What Did You Think? Oprah’s Next Chapter Tackled Mean Girls And Mixed Feelings About Skin Tone

June 24, 2013  |  

Last night, Alfre Woodard, Gabrielle Union, Phylicia Rashad and Viola Davis sat with Oprah Winfrey to discuss the ins and outs and ups and downs of navigating Hollywood as women of color on Oprah’s Next Chapter.

With such an array of talents and accolades  in one room it was most intriguing to watch the discussion of everything from how inconsistent work can be, to leaving within their means in such a volatile industry, to supporting fellow Black actresses.

Gabrielle Union, who was essentially Oprah’s reason for this particular installment of Next Chapter, revealed quite a bit about her internal struggle with her mean girl demons and expounded upon the jaw-dropping-ly honest speech she gave during an ESSENCE luncheon earlier this year. When receiving the Fierce and Fabulous award, Union recounted how she had been only pretending to be fierce and fabulous for much of her life. She uncovered how she had at one point torn others down to feel better about herself.

“I had to really examine all of the choices I’ve made as an adult and what I like and don’t like,” she said. “And there was a lot I didn’t like. So from that point in like, my early thirties, I started really living my truth and my words matched my actions.”

An always timely message for women of color, and actually just women in general, as the “crabs in a barrel” mentality is one that seems to pervade in many parts of our lives, as if we all can’t succeed and shine together.

It was interesting to see the reactions of the older women because it was clear that they came up in a different era entirely, one where fierce support of each other reigned supreme. The differences were very evident as Viola Davis spoke of refusing to apologize for herself and of being “pathological about being supportive. To anybody.” She also spoke of how Black writers in Hollywood seem to only want to write characters that are not flawed, or show the ugly side of humanity because they are afraid of how they will appear to others.

Phylicia Rashad, in all her regal elegance, gave insight into the truth of The Cosby Show, remembering how many believed it was not a realistic portrayal of Black America at the time, when it absolutely was, in fact.

“I grew up in Houston, Texas in the third ward and it was very realistic. And it wasn’t just realistic in Houston, Texas – it was realistic in Charlotte, North Carolina, in Atlanta, in New York, in Richmond, in Hampton… It was realistic in a lot of places…I guess it just depends on (who you know) and what you know. People will always have something to complain about. [It goes back to] knowing your life and who and what you are. You can stand in that and it doesn’t really matter.”

The discussion covered a range of topics including light skin v. dark skin which segued perfectly into the “Dark Girls” documentary that followed. Twitter rang out, praising the OWN Network for sitting these beautifully talented women down to discuss their truths and change.

Check out videos from last night’s discussion. What did you think?

Alfre Woodard on the Fierce Competition Among Black Actresses

Award-winning actress Alfre Woodard has been working in Hollywood for more than three decades. For years, she says, the mention of another African-American actress’s name would spark negativity and, oftentimes, the b-word from her managers and agents. Watch as Alfre shares a revelation she had about the women she was competing against.

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