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Once More With Feeling - Are Black Actresses Forced To "Ugly" Themselves Up?

by Sergio
August 6, 2011 6:42 AM
34 Comments
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Tambay's post below about Viola Davis putting on 25 pounds and then padding herself up for her role in The Help immediately bought to kind a piece I wrote a year old on S & A in August 2010 (I'm always ahead of the curve) raising the question about black women being forced to deglamorize themselves and to look bad so that white actresses can look better.

The subject came up when I had a conversation with a regular S & A reader involved in the theater as a director about how often black actors and actresses I’ve met in person, are much better looking than they appear on screen.

I told the reader one person who immediately came to mind was Taraji P. Henson. Meeting her, I was stuck by how just adorably cute she is in person. However that vision of her has yet to appear on the screen, where either she’s made to look awful (think Hustle and Flow or her matronly appearance in Benjamin Button), or even in films where she’s “normal,” such as The Karate Kid, Not Easily Broken, or Date Night, where she's made to look haggard and not at all well photographed.

But the worst case I mentioned must be Viola Davis. I’ve met Ms. Davis, and the person I met was incredibly attractive, and with a trim, fantastic body (speaking as a guy I tend to notice things like that…). But that’s not the Viola Davis you regularly encounter in movies. She almost always looks awful, and I suspected at the time perhaps sometimes padded to make her look bigger. And now as she revealed in The Help she was. I mean was that really necessarily for her to gain all that weight and have the padding as well? You mean there are no thin black maids?

The reader then told me about a quote she read once by Kelita Smith who played Bernie Mac’s wife on his sitcom. According to Smith, when she reads for a role in a casting session she purposely de-glamorizes herself to appear as plain as possible, because the filmmakers don’t want to hire attractive black actresses for roles, preferring them to look bad, in order to make white actresses appear better looking which proves what I suspected.

So this is what it comes down to? You’re telling me that someone who looks like Smith has to, in effect, “ugly” herself up for the chance of getting work? That’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

What do you say?

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34 Comments

  • Nadine | March 17, 2012 1:32 PMReply

    White feminists have redefined BEAUTY as something attainable for White women, near attainable for women who share their features (as long as they emulate white womanhood, Asian, Latina) and near impossible for Black women - Caucasian skin, Caucasian hair and being slim. That's it. Hard features, weathered skin, thin lips, boxy frames... nothing matters as long as there is whiteness, skinniness and sometimes youth. That is how they could cast a Kristen Stewart and Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White, the "fairest" of them all. White women in Hollywood have, behind-the-scenes, been brainwashing men in America to reconsider the Pamela Anderson (who even with her breast enhancements had beautiful facial features - now she was pretty) types as the only type of hot chick out there. Now any white woman who is skinny and young is seen as "hot". Your Whiteness, as a woman, is a prerequisite to attractiveness and if you are more attractive in an unattainable way, they hate you. Notice Meghan Fox does not get a lot of love from "women" on the Internet because she is not average-looking... In fact, she gets quite the vitriolic opposite. Venom-laced actually. The show, "The New Girl", has a beautiful Indian "hot model" friend named CeeCee who despite her great acting skills and obvious beauty, you will find female detractors throughout the net trying to prove that Zooey Deschanel is sooooo much hotter than the Indian actress. It's a stealth game well-played by white women in Hollywood and Madison Ave because their "moves" are never acknowledged. They know how to hide their game, because once people start calling them out, they'll have to stop... immediately - cause they only play in the dark.

