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Casting Call for N.W.A. Biopic Underlines Film Industry's Age-Old "Colorism" Problem

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by Tambay A. Obenson
July 17, 2014 12:23 PM
56 Comments
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There isn't much one can really say in response to this, other than to just share it, and let you all see and be incensed yourselves (or maybe you won't be perturbed, and will call it simply business as usual, especially if you are in the business, and have had enough first-hand experiences with situations like this, that it's essentially the norm).

Also, these are issues we've discussed ad naseam on this blog over the years, that I just don't know what more I can say at this point, that I haven't already said on numerous occasions. So digest the information in whatever way works for you.

The post has now been deleted, as I verified, but Gawker was able to lift it before that happened, and published it on their website (which likely led to the casting agency deleting the post). 

In short, it's a casting notice for Universal Pictures' recently-cast N.W.A. biopic, "Straight Outta Compton," which F. Gary Gray is attached to direct, with Ice Cube producing, along with Will Packer, and which is set for release next year.

This casting call was posted yesterday by Sande Allesi Casting, an agency that has posted several casting notices for the film, on their Facebook page. As I said, it's since been deleted, but, again, thanks to Gawker, I'm able to share it below:

SAG OR NON UNION CASTING NOTICE FOR FEMALES-ALL ETHNICITIES- from the late 80's. Shoots on "Straight Outta Compton". Shoot date TBD. We are pulling photos for the director of featured extras. VERY IMPORTANT – You MUST live in the Los Angeles area (Orange County is fine too) to work on this show. DO NOT SUBMIT if you live out of the area. Nobody is going to be flying into LA to do extra work on this show - and don't tell me you are willing to fly in.

SAG OR NON UNION FEMALES - PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR SPECIFIC BREAKDOWN. DO NOT EMAIL IN FOR MORE THAN ONE CATEGORY:

A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair - no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: A GIRLS

B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: B GIRLS

C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: C GIRLS

D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: D GIRLS


Business as usual, when it comes to how callous casting notices can be? Or is this an isolated occurrence? One also wonders whether the filmmakers behind the project were aware of this, or even OK'd it, before it went out, or if there's generally a disconnect between the casting agencies and the directors/producers?

And yes, I think we all are aware at this point that the colorism issue isn't just a film industry problem, but one that runs deep within our own community.

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56 Comments

  • Cavalier | July 22, 2014 9:05 PMReply

    This casting call is disgusting. There is NOTHING good about this casting call. it wreaks of stereotyping and colorism. And for those of you who aren't familiar with that term "colorism" I encourage you to google it.

  • Andy D | July 21, 2014 1:16 AMReply

    From second hit on Google search: "rap video casting call" 2-chainz Music video casting call.

    2 Hot young girls 25-30, curves, long hair, sexy, not too stripper looking. African American or Hispanic.

    1 homeless woman 30-50, haggard skinny, tall. Can have teeth missing (Caucasian)

    1 hot young guy, lean muscles well groomed, must be able too dance, African American or Hispanic

    1 older man 60+ Caucasian. Hair thinning but with longer hair still. Bit sleazy look, like old Bret Michaels or Gene Simmons, with a wide arse and a bit of a beer belly.

    Among a host of other ignorant stereotypes and negative cultural memetics. Seems this type of discrimination and cultural compartmentalization occurs at many levels, across genders and cultures. Racism or human nature?

  • Kimble | July 20, 2014 2:44 AMReply

    I don't usually insult poster, but your response is slow, and makes no sense. They are casting and the darker you are the less attractive you are, the is what they want to appear on screen no exception. You don't get that? Really?

    As for:People looked a specific way in compton,

    Its been twenty years, not 2 million. There has been no evolutionary differences. People look exactly then same now as they did back then. Your entire post is special education.

