Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 6:53 AM

Playing ‘Black’ to Win Oscars, Looking ‘White’ to Feel Pretty…?

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Aside from appealing to Hollywood’s fondness for Black-Mammy characters, I honestly don’t get this… Sixty-seven years after Hattie McDaniel became the first Black to win an Oscar for playing a Mammy in Gone With the Wind, one would’ve thought Black actresses would be recognized for more dignified roles.

(“And the Oscar Goes To,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2007)

I recall being dismayed and bewildered in equal measure by the flak I got for casting Oscar-winning prospects for Black actresses in this antebellum light.

Well, I trust I’ll be forgiven for feeling thoroughly vindicated when I read about no less a person than Viola Davis  (of The Help) liberating herself professionally as follows:

I’m tired of playing a maid.

(CNN, February 6, 2013)

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 6.48.56 PMOn the other hand, I was not at all surprised by the even greater flak I got for daring to write the following about Black women trying to look White (a la Nicki Minaj with her fake blonde wig) for mass appeal:

Unless non-White women stop doing all they can to look White, this racist trend will continue.

For starters, Black women can stop covering up their natural hair with wigs made of White women’s hair. Indeed, why should White fashionistas hire Black models to appeal to Black women who just want to look White? I find nothing more unattractive and pathetic than a Black woman sporting a long, blonde wig … unless it’s for Halloween.

On the other hand, if these women exhibited more pride in their ethnicity, their purchasing power would compel the arbiters and gatekeepers of fashion to feature women who look like them (even with nappy hair and dark skin) in magazines and on the runways.

(“No Blacks Please, We’re Fashionistas,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2011)

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 5.03.57 PMAlas, I felt somewhat less vindicated when I read about no less a person than, voila, Viola explaining why she showed up on the red carpet at the Academy Awards sporting her natural hair.

He’s been saying to me, ‘I’m tired of the wigs. I’m tired of the rags on the head at night.’ So I finally took the wig off and did it for him. Then I happened to go to a magazine shoot and they said ‘I love the hair!’ And I said, ‘okay, no problem.’

(Real Times Media, January 8, 2013)

Kudos to her husband for finally prevailing upon her to get rid of the wigs. But it’s dismaying that she still needed a (White?) fashionista at a magazine shoot to assure her that her natural look was “okay.” And Viola is no shrinking violet. In fact, from all outward appearances, she’s the kind of “strong Black woman” who imbues us with so much racial pride.

But her burn-the-wig story is just a superficial illustration of the negative impact pervasive and indoctrinating images of White women as icons of beauty has on the self-esteem of Black women….

All the same, here’s to more Black (and White) men telling Black women that we are tired of the wigs! They might get rid of them just to please us. But, eventually, the arbiters and gatekeepers will validate their natural look by featuring more and more of them as icons of beauty (without retouching their features to look White).

Before you know it, White women will be not only tanning their skin but also coarsening their hair to look Black.

Related commentaries:
The Oscar goes to
No Blacks please

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