Photo Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Dear Hollywood Reporter, Here Are The Black Actresses That Should Have Made Your Roundtable

A writer at The Hollywood Reporter penned an overly long piece about why there are no black actresses featured on the annual Roundtable cover. He did a darn good job making his case but at the end of the day, he took a long and winding road to the obvious destination.

Black actresses just don’t garner the kind of roles that make them the darlings of awards season.

White actresses have always been revered and relentlessly courted by the industry because well — they are white. Their creamy skin and effortlessly flowing tresses make them endearingly bankable and globally appealing. Studio heads don’t have much to configure when faced with choices like Cate Blanchett or Emma Stone. All they have to do is nod yes and sit back as the rewards filter in.

But actresses of color are a completely different ball game. Casting those types can be tricky because they are not marketable and they don’t posses the level of desirability that guarantees instant marketability. Also, there is the concern of skin tone, hair texture and overall presentation.

Someone like Lupita Nyong’o who struck gold with her role in 12 Years a Slave that garnered her an Oscar is now regulated to characters that don’t necessarily feature her in a prominent way. She is in the newest installment of the Star Wars saga — Star Wars: The Force Awakens but she is barely recognizable in the trailer and for the most part has been lost in the shuffle of her more prominent co-stars. She will be in the upcoming Jungle Book but we will only be privy to her vocals. She will however have a starring role in Americanah alongside British actor David Oyelowo but that of course is attributed to the fact that it is based on the novel by celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Clearly this isn’t a mainstream movie, which is the reason why Nyong’o will be given another chance to showcase her acting chops in full capacity.

So, maybe it’s time for me to cut to the chase. Black actresses are not in the same league as their white counterparts. White actresses bemoan the fact that they are suffering from the effects of sexism based on how much male superstars are paid compared to what they bring home. But that argument is dauntingly irrelevant when you consider that they get all the juicy roles without fail and black actresses can barely partake of the scant remnants hanging from the bone.

The great divide between White and Black Hollywood is more critical with actresses and based on The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable guests — its doesn’t look like things will improve anytime soon.

The only solution is to make exceptions when necessary and in this case — the industry’s designated bible should basically go out of its way to include at least one or two women of color to counteract the stark whiteness glaring from the page.

If author Stephen Galloway felt the need to explicitly explain why he feels so very bad about the fact that this year’s issue is devoid of any actresses of color — then it may be wise to find a way to avoid taking that route altogether.

So, I did the work for him or them (his editors). I decided that the only way to avoid a similar episode in the future would be to include and highlight black actresses who are in films that do have Oscar buzz — even if they are not being considered in the acting category.

After all, if they are in these films it must be a testament to their talent and a reassurance that they have the potential to eventually be formally invited to the prestigious roundtable as a buzzed about nominee in the making.

With that being said — Here is my list of actresses that should have been featured in the The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable this year:

Teyonah Parris

Teyonah Parris: She is a black actress on the rise. After soliciting attention on AMC’s Mad Men, by being the first major African-American character on the show, Parris who hails from South Carolina also kicked ass in the sleeper hit Dear White People. She is currently starring in the Starz hit show Survivor’s Remorse and will be turning heads in Spike Lee’s upcoming feature Chi-Raq. The film is already making waves in the cinema world, which should have been enough incentive to have her included. She could use the exposure and based on her track record — it is more than warranted.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, 32: This British actress has been at it for quite sometime. Actually a long time — if she were a Caucasian actress— God knows she would be on par with the likes of Jessica Chastain or Kate Mara but she’s not. She’s biracial but even that hasn’t done much to help propel her to the heights of recognition that she deserves. After wowing us in such films as the critically acclaimed Belle and the smaller fare, Beyond the Lights, Mbatha-Raw is still struggling to reach the rays of the spotlight that keeps eluding her. She is currently making the press rounds for Concussion — the film that pairs her with heavyweight Will Smith. The film is getting a lot of attention from critics and could possibly be a major contender during awards season which is the reason why she should’ve been added to The Hollywood Reporter’s list of invites.

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson, 32: This up and coming actress has paid her dues. Her starring role in Dear White People didn’t quite give her adequate validation but trust me — she’s here to stay. Not only did she hold her own in Ava DuVernay’s stellar entry Selma, but she is now butting heads with icon Sylvester Stallone in the critically acclaimed Creed which has been logged in as one of the films to look out for during awards season. Thompson would’ve been a great addition to the list of actresses to watch out for even if she most likely won’t receive an acting nomination.

The point is that the general metric doesn’t apply to black actresses so it is imperative to bend the rules in order to encourage diversity and hopefully help alter the rigid landscape that has very little room for anything other than the norm.

I wish my list were more extensive but this is all I have and that speaks volumes in regards to the pathetic plight of actresses of color.

It is time for change. And if only white actresses weren’t so self-absorbed — perhaps they could lend a helping hand to their less fortunate colleagues but there is no chance of that happening.

So it’s up to the media at large to set the example and act as trailblazers by shunning the lackluster system and implementing a more modern approach.

The Hollywood Reporter can make that happen. It takes guts to rearrange the status quo. They blew it this time. Hopefully it won’t happen again.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store