  • Mike | July 19, 2014 6:11 PMReply

    I would have to agree with CJ on this issue. I did not find the casting notice racist, sexist, and colorism. The Producers of the film are trying to be accurate to what they saw around them during that time. Travon Free said it best:

    "Travon Free had this to say: This is not racist at all. And I'm a Black man who was born and raised in Compton who works in Hollywood. You're making a movie about a very specific point in time where people looked a very specific way, how is that racist?"

    He is right. The N.W.A "Straight Outta Compton" is a period piece film. Things looked a specific way back then. The producers are looking to be authentic to that time period, how is that racist??? People need to calm their nerves and chill out!

  • Kila | July 19, 2014 4:26 AMReply

    Wow! Yuck! Saddens me... Same ole shiiii&$?

  • @milesmaker | July 18, 2014 7:48 PMReply

    So if she's hot AND poor, if she doesn't make the cut for A GIRL by the casting agent's standard, can she still be a D GIRL by showing them her income tax return?

  • JMac | July 18, 2014 1:38 PMReply

    Colorism, Sexism, Racism. It's business as usual. Wasn't going to watch this flick anyway. The casting call just adds another reason to stay away. Make a note of all the black folks behind this movie (and hence the casting description). Just because they have the same color skin, doesn't mean that they're your kin.

  • Alias | July 18, 2014 1:20 PMReply

    @Ladybug and Morris: You're both right. ...It's too bad, however, that women of all shades are so desperate to be (or think) that they're a part of Hollywood that the CD will receive submissions for these extra roles by the thousands. The power lies with the players (e.g. the potential extras). How great would it be if every woman who read this was so disgusted and turned off that no one submitted? ... Unfortunately, the type of women who will submit for these roles are the same types who submitted, back in the day, to be in rap music videos when that was all the rage.

    Unfortunately, in American society, ignorance is ignorance. And we've got a lot of ignorant people who are ill-equipped to take back their power.

  • Christina Schnabel | July 18, 2014 12:26 PMReply

    Nice article

  • Mozzie | July 18, 2014 12:08 PMReply

    I can hear the sound of heads rolling.

  • @MsWilliamsWorld | July 18, 2014 11:24 AMReply

    I was looking for a reason to just bypass this biopic--thanks to this, I now have a LEGITIMATE one. On to the next one... SMDH...

  • 90045 | July 18, 2014 11:20 AMReply

    No surprise.

    I never forget an ABFF panel, that F. Gary was on, years ago.
    A young lady asked him why they always cast the same looking women in music videos.
    He replied..."because that's what I like."

  • Tyler Williams | July 17, 2014 10:27 PMReply

    This should be no surprise to anyone within the Black community it is not external racism because the casting directors only look for what the Directors & Producers want, this is "interracism" I am an actor, Black & male in the Bay Area scene; this is childs play compared to what I have dealth with to my face. This "caste" happens with Black male casting all of the time it is unfortunate because Black women are always seeking to affirm their natural beauty against White supremacy & imperalism that this level of degradation on public platforms that continue to devalue their beauty. This is why we need better & more sophisticated content created to tell our
    stories with people within our community who do not have a reside predicated on Whiteness.

  • Muffy | July 17, 2014 8:40 PMReply

    Skin color should have never been mentioned. It should not even play a role. The weave thing is ridiculous too. "A" doesn't mention skin color, but "B" through "D" does and it is offensive and ignorant. It disrespects black women, period. And this coming from someone who hates how everything is called racist and offensive these days.

  • beemooree | July 17, 2014 7:20 PMReply

    LOL how is beyonce listed when she doesn't even have long natural hair??? and dark skin for D girls? Come on now. Lupita is dark skin and doesnt rep that mess of a breakdown

  • PD | July 17, 2014 6:41 PMReply

    Wow! I hope SAG AFTRA is all over this! And last I checked B is the queen of wigs and hair weaves....
    I see offensive break downs all the time but this one takes the cake!

  • Mark and Darla | July 17, 2014 6:11 PMReply

    Could someone please explain what the hell with some black mem, are suffering from "mad cow disease" of the brain when it comes "dark skin black female"

    Are these black men aware what they doing to the mind of dark skin black female. Things like this can lead to young black committing suicide in drove.

