I was sitting down and talking to a very good friend of mine the other day, and though we usually talk about this, it really struck a cord this particular time. She and I are both dark skinned, her more than I, and we both fight for our place in the acting world. And that's all because white skin is more popular.
Even if you disagree with me, stop for a moment and think about it. When you were little what crayon did you pick up when a kid asked you for the "skin color crayon'? There was no question to the "skin color" crayon; every child picked up the same one and used it.
When you're reading a book and the author gives a very brief description of a character (no inclination to skin color), what do you imagine in your mind? Usually, you imagine someone who is white. Right? Disagree? Think a little harder and if you haven't done this recently, then think back to when you were little. To this day I still imagine characters as white, even if they are only described as having beautiful brown hair and an English accent, I don't see someone from South America, I see a Caucasian in my mind. It may be because I was raised around white people, but I believe in stands true for many regardless.
If you look in the movie industry, the majority of actress and actors are Caucasian with token characters of other races. And when that isn't true, the movie is primarily one race like Tyler Perry movies, for example, which I don't find to be totally accurate either. Especially in America, a mixing pot of cultures, movies could go farther with being ethnically diverse and people should not be so discouraged and cause such an uproar when a lead character in Star Wars is black.
Because of all of these things, getting into acting is a struggle. Its not just for blacks, but for everyone else, too: Asians, Mexicans, etc.
My friend, the same as mentioned before, and I were talking about different roles we'd love to pursue. She is doing a song where she and other women will be acting as different princess. She wants to be Cinderella, but she was told that she has to be Tiana by a peer. I would just like to inform everyone who doesn't know that there was a movie with a black Cinderella, so there's no ground for someone to stand on should their argument be that Cinderella has to be white. But then the peer who said that my friend had to be Tiana instead couldn't directly say why. If you're going to allow that kind of blindness rule your decisions, then be straightforward with it. Do not beat around the bush; we already understand that you don't approve.
I understand that I will not get many roles that I audition for. For example, my senior year we did a play placed in the 1940s in a small country town. There was no way in hell that I'd a get a part, even if I was the best person on the stage. I knew that the second the play was chosen and I even told my director that I understood that he was going to go with historical accuracy, but that I was still going to go onto that stage and try my very hardest.
My friend said something that inspired me-- and I'm going to paraphrase because I can't remember the exact words. She will try out for whatever role she wants and she will make the casting directors jaws drop from the moment she opens her mouth to sing to the moment she walks out of the room, and she will make their decision so hard that they will consider rewriting the entire script just to fit her in.
And I believe that should be everyone's attitude. Do not let societal norms discourage you. Fight for what you want even when all the odds are against you! Even if there's no chance of getting what you're going after, one day your fighting will pay off. One day there will be more chances for that one Indian girl or that one Kenyan boy to get a role in the play/musical/movie of their dreams. I'm working for the day that I won't have to walk into every audition knowing that my chances are slim.
And it's happening every day!
In Les Miserables, for example, there has been a black Eponine and a black Javert, which I never dreamed of happening!
And I even have an experience of my own. There was a play based in the early 1960s that we put on during high school. After reading the script, I knew who I was trying out for--the lead role. There was one two other people of color to their skin in the entire theatre department and the play called for 29 people, so I knew that my chances were slim as hell. It wasn't historically accurate for someone like me to play a school girl in this type of play. At that time I would be outcasted, not allowed to be in the school probably, and beaten. But I got on that stage and acted my heart out, earning the lead role. Sure, the play was a farce. Sure, it wasn't a competition play. And sure, it was only for high school, but I earned a role that would normally be given to some white girl.
Moral of this blog is: GO FOR IT YOU BRILLIANT ETHNICALLY DIVERSE PERSON! And if you're not exotic and your skin is as white as snow on Christmas, I challenge you on the behalf of everyone who is like me to give us your all because we need you to help push us to break through the mold. We want to act along side you as equals!