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 60
2. Alice Walker2 of 60
3. Angela Davis3 of 60
4. Anna Tibaijuka (United Nations)4 of 60
5. Asha-Rose Migiro (United Nations)5 of 60
6. Audre Lorde6 of 60
7. Ayana Mathis7 of 60
8. Ayanna Pressley8 of 60
9. Barbara Smith9 of 60
10. Bebe Moore Campbell10 of 60
11. bell hooks11 of 60
12. Bessie A. Buchanan12 of 60
13. Carol Moseley Braun13 of 60
14. Cathy Hughes14 of 60
15. Madame CJ Walker15 of 60
16. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie16 of 60
17. Condoleezza Rice17 of 60
18. Coretta Scott King18 of 60
19. Cynthia McKinney19 of 60
20. Dame Eugenia Charles (Dominica)20 of 60
21. Fannie Lou Hamer21 of 60
22. Gwendolyn Brooks22 of 60
23. Donna Edwards23 of 60
24. Dr. Dorothy Height24 of 60
25. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia)25 of 60
26. Gloria Naylor26 of 60
27. Gwendolyn Brooks27 of 60
28. Harriet Tubman28 of 60
29. Ida B. Wells29 of 60
30. Kamala Harris30 of 60
31. Karen Bass31 of 60
32. Lorraine Hansberry32 of 60
33. Mary Church Terrell33 of 60
34. Mary McLeod Bethune34 of 60
35. Maya Angelou35 of 60
36. Michaëlle Jean (Canada)36 of 60
37. Michelle Obama37 of 60
38. Nikki Giovanni38 of 60
39. Ntozake Shange39 of 60
40. Octavia Butler40 of 60
41. Pearl Cleage41 of 60
42. Phillis Wheatley42 of 60
43. Robin Kelly43 of 60
44. Rosa Parks44 of 60
45. Ruth Simmons45 of 60
46. Shirley Chisholm46 of 60
47. Sojourner Truth47 of 60
48. Susan Rice48 of 60
49. Suzan Lori-Parks49 of 60
50. Terri Sewell50 of 60
51. Toni Morrison51 of 60
52. Terry McMillan52 of 60
53. Sonia Sanchez53 of 60
54. Wilma Rudolph54 of 60
55. Margaret Walker55 of 60
56. Rebecca Walker56 of 60
57. Unita Blackwell57 of 60
58. J. California Cooper58 of 60
59. Zane59 of 60
60. Zora Neale Hurston60 of 60
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