuring Black actresses. We never see Black actresses get the opportunity to be very comical and kind of over the top in that Hangover or Bridesmaids type of way. We just never see that. We see that with our guys sometimes and they have girlfriends, but it’s never featuring or starring Black women in those kind of comedic roles. So that’s kind of where we came up with the concept. It’s basically a Waiting To Exhale meets The Hangover.
It stars Garcelle Beauvais, Malinda Williams, Essence Atkins and myself. We’re all friends going on this trip to celebrate two of their birthdays. My character is kind of the glue of the group. I’m the one who is friends with all of them and they’re all friends because of my relationship with all of them. Once we take this trip together, a lot of secrets come out and a lot of stuff that happened in the past that somebody else didn’t know about and everything kind of goes haywire. Not to mention I get kidnapped.”
MN: Many Black actresses have spoken out to say that there’s a scarcity of roles in Hollywood for them.
“Absolutely and that’s the reason me and my producing partner, 8 or 9 years ago, got together for the purpose of creating more products and opportunities for me to work as well as a lot of my peers. It was a very frustrating time for me because there wasn’t a lot going on. There were very minimal roles. We were all going after the same roles and it just wasn’t enough. So we started our company Nina Holiday Entertainment as a means to create more opportunities and to try to take control and be able to create product that was our voice and that portrayed images that we want to see and opportunities for others actors and actresses to work. We’ve been very blessed over the last couple of years to have done some amazing films and give jobs to a lot of my peers, with Girlfriends Getaway being one of those opportunities.
A documentary was our very first product under Nina Holiday Entertainment. We interviewed 25 Black actresses in the business and we kind of did these roundtables where we spoke about keeping relevant in the business as artists and mothers and wives. You know, what makes us stay motivated to even remain in this business and how we need to support each other. It was just an amazing project. That was our entry into producing and we’ve been really fortunate. We’ve done like 9 movies for GMC and UP TV. We’ve done this family movie with Burt Reynolds and now we have Girlfriends Getaway with TV One. We’re pounding the pavement. We want to keep creating better projects and opportunities to keep people working. These people deserve it.”
Now that we are slowly recovering from “Lupita Nyong’o fever”, it is back to the drawing board when it comes to the representation of Black actresses on the big screen. Yes, Lupita is lovely, and her Oscar win for her hauntingly beautiful performance in 12 Years a Slave, will never be forgotten, but what happens now? The Mexican-born Kenyan actress has managed to stay relevant through her various ad campaigns and cosmetic deals, and has also scored a major role in the upcoming Star Wars movie being helmed by director J.J. Abrams. Despite all the accolades, it’s hard to gauge what lies in store for Nyong’o in terms of career trajectory. As we all know, being an Oscar-winner doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will be at the top of the list for every casting session. Halle Berry certainly did not fare too well after her Best Actress win for Monster’s Ball back in 2002. Octavia Spencer, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Help in 2012, has been steadily working, but it is clear that she will never be regulated to leading lady status.
In fact, it is hard to imagine why Black actresses are still not in a position to nab significant roles in films, unless they are being subjected to the tutelage of Tyler Perry or other Black filmmakers. A recent piece in Vogue Magazine highlighted the new breed of “Young Hollywood”, and as expected the ingénues were Caucasian, with no actress of color in sight. Is it possible that there are no young Black actresses under the age of 35, who are coming into their own, with beauty and talent to match?
