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?