Colorism in Hollywood

Colorism in Hollywood

The Lack of Representation of Dark-Skinned Women on TV and Film
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“Tell them, dark don’t mean dirty, nappy don’t mean nasty, loud don’t mean ratchet, bold don’t mean problematic. They say the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice, but at these times the blacker the baby the longer the noose.”

- Masterpiece Poet - "Black Girl Blues"




There needs to better representation of dark-skinned women in media and in advertising. Point. Blank. Period. I am tired of us being the sidekick, the runner-up or the punching bags of all the jokes. The same narratives are constantly being retold and it is frustrating.

Actress Zendaya opened about her light-skin privilege in 2016 saying she has “a bit of a privilege compared to [her] darker sisters and brothers” in her acting career. Colorism in Hollywood is a real issue that needs to be addressed. In April of last year, the Nina Simone biopic, Nina, was released in theaters and it received heavy backlash for its casting choice. Zoe Saldana was cast to play Simone. Saldana is light-skinned and of Dominican Republican and Puerto Rican descent. In the film, he is seen wearing a prosthetic nose and makeup to darken her skin. Some may say that this argument of “degree of blackness” is hypocritical in the sense that it only involves black women attacking other black women. No one bashed Chadwick Boseman for his portrayal of Thurgood Marshall, who was light-skinned. No one bashed Steve Carell for wearing a fake nose and heavy makeup in his portrayal of John du Pont in Foxcatcher.

Here is the issue that I have. It was not that Saldana was unqualified or was not “black enough”. There is just a lack of representation of dark-skinned women in film and on television. The problem is that producers and casting agencies are not casting women of darker complexion. The actresses with fairer tones get the lead roles in films and are typically the love interest. There needs to be more diversity.




Dark girls don't get to be beautiful just dark enough to disappear into the night sky”-

Sarah Ogutu - "Dark Girls"




In 2014, actress Viola Davis opened up about the struggles she faced as a dark-skinned women in the acting industry in an interview with the New York Times Magazine. “I have been given a lot of roles that are downtrodden, mammy-ish,” she said. “A lot of lawyers or doctors who have names but absolutely no lives. You’re going to get your three or four scenes, you’re not going to be able to show what you can do. You’re going to get your little bitty paycheck, and then you’re going to be hungry for your next role, which is going to be absolutely the same. That’s the truth.”

During her interview with The Wrap, she noted how "the paper-bag test is still very much alive and kicking.” “That's the whole racial aspect of colorism: If you are darker than a paper bag, then you are not sexy, you are not a woman, you shouldn't be in the realm of anything that men should desire,”Davis explained.

Again I say, I am tired of seeing women who look like me as the crack-addicts, the prostitutes, the hopeless romantic best friend and the loud and angry black woman. Black women are the victims of harting stereotypes. We can fight against this ideology of colorism by creating more opportunities for women of color and diversifying television and film.




Imagine she was taught to love herself, imitate no one, demand and demonstrate respect when she walks through the door. Imagine she watched the telly and saw herself during the primetime hour instead of the four o'clock video whore.”-

Black Ice- "Imagine"




Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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A Letter To My Dancers

Everything your dance teacher wants you to know.
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When anyone (especially a child) chooses to invest their time, talent, and passion into dancing, it's nothing to take lightly. These kids spend more time with me at the studio than they do at home with their parents. Before long, they're my "kids," too. When I only have an hour to lead a warm-up, teach choreography, and rehearse a number, there isn't much time to express the thoughts and feelings I'd necessarily like to. Being a dance teacher is the most spectacular and rewarding job - and I want my students to know that. Between the great rehearsals and the frustrating ones, the competitions and recitals, and the endless hours we spend together each week, there are just a few reminders I need to share with them.

Dear Dancers,

Please love yourself and love what you do with every ounce of your being. Do it with so much passion that your heart wants to burst. Dance is the most special thing; it's something we are privileged and lucky to have, so don't take it for granted.

Please believe in yourself. You are worthy. You are talented. You are strong and capable of everything you set your mind to. Strive to be the best version of yourself every day, not the reflection of the girl next to you. Dance like you. Move like you. Experiment and find what makes you, you. Be an individual. Trust me when I say I don't want 20 carbon-copied robots. I want you.

Trust that I have your best interest in mind. Sometimes my choices and decisions won't make sense, you might be confused, hurt or frustrated, but keep the faith that I'm on your side. I don't want to see you fail, and I'll do everything in my power to help you find the success you're looking for.

