The 2010 Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair Magazine has folks buzzing. For a decade Vanity Fair has created a Hollywood Issue that represents who they predict will be the next superstars, the newest ‘it’ people. Usually appearing in April, and in recent months March, this year’s magazine landed on the magazine rack in February. And what’s all the buzz about? The 2010 cover with the caption ‘A New Decade, A New Hollywood!
Starring the Fresh Faces of 2010.’ The fresh faces of 2010…and not a black or ethnic face among them, you wonder what were they thinking, and is this how they see the future of film and television?
In Vanity Fair’s past issues they’ve had some success predicting who will rise to the top in the very rocky entertainment industry. From Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker, featured in the 1st Hollywood Issue in 1995 to Penelope Cruz in the 2000 Hollywood Issue, the magazine has enjoyed some hits and a few misses.
Academy award nominee Angela Bassett was among those present for the 1st Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue in 1995. And in the past 15 years such Black Hispanic/African American starlets as Jada Pinkett (1997), British actress, Thandie Newton (1999), Rosario Dawson (2002), Kerry Washington, and Rosario Dawson (2005), Zoe Saldana (2008) have graced their lists. Admittedly, the roll call is slim, but roles for black actresses, have also been slim or non-existent. And maybe that’s the real issue.
It’s no secret in Hollywood that black actresses for the most part are not in demand. Even black directors, if they can go with another ‘type’ they will. Now-a-days, more Latina actresses get roles opposite black actors than black actresses. Black actresses rarely have roles as the love interest, and glamour for the most part is out of the question. But this is not new.
Roles have always been slim and none for black actresses in Hollywood films. Often limited to powerful Mammy roles, and servants, or if they were world renowned singers like Lena Horne, they’d appear singing in a movie and placed where they could easily be edited out once it hit the southern states. Yet the dream never died.
Since Hollywood became Hollywood black actresses have dared to go after the same dream as their white counter parts. Just as talented, just as beautiful, but not considered box office worthy. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. We’ve all heard it before and it kind of desensitizes us to the reality of the situation. But when Vanity Fair Magazine slammed it in our faces for the whole world to see, it makes you stop and pay attention to what’s happening to the black actress in today’s film and television industry.
My hats off to filmmakers like Tyler Perry who fearlessly goes where other brothers will not or cannot go. Without hesitation he’ll put a black woman in a lead role, ignoring white is right, yellow is mellow (Asian), and brown can stick around (Latino), he’s one of the few brothers/filmmakers who continues to operate on the belief that ‘black is beautiful.’
Complain about Perry’s work if you will, but the brother is making box office history. He’s listed in the number 11 slot as one of the top Hollywood money makers in 2009, and Denzel Washington comes in at number 13 in Vanity Fair Magazine’s Hollywood’s Top 40 Moneymakers (March 2010 issues).
I have other heroes too. What makes these men heroes? They dare to hire black women in lead roles when they don’t have too. It all started with Steven Seagal. In 1988 he starred in his first film as Detective Nico Toscani in “Above the Law” (co-writer and co-producer) an action packed martial arts film that was cool. But, what did it for me was his partner, Delores ‘Jacks’ Jackson, played by the unstoppable Pam Grier. He didn’t have to hire her, Sharon Stone played his wife, and he could have easily gotten the hottest upcoming white actress of the day, but he chose Pam Grier and she was dynamite.
Quentin Tarantino is my second hero. In 1997 he played out his childhood fantasy by starring Pam Grier in Jackie Brown. He shocked Hollywood by not playing by their rules, but chose to do his own thing, and starred Pan Grier in the leading role.
Vanity Fair Magazine may see Hollywood actresses of the new decade as ‘lily white’ as far as Hollywood is concerned. But with this crop of new, innovative and fearless filmmakers on the horizon I have hope, and I see Black Actresses flourishing in Hollywood starting now.
Gail can be reach at gail@hollywoodbychoice.com.