There are few of them floating around, Yaya DaCosta, 31, could have easily made the list. The America’s Next Top Model alumn, has proven beyond a doubt that she is much more than just a pretty face. From The Kids Are All Alright to The Butler, DaCosta commands the screen with every appearance, and her latest venture will have her portraying the late songbird Whitney Houston for a Lifetime movie being directed by actress Angela Bassett. English actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, 30, held her own opposite Tom Hanks in 2011’s Larry Crowne, and most recently wowed critics with her performance in Belle, where she played the title character Dido Elizabeth Belle to perfection. Former soap star, Tika Sumpter, 34, has managed to parlay her undeniable charisma to the big screen. Her notables include, Think Like a Man, Sparkle, A Madea Christmas and the summer hit Get On Up. It is somewhat hard to understand why Naturi Naughton, 30, former member of the girl group 3LW, still isn’t being adequately utilized. Her performance in the 2008 film Notorious, where she portrayed Lil’ Kim, was her first lead role and demonstrated her burgeoning talent. She has had other opportunities to shine but not as brightly as she deserves. Actress Adepero Oduye, 36, gave a stunningly heartbreaking performance in the 2011 film Pariah, which garnered her an Independent Spirits Award nomination and an inclusion in The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen Fastest-Rising Stars list for 2011. Since then she appeared opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 years a Slave, and in the remake of Steel Magnolias. But despite her winning accomplishments, it is clear that the industry still doesn’t know what to do with highly-skilled actresses who are presumably not bankable.
There are many others that fall into the same category of “young, talented and underused”. And then the movies that present and all Black cast almost always feature the same faces. Regina Hall, Nia Long, Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson, Sanaa Lathan and Gabrielle Union dominate the circuit while Zoe Saldana has been certified as the leading Black actress of the moment, even nabbing a role that many thought was grossly miscast. The 35-year-old actress was tapped to play the iconic crooner and civil rights activist Nina Simone, and the announcement did not sit well with fans, who feel Saldana’s physical attributes will not translate simply because both women do not share similar characteristics. The shots from set of Saldana with purposely darkened skin is evidence enough, and inspires the question of why a more suited actress wasn’t awarded the part.
The answer to that question is an infuriatingly long-standing one. Hollywood is a business, and actors are regarded as money-makers first which means that even though being skilled is a necessity, studio heads have to be convinced that you are viable enough for them to bet on you. When pitted against their White counterparts, Black actresses are still not able to prove their worth and are only allowed regulated access to sought-after scripts. The likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley, and Emma Stone currently dominate the market for leading actresses, and the veterans like Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts, are not letting up because the hits keep coming.
There has been some progress made, but it is hard to be specific because so much more work needs to be done to help give Black actresses the chance to shine in the spotlight long enough for them to swiftly pass on the torch to the generation after them. In the meantime, secondary roles will have to do unless another Lupita is on the horizon, and since we are only allotted one shining star every few years, that is highly unlikely.
I’m happy for Lupita Nyong’o.
As a Black woman I’m happy. As a mentor to young women in my community, I’m happy about what this moment will mean to how they see themselves. As a dark-skinned, short-haired woman from Africa, I’m especially happy.
But as a moviegoer, I’m anxious.
How will Hollywood treat my dear sister?Now that she’s an Oscar winner and a certifiable asset to Tinseltown, will her agent’s inbox be filled with scripts as diverse as the ones “America’s sweetheart,” and fellow Oscar winner, Jennifer Lawrence receives? Or will she be relegated to the roles Hollywood loves to dole out to Black women? You know, the wise domestic, the asexual ever-powerful detective, and my fave, the sassy Black girlfriend, who ultimately stays in the background.Granted, Nyong’o hasn’t gotten to show the diversity of her skills yet since 12 Years a Slave is only her first major role (she has a few lines in her latest film, Non-Stop). So, a better question might be, will Hollywood welcome her with arms as embracing as it does when a young, white actress, like Lawrence, bursts onto the scene?
There’s a reason Nyong’o is only the seventh Black woman to win an Academy Award in 86 years. Eighty. Six. If you recall, in those 86 years we’ve had phenomenal performances by Black women on screen. I won’t dare name the women I think deserved a golden statue—after all, the moviegoing experience is subjective—but there are the ones we can all agree deserved to go home Oscar winners, from Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones to Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got To Do with It?. The dearth of roles Hollywood has given to Black women has been well-documented. And actresses like Bassett and Viola Davis have decried the trend.
