Tatyana Ali On Colorism: ‘I Can’t Pass A Paper Bag Test’ [EXCLUSIVE]

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  • Black women in Hollywood. This seems to be the most neverending topic in pop culture. With the rising of Lupita Nyong’o’s star, several op-eds about colorism littered the internet. My Black is Beautiful teamed up with transformational life coach, Lisa Nichols and Tatyana Ali and Coco Jones to challenge Black women to love themselves through inspirational actions everyday for 30 days.

    #TeamBeautiful caught up with Tatyana Ali, who is celebrating her latest LP release, “Hello” and gearing up to star in a Queen Latifah film, “November Rule,” and she was able to offer incredible insight on Hollywood’s depiction of Black women, colorism’s impact on her life and what she hopes this “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign will do for Black women. And yes, there is talk of the infamous “Paper Bag Test” and how she doesn’t “pass.” Read on!

    HelloBeautiful: Do you think that Black women are underrepresented in Hollywood?

    Tatyana Ali: This year changed everything. This year more than ever is the year of the Black woman in television and film when you have a variety of different women and a variety of characters and a variety of portrayals and skin tone. This year is exciting.

    HB: Do you think Hollywood perpetuates colorism?

    TA: It doesn’t just exist in Hollywood. I think it exists in society and to be quite honest, I don’t know how much it exists in the larger society, but it definitely exists in the Black community. There are obvious historical reasons for that. The closer we were to White, the more freedom we thought we could have or the more acceptability. Beauty was defined as White and the farther away you get from that White-blond-hair-blue-eye definition of beauty, the uglier you are. The closer you get to it, the more beautiful you are and that’s what we’ve been doing amongst ourselves for a very long time.

    HB: How does colorism personally affect you?

    Look, I can’t pass a paper bag test. I’m definitely darker than a paper bag and I have “good hair” and that’s just me being in a different category and a different light. I know that me and my sisters were separated by our cousins by older relatives who would make these weird comments and then not mention the beauty of the other child that’s sitting right there and playing the same game.

    There’s a separation that’s made among sisters and we end up looking at each other funny, not realizing and thinking “she has it so good” and the other one thinks, “I feel like an outcast, she has it so good” and not realizing that we’re both missing out on each other. My experience in Hollywood is different. When Chris Rock did “Good Hair,” I was like “Why didn’t he talk to me? He didn’t get the full story.” He didn’t get the full story because, for example, it’s about identity, it’s about belonging.

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