Tag Archives: celebrities

Jessica Alba Talks to Elle Magazine about Race in Hollywood

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Really, I say, has your skin color hindered you that much?

Alba shoots me an exasperated look.

Yeah, I could let this be the beginning and the end of this post. Jessica Alba is being interviewed by Andrew Goldman in the February issue of Elle Magazine and he poses the question to launch a thousand eye rolls.

Hello – have you read the last 50 or so interviews with any woman of color in the film industry?

Everyone from Maggie Q to Nia Long has complained about the lack of good roles for non-white folks. More times out of not, you’re auditioning for a niche role in an indie film that targets xxx community, competing for a high profile role playing a stereotype, or trying to nail the audition and convince the director that you can add your own brown flavor to the film and still make it work.

Still, I must admit, the coverline did hook me a bit: “Jessica Alba on race in Hollywood, using sex to get ahead, and why actors make bad boyfriends.”

Considering Perez Hilton’s long term diatribe against her and the professional penalty actors may pay when they find themselves speaking out against domestic injustices, Alba was the last person I expected to go on the record about her feelings on race. I wondered if the text would be some watered down version of “It’s not about my race, it’s about talent.”

A page or so into the article, it becomes clear that Alba has not been drinking the Tiger Woods Kool-Aid:

As assimilated as Alba’s upbringing was, she never felt there was a well-defined place for her in Hollywood. “Nobody really knew what to do with me,” she says. “Everyone wants to categorize you and pigeonhole you. I’m half Latin, but I grew up in the States, and I can’t get roles playing a Latina because I don’t speak Spanish. And I didn’t want to be the best friend, or the promiscuous girl, or the maid, because those stereotypes still exist with Latin roles. I wanted to be a leading lady. And I thought that because I have brown skin shouldn’t make any difference. Why should only Aryan-looking girls be that girl?”

Really, I say, has your skin color hindered you that much?

Alba shoots me an exasperated look. “How many leading leadies are you aware of?” she says. “Lindsay Lohan, Kate Bosworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jessical Biel, Rachel McAdams. We have Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, me, and who else?”

Uh, Eva Mendes?

“Mendes,” she says flatly. “But is Mendes greenlighting movies?”

A good point.

So often in these kind of conversations, people only look at the superficial representation of the problem (As in, “But I know of at least three black characters on major shows! Why is this such a big deal?) rather than thinking about the power dynamics in the entertainment industry. The reporter in this piece implies that she is exagerating the problem by quickly naming another lead woman of color – without thinking about how representation without power or influence is kind of a hollow victory.

What is most telling about this piece – whether it was by whim of the reporter or whim of the editor – is that after Alba makes a critical point power and race, the piece jumps to her personal history.

Her question to the reporter is left hanging.

Seven paragraphs later, the piece ends. Race is never mentioned again.

Amy Winehouse’s drug addiction is “a familiar black stereotype?”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

You gotta read Lauren’s excellent post on Stereohyped, in response to James Hannaham’s recent Salon piece in which he had this to say about singer Amy Winehouse (emphasis mine):

Winehouse answers that question by digging deep for scraps of authenticity. In addition to foregrounding her knowledge of R&B history in her lyrics, she mines her personal experiences for material, naming names, keeping those names in the news, and in the process, all but eliminates the barrier between biography and artistic expression, tabloid and Billboard. Only a complete novice could wonder what her songs mean, to which events they refer, or about whom they are written. Meanwhile, she acts out and “keeps it real” by defending her drug and alcohol addictions, and by standing by her jailed ne’er-do-well husband. The whole package smells like a bizarre simulation of a familiar black stereotype.

Wha? This is why I love Lauren – check out what she wrote in response:

To me, she’s not simulating some familiar black stereotype, she is the embodiment of a familiar white one. But I guess I’m wrong.

Winehouse’s musical influences are black, so her sad, sad behavior can be boiled down to her being a little Jewish girl embracing drugs and rejecting her culture in a desperate-but-failed attempt to “keep it real.” Because white people, let alone famous (Jewish) ones, never engage in harmful drug use or marry ne’er-do-wells. If they did, white people like Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty and Lindsay Lohan would be criticized just as much as black hip hop stars for being terrible influences on the children who love their movies and music. Instead, they get pass after pass and often sympathy for what is seen as some isolated problem instead of what it really is, which is flat-out criminal behavior of the sort that non-famous people, particularly non-famous black people (or famous black people, for that matter) actually get sent to prison for.

But go read the rest here.

Morrissey under fire for anti-immigration remarks

by guest contributor Yolanda Carrington, originally published at The Primary Contradiction

The United States isn’t the only society plagued with xenophobia, as a recent controversy over a legendary singer’s remarks shows. And we sure aren’t the only society where white folks’ understanding of systemic racism is jawdroppingly low, nor is this great land the only society where most white folks will do anything to avoid discussing race. The latest racism scandal in the entertainment world involves not a tired shock-jock or stand-up comic, but the ethereal voice behind such classics as The Queen is Dead and Meat is Murder.

