by R. Asmerom
In 2005, Alison Samuels penned an article in Newsweek questioning the market for Black actresses. At the time, the movie Hitch starring Will Smith and Latina actress Eva Mendes, playing his love interest, had already hit theaters and made a killing at the box office. The question then hovering in Hollywood was if Black actresses weren’t “good enough” to play the counterparts to Black men, did they even have a future in Hollywood?
Since that time, Tyler Perry has come along, love it or hate it, providing much needed jobs to Black actresses, and another interesting phenomenon has emerged: that of the Black BFF. The Los Angeles Times picked up on the very visible trend in 2007 after many leading white actresses were paired with a Black best friend in feature films.
While the NAACP and the African-American creative community continues to lament the dearth of roles for Blacks in Hollywood, one thing is consistent and that is that Hollywood won’t prioritize diversity over their quest to perfect the money making formula.
“ I think at the end of the day, studios aren’t concerned about black and white, they are concerned about the color green,” said Janora McDuffie, an African-American actress who is currently making guest appearances on Grey’s Anatomy.
There’s no clear progress when it comes to assessing how far Black actresses have come in the past five to ten years. Although Halle Berry won the Academy Award for best actress in 2001, and others like Taraji P. Henson and Jennifer Hudson have won it since then, no Black talent was nominated for the 2011 Academy Awards.
And much of the same names that were popular then are still popular now. Gabrielle Union, Sanaa Lathan, Zoe Saldana, Paula Patton Jennifer Hudson and of course, Halle Berry are still booking the few gigs today. “It’s improved for the sisters in the game with a name but what about the opportunities for the newcomer,” asked McDuffie. “White ingénues you’ve never heard of pop up every other month but where are those same break-out opportunities for women of color?”