13 Celebrity Quotes About Racial Discrimination in Hollywood That Call for Change
After witnessing the killing of George Floyd's by the Minneapolis, Minnesota police on May 25, millions of people around the world are now calling for an end to unchecked police brutality and racism toward Black people in the U.S. They're voicing their concerns both online and in person through protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Many Black celebrities used their platforms to not only bring awareness to the issues at hand, but also to recount their own experiences with racism in the entertainment industry. These celebrity quotes about racial discrimination in Hollywood all demand change.
Through the years, numerous celebrities of color have spoken up about times they were discriminated against because of the color of their skin. From not landing a job due to not "fitting" the description and receiving unnecessary hate from racist trolls online, they've experienced so many injustices during their time in the spotlight.
These stories from your favorite celebrities reveal some of their most unfair encounters and serve as an important reminder that the issue of racism in the U.S. goes far beyond police brutality.
Rihanna was only a teenager when she rose to fame with "Pon de Replay" in 2005. Unfortunately, as a young, Black, female singer, she wasn't taken seriously by leaders in the music industry when doing business deals.
"Everyone’s cool with a young Black woman singing, dancing, partying, and looking hot, but that when it comes time to negotiate, to broker a deal, she is suddenly made aware of her Blackness," Rihanna said in an October 2015 interview with New York Times Style Magazine.
Instead of letting their judgments get to her, Rihanna used them as motivation to become more successful. "[I]t’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me. I know what they’re expecting, and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed those expectations," she said.
2. Ashleigh Murray
Three years after Ashleigh Murray joined Riverdale as Josie McCoy, leader of Josie and the Pussycats, in 2017, she left the show and resumed the role on the show's spinoff Katy Keene. In a now-deleted tweet, someone claimed Murray wasn't in many scenes with other women on Riverdale because she was a "diva" who didn't want to "share the screen with other talented women."
Murray defend herself by writing, "Lol you clearly have me mixed up with someone else. I love the Pussycats more than any show ever did. If it were up to me, we'd have our own show. And you obviously don't watch Katy Keene because sis is surrounded by women. So f*ck all the way off."
Her tweet began an important conversation about the stereotypes surrounding Black women who speak their minds, which Murray's Riverdale co-star Vanessa Morgan pointed out.
"Another thing I hate BLACK women being called DIVAS for sticking up for themselves. Maybe the show should write for her like the white characters. You picked the wrong day get off my page," Morgan wrote.
After retweeting actress Lesley-Ann Brandt's suggestion Hollywood should reach out to its Black artists in order to ask them about their "experiences," Murray shared her own hopes for the future of Hollywood.
"These are the ways we can implement real change. The beginnings of concrete conversations and plans of action that will mold our future for the better. We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for equal treatment," Murray tweeted.
3. Vanessa Morgan
Following the incident with Murray, Morgan further expressed her concerns over the lack of proper Black representation in television.
"Tired of how Black people are portrayed in Media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people. Tired of us also being used as side kick non dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show. It starts with the media. I'm not being quite anymore," Morgan tweeted.
Although she didn't specifically mention her show, Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa promised to give Morgan and the series' other actors of color better stories moving forward.
4. Asha Bromfield
Riverdale's Asha Bromfield also joined the conversation surrounding the show's representation issues.
"In one breath, being a part of [Riverdale] was the most profound, historic, exciting thing for me as a Black actress, and on the other end, it was devastating," Bromfield told her co-star Lili Reinhart in a June 9 Instagram Live.
She explained her character, Melody Valentine, as well as her Black co-stars' characters, often got side-lined in favor of white stories. "We stand in the background and we have a lot of attitude, or we don't talk. Or, we're only included when we are uplifting white characters," she revealed.
Bromfield said this problem is found throughout all of Hollywood. "It's so much bigger than Riverdale. It's a bigger conversation about how we are humanizing Black people on screen in all capacities," she said.
5. Jaz Sinclair
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's Jaz Sinclair is unfortunately all too familiar with prejudiced casting directors. While auditioning, Sinclair said she's experienced times when directors have claimed they're looking to cast a person of color, only to end up casting a white lead.
"I know that there's so much talent of all different ethnicities. It's like, ‘Oh, y'all saw all the Hispanic people, all the Asian people, all the black people, and you didn't find anything?’ I don't believe you. That's just not what you wanted. To claim that you didn’t find what you were looking for means that, actually, what you were looking for all along is what you have always been looking for. Just be honest about that from the beginning," Sinclair told Elite Daily in December 2018.
Normani's time with Fifth Harmony had its ups and downs. While it was a great way for her to break through in the music industry, she also experienced racism from fans who treated her differently for being the group's only Black member. In a June 10 interview with Billboard, Normani explained she was the "least followed" of the girls on social media, which made her feel self-conscious. "You worry — is it me? Is it because I’m Black? Or am I just not talented?" she asked herself.
