Recently there was an article published on the online site Jezebel written by Kirsten West Savali discussing “Hollywood’s Invisible Love Interest: The Overweight Black Woman.”
In her article she wrote, “If one is to believe that Hollywood truly pays attention to the desires of its audience and explores those authentic nuances on film, then one has to believe that no one is ever in love with–or attracted to–an overweight Black woman. Never. White filmmakers have ignored her while her Black counterparts, such as Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, have ridiculed her to make millions.
Apparently Savali hasn’t been to the movies in a while. For instance, Queen Latifah is a big girl and because she often calls her own shots, so to speak, she gets the guy. And she doesn’t try to ignore the fact that she is a big girl and that some brothers are not necessarily into that type, but the ones that are, definitely are.
One of my favorite movies was 2006 “Phat Girlz,” starring Mo’Nique as an unhappy overweight sister finding love in a most unlikely place from a surprising suitor. The movie explores the African male point of view when it comes to what is attractive to them in African women–and big girls win.
In my opinion I don’t believe Mo’Nique, Latifah, Loretta Devine or any of the plus-size sisters that work in Hollywood let their size stop them. They’ve learned how to dress to emphasize their figures, and their beauty shines through.
Devine, in “Waiting to Exhale,” played out one of my favorite scenes with the late Gregory Hines when she joked about her large size after running down a menu of food she prepared for dinner. Hines then told her that his wife who had passed away was a plus-size woman too, and he liked big women. And I loved how Devine exhaled.
Savali goes on to say, “if viewing habits are any indication, and silence is consent, we’re perfectly happy with our overweight sisters in the role of sidekicks, asexual nurturers, or desperately trying to find a man because that’s what we’ve been sold as real. We sit in darkened movie theaters and forget that 82 percent of Black women are overweight or obese. We forget because Hollywood takes notes of our insecurities, while simultaneously cultivating them in the form of what we should look like and who it’s acceptable to love–and overweight Black women never quite make the final cut.”
Latifah is doing something about the image of overweight Black women on the silver screen, and she should be commended for that. She’s taking the steps that only a Black woman can initially do, drawing attention to us as women first and size second.
Check out the website Mahogany Café (www.mahoganycafe.com). There you will see a bevy of Black women of film and television. Most are not a fashion-model size, and what they bring to the camera far outweighs the heft of their bodies.
The bottom line is this: there are very few roles for Black women in Hollywood films and TV shows. If a role calls for a specific type, that type will show up.
In the truest since of the word, work matters, not just size.
Gail can be reached at email@example.com