Read more about Lupita Nyong’o at Essence.com
Once upon a time, the red carpet was a monotone place that only celebrated one type of beauty. But today, Hollywood is embracing diversity of all colors thanks to the pioneering work of some of our favorite entertainers. Shouts out to these women who are changing Hollywood’s standard of beauty one red carpet at a time.
This certainly isn’t a new question and, quite frankly, it’s one black people have been asking for years — if not decades — but it’s nice to see a USA Today reporter use her national platform to advocate for more African American female representation in Hollywood.
USA Today’s entertainment reporter Arienne Thompson, who is black, wrote an interesting essay yesterday afternoon about the underrepresentation of black women among this years Screen Actor’s Guild and Golden Globe nominees, which she plainly pointed out stems from the lack of roles such women have been given to begin with. Interestingly, though we usually have this discussion from an all-encompassing point of view on the lack of African American representation in Hollywood period, Thompson notes that Black men are having a particularly stellar year in Tinseltown on the acting, producing, and directing front thanks to movies like Fruitvale Station, The Butler, and 12 Years a Slave. Conversely, “Of more than 250 box office releases so far in 2013, fewer than 50 have featured a black woman in a leading or supporting role. Among the 10 highest-grossing movies of the year so far, only one — Star Trek Into Darkness — starred a black woman, [and] Kasi Lemmons, who directed Black Nativity, is the only black female director who has released a major film this year.”
And though everyone has Kerry Washington fever right now, actress Holly Robinson Peete isn’t completely optimistic that “Scandal” will usher in another slew of black female-led shows on television. She told USA Today:
“This Kerry Washington thing is so awesome, but I remember when my dad (actor, producer and writer Matt Robinson) was doing Cosby and we just knew that meant there were going to be three or four black family pilots every year.”
Of course that didn’t happen, which is why, as Debbie Allen pointed out, we’re still having this same tired discussion.
“This conversation is an old conversation,” she told USA Today. “Unfortunately, we just keep having (it) over and over and over. It’s like raising a child that doesn’t listen … We have to keep going over it.
Unfortunately, so far it’s not clear whether this concept will finally get through to the decision makers in Hollywood in 2014, or the current landscape will be a passing trend. As “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Chandra Wilson pointed out:
“It’s about the opportunity to be a showrunner and the opportunity to be a creator of a series when you’re a person of color about a person of color. Who’s going to give that opportunity?”
Piggybacking off of that sentiment, Allen added:
“The word that we all want is ‘possibility.’ But the word we don’t have enough of is probably ‘opportunity.’ I’m looking at all the young women I’m mentoring and the ones that I have raised. Jada Pinkett Smith is someone who I discovered, who is now a mogul. … It’s about us remembering to network and call upon one another and give opportunity when it’s possible.”
Are you hopeful there will be more opportunities in the coming year?
Have you ever watched a scary movie with a significant black character in it and prayed he or she didn’t die first?! Well, of course you have. But the black guy dies first stigma hasn’t always been the case for a few famous black actors and actresses who managed to smartly survive or butt-kick their way through to the end of many horror sub-genres.
In celebration of Halloween, MadameNoire is highlighting black actors (and their characters) who made it in popular horror films… sometimes as the lead! Black viewers of these films didn’t have to scream at the screen for unnecessarily killing off the brother or sister — thinking, “he or she could’ve made it.”
Keith David, The Thing (1982)
To kick off our list is David who became one of the first black horror film survivors in a significant role. This is a pretty big deal since before the 1980s all we had were black exploitation horror films re-imaging horror film classics like Blacula (1972), Blackenstein (1973) and Abby (1974), which was sued for being a ripoff of The Exorcist (1973). But David played a different kind of role as Childs, a chief mechanic of U.S. Outpost 31 in Antarctica. He survived “the thing” infestation along with MacReady (Kurt Russell).