  • Nadine | March 17, 2012 1:03 PMReply

    If people do not acknowledge the role of white womanhood from the perspective of the power and control/stronghold white womanhood, has in and OVER Hollywood and Madison Avenue regarding on-screen integration by gender and casting, then this question will never be answered. Not honestly. Although the following quote was taken from an article regarding modern women pigeonholing themselves more than men, I thought this foundational quote honest and revealing. "Perhaps it's because we feel envy or threatened by women who are different from ourselves, or seem to possess something we don't. Thus women can be cruel to each other, and create ridiculous, arbitrary rules of needing to be one thing or another..." Miranda Frum, "Are Women to Blame for Perpetuating Female Stereotypes?", Huffington Post 3/16/2012 (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/miranda-frum/female-stereotypes_b_1348846.html). Also see new sitcom written by real life best friends "Jessica and Lennon" (both women) and the little girl neighbor they felt would be a great addition to their show... "Is NBC Revisiting Black Stereotypes With New Sitcom? [VIDEO]" (http://theurbandaily.com/gossip-news/rebeccatheodorevachon/best-friends-forever-nbc-pilot/). Girl Power...

  • Lauren | March 17, 2012 11:34 AMReply

    I think the bigger conspiracy is why there are no drop dead gorgeous Black men starring in mainstream movies. No offense to their talent, but I see everyday brothers on the street that look better than, Don Chedle, Forrest Whitaker, Danny Glover, Wesley Snipes, Samuel Jackson...I could go on and on... so you have a film like Oceans 13 with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon AND Don Chedle and Bernie Mac... see what I'm saying here? Could it be the Hollywood establishment caters to the sexual fears of white males unwilling to take their girlfriends to see a film with a black Brad Pitt starring in it?

  • lynneanne777 | March 17, 2012 10:47 AMReply

    Hollywood is not for the original man....never was and never will be....i have no more sympathy or those selling their souls for fame and fortune....let the "others" have their evil playground....just look at all the black greats, that aren't no more...Peace!

  • Dan Olson | August 26, 2011 4:34 AMReply

    You have just confirmed all of my suspicions. I've always thought they chose the plainest black men to act,(with some exceptions) because I "know" there are beautiful black men out there or handsome and beautiful black women.
    It is what we call in the education system, "Maintaining the Hegemony".

  • Jay | August 17, 2011 6:15 AMReply

    Correlation doesn't imply causation.

  • Batucadababy | August 15, 2011 4:32 AMReply

    Blacks made to look "bad" in the flesh and the mindset, has been a prize winning formula for Hollywood since Moses parted the Red Sea...It has helped generations of black boys and girls to grow up to become neurotic men and women chasing after the "Great White Hope" for themselves.

    It's the reason a sub-zero looking Asian man can get away with writing an article in a respected magazine stating that bw are the least attractive women ...(and don't be fooled, he did get away with it... had the editors of that magazine truly been worried about the backlash from the black community, the article never would have seen the light of day).

    it's why a drop dead gorgeous Lauryn Hill could never be a lealding actress, but an average looking white woman like Hillary Swank can.

    Whoopi Goldberg ain't a threat to nobody in looks and tends to be "white friendly", (I also think white folks are scared of her snapping on them and turning "black" for a minute)...so she can lead a movie.

    It's why Hattie McDaniels and other bw who had natural extra padding were the only women you saw in movies for a long time, and their character's character followed us into the 21st century and have black men lying thru their teeth about most bw being fat and overweight, which is a handy excuse to go white. (This is one that blew up in wm's faces, but so long as the green money still lines their pocket, they'll tolerate it...besides, wm are the only creatures who can truly taste all of the rainbow.

    It's why black people's minds still reside on the plantation.

    .

  • Akimbo | March 17, 2012 2:51 PM

    I'm not following your argument. For starters, Lauryn Hill can't helm a movie because she passed on a movie career (Charlie's Angels) and she has mental issues. Hilary Swank, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, Kathy Bates, Drew Barrymore, are plain to average and have lead movies. Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Zoe Saldana, Vivica Fox, Sanaa Lathan, are all pretty and have lead movies. What are we saying here? I've never seen frequent supporting actresses Regina King, Regina Hall, Vanessa L Williams, Gabrielle Union, Garcelle Beauvais, Gina Torres, Nia Long, or Nicole Ari Parker ugly themselves up ever.

