Yes, I’m Tired of Light-skinned Biracial Actresses Being Favored

And no, I don’t actually hate them. Hollywood is pushing light-skinned, specifically biracial, black actresses to the center because that is what sells. They are…

And no, I don’t actually hate them.

Hollywood is pushing light-skinned, specifically biracial, black actresses to the center because that is what sells. They are more palatable to white people. They are in ways…closer to whiteness.

Recently, both young and upcoming actresses Amandla Stenberg and Laura Harrier have come out speaking about diversity and issues of colorism in Hollywood.

Stenberg, of “The Hate U Give”, did an interview with Variety talking about how Hollywood puts her, Yara Shadi of Grownish, and Zendaya of Spider-Man: Homecoming, in the same box.

“Me and Yara and Zendaya are perceived in the same way, I guess, because we are lighter-skinned black girls and we fill this interesting place of being accessible to Hollywood and accessible to white people in a way that darker-skinned girls are not afforded the same privilege.”

Stenberg is right about this. All three of these actresses have garnered success and booked roles that would not be readily available to dark-skinned women.

Harrier, of BlacKkKlansman, spoke with Bustle to discuss how she doesn’t represent the experience of all black women.

Harrier is also right about this. Every black woman doesn’t have the same lived experience just because they have race as a commonality.

However, my beef with Stenberg and Harrier isn’t that they are gaining these roles. My beef is with why and the fact they are speaking out about this AFTER the fact. They are talking about this after they have been casted, their movies have been shot, released and received critical acclaim.

Stenberg has received criticism for being casted to play Starr Carter in “The Hate U Give” because of confusion over how Starr was intended to be portrayed. Author Angie Thomas says she envisioned Stenberg as Starr whilst writing her—and in her words, is not a casting director.

But Thomas, you ARE an author who has full control over NOT giving away the rights of your book to film companies. When the cover of the book was picked, Thomas found the artwork done by Debra Cartwright on Instagram and suggested it to her publisher.

Thomas, why would you suggest artwork that doesn’t match how you envision your character? Moreover, while black comes in many shades, I do wonder why Starr appears to have two monoracially, dark-skinned black parents in the movie yet Stenberg is biracial? We know there is a history of biracial actresses playing monoracially black characters—and it just boils down to erasure and the good ole’ bait and switch.

Stenberg shouldn’t be playing a character who is potentially monoracially black. Cast characters accurately—it matters. Cartwright, who did the artwork, was even surprised by the casting choice. “You can tell who Hollywood is pushing to be in the limelight, and everybody knows it has a lot to do with appearance, but it also is still being driven a bit by colorism. Not a bit. It is.”

It’s important to hold people accountable for their actions and words. Thomas isn’t a casting director—but again, she had control over the rights to her book until she sold them.

Harrier, who is also biracial, hasn’t received as much backlash for playing Patrice Dumas who wasn’t a real-life person. Yet, director Spike Lee stated Dumas was not biracial.

Now, I don’t want to use any of these actresses as a bullseye for criticism. I commend Amandla Stenberg’s activism. I enjoy Laura Harrier as an actress and think she’s very humble and sweet. I think both young women are paving a way in some sorts to better representation. The timing of their statements could be…better.

I don’t want to pit light-skinned and dark-skinned women against each other to tear one or the other down and invalidate their lived experiences.

But I DO want to use them as examples of Hollywood having one foot in and out the door for casting black actresses. Hollywood wants to have its cake and eat it too. I’m coming for casting directors.

It is trendy right now to have diversity in movies and television shows—it’s selling. Yet, Hollywood still isn’t ready to give dark-skinned black women the room to shine. Casting directors are using light-skinned biracial actresses as tokens to show that representation is getting “better”. But is it?

It’s been too damn long and there are no more excuses to NOT have dark-skinned black actresses playing in leading roles in movies that are NOT stereotypes.

It goes back to my opening statement, my thesis if you will.

For so long we have seen black women in roles that are hypersexual, beaten down physically, raped, the side-kick, the mammy. To see black women in roles that have nothing to do with those stereotypes is…new. There’s a reason the first Oscar won by a black woman was by Hattie McDaniel whose literal title in the movie was “Mammy”.

We need to see more black women in positive, assertive and influential roles.

I want casting directors and Hollywood to stop pandering to the black community, throwing us bones to keep us satisfied.

I want to see these actresses put their money where their mouth is. Stop taking these roles if you know it’s wrong and you are concerned over representation. Speak up about it before you get your coin! Use your platform. I’m not asking you to become a starving artist who doesn’t book roles, but you should be able to book roles without your privilege of being light-skinned, right? (that might be a little shade)

We are living in a time with beautiful and talented dark-skinned actresses such as Letitia Wright. Lupita Nyong’o, Aja Naomi King, Danielle Brooks, and Dewanda Wise just to name a few out of hundreds.

(Letitia Wright)

(Dewanda Wise)

We know the black experience looks different for every woman—why don’t we show that through representation?

By: Brianna Scott

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments, opinions on this website are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of M-Lifestyle and their affiliates. M-Lifestyle does not claim ownership of any images used, unless otherwise specified.




  1. Ming says:

    Very well written and anyone who doesn’t agree ,has to say they at least pondered. Especially when the characters parents are dark skin, what are you trying to prove. Love this article well done …..

  2. Pat Wood says:

    well beauty sells, not skin tone. Give Hollywood a beautiful dark skin black woman… who can act Then they will hire her.

    1. Anna says:

      Right….because dark skinned black women who can act are in short supply….because of all the women who pursue acting careers and go to acting schools the talented dark skin black ones tend to be ugly and the beautiful dark skin black ones tend to be talentless…only the mixed biracial women and non-black women seem to have the whole package on average……okay.

      And p.s to the author “monoracial black” is redundant. Black and biracial are not synonyms that can be used interchangeably and black people who are…black…don’t need extra categorization.

  3. Rena Baker says:

    I have been preaching this for years. It seems black people are so happy to be excluded that they dont realize that biracial women are taking the roles that should be cast by monoracial women

  4. Thank you!!!!!!! Loved this article! I feel the same way. I’m pissed that Ava Duvernay, Angie Thomas and Wendy Williams all cater to and encourage these biracial actresses. It’s like they’re ‘down’ with colorism.

  5. j says:

    Ugh you want them to not take these roles ? When it is so fucking hard to make it as a professional actor? That’s like telling Jennifer Lawrence or Julia Roberts to give up their roles because a part of their a lister qualities is because they are tall and white

  6. Yaya says:

    But how can you tell those actresses pictured are biracial?They appear black. Is it bc they talk about their race? They have very Negroid features….


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