I was so shocked when I read this piece on casting by Hamilton Nolan over at Gawker.com.
My first thought was “Yaaaassssss NWA”. Hopefully, with Ice Cube (who I love and support) and Dr. Dre (who is amazing) involved, the movie will show the groups social impact in a way that enlightens and informs. These talented men were able to paint a pretty accurate picture of LA was like for African Americans during the late 80’s and 90’s and their story should be told.
My second thought was, “how racist could this be?” So I read the actual casting call (that is on her website as well). This is racist as hell!!!
Sande Alessi, Cast Director
The cast director, Sande Alessi, who is responsible from making Johnny Depp a Native American in The Lone Ranger in 2013, asks for 4 different types of women, A, B, C, and D. Glancing over it, I assumed she was looking for varying characteristics but she took it too far.
A girls, “are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too.
B girls, “These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here.”
C girls, “are African-American girls, medium to light-skinned with a weave.”
D girls “are African-American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone.”
What makes this racist is the ranking of women by skin color and hair type. This is how a prominent, white casting director sees Black women. By using letters instead of numbers, Alessi is attempting to disguise the fact that she is using skin color and hair to rank the beauty of these women. In her world, white or exotic, darker skinned women, with real hair are the epitome of beauty. However, Beyonce is “the prototype” of “fine” or a second class beauty. (What is very interesting is that Beyonce is actually the prototype for group C. She is light-skinned with a weave. So in reality, Beyonce is a third class beauty.) The most troubling of the list are D girls. D girls are Gabourey Sidibe as Precious look alikes are the only dark-skinned females they need. Not all dark-skinned girls are Precious. They are not all “poor, not in good shape. The same way not all overweight white people live in trailer parks. And by looking at this casting call description they have no plans to present dark skin women in a different light then Hollywood has in the past. Alesssi position of authority is being used to marginalize and oppress Black women and that is the definition of racism.
While this incident is unfortunate, I hope it will serve to make Black people more aware of how we are viewed by the dominant majority. Like it or not, believe it or not, there are still white people whose only reference of African-Americans is what they see in the media. Alessi is a perfect example of this. Her descriptions and assertions are teaming with what she learned about Black people from Tyler Perry movies and Real Housewives of Atlanta. It is up to us to say, at least in a movie about Black people, we won’t marginalize Black women.