  • Rodney Foster | August 15, 2011 1:14 AMReply

    @@ ... NOOOO !!!!!!!!!!!! ........ I see it as acting. Makeup. earning money. Being versitle. Talented. Insightful. ... would that even be a question if it were a white actor? No. We are well aware of (who) we are and (what) we are doing. Making that money. OK? First of all BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL. ITS WHY THEY HAVE TO MAKE IT UP.............. ok?

  • CareyCarey | August 8, 2011 4:40 AMReply

    As sort of a hint to where I am going (in my next comment), when one considers what happens when a new drug hits the market, and how it affects it's users and spreads like a wild fire i.e, "X", crack, meth, etc, theres a couple of basic elements (yet, seldom mentioned/identified) that's the propellant behind the "actions". Think about that. Now, read on :-)

  • CareyCarey | August 8, 2011 4:23 AMReply

    “The same goes for movies, and by extension, the issue at hand”

    Miles, I am following you.

    “Films that try to go in a different direction are not nearly as popular. There’s no demand for that, or at least not nearly the demand there is for the latest Madea film”

    Exactly. The optimum word is demand. Then you asked the question “WHY”

    I thought long and hard about that question. First I had to figure out who we’re talking about and then why are they (whomever they are ) making the choices that moves the scale. In essence, what’s the propellant behind their actions? But let me go back. You mentioned the correlation between books and movies, and that an excellent place to start. They basically serve the same purpose in that they both tell a story, the latter of which uses visual aids to enhance the experience. But again, they each engage the reader/viewer by taking them on a journey. About 12 years ago I was “involved” with an online book club that was billed as the largest African American book club in the world. Of course they sold books, but just like S & A, it was a community of book lovers. As the years went by, starting at approximately 2003, there was a noticeable shift in the - lets say - type of books being offered and which books were making the most money, and like our conversations today, I wondered why? What’s interesting to note is the exact same argument concerning the “quality” of movies... the “good”, the best, the hood, the rat, were taking place in the book world. And guess what, (you already know what I am about to say) the scale continues to slide downward. So again, we’re back at “Why”.

    Now it would be easy for me to make porous and unsubstantiated assumptions ( I can do that very well) But there is a host of deep rooted issues that has to be examined. I am leaning toward a pyramid affect, but why, who and what are at the top of the pyramid, and when did “it” get there? Is this about the Internet, the black youth, the expansion of entertainment choices, society at large, a shift in moral values , the expansion of cable channels... what?

  • Miles Ellison | August 8, 2011 3:53 AMReply

    Quality is out there if you look for it. The larger issue here is that despite the availability of "non-hood-rat books" that are accessible to those who look, there is no groundswell of demand for these books to drive the hood-rat lit off of the shelves. Why do you suppose that is?

    The same goes for movies, and by extension, the issue at hand. I've gone at Tyler Perry as hard as anyone, but despite the perceived or real offensiveness of his output, his films make money because people pay to see them, and other films that traffic in shopworn stereotypes. Films that try to go in a different direction are not nearly as popular. There's no demand for that, or at least not nearly the demand there is for the latest Madea film. Why do you suppose that is?

  • Mica | August 8, 2011 3:50 AMReply

    I think that the examples given in this post aren't the best because a maid (Davis) and an older Black woman (Henson) aren't suppose to look glamorous.

  • CareyCarey | August 7, 2011 12:24 PMReply

    "While it’s a battle to find nonhood rat books"

    That reminds me (and before you read my next comment) it's never a battle to find "nonhood rat books". Granted, they may be "squeezed" or begging for shelf space, but any book reader that wants to find them, can easily do so, with a wee bit of effort. There are marvelous forums, just like this one, that does nothing but talk about and promote the "good", the "quality"everything in between, regarding black literature. And most libraries have a plethora of books written by and speaking to black folks. AND, most book stores will be more than happy to order any book a person desires.