I want you to succeed, but for me to do that, you need to tell me what you need. Do you need the counts again? Do you need me to review the transition to floor one more time? If you understand, tell me. If you don't, tell me that, too. Be vocal, be present, be smart, and be prepared. Practice on the sides. Pay attention to the small details. Ask questions. Don't be late, and definitely don't forget your choreography. Take responsibility for your responsibilities and lead by example. Do you have any remote idea how many children look up to you? Who want to be just like you someday? Dance just like you? Kids watch, listen, and copy. Make sure the behaviors you're teaching them are behaviors you're proud of.

Make memories with your dance family while you still can. Cherish every 9 a.m. Saturday morning rehearsal, every competition you attend, every fundraising event, and every team sleepover. It'll be gone so fast. You're going to miss these days. Please, enjoy them.

Don't compare yourself to other dancers. You are you, and nobody can do "you" better than yourself. Don't wish away your abilities by secretly wishing you had Suzie's feet, Betsy's port de bras, or Charlie's center. The only thing you need to worry about is being a better version of yourself than you were the day before. You are your only competition, so don't be too hard on yourself. Be kind to your mind and body. You work day in and day out to perfect your craft and artistry. You work to mold and create yourself. You'll be rewarded with time if you keep fighting and don't give up. Usually when you want to throw in the towel, it's after you don't get the part you wanted or you don't make the team you hoped to. What you need to understand is the answer isn't "No," the answer is "Not yet." You know you're trying and working hard, and those efforts don't go unnoticed -- even if it seems they are.

Please, remember that it's not going to always be fair. You're going to be let down, and you're going to feel disappointed from time to time. You're not always going to win the trophy. You're not always going to get the featured solo part, and not everyone can be the front row and center dancer. This doesn't mean you're "bad" and this doesn't mean you're not "meant" to dance either.

Quite frankly, it's just how it works, you guys. It doesn't mean I don't like you, and it doesn't mean the dancer who does have the solo is my favorite. The dancer just might be more talented. Yeah, I said it. They might have better lines, straighter knees, or stronger stage presence, and that is entirely okay. You're going to run into this for the rest of your adult life. Someone is going to be smarter, more qualified, more desirable for a particular job or position. So instead of despising and resenting these dancers (and especially me), try to learn from them instead. You'll learn more from each other than you could imagine. But if you take away one thing from this, know that you are still worthy of my best training, my best analogies, my best choreography -- whether you are featured, in the third row, or even off-stage for the turn section.

As your teacher, it's my job to teach. Learning (and learning correctly) requires close attention to detail, incredible focus, and a plethora of corrections on my part. Yes, I will go out of my way to critique you, and I will continually tell you what needs fixing until it's fixed. I might have to tell you over and over and over again. And you know, I might even get frustrated with you once in awhile because of it, but here's what you need to understand: This doesn't make me mean or a bad teacher. This doesn't mean I hate you. What it does mean is that I see potential in you and I want to help. I just have to ask, do you see what I see in you? Do you see the talent and abilities I see?

Corrections are good. Success is an incredibly long and never ending process that takes time, but the corrections I give you are helping you get one step closer. So next time you catch yourself getting upset about receiving the same critique week after week or you want to complain about how mean I am, please remember that my intent is not malicious. I'm doing my job.

It's also my job to instill perseverance, dedication, discipline, trust, humility, confidence, creativity, bravery, and strong work ethic into you. I want to push your limits. Test you. Challenge you. I want to mold you into the person you want to be. Even though you probably don't even know who that person is, I do.

There are so many possibilities, opportunities, and challenges that are out there once you enter the world of adulthood. The dance world is so much bigger than your studio, competition routines, and conventions. At the end of the day, no one remembers or cares (especially your future employers) if you won a quadruple diamond platinum plus on your lyrical solo in 2016. They don't care about your first place overall at Showbiz. They don't care if you're Teen Miss Winner of the World. They don't care. What people do care about is your character, your heart, and how you made them feel.

Dancers, I will always support you. Whether you want to pursue a professional dance career in Los Angeles or New York City, in a company overseas, on your college dance team, I will support you. Whether you want to teach dance or choreograph locally in town, I will support you. Whether you don't want to dance at all and maybe be an engineer or a cosmetologist, I will support you. I will always fuel your dreams, goals, and desires, no matter where they'll take you.

I love you and I'm proud of you.

Sincerely,

Your Dance Teacher


Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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