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey—a musical icon for many folks of my generation—has been under fire for the past couple of weeks over comments he made about immigration in a piece published by New Musical Express (more popularly known these days as simply NME). When asked by journalist Tom Jonze if he would consider moving back to the UK after over a decade of living abroad (alternating between Los Angeles and Rome), Morrissey reportedly said:

Britain’s a terribly negative place. And it hammers people down and it pulls you back and it prevents you. Also, with the issue of immigration, it’s very difficult because although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears [my emphasis].

And:

If you walk through Knightsbridge [London neighborhood] on any bland day of the week you won’t hear an English accent. You’ll hear every accent under the sun apart from the British accent.

Morrissey claims that NME ambushed him with a “stitch-up” job on him in order to sell papers, and he and his lawyers are currently pursuing legal action against the NME and its editor Conor McNicholas. Interviewer Jonze maintains that every quote attributed to Morrissey is accurate, and points out the fact that he never once asked Morrissey about immigration, yet the singer felt compelled to unleash his views anyway. Many people were quick to side with Morrissey against the NME, since the paper has a not-so-upstanding reputation with music fans in the UK. Other supporters defend Morrissey’s right to free speech, while others express agreement with his views on immigration, insisting that it all has nothing to do with racism but just the natural response to a “massive” wave of immigration that is destroying Britain’s national identity and way of life. Now where have we heard that argument before? Continue reading

The Diversity of (Black) Thought

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

I’ve been having way too much fun writing for Clutch Magazine.

As a member of staff, I generally spend my time conducting interviews with artists, writers, and directors that I love. It is a welcome reprieve from all the editorial I write here and for Cerise, and allows me to climb inside someone else’s mind for a few minutes.

Lately, I’ve started to notice some interesting patterns emerging, especially when I talk to artists about community issues.

Rissi Palmer is a black country singer and rising star. Before the interview, I had asked around to see exactly what questions I should pose. Most Clutch readers aren’t really into country – we tend to focus on neo-soul, hip-hop, and R & B, with a few notable exceptions. I did not want to ask too many of the obvious questions. I knew everyone was going to ask her about race and the role it plays in her career and while I wanted to cover those issues, I also wanted to go a little deeper.

I did a bit more digging and asked her about a blog entry she wrote concerning the Jena 6:

Clutch: I noticed on your blog that you wrote about the Jena 6 issue. That blew one of my main misconceptions out of the water, so it was good to see that a black girl doing country could still be racially aware. (Going by popular perception here that African Americans and C & W don’t normally mix.) Do you think your race has influenced your treatment in the music industry? How does race impact you in your daily life? (Or does it?)

RP: Let me start by saying that I’m extremely excited someone read my blog! Seriously though, It saddens me a little to know that people would assume that because I sing Country music, that I must be going through some sort of identity crisis. I am a proud Black woman who is racially aware and very cognizant of the issues that affect myself and other human beings. I decided to write about the Jena 6 in my blog because I know that many different people, from various racial backgrounds, read it and I felt like it was an issue that affected EVERYONE and that they should be aware, if they weren’t already (I also posted a link to the petition). I don’t want to go off on a tangent but it blew my mind that in this day and age when a black man is running for president, there is still discussion of unequal justice between whites and people of color. It saddens and frustrates me, but the one bright spot was the way everyone came together peacefully to show support in Jena. I hated that I wasn’t able to go but I did wear black in support.

Rissi’s responses to another question were also very telling. When asked about reactions to her first effort and single, she commented:

As far as the African-American community, the feedback has been extremely positive and supportive. So many people say: “finally there’s someone out there that looks just like me that I can relate to.” Also, a lot of African-Americans who maybe aren’t necessarily country fans are just happy to see someone venture outside the box and simply like the music I make.

She hit that last nail on the head – in our comments section, a few commenters mentioned how refreshing it was to see an African American woman finding her voice in a different musical niche. Others were just proud that she shattered boundaries.

In subsequent interviews, I started to ask more probing questions. I wanted to know what some of our favorite artists were thinking about. What was important to them? Continue reading

Ebony magazine takes on Africa

by guest contributor Harry Allen, Hip-Hop Activist & Media Assassin

This is almost too easy, but if you’ve not yet picked up or flipped through December 2007′s self-proclaimed “special collector’s edition” of EBONY, get a gander at:

- Michael Jackson on the cover…and way too much inside (“25 Years After Thriller“), glowing, translucently; with an almost inner light.

- “The Africa You Don’t Know”: An ehh-not-the-worst-given-it’s-EBONY section on the continent. (Even if you don’t buy the issue, check p. 115 for Nigerian journalist Gbemisola Olujobi’s pull-quote about “disaster pornography”; probably the sharpest 42 words you’ll read about the continent this winter.)