  • AccidentalVisitor | August 7, 2011 12:06 PMReply

    {{{ A housemaid is never in competition to be the Beauty of the house and we can only imagine how insecure Southern wives were with so many of their husbands cheating with the housemaid. }}}

    Really? Do you have numbers to back up the claims that "so many" white husbands were cheating on their wives with housemaids? I never come across any source of historical record that indicates such a case. And before anyone states that affairs are hush-hush I will point out that that didn't stop countless revelations of such affairs (and or rapes) during the times of slavery. Not saying that such "hookups" never occurred, but I don't think this was a major concern for white wives as you are making it out to be, especially considering the white wives would be much more likely to spend time alone with the maids than their husbands would. Besides for those white females that were insecure they were not going to hire a black woman whom they felt was attractive enough to be a threat.

    {{{ Well, I know quite a few non-Black actresses decided to look “ugly” so they could be recognized for their performances on screen. }}}

    Indeed it does happen. One reason why it happens is because Hollywood is more likely to employ men with average looks than they are women with average looks. So when the need a star to play a role of a relatively unattractive female they realize there aren't many actresses of clout with so-so looks. So they hire the beautiful ones and have them play down their looks.

    {{{ Why on earth should Viola Davis put on 20 pounds to play a maid? There is no such thing as a skinny maid? In Karate Kid, why was Taraji given that horrible weave and still not made to be hot mother (which would have happened if that was a white woman)? }}}


    Perhaps Davis had to do this because in the book the maid she plays was more heavyset. Perhaps one of us should read the book. As for Taraji...if the mother character does not get involved in some sort of major relationship during the film, then "no" Hollywood has no need to make her look hot on the screen. There have been plenty onscreen white mothers who were not hot.. A good example is the original Karate Kid movie. Besides since the remake of Karate Kid was produced by Will Smith's company wouldn't he and any black folks associated with be complicit in this whole "ugly down" act?



    For the past 20 years I'm going to assume there are far more examples of black actresses (particularly dark-skinned ones) being passed over for roles than there are instances of black females being forced to make themselves look far less attractive. Plus I don't think Hollywood is worried about white females competing against the beauty of black actresses or any actresses of color. I say this because Hollywood is ran primarily by heterosexual white men who don't care if there are lots of pretty females in a film outside the leading lady. Joy Bryant was hired to play the BFF of Kate Hudson in "The Skeleton Key", Alicia Keys was hired to play the BFF in "The Nanny Diaries", newcomer Zoe Saldana was picked to play a best friend of Britney Spears in "Crossroads" and Stacey Dash was picked to play the BFF role in "Clueless". I can go on.


    Last of all it made depend on taste when it comes to Viola. To me she is a “handsome” woman like Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep. But I don’t view her as sexy although I’m sure she could play sexy on screen. However I don’t view her as being nearly attractive as someone like Angela Bassett was in her prime. Again, it may come down to individual taste. But if we’re pointing the finger at white Hollywood on this subject let me respond that I don’t think any movie went as far to make her look unattractive as much as “Antwone Fisher” did. And we all know who directed that film.

  • CareyCarey | August 7, 2011 11:06 AMReply

    Okay, it's time. Since the conversation has shifted from Viola Davis, fat suits, and ugly white women, to what we need to do, I think it's safe (not nijacking post) for the preacher man, to drop a little of his negrofied wisdom.

    First, "however WE do not control distribution"

    True dat, and truth be told, "WE" are not going to do a damn thang. "WE"? The ball has been rolling and it's building steam. History tells me that "we" will never build a collective effort to bring the black viewers what they want, desire and long for. Why? The majority are singing satified. So “WE” are nondescript. But if all the previous comments/preaching be true, I still believe some of us are looking in the wrong places to find real solutions. I’ve heard the futile cries and seen the raised eyebrows directed at white folks, Hollywood and Tyler Perry, and in that midst, that voice, that mindset, there are many stepping over one-hundred dollar bills to pick up shiny pennies and kick them around.

    What’s the real solutions, not grand peacock gestures that we’ve all heard a thousand times!?

