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.
It’s not just, in addition to what’s beautiful and what’s not. It’s also what’s acceptable. “Where do I fit?” “Who do you think I am based on what I look like?” For me, when I was younger, I remember my mom, because of my hair, my mom would braid my hair at night before auditions in small braids to make my hair thicker so that there wouldn’t be a question of “Oh, is she Black enough?”
What’s harmful about it is the idea of separation and the idea of not belonging and not being loved and each one of us feels it in a different way because no matter what’s being said about all of us, whether lighter is better or darker is better or being able to twist your hair is better than having straight hair. We all experience pain because of it. The bottom line is we’re all being measured a standard of beauty that has nothing to do with who we are and where we come from.
HB: Your opinions on measuring beauty makes your being part of this “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign a perfect fit. What makes your Black beautiful?
TA: What makes my Black beautiful has nothing to do with what you see on the outside. My perseverance and my confidence. At the end of “Imagine A Future,” a young woman says, “My Black is beautiful because I say so.” That’s my favorite out of all of them. It’s about confidence. It’s about saying, “I am who I am, if you don’t like it, get out the way.”
HB: What do you think will be the impact of this challenge on young Black women?
TA: This challenge is for women of all ages. We’re going to hopefully have all ages involved and posting on the Facebook page and that creates a different kind of community and sisterhood and many points of view. The part about action that I love is it’s almost like being in a virtual retreat. Lisa Nichols, amazing transformational expert, I know her from “The Secret.” If she wasn’t in “The Secret,” I don’t know if I would’ve felt that way I did without her being in it and you have her everyday giving you a challenge and trusting you with taking action. The reason why retreats work is because it takes you out of everyday life and, in this case, it takes you out of your everyday way of thinking and just asks you to take 30 days to initiate these tiny changes in the way you think. They say it takes 30 days to make or break anything, so we’re gonna see the transformation.
Check Out This Gallery Of Beautiful Black Women In History You Should Know:
From A-Z: Dynamic Black Women In History
1. Where Would We Be Without These Black Women?1 of 63
2. Alice Walker2 of 63
3. Angela Davis3 of 63
4. Anna Tibaijuka (United Nations)4 of 63
5. Asha-Rose Migiro (United Nations)5 of 63
6. Audre Lorde6 of 63
7. Ayana Mathis7 of 63
8. Ayanna Pressley8 of 63
9. Barbara Smith9 of 63
10. Bebe Moore Campbell10 of 63
11. bell hooks11 of 63
12. Bessie A. Buchanan12 of 63
13. Carol Moseley Braun13 of 63
14. Cathy Hughes14 of 63
15. Madame CJ Walker15 of 63
16. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie16 of 63
17. Condoleezza Rice17 of 63
18. Coretta Scott King18 of 63
19. Cynthia McKinney19 of 63
20. Dame Eugenia Charles (Dominica)20 of 63
21. Fannie Lou Hamer21 of 63
22. Gwendolyn Brooks22 of 63
23. Donna Edwards23 of 63
24. Dr. Dorothy Height24 of 63
25. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia)25 of 63
26. Gloria Naylor26 of 63
27. Gwendolyn Brooks27 of 63
28. Harriet Tubman28 of 63
29. Ida B. Wells29 of 63
30. Kamala Harris30 of 63
31. Karen Bass31 of 63
32. Lorraine Hansberry32 of 63
33. Margaret Sloan-Hunter33 of 63
34. Mary Church Terrell34 of 63
35. Mary Fair Burks35 of 63
36. Mary McLeod Bethune36 of 63
37. Maya Angelou37 of 63
38. Michaëlle Jean (Canada)38 of 63
39. Michelle Obama39 of 63
40. Nikki Giovanni40 of 63
41. Ntozake Shange41 of 63
42. Octavia Butler42 of 63
43. Pearl Cleage43 of 63
44. Phillis Wheatley44 of 63
45. Robin Kelly45 of 63
46. Rosa Parks46 of 63
47. Ruth Simmons47 of 63
48. Septima Poinsette Clark48 of 63
49. Shirley Chisholm49 of 63
50. Sojourner Truth50 of 63
51. Susan Rice51 of 63
52. Suzan Lori-Parks52 of 63
53. Terri Sewell53 of 63
54. Toni Morrison54 of 63
55. Terry McMillan55 of 63
56. Sonia Sanchez56 of 63
57. Wilma Rudolph57 of 63
58. Margaret Walker58 of 63
59. Rebecca Walker59 of 63
60. Unita Blackwell60 of 63
61. J. California Cooper61 of 63
62. Zane62 of 63
63. Zora Neale Hurston63 of 63
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