    Compare to this, what the republican are doing to Obama is child play.

    Hope CNN and MSNBC bring this foulness to light.

    What I would do to these men with witchcraft and voodoo power.

  • Guest | July 17, 2014 3:53 PMReply

    Black men in hollywood send out these types of casting calls all the time. There is a war on Black women and it is being perpetuated by Black men. The issue is not that they were asking for different types of women but the descriptions that followed are blantantly racist. I wish Black men would stop caping for each other and deal with their supremacy. I will be skipping this movie and hope Black men get their emotional isht straightened out

  • ? | July 17, 2014 6:02 PM

    Carl and a verbal engagement on a substantive level can be called an oxymoron. Everyone knows Carl is incapable of intelligent discourse. Hurling insults is his best contribution to this forum.

    Btw, Guest is a "he", I think.

  • Bree | July 17, 2014 5:36 PM

    @CARL,
    Ignoring someone's pain and dismissing their comments out of hand as an 'overly emotional chick' is sexist and unproductive. If you're not going to engage with her on a substantive level why bother to respond?

  • Carl | July 17, 2014 4:02 PM

    And I wish overly emotional chicks like you would stop generalizing before you type some stupid shit. Black women have "colorism" hang ups too. Weaves are not exactly a statement of racial pride. Have a damn seat.

  • CareyCarey | July 17, 2014 3:30 PMReply

    Tracy 'Twinkie' Bird, please call home. That's right, S&A's resident casting agent could possibly fill-in the blanks.

    I am suggesting that we all can speculate on the responsibilities (and duties) of the director and production team, Twinkie has her boots on the ground. She is known for her work on Notorious, Fruitvale Station, Being Mary Jane, Black Nativity, Sparkle and many more "black" films. Therefore, as the Emotion's song suggested "Don't ask my neighbor" ask Tracy 'Twinkie' Bird, she has the real scoop.

    Hey Twinkie, we need you.

  • The Big Bad Wolf CareyCarey. | July 17, 2014 11:40 PM

    Bee, is that you? Anyway, who said that I said I wasn't coming back? Listen, I have a favorite phrase... "What about a time called NOW!". So lets just call this a return from early retirement, sue me :-)

    Beside Michiline Tire, what have you done for me - or the conversations - lately? I know, absolutely nothing. So next time (if we meet again) hug me like you love me or leave me alone.

    Damn, now you've opened the flood gates for all the little insecure spoiled piggies to cry "wee wee wee, the big bad wolf CareyCarey is back in our home."

  • Michiline | July 17, 2014 10:47 PM

    I thought you said you weren't coming back to S&A CareyCarey. Your presences wasn't missed.

  • CareyCarey | July 17, 2014 8:00 PM

    Ms Bee, you got that one but what about a time called now. Casting Agent or Casting Director, my point and concerns still stands... so come on, talk to ol'CareyCarey.

    p.s. Don't run now... your wish is now my command. Yes, I comin' for ya... show me what you're working with.

  • Bee | July 17, 2014 7:38 PM

    Carey Carey the term is called casting director not casting agent. Know the correct terminology before you try to come for me.

  • CareyCarey | July 17, 2014 7:34 PM

    Excuse me Ms. Bee, she is a casting agent. Therefore, your claim that she doesn't know anything about casting is simply not true. Now, personal gruges aside, I stand on my position that she could give an insight on this "casting" matter better than those looking from the outside-in, and whose emotions may be fueling and clouding their thinking.

    Side bar: Damn girl, did Twinkie unfriend you or not return your call? What's with the vitriol?

  • bee | July 17, 2014 7:12 PM

    NO NO NO NO. We do NOT need to call twinkie. She doesn't know anything about casting. She is as fake as they come.