On Oprah’s “Next Chapter” special on Black Actresses in Hollywood, Viola Davis said it best when she shared, “We’re in crisis mode as black actresses.” Beautiful, black and talented actresses play our favorite characters on the big screen, with the ability to make us laugh, cry or high-five our sisters in solidarity (think Angela Bassett torching her cheating husband’s things on Waiting To Exhale). Unfortunately, despite the success, fame, and riches, black actresses still face a shortage of opportunities and limited types of roles in Hollywood. If you factor in the competitive nature of this career, it’s amazing we can even say there are thriving black actresses in Hollywood. But when it comes to these women that’s the case. And what’s even more remarkable about these ladies is that they’ve been excelling in the industry for decades. Check out the list.
The night of the premiere, I decided not to watch Being Mary Jane. I saw the hash tag all up and through my Twitter timeline with all sorts of comments as people followed the storyline. I didn’t want other opinions clouding my thoughts as I watched. So, I waited a day, found the show online, and watched in solitude.
The original movie-turned-show chronicles the life of Gabrielle Union’s character, Mary Jane Paul. She’s a largely successful television news anchor who is gorgeous, smart, and wealthy, but who is quite unlucky in love and unfortunately is the sole breadwinner for her entire family.
I watched with baited breath praying that the acting would not suck – it did not. Neither was the storyline dull or unrealistic. In fact, it was so realistic, I found myself laughing throughout, remembering similar instances in my own life. I enjoyed it from the opening post-it note to the ending booty call, because although it might not be a squeaky clean portrayal of a black woman – it’s an honest one.
I can fully appreciate Mary Jane for the same reasons I appreciate Kerry Washington’s portrayal of Olivia Pope in Scandal – the unmitigated honesty. The typewritten disclaimer at the beginning informed viewers that the show isn’t trying to account for the lives of every black woman everywhere…just one. The show doesn’t seek to lump all black women into one group of romantically challenged workaholics, it just lets us follow one woman who is trying to navigate that space in her life. A life full of choices to be made. Sometimes she gets them right, and sometimes she gets them wrong. You know, like a human being?
I saw glimpses of myself or people I know throughout the storyline. Who hasn’t gone back to the man who is no good for them but feels so good to them? Who hasn’t fought for a cause they truly believe in on their job only to be shot down? Who hasn’t flooded themselves with messages of affirmation and encouragement? Who hasn’t tidied their whole house and gotten “effortlessly” sexified in a matter of minutes before inviting their boo inside? And yes, who hasn’t employed the quick “squat-and-wash” method of washing up before an impromptu hot date?
I screamed when Mary Jane was Facebook chatting with her ex. More than once I have started typing, then rethought it and deleted, started again, then deleted it again only to end up with coy one or two-word answers – trying to tailor my responses to get the responses I wanted from a guy – whether via Facebook chat or text message.
My point is – I wasn’t mad at the creators of the show for displaying a truth that many of us won’t admit to living. I was thankful, in a way, for being shown that I’m not the only one who wrestles with some of these issues.
While people have a right to dislike any work of art they choose, I noticed that most of the criticism of Mary Jane (which was luckily not a lot) stemmed from a belief that it showed black women in a poor light. It’s the same mentality that met Viola Davis when she decided to play Abilene in The Help. It’s the mentality that black actresses are not allowed to show the whole truth. Just the pieces that sparkle and smell clean. If the image isn’t 98.7 percent positive, we get uncomfortable.
My response? We have got to get over the fear of telling the truth about ourselves individually and collectively. One person’s truth doesn’t necessarily blanket a whole race. And if art reflects life then for goodness’ sake, allow it to. I’d like to take for granted that most people are smart enough to watch television without coming away with all-encompassing thoughts about an entire group of people from ONE television show. While I love watching Scandal, I believe that anyone who draws the conclusion from the show that all black women are looking to be mistresses to white men are incredibly unintelligent human beings with no real right to voice their opinions. Just saying.
Being Mary Jane seems to be a story of trajectory framed in a way that many women of color will be able to appreciate. And, hey, it debuted with four million viewers so I think that signifies a win with some longevity. There are layers in it and the character as there are in our everyday lives and I’m excited to see what is revealed throughout Mary Jane’s journey.