Actress Zendaya Slams Hollywood’s Practice Of Colorism

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Written by Ann Brown

Not too many folks want to talk about colorism. Colorism is the privileging of light skin over dark skin. But actress Zendaya went there while being interview by Uber’s chief brand officer, Bozoma Saint John, during a panel discussion at Beautycon Festival recently in New York City.

“As a Black woman, as a light-skinned Black woman, it’s important that I’m using my privilege, my platform to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community,” Zendaya, 21, said. “I am Hollywood’s, I guess you could say, acceptable version of a black girl and that has to change.”

According to the Huffington Post, Zendaya’s comments were met with rousing applause from the crowd at the Javitz Center in Manhattan.

BeautyCon 2018 Day 2 NYC
Featuring: Zendaya
Where: NYC, New York, United States
When: 22 Apr 2018
Credit: Patricia Schlein/WENN.com

Zendaya’s comments hit a nerve. Colorism remains a complex problem, especially in Hollywood.

An analysis done by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that 68 percent of all female characters in the top 100 films of 2017 were white. Only 7 percent were Black. On top of this, Black actresses and actresses of color are often confined to stricter archetypes since they must always fight colorism in the industry.

And for Zendaya, this is unacceptable. “We’re vastly too beautiful and too interesting for me to just be the only representation of that,” Zendaya, who has appeared in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” among other films, continued. “What I’m saying, it’s about creating those opportunities, sometimes. You have to create those paths. And that’s with anything, Hollywood, art, whatever.”

Zendaya has talked publicly about colorism before. In a June 2016 cover story for Cosmopolitan, she said: “I feel a responsibility to be a voice for the beautiful shades my people come in. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers…Like people question, Would you listen to Zendaya if she wasn’t the same skin color? And that’s an honest question. Can I honestly say that I’ve had to face the same racism and struggles as a woman with darker skin? No, I cannot. I have not walked in her shoes and that is unfair of me to say. But I’m completely behind that woman. I want to be a part of the movement and growth. And if I get put in a position because of the color of my skin where people will listen to me, then I should use that privilege the right way.”

Zendaya realizes her skin tone has given her an advantage in Hollywood. “For decades now, lighter skinned women have been disproportionately represented while the (much smaller) percentage of roles for darker-skinned Black women has not significantly increased. Some would even argue that, after a brief golden age of Black television in the ‘90s, it has actually decreased,” she told the magazine.

Hollywood is slowly catching on to diversity and beauty of women of different hues. “Black showrunner Shonda Rhimes cast Viola Davis and Aja Naomi King in lead roles for ‘How to Get Away with Murder.’ And Black directors Ava Duvernay and Mara Brock Akil have regularly cast darker-skinned Black women in leading and primary roles in their productions,” BGLH Marketplace reported.