  • CJ | July 17, 2014 3:17 PMReply

    Daily Show writer and African American Male Travon Free had this to say: This is not racist at all. And I'm a Black man who was born and raised in Compton who works in Hollywood. You're making a movie about a very specific point in time where people looked a very specific way, how is that racist? That's the spectrum of what people look like who live in Compton, an inner city predominately Black and hispanic environment. Are all the casting calls for the tons of period pieces Hollywood loves to churn out featuring the palest of white men and women that cast zero Black people and want the whitest blue eyed people they can find racist? No, because that's what the period looked like. So getting casting "right" on what can be deemed a more current "period piece" about the pioneers of gangster rap in 1980s Compton is far from racist.

  • Bree | July 17, 2014 5:41 PM

    I just realised there's a female type that doesn't fit any of these categories. Dark, good figure, natural hair non models. There's no dark skinned Kelly Rowland type asked for. Is it a deliberate attempt to erase dark skinned good looking women who aren't professional models or an accidental oversight that has led to the beauty standards dropping at the same rate the skin darkens, I wonder?

  • CareyCarey | July 17, 2014 4:41 PM

    CJ, even if all you say is true, the devil's in the details.

    "That's the spectrum of what people look who look like who live in Compton, an inner city predominately Black and hispanic environment" ~ CJ

    Therein lies my concerns. You are correct, this is a "period piece" about the pioneers of gangster rap in the 1980s Compton. However, since we have no idea how each character fits the storyline, my eye focused on the "C-GIRLS" and "D Girls". Lets take a look at the latter's those details: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape, medium to dark skin tone (light-bright or hispanics need not apply).

    Now CJ, we can safely assume (and we know) drugs, wanton sex and all forms of illicit behavior was prevalent (and was the culture) in Compton's gangster rap world. So, in your opinion what characters will the D-GIRLS best represent that time period? I am suggesting that, granted, video vixens (if that's their role in this film) may be similar - minus classy, whatever that is - to A-GIRLS (in that time period). However, you and I both know (yeah, I've been there and done that) females, regardless of their "position" in life, problems, jobs, weight, classy, skin tone or addictions... in that world, they come/came in all flavors... A-Girls thru Z-Girls, it don't/didn't matter. So again, what characters will the C & D Girls (the poor, fat and black and out of shape ones) be relegated to play? That's the details I'm looking for.

  • Africameleon | July 17, 2014 3:57 PM

    I would be ok with Free's excuse if the color gradation and letter grade did not descend according to shade. "A Girls" can be any race (and I assume any shade... though not likely since "D Girls" are explicitly "Poor" and "Medium to Dark Skin." The D Girl description is the only place "dark skin" is mentioned, and again on the bottom end of the scale. And the "poor" part...? I assume this means poor health, as "not in good shape" would imply. But the Beyonce' "B Girls" get their own category type stated and the "C Girls" are the most generic and open ended, no body shape or economic demographic specified.

    All that to say this... it's legal racism and sexism and the casting call still sucks.

  • Africameleon | July 17, 2014 3:17 PMReply

    The thing is... colorism is LEGAL in casting (caste-ing) and protected under some weird labor law exception. Only in the acting profession can people hire you according to how you look (and apparently other specific demographics as well.)

    My 3 cents... they disrespect the real female fans of NWA from back in the day. Though a "rainbow" of women, most who were with them from their beginning were "straight outta Compton," poor and black. This ain't a good look. True to the colorism that exists in U.S. society and pop-culture today, but still not a good look for the former members of NWA, the director, nor the producers.

  • Ladybug | July 17, 2014 2:48 PMReply

    No casting notice goes out without approval from the creative team; producers and directors. More times than not they submit it to the casting agency themselves.

  • Darkan | July 17, 2014 3:44 PM

    You called it LADYBUG. You are absolutely right.

  • Max | July 17, 2014 2:48 PMReply

    Business as usual. Looks like every hip-hop music video casting call I've seen. This should not be shocking... casting agencies don't beat around the bush because they want the right people sending in their headshots. If they're casting for the "D Girl" they don't want their e-mail flooded with women trying to look like Beyoncé. And the words they use may be difficult but they can't write the entire context of the role in a casting call or breakdown. Actors should know this.

