If you’ve ever felt that Coming To America had a colorism issue, you’re not alone. Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway, who starred in the 1988 film, shared with Page Six that she believes colorism heavily affected the role that she was given in the movie.
The highly accomplished actress, who will make a cameo in Coming To America 2, expressed that she had originally auditioned for the role of Lisa, but instead she was asked to audition and eventually offered the role of Imani.
“When you have white people hiring Black people in movies, sometimes a certain look is wanted,”said Calloway. She went on to share that she believes that for the role of Lisa, executives “wanted a light-skinned girl. I just wasn’t light enough, even though Eddie had the final say on who played Lisa.”
Calloway went on to add that in Black culture, many men have been brainwashed into believing that success and status look like being in a relationship with a white or light-skinned woman.
“That’s something that we’ve always dealt with within our race: A lot of men were indoctrinated by having a white woman or light-skinned woman on their arm,” she explained.
“I didn’t want the part of Imani, I wanted to be Lisa — I had read the script and I wanted the bigger role,” the “Saints & Sinners” actress adds before sharing that she decided to accept the opportunity anyway. “At that point, I knew I was not going to get Lisa. So I went outside in the hallway, looked over the part with five minutes of preparation, went back in, and did the best I could.”
According to Calloway, she was still grateful for the role and the opportunity to work with Eddie Murphy.
“The real deal is, when you’re in a situation like that, you wanna be a part of an Eddie Murphy movie. I wasn’t gonna say no! I would’ve loved to have had the lead part, but I was very happy to be in the movie. I can’t lie about that. I said, ‘I’ll make the best out of this and I’ll be the best.’ It was a smaller role but it was a glamorous part to play. And Shari did a great job,” she said.
Calloway’s claims are not far-fetched because the role of Lisa’s sister, Patrice, which was played by a dark-skinned woman, was also problematic, to be honest.
What are your thoughts on this?