Women of Color actresses including Taraji P. Henson, Mary J. Blige, Angela Bassett, Lynn Whitfield, Halle Berry and Kimberly Elise sat down with The New York Times’ T Magazine to discuss the importance of representation in media, as well as some of the issues they have experience .
“At the end of the day, I don’t think you can get anywhere without connection, and especially in a business that we keep criticizing of being deprived of black narratives, so I have to feel a kinship,” Oscar winner Davis explained.
Halle Berry, is presently the only black woman in history who has won an Academy Award for Best Actress, says that black women always “understand and are knowing of the struggle.
In terms of Hollywood today, many of the actresses said that diversification in the types of roles is important. Lynn Whitfield explained that black people are “not monolithic,” while Mary J. Blige explained, “There’s so much more than we can do other than being a slave.”
“Whoever decides to give us these jobs, they need to look at us past being black actresses—just look at us as actresses,” she continues.
“What I see Hollywood do is feature one or two of us, and they’ll ignore the rest of us like we don’t exist,” Elise said. “It gives the illusion that we’re moving forward, but it’s really disempowering the collective.”
The actresses thanked actresses directors and producers who have paved the way for them in the industry . Angela Bassett acknowledged Gloria Foster and Mary Alice, while Taraji P. Henson thanked Pam Grier and Debbie Allen. (“If it were not for them, I would have never been able to dream,” she said.)
Shonda Rhimes was appreciated and thanked by the women for casting black women in empowering positions on her shows like Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder.
“[Rhimes] helped to change everything,” Whitfield explained. “The black woman took charge and showed you black women of power.”
What are some of the qualities these leading ladies possess that has made them staples in Hollywood? Bassett and Davis say that there is a common thread—
“Be dynamic, be special, be eye-catching, be alluring…be you,” Bassett explains, while Davis says “it’s a lot of responsibility to just be true to you…especially in a town that’s not necessarily about that.”