Through it all, Normani is determined to continue representing Black women in the entertainment industry. "Even in the mainstream, there’s not many of us. Especially chocolate girls. Like, being African-American is one thing, but girls [with] my complexion… it’s unheard of. It’s me, and SZA. Who else?" she said.
7. Leigh-Anne Pinnock
In an emotional video shared to her Instagram on June 5, Little Mix's Leigh-Anne Pinnock opened up about her experience as one of her group's only two members of color.
At the beginning of their career, Pinnock said choreographer Frank Gatson told her she would "have to work 10 times harder" because she was Black. "Never in my life had someone told me that I would need to work harder because of my race," Pinnock said, but she soon realized Gatson was right as the group became more popular.
"I sing to fans who don’t see me or hear me or cheer me on... My reality is feeling anxious before fan events and signings because I always feel like I'm the least favored," Pinnock explained.
8. Gabrielle Union
During her run as a judge on America's Got Talent in 2019, Gabrielle Union criticized the show for having a "toxic" work environment. According to Variety, Union raised concerns over a racist joke Jay Leno made on set as a guest judge and how the producers called her changing hairstyles "too black."
Although Leno's comment never aired, Union said the network did little to stop these problematic incidents from happening.
"You cannot edit out what we just experienced. There is not an edit button in my brain or in my soul," Union told Variety in a May 27 interview. "To experience this kind of racism at my job and there be nothing done about it, no discipline, no company wide email, no reminder of what is appropriate in the workplace?"
Union's contract on America's Got Talent ultimately was not renewed, and she's now filed a discrimination complaint against the show and NBCUniversal. “When Gabrielle Union informed NBC of racially offensive conduct during the taping of America’s Got Talent, NBC did not ‘stand’ with her in ‘outrage at acts of racism,'” Union’s lawyer told Variety, referencing the company’s recent statement backing the George Floyd protests. “Instead, NBC did not care enough to either promptly investigate Ms. Union’s complaints or even ask HR to get involved. Rather, NBC stood against her and directed its ‘outrage’ at Ms. Union for whistleblowing about the racially offensive conduct she experienced while working for NBC on America’s Got Talent.”
9. Kelly Marie Tran
In June 2018, Kelly Marie Tran deleted all of her social media accounts after she was met with racist online harassment for her role as Rose Rico in 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Two months after her social media break, Tran finally addressed what happened in an essay for the New York Times. "Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories."
According to Tran, those stories were the stereotypical Asian roles seen in many films: "doing their nails, diagnosing their illnesses, supporting their love interests — and perhaps the most damaging — waiting for them to rescue me."
Tran ended her essay by promising to not waste the opportunities she's been given. "I know that I now belong to a small group of privileged people who get to tell stories for a living, stories that are heard and seen and digested by a world that for so long has tasted only one thing. I know how important that is. And I am not giving up," she said.
10. Gemma Chan
Before her breakthrough roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Captain Marvel, Gemma Chan said casting directors would often overlook her talents by claiming she was either "too Asian" or "not Asian enough" to play certain roles.
"Back when I started out, a lot of the parts that I would be asked to audition for would be specifically ethnic parts," Chan said. "I was told things like, ‘We really liked you, we liked your read, but can you do more of an accent? You sound too English!’ There were preconceived ideas of what someone like me should sound like."
11. Naomi Campbell
At the beginning of her modeling career, Naomi Campbell said she would lose out on opportunities simply for being Black. "When I started out, I wasn't being booked for certain shows because of the color of my skin," Campbell explained in her 2016 self-titled autobiography.
Her experiences taught her a huge lesson as a Black model: "You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good."
12. Idris Elba
Following rumors Idris Elba was planning on taking the role of James Bond after Daniel Craig's departure from the franchise, the star revealed he received racist backlash from fans who couldn't picture him play the character.
"You just get disheartened, when you get people from a generational point of view going, 'It can't be.' And it really turns out to be the color of my skin and then if I get it and it didn't work, or it did work, would it be because of the color of my skin? That's a difficult position to put myself into when I don't need to," Elba said in a June 2019 interview with Vanity Fair.
13. Dev Patel
In an August 2010 interview with The Telegraph, Dev Patel expressed his concerns with how Indian characters are portrayed on screen.
"Because Slumdog was such a big hit there was a lot of pressure in terms of what I did next. For my second film I wanted a role that would stretch me, but all I was getting offered were stereotypical parts like the goofy Indian sidekick," Patel said. "Asian actors tend not to be sent Hollywood scripts that are substantial or challenging. I'm likely to be offered the roles of a terrorist, cab driver and smart geek," Patel continued. "I want to show that I have versatility."
By opening up about their experiences, stars can help change Hollywood so that people of color can get fair opportunities and better representations of themselves on screen.