Tag Archives: Kerry Washington

Where is the Black Julia Roberts? Part 1: Top Actresses 2000-2010

By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, cross-posted from Televisual

The “black actress” stepped into the spotlight last year, as Nia Long called out Beyoncé Knowles and other singers for taking roles; Tyler Perry released yet another film starring newcomer Taraji P. Henson; and Precious gave its stars, especially Mo’Nique, a chance to shine.

The November 5 release of Perry’s For Colored Girls puts the issue of black women in cinema back into the national conversation — even if it fails to redeem Tyler Perry. So I decided to posit an answer to the question: where are all the black leading ladies? Below: 1) why this question?, 2) a list, 3) the state of the black leading lady, and 4) how I came up with the current crop.

I. Where is the Black Julia Roberts? One Route to an Answer

Easier asked than answered! The question is really more provocation than anything. At a certain point, comparison between races is irrelevant: is Will Smith the “white” anyone? He’s Will Smith! The question, however, does open up an interesting discussion. Julia Roberts, like Meryl Streep, can do a lot: from Duplicity and Eat Pray Love to, now, August: Osage County. Roberts can choose her roles and she almost always plays the lead. What black actress could do the same, now or in the near future? The real issue leads us to ask: of the potential black leading ladies today, who is on top, who isn’t panning out, and why?

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Cameron Diaz Talks Going Green; Skirts Around Environmental Racism

by Latoya Peterson

In this month’s Marie Claire, Cameron Diaz is gracing the cover and bringing a message. The popular starlet has embraced the environment as her new motivation, and is doing a low budget movie/documentary about the state of our fair planet.

The reporter follows Diaz to her old neighborhood in Long Beach, California, noting that her town is “dominated by a behemoth polluter.” Cameron’s childhood memories are tinged with flames from the nearby refinery, the dust that was ever present, and the childhood asthma she experienced.

However, she seems singularly focused on how individuals impact their environment:

Once she has eased people past the shock of encountering her (“Hi, I’m Cameron!”), she drops into a low, wide-leg stance so she’s eye-to-eye with her less willowy interviewees – high school girls, the Latino father of a young boy, a science teacher – then launches into a series of questions while the cameras roll: Do you know where your food, your water come from? Do you worry about the environment? What would it take for you to become more involved? And while people do seem to care, they also indicate a feeling of powerlessness. What, after all, can one person do? Then there is the problem of illegal immigrants – and there are many in this area – being decidedly disinclined to draw attention to themselves by registering complaints about air quality.

But the showstopper is a woman we meet a bit later who lives in a little house in full view of the refinery, who tells Diaz about the morning a sulfur-holding tank at the plant exploded, the still mysterious condition that led to her young son’s open heart surgery, the spike in depression and suicides in the neighborhood, the six-figure payoff one family received when their son was diagnosed with leukemia…

And yet, with unmistakable pride, the woman turns around and lifts her shirt to show us the name of the neighborhood tattooed in large black Gothic letters across the small of her back. Because this, despite everything, is home.

Diaz’s next statement was frustratingly familiar to me as an anti-racist who also has a deep eco-streak. After listing through dozens of environmental slights coming from a corporation and understanding why many residents would not want to call attention to themselves, she still goes on to say:

“I want to leave you with this thought,” Diaz says to the woman. After all you’ve told me…what would it take for you to do something to change your environment?” The woman, speechless, looks like she’s going to cry.

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