  • Bree | July 17, 2014 5:45 PM

    I rather think it SHOULD be shocking when women are categorised like cattle. They could have asked for different types without grading them by descending letters. it was unnecessary and cruel.

  • morris | July 17, 2014 2:14 PMReply

    But folks, in real life, isn't american society stratified like the casting call?

  • Malaika Jabali | July 18, 2014 4:09 PM

    Are you serious?

    In real life, the only "out of shape women" are Black?

    In real life, are out of shape women only "medium-to-dark" African Americans?

    In real life, there are no "fine" dark skinned black women?

    The fact that these racist distinctions bypassed you, and you went straight to thinking this was accurate, shows how deeply we've been effected by white supremacy.

  • DJ | July 17, 2014 3:02 PM

    This.

  • Ike | July 17, 2014 2:09 PMReply

    I m not even dark skinned and I couldn't be more offended by the last casting call specs

  • Ike | July 17, 2014 2:09 PMReply

    I m not even dark skinned and I couldn't be more offended by the last casting call.

  • Erik W. | July 17, 2014 1:22 PMReply

    I find it hard to believe, being a director myself, that the producers and director didn't look at the casting call sheet at least once.

  • Darkan | July 17, 2014 1:16 PMReply

    All are responsible for this one.

  • Cmon | July 17, 2014 1:15 PMReply

    Hideous. F Gary Gray needs to say something. On Twitter. Here. Somewhere. Shame on them. And as the director regardless of whether or not he knew he needs to say something. Friggin hideous.

  • jess | July 17, 2014 1:11 PMReply

    Disgusting. NWA owes everyone an explanation for this and should fire whomever is involved.

  • Mantra | July 17, 2014 1:09 PMReply

    This is terrible news, yet I'm glad to be made aware of it. But before the outraged responses follow, please consider these five points:
    1. Shadism originates from plantation slavery NOT the ghetto
    2. As hard as it is to erase, not every black person thinks like this - no, not even secretly
    3. It is unknown who originated and who allowed the casting call in this form
    4. There are those outside our community who would love this sickness to continue
    5. We should have compassion for anyone raised with a warped self-image

    We must eradicate self-hate. But let's do it coolly and calmly.

  • Bree | July 17, 2014 5:46 PM

    Valid comments indeed.

  • Douglas Gill | July 17, 2014 12:48 PMReply

    But - we will still flock to the theater to see the flick and then watch the BET Awards honor it.

  • Darkan | July 17, 2014 3:46 PM

    I for one will not be supporting this film and will go to bed feeling great that I didn't!

  • Jennigolightly | July 17, 2014 12:36 PMReply

    Film industry problem? This is a Black community problem. Unfortunately a huge number of brothers would have casted it the exact same way with the exact same wording if they were in charge.

  • Marie | July 17, 2014 12:33 PMReply

    I have to say that I don't even know what to say. I'm curious to know, though, who exactly was responsible for creating these descriptions.

  • JT | July 17, 2014 1:09 PM

    Absolutely. Collective mental illness courtesy of Euro racism/false supremacy.

  • Bread Free | July 17, 2014 12:30 PMReply

    Who writes that? The darker you are the lower you are on the scale! You know some brother made these requests of the casting agency. I can't even blame white folks in this instance.

  • JTC | July 20, 2014 11:47 PM

    Separate rap music from hip hop please. The style of music I listen to is not in the habit of degrading women.

  • Marie | July 18, 2014 10:45 AM

    I'm inclined to agree with you. I seriously doubt that these descriptions originated from a white person but instead probably came from the NWA members themselves. Those descriptions are the reason I ignore hip-hop--that's how that type of black man perceives black women. Sad. But what do we expect from people for whom violence and strip clubs are a normal part of life?

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