Applause. Applause.
Consider this my standing ovation to Black women who dare to set their sights on working in Hollywood films and television productions. Thank you for continuing to blaze the trails set by the likes of Hattie McDaniel, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge and Josephine Baker, just to name a few.
Today Black women not only work in front of the camera, but you can also find them behind it as directors, writers and producers as well. They do this despite the fact that few plum roles go to Black actresses and even fewer behind the scenes jobs go to Black female directors, writers and producers.
From film festivals to webepisodes; you will find Black women creating their own material and taking charge in a medium that systematically excludes them. You know if it’s tough for a White woman to get a break behind the camera, it’s triple for a sister; yet they keep coming and their spirit is not broken.
In recent weeks, I’ve lamented about the attacks on the image of Black women in America, and those most frequently under attack are Black women in film and television. It makes sense, because they are the most vulnerable due to their high visibility.
The attacks have been mean-spirited and in poor taste. I suppose shock jock Howard Stern wanted the public to know he was still out there in ‘radio land’ by getting headlines a couple of weeks ago for bashing Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe saying, “She’s the most enormous, fat Black chick I’ve ever seen.”
Even his Black female sidekick, Robin Quivers claimed Sidibe won’t have a future in Hollywood saying: “this girl is obese; you can’t do that much when you are fat.” And taking it home Quivers continued, “She’s the jolly, fat woman who’s going off to eat some more chicken.”
True Sidibe is obese, but with her drive when she’s ready to handle her weight, she will.
Not true is the statement that she won’t get any more work in Hollywood. Sidibe has officially joined Showtime’s upcoming dark comedy series “The Big C” as smart-alecky student in the classroom of lead character, Laura Linney, who reclaims her life after a terminal cancer diagnosis.
The “The Big C” is expected to premiere this summer.
A word to the wise, however, regardless of her weight, Sidibe’s biggest strike against her is that she’s a Black woman, and jobs in film and television are scarce for our sisters. I don’t have to give you the details; all you have to do is look at television and go to the movies.
However, Black women, regardless of the statistics are keeping their dreams alive thereby insuring future generations will have a stake in this thing we call Hollywood. And don’t shrug it off as insignificant; we’ve got a lot of stories to tell about who we are as a people, and if you don’t want White women in ‘blackface’ to tell our story . . . well, enough said.
Perhaps the most visible Black woman in America and the world is First Lady (that sounds good) Michelle Obama, but even she isn’t spared. Just recently Tennessee tourism executive Walt Baker was fired for forwarding an e-mail that compared Michelle Obama to a chimpanzee. Of course he apologized . . . in an e-mail to Nashville’s Metro Council as follows: “Thursday night I spontaneously forwarded–to a small group of people– an e-mail that had been sent to me as political humor. As I forwarded it, I did not think or consider its implications, other than that it was political humor. I am saddened that anyone misinterpreted the sentiments behind the e-mail. I deeply apologize to anyone who is offended by this action. I hope that those who know me realize that the message was not intended to be malicious or hurtful in any way and can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
Latest Update 3/8: Walt Baker was terminated today from his post as CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association (THA). “Walt’s e-mail reflects a deep misunderstanding of the nature of hospitality and our role as an association,” said THA board president Bill Mish. “His e-mail was sent in his personal capacity and not in his connection with the hospitality associations.”
It’s not nice to fool with a Black woman’s image.
Whenever we can, let’s show our sisters some love and celebrate their determination to be counted among those present in Hollywood films and TV.
Gail can be reached at gail@hollywoodbychoice.com