- An interview with Bill Clinton about Africa, continuing mainstream Black media’s despicable tradition of speaking to important government leaders through mouths full of puffery. ESSENCE interviews Condoleezza Rice, but doesn’t ask her why she was buying BDSM boots while New Orleansers were floating face down in rancid water, or EBONY talking to Clinton about the continent, but not a single question about Darfur, not to mention Rwanda. (They did get in two questions about “the American Dream,” however. What????)

In fact, Clinton raises the genocide in Rwanda. He doesn’t discuss it, though, or his role in it. He just says, “Take Rwanda, devastated by the 1994 genocide,” the lets fly a paragraph’s worth of “but now”-type banter, plus violas: “Now look at what they’re doing. They’re growing rapidly; they have all kinds of partners, including [Microsoft's] Bill Gates and me. They’ve opened themselves to the world. They’ve even developed a film industry, for goodness sakes.” Yes; that’s what they needed 13 years ago to stop crudely stamped, Chinese-made machetes: software partnerships and film.

- A story of interracial love as only EBONY can tell it: Janet Langhart and Bill Cohen (Clinton’s defense secretary), with an opening, “our love is alive” photo portrait (p. 158) so fake it’ll make you swear off interracial romance.

Wow. I guess EBONY is still good for something.

Addicted to Race 87: Race, TV, and Gossip

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

addicted to raceA brand-new episode (No. 87) of Addicted to Race is out! Addicted to Race is New Demographic’s weekly podcast about America’s obsession with race.

Carmen and Lauren Williams discuss the dichotomy in television representations of people of color, and how gossip blogs and magazines treat celebrities of color differently than white celebrities. This episode features the song “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs” by Cinematic, courtesy of Spectre Entertainment.

Lauren is the editor of Stereohyped, a black current events, gossip, and culture blog, the winner of a Black Weblog Award for Best New Blog. Her opinions on racial issues have been featured on NPR and in the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun. She has an unhealthy obsession with celebrity culture but can get her serious on when the situation warrants. Don’t get her started on any of the three Bs — Beyonce, Barack Obama, or blackface. She’ll never shut up.

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Boondocks recap: Stinkmeaner Strikes Back

by Racialicious guest contributor Jasmine

My first recap for this weeks episode of “The Boondocks”, “Stinkmeaner Strikes Back,” was a bit of a mess. A blow-by-blow recap of what happened, I didn’t put in much in the way of commentary because… I was scared. I admit it. Although I lobbied for the gig, the actual task of recapping “The Boondocks” is daunting because it’s a smart, funny show which draws a lot of fire for its routine use of the n-word, among other things. I like to think that I am sharp enough to know and to remember that the show performs cutting critiques on race and class, and I try not to worry too much that other viewers may just be taking the program at face value. If I believe I am laughing for the right reasons, I’d better make sure I reach out and engage those folks who may be laughing for the wrong ones.

At the same time, there’s nothing that makes me feel entitled to watch this show. I’m naturally attracted to any show, good or bad (whatever those words mean when applied to television), that is funny, engaging, and wants to engage in a discourse on race that doesn’t involve “very special episodes” or token characters like the ones often found on mainstream network television.

But what’s right and what’s wrong here? It’s hard to know where to begin, but here is what happens: the Freemans are set upon by the evil spirit of Colonel Stinkmeaner, the mean old man whom Granddad Robert killed accidentally in season one. The Colonel, having thrived on hate in life, is far too evil even for hell, and is sent back to Earth by the devil himself. Stinkmeaner’s spirit makes itself at home in the body of Tom DuBois, instigating bouts of meaningless violence and attacking the Freemans so that they might return to hell with him as his quarry. It takes some advice from the ghost of Ghostface Killah (yes, I know he’s not dead, so that one confused me, too) and a misguided exorcism led by everybody’s favorite Black white supremacist Uncle Ruckus to restore Tom’s spirit to his body, and finish off Stinkmeaner for good. While all this is going on, Granddad is trolling the internet for dates, though not with much success.

What I’ve left out is that each instance of the violence, as instigated by Stinkmeaner/Tom, was described as an example of what was called “a nigga moment”: “a moment where ignorance overwhelms the mind of an otherwise logical Negro male, causing him to act in an illogical, self-destructive manner, i.e. like a nigga.” I cringed every time I heard the phrase, but I didn’t stop watching. But was I accepting the premise of such a phenomenon? Do I believe that all Black men are susceptible to times of ignorance so profound that it clouds their judgement and causes them to act in a self-destructive manner? Of course not, and that’s why I thought the show was funny. It’s that line between the ridicule and stereotype, the gap between the sacred and the profane, on which “The Boondocks” is found. It knows what’s sacred, but is not afraid to use some humor to show its audience that it’s smart enough to know the difference.