    I say , first, move away from those who constantly kick, poke and have disdainful opinions of Tyler Perry. Why? Tyler Perry harbors a wealth of information. Tyler Perry was a millionaire long before I had heard anything about him. He arrived at that position not because of the popular opinion that he was “speaking” to church folks. That’s nonsense to the 5th degree that’s used to grease the wheels of entrenched “haters” and those that lack critical thinking skills, or those that simply do not like his finished products.

    Even if one has a problem with his directing skills, his writing and the way he delivers his products, i.e., melodramatic, hints of religion, his actors, etc, he is doing something right that attracts millions who come from every walk, color, educational prowess and financial position in life. That truth cannot be denied.

    So I am suggesting that it’s unwise and not very smart to not focus on what Tyler is doing RIGHT, not go on about what one may perceive as his “deficiencies“. There are many many many “elements”/ ingredients to Tyler’s formula, past and present, that one could tweak, change, flip around, and keep a keen eye on, that would produce a product/film that your momma and all your friends would be proud of. That’s suffice to say, nobody is going to please everybody. However, in short, popular opinions and half baked solutions are a death mill - for many. A person should watch whose ass they are biting on, hanging on, chopping on, listening to, and I don’t think I need to explain “that“.

  • Geneva Girl | August 7, 2011 10:16 AMReply

    Accidental Visitor,

    I did read the book. I do not recall the character being described as heavy set. She was, however, an older woman. Perhaps, the added weight was a devise to make Viola Davis look older.

  • Ghost | August 7, 2011 9:01 AMReply

    BLACK PEOPLE SHOULD STOP COMPLAINING AND STEP UP THEIR GAME. OPEN THEIR WON STUDIO, DISTRIBUTE THEIR OWN FILMS.
    --------------------------------------------

    Understood, however WE do not control distribution.

    Why is it easy to get copies of the latest hood rat novel, Tyler Perry Buffonfest or Soulja Boy cd?

    While it's a battle to find nonhood rat books, Fighter, Nurse, Kid or The Roots latest cd?

    If all you put out in "questionalbe" content to an audience hungry for stuff that looks like them-it will sell no matter how bad it might be.

    We can create decent/respectable black films but if we can't get them into Wal-Mart or Amazon.com-the battle is futile.

    So the battle becomes how can we get our product to people-including the ones that don't shop online?

    If we want to show black films that the big studio and theaters ignore-like Attack on the Block.

    We also have to learn to promote. Funny how everyone bent over backwards for the last Tyler Perry movie but IGNORED Jump the Broom-that stayed in the top 20 of films longer than Madea's Family Reunion, made back its budget faster and even made money overseas.

    We need black owned and run movie theaters not just in the hood but everywhere. The same with black owned dvd stores and rent boxes.

    We have black folks working and hiring each other who are not named Tyler Perry. We have to get the product to the people

    We do NOT need anymore Tyler Perrys. We got PLENTY of writers out there. We need to fund and support thier work..

    Because for all his success-I don't see others getting chances like we see with white folks.

    How many of these white writers/directors keep failing after 1 big hit and keep getting hired?

  • Miles Ellison | August 7, 2011 5:48 AMReply

    Beyonce was unconvincing as a heroin addict because she is a bad actress, not because she was too attractive.

  • JMac | August 7, 2011 5:18 AMReply

    Angelia Jolie fits into the exception - roles where sexiness or sex are a large part of the movie. Every role she's done has those parameters. Emma Stone's played more ditzy, stupid chick roles than should be allowed and Reese Witherspoon is not attractive.

    Still think this is a more feminist argument than a racist argument.

    @ojie. Gee Ojie nobody's ever come to that conclusion before :P

  • CareyCarey | August 7, 2011 4:55 AMReply

    Well, I am not embracing the question "Are Black Actresses Forced to Ugly Themselves Up".

    Really? I mean, the premise/question is horribly flawed from the get go, and many comments have stated why.

