It’s no secret that racism is alive and well in Hollywood. While we’ve seen some pushes for diversity in recent years, we have a LONG way to go. So, here are 15 celebrities who’ve opened up about the racism they’ve faced during their careers:
During a 2020 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Tia recalled, “So, my sister [Tamera] and I wanted to be on the cover of this very popular [teenage] magazine at the time. We were told that we couldn’t be on the cover of the magazine because we were Black, and we would not sell.”
During a 2018 Vulture interview, the actor said that she didn’t realize she’d received an offer to play Eve in Killing Eve due to internalized racism. “When I got the script for Killing Eve, I remember I was walking around in Brooklyn, and I was on my phone with my agent, Nancy. I was quickly scrolling down the script, and I can’t really tell you what I was looking for. So, I’m like, ‘So, Nancy, I don’t understand, what’s the part?’ And Nancy goes, ‘Sweetheart, it’s Eve, it’s Eve.'”
“It’s like, how does racism define your work? Oh my goodness, I didn’t even assume when being offered something that I would be one of the central storytellers. Why? And this is me talking, right? After being told to see things a certain way for decades, you realize, ‘Oh my god! They brainwashed me!’ I was brainwashed! So, that was a revelation to me.”
During a 2019 interview with Elle, the actor recalled when The Office was nominated for an Emmy. The Television Academy told her there were too many producers on the show, so she — the only person of color — would be removed from the list. In order to be included, “They made me, not any of the other producers, fill out a whole form and write an essay about all my contributions as a writer and a producer.”
Shortly after the interview, the Academy released a statement saying, “No one was singled out.” In response, Mindy tweeted that she was — “the most junior person and woman of color.”
In 2016, the actor told the New York Times about her first audition as a teenager. She recalled that she was asked to sound more Latino. “I had no idea what she was talking about. ‘You mean you want me to speak in Spanish?’ She’s like, ‘No. Do it in English but just sound more Latino.’ I genuinely didn’t realize until later that she was asking me to speak English with a broken accent. It confused me, because I thought, ‘I am Latino, so isn’t this what a Latino sounds like?'”
She also shared that her previous manager didn’t even believe in her. “I had just won [a top award at Sundance], and [my manager] wanted me to audition for the Latina chubby girl in a pilot. She wasn’t even the lead; she was just the sidekick, with the same joke in every scene. I said, ‘I’m not going in for that.’ When I ultimately left him, he [told] another of my reps, ‘Somebody should tell that girl that she has an unrealistic idea of what she can accomplish in this industry.’ That was someone I was paying to represent me.”
In 2020, the actor filed a discrimination complaint against NBC and the producers of America’s Got Talent. Variety reported that Gabrielle received “excessive notes” about her appearance, including one that her hairstyles were “too Black” for the show.
Gabrielle has spoken about her experience on AGT numerous times. During an interview with Variety, she recalled Jay Leno appearing as a guest judge and making a racist joke. “My first big interview in this industry, the first person who allowed me to come on their talk show, was Jay Leno. I’ve always held him in high regard, but I was not prepared for his joke. I gasped. I froze. Other things had already happened, but at this point, it was so wildly racist.”
“You cannot edit out what we just experienced. There is not an edit button in my brain or in my soul. To experience this kind of racism at my job, and there be nothing done about it, no discipline, no companywide email, no reminder of what is appropriate in the workplace?” she concluded.
After the news broke that the actor would play the male lead in Crazy Rich Asians, he received a wave of backlash from people claiming he was not “Asian enough.” He told Bustle, “Just because by blood I’m not full Asian doesn’t mean I can’t own my Asian-ness. And I relate so much more with my Asian side.”
In 2016, she told the New York Times, “Some white male casting director was dictating what it meant to be Latin. He decided I needed an accent. He decided I should [have] darker-colored skin. The gatekeepers are not usually people of color, so they don’t understand you should be looking for way more colors of the rainbow within that one ethnicity.”
During a 2018 Women in the World event, the actor said, “I got the Oscar, I got the Emmy, I got the two Tonys, I’ve done Broadway, I’ve done Off-Broadway, I’ve done TV, I’ve done film, I’ve done all of it. I have a career that’s probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver. They all came out of Yale, they came out of Juilliard, they came out of NYU. They had the same path as me, and yet, I am nowhere near them, not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities, nowhere close to it.”
In 2019, the actor told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I get flak sometimes because people will say, ‘Why aren’t they giving these roles to a real Indian?’ I wonder, what does that even mean? The only way I can converse with my grandparents is in Gujarati. Does that make me real enough? Or, am I only allowed to witness the moments of prejudice and racism going through airports? Is that the only bit that I’m allowed of the culture?”
In 2015, she told the Telegraph that she saw hardly any Asian actors onscreen when she was growing up. “There’s definitely still a lot of room for improvement. I’ve been fortunate in my career, but yes, there have been many times when I have been told my audition has been canceled because they’re only going to see white people.”
During a 2018 interview with Bustle, the actor said, “Casting directors use a program called Breakdown Services when they’re looking for actors where they name the project, the producers, and the director, and the character descriptions for each character. And at the end of it, it always says, ‘Latina. Black. Caucasian.’ Growing up, those listings were so specific that even if a role sounded perfect for you, if it said white, you couldn’t go in.”
During a 2020 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, the actor reflected on the struggles she faced early in her career. “I think I was just too naive and didn’t know what was ahead of me or what I was going to be up against. I had some idea when I got to LA, because a friend of mine would have 10 auditions in a day or a week, and I would have maybe two or three in a month, so I knew it was going to be much more limited for me.”
In 2019, she told Variety, “Everyone was willing to have me on their roster, but not commit to me because they didn’t know, realistically, how many auditions I could get. The challenge from the beginning was just the diversity, and ‘We don’t really know what to do with you,’ and ‘There’s not going to be a lot of work for you.'”
After rumors spread that the actor would become the next James Bond, he faced a ton of backlash. In 2019, he told Vanity Fair, “You just get disheartened when you get people from a generational point of view going, ‘It can’t be.’ And it really turns out to be the color of my skin. And then, if I get it, and it didn’t work, or it did work, would it be because of the color of my skin? That’s a difficult position to put myself into when I don’t need to.”
During a 2019 interview with Teen Vogue, the actor revealed that she wasn’t given an audition for Crazy Rich Asians. “Their reasoning behind that, what they said was that my image was basically not Asian enough, in not so many words. It broke my heart. I said, ‘This character is in her late to mid-20s, an Asian American, and I can’t even audition for it? I’ve auditioned for Caucasian roles my entire career, but this specific role, you’re not going to let me do it? You’re going to fault me for having worked my whole life?’ I was like, ‘Where do I fit?'”
And finally, Halle Bailey
Since the announcement that Halle would star in the upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, trolls have been vocal about their outrage across social media. After the trailer dropped earlier this month, there was a resurgence of backlash over a Black Ariel.
During an interview with Variety, Halle shared that the backlash stung. She turned to her grandparents and listened to their stories of overcoming racism and discrimination. “It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you.'”