    So, and since I am here (late at night trying to get through the movie "Oldboy") I just have one thing to say to address the following comment... "Beyonce was unbelievable as Etta James in cadillac records because she couldn’t escape her natural beauty. I was thoroughly unconvinced in her role as a heroine addict because she simply looked too beautiful in the scene"

    Now listen, heroin addicts come in all flavors. I've seen some of the most beautiful women in the world hooked on heroin. We all know the story of a few fasion models that had heroin habits, and there are many more. Did the Kennedy family member look like a heroin addict? Move away from the myths and stereotypical images of substance abusers. I've known doctors, nurses and lawyers who were hooked on heroin, and you couldn't pick them out in a crowd of 4.

    Back to the normal program.

  • Miles Maker | August 7, 2011 2:51 AMReply

    One's appearance can enhance, add to or take away from a role. In this case, the role of a housemaid in segregated Alabama is itself a dumbed down existence. A housemaid is never in competition to be the Beauty of the house and we can only imagine how insecure Southern wives were with so many of their husbands cheating with the housemaid. A housemaid knew her 'place' and if she wanted to keep her job she wouldn't attract unnecessary attention to herself in a subordinate role and remain unremarkable for the most part with the only exception to this rule being her excellence in service to the family.

    On the other hand--Beyonce was unbelievable as Etta James in cadillac records because she couldn't escape her natural beauty. I was thoroughly unconvinced in her role as a heroine addict because she simply looked too beautiful in the scene. Actors should never fear ugly when conveying the dark side of humanity in any character.

  • ojie king | August 7, 2011 2:27 AMReply

    Honestly, i have heard this story so many times now it is like a broken record. " There are no roles for black people", " Black women need to be ugly", "Black women only play the best friend roles", "Black men only play the gangster". Bla bla bla bla boo hoo hoo.

    The fact of the matter is that black people are not taking the bull by the horn and commanding their destiny within this industry. They sit and wait for the white people to rite roles, who by the way write roles for themselves to play not black people in mind.

    Black people need to go out and write good stuff and make quality movies. The only person who has tried to do that is Tyler Perry. Call him whatever you want to call him but he gives black people work because he will sit down and write roles for black people. Sure, his films are not oscar worthy but at least he tries. We need more of him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We need to stand up and take control of our destiny because the more we expect the white man to care, the more we deceive ourselves. We need to start writing good scripts, is it possible yes!! After all, Geofrey Fletcher adapted Precious to the big screen and won a fucking academy award for it. The Creator Greys anatomy and Private Practice and up and coming Scandal is a black woman because she sat down in her house and wrote some and continues to write some good shit!!!!!!!

    WE NEED TO PROVE OURSELVES, GET UP AND SHOW THAT WE ARE TALENTED. THE FACT THAT LAST YEAR'S OSCARS HAD NO SINGLE BLACK ACTOR IN 20 PEOPLE WASNT THAT A WAKE UP CALL???????????

    WE NEED TO WAKE UP!!!!!!! AND STOP COMPLAINING!!

    YES VIOLA DAVIS PUT ON WEIGHT FOR A ROLE??? SO FUCKING WHAT!!!
    WHO KNOWS THIS MGHT BE THE ROLE SHE MIGHT WIN AN ACADEMY AWARD FOR AND SHE WLL BE THANKING HER GOD THAT SHE PUT ON WEIGHT. CHARLIZE THERON PUT ON WEIGHT FOR MONSTER AND WON AN OSCAR SAME WITH JENNIFER HUDSON. ACTORS DO THIS ALL THE TIME!!! NOT JUST BLACK PEOPLE!!!

    ANTHONY MCKIE SAID IT IN AN INTERVIEW. BLACK PEOPLE SHOULD STOP COMPLAINING AND STEP UP THEIR GAME. OPEN THEIR WON STUDIO, DISTRIBUTE THEIR OWN FILMS.

  • misha | August 7, 2011 2:03 AMReply

    Umm, Sergio, I'm not sure if Taraji is a good choice for this topic. Outside of Benjamin Button and The Karate Kid, I thought she looked just fine in her most of her roles. Her part in Hustle and Flow called for her to look more like a "normal" woman in a stessful situation. But I thought she looked beautiful in Not Easily Broken. *shrugs*

    Anyhow, I agree with Cherish's take on the topic.

  • Sergio | August 7, 2011 1:33 AMReply

    "Perhaps Davis had to do this because in the book the maid she plays was more heavyset. Perhaps one of us should read the book."

    That really doesn't matter. Rarely do actors or actresses in film adaptations of novels actually look like the character they're portraying from the book. The character of Ms. Rain in Push was described as being a dark skinned woman with dreads. But in Precious she was played by Paula Patton. (And keep in mind this was a film directed by someone who openly admitted that he has serious color consciousness issues) So I come back to the question why did Davis have to put on 20 pounds and padding for the role?

    @ Misha

    Sorry but I thought Hinson looked awful in Not Easily Broken with that 90 pounds of yaki hair on her head

  • Cherish | August 6, 2011 12:37 PMReply

    @Mecca
    "
    Renee Zellwigger is really ugly and unattractive in role after role. Same with Meryl Streep she often is not wearing make-up in a lot of her roles but I wouldn’t say she is “ugly"in her movies."

    Renee Zellwigger has been playing roles where the character is ugly and attractive. Pretty white women choose these roles to downplay their looks and show off their acting skills, and they usually get some acclaim for this. Critics write crap like "oooh how difficult is must be for blah blah actress to play a role so out of her range( ugly plain woman.)

    If the character is not ugly she will come out glamorized. Same with Meryl Streep. From Devil wears Prada to Doubt to It's complicated.

    This is not the case for Black actresses, especially when they are playing opposite white women.

  • Cherish | August 6, 2011 12:24 PMReply

    "The trend I notice is that beauty and brains are two mutually exclusive qualities. Beautiful women must be ditzy, dingy, weak, man dependent, and/or slutty whereas as less attractive or unattractive women must be clever, educated, strong, and independent. "

    I disagree. Angelina Jolie is considered the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, and her roles are never ditzy. She is usually glamorized in her roles (i.e. The Tourist). There are the usual chick flicks and rom-coms where the female lead character is a little ditzy and hyper, but I wouldn't say that the case of the majority of female roles in mainstream Hwood. When was the last time Reese Witherspoon played a ditz since Legally Blonde? or Emma Stone?

    In playing the BFF of female lead, yes that actress is usually made to be less pretty than the lead, but certainly not uglified.

    Also, the roles in Monster or that one with Nicole Kidman is irrelevant to this topic. Those characters were deliberately written as hideous unattractive women. What's interesting is that Hwood chose women who were considered the most attractive to play those roles. (So even an ugly or plain white woman cannot play an ugly, plain white woman) Those characters were the lead characters in a film and were Oscar winning roles.

    What's being discussed here is when Black women are cast in roles that do not in any way call for them to be "uglified", yet the actresses are made that way anyway. Whether they are in lead roles, or playing BFFs, or anything else, a Black actress' looks are downplayed no matter what.

    That does not happen to white actresses, unless the part specifically calls for this.

    Why on earth should Viola Davis put on 20 pounds to play a maid? There is no such thing as a skinny maid? In Karate Kid, why was Taraji given that horrible weave and still not made to be hot mother (which would have happened if that was a white woman)?

  • Gigi Young | August 6, 2011 12:19 PMReply

    Reminds me of the studio forcing Louise Beavers to eat pancakes (which she abhorred) to fatten up for the role of Delilah in 1934's Imitation of Life...or when Theresa Harris was blackened up to play Bette Davis's made in Jezebel. Though, I do recall seeing a few very light-skinned, and even attractive, black women playing maids in old Hollywood films--but perhaps they allowed that back then because black actresses would never be on the level of Ginger Rogers or Lana Turner.

  • T'Challa | August 6, 2011 11:25 AMReply

    I agree with Mecca, Black folk need to make their own independent films, and we need to support them. The industry is inherently racist, and even the "power players" like Tyler Perry & Ice Cube or whoever, have to make sterotypical depictions of Blacks just to get funding & distribution deals. Burn Hollywood, burn!

  • Mecca | August 6, 2011 11:06 AMReply

    Like Neziah said, "That's Hollywood for you"

    A lot of people who want to make it in white-Hollywood. Often do not realize how difficult the industry. Unfortunately, they would rather cater to needs of whites instead of Blacks.

    I don't know why everybody wants to make it to Hollywood and complain later on about it being discriminating?

    I mean like we all make choices here create your own opportunities and quit whining about white folks not acknowledging you that's my take on it.

  • Mecca | August 6, 2011 10:59 AMReply

    Well, I know quite a few non-Black actresses decided to look "ugly" so they could be recognized for their performances on screen.

    Jmac, "Yes I know Charlize is supposedly beautiful but she had to ugly herself up for that role. Can’t be a pretty serial killer - and they could have made her a pretty serial killer regardless of it being based on a real person."

    I agree with you a lot on this one. Charlize was playing a trashy-homeless-hooker who also was a serial killer so it is not like Hollywood would dress her up to look all pretty for that role. They really wanted you to "feel" the grittiness of the role.

    Moving on, "The Hours (2002) Nicole Kidman was barely recognizable w/ her fake nose, make-up that made her look 70 years old of age.

    Renee Zellwigger is really ugly and unattractive in role after role. Same with Meryl Streep she often is not wearing make-up in a lot of her roles but I wouldn't say she is "ugly"in her movies.

  • Neziah | August 6, 2011 10:45 AMReply

    Wow, this is depressing, but that's Hollywood for you.

  • kai | August 6, 2011 8:14 AMReply

    black or white, if you are not the leading lady, you can't expect glamorous roles to be in abundance in hollywood

  • JMac | August 6, 2011 8:02 AMReply

    I'm doing everything today instead of what I need to be doing so why not add my two cents here.

    I'll play devil's advocate and say the uglification of black actresses may just be a symptom of society's stereotype concerning women regardless of race. The trend I notice is that beauty and brains are two mutually exclusive qualities. Beautiful women must be ditzy, dingy, weak, man dependent, and/or slutty whereas as less attractive or unattractive women must be clever, educated, strong, and independent.

    How this plays out with black female actresses is that we are usually hired for the BBF roles (take that Funny or Die video that was just posted). BBFs are supposed to be strong, independent, and wise, iow unattractive - can't get those qualities if you're some pretty little thing who gets everything you want by batting your eyelids. White women have to be dumb and clueless. Smart and pretty does not compute. I imagine somewhere some executive thinks ugly but proud strong black female characters are a compliment to our race; much more a compliment than hot black chicks who have absolutely no common sense. If given the option would black actresses prefer hot and dumb roles? Seems all the truly complex roles require minimal attractiveness of its actresses... unless sex plays a large part in the project. Can anyone see someone with the looks of Paula Patton or Vanessa Williams acting the lead in movies like Dolores Claiborne or Monster? Yes I know Charlize is supposedly beautiful but she had to ugly herself up for that role. Can't be a pretty serial killer - and they could have made her a pretty serial killer regardless of it being based on a real person.

    Makes me wonder what type of roles Kelita was auditioning for. Was she trying to get gritty, meaty roles (like crack whore or child beater) or some silly romcom lead? I'd be curious to see how white women audition. I figured it'd be the same as modeling auditions - no one wants you dolled up. They want a blank canvass to see how they can transform the model into whatever they want.

    At the risk of getting virtually shot, I've never seen a picture of Viola Davis that made me think she's naturally beautiful. [I have of other uglified black actresses] .I think Viola has one of those Oprah faces: throw on a pound of makeup and she could look beautiful. But without it.... Nice body though.

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