Growing up, I was always the “browner” one of my two light skinned sisters. Even till this day, when people see photos of us as kids, I’m asked, “Do you have the same father?”. There were definitely times when I felt as though they were given preferential treatment from certain family members because they were lighter. I can’t help but to remember my aunt, who is extremely light herself, excluding me from outings she willingly took my sister’s on. Although I was only a kid, probably 10 or 11 at the time, I still felt my abundance of melanin was one of the reasons why I was treated differently.

In a recent ‘The Actors’ round-table on The Hollywood Reporter Denzel Washington shared the some advice he gave his daughter, a student at New York University:

“You are black and you’re a woman — and you’re dark-skinned at that — so you have to be a quadruple-triple threat and you know, a lot of actors are not actual actors, they are movie people or whatever it is. I said, you have to learn how to act, dance, sing, move on stage, that is the only place you learn how to act, in my humble opinion. Look at Viola Davis. That’s who you want Viola Davis. That’s who you want to be. Forget about the little pretty girls; if you’re relying on that, when girls; if you’re relying on that, when you hit 40, you’re out the door. You you hit 40, you’re out the door. You better have some chops.”

Denzel Washington’s views on colorism in Hollywood and society in a general, isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. There have been plenty of posts on Clutch about the subject, whether they’re about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone, or the whole light skin vs dark skin conversation. Although some people may view these subjects as the proverbial “dead horse getting beaten”. There’s no denying that colorism exists.

We see it in various forms of media. Whether it’s television, the big screen or print, it sometimes can be blatant or subtle. No one is excluded from it, no matter how much melanin you lack or contain. Although people make mention of a “post-racial” society, it would be nice if we had a “post-colorism” society as well, because they’re definitely not the same.

What do you think of Denzel’s advice to his daughter?

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34 Comments

  1. Leo the Yardie Chick

    At least he’s being honest about it and preparing her for what’s out there. Hollywood has changed very little since its inception, especially when it comes to their (Hollywood’s) idea of the Ideal Black Screen Actress. We’re far from post-racial (have you seen how many people lost their skulls in over week’s election?), Hollywood is still following the paper-bag test casting method, and he’s be lying through his teeth if he let her think otherwise.

  2. I second Leo. He money and being Denzel’s daughter will only get her so far, unlike Zoe Kravitz et al. Although I think she’s cute as a button It’s her talent and skill that will provide longevity.

  3. KARENCOLLINS2012@COMCAST.NET

    I know from experience he speaks the truth. Please do not feel offended people when a dark chocolate relates negative memories. We are not trying to say blacks with light skin do not endure negativism . We are only telling our story . I have had too many lighter-people get mad at me for telling my story. They only need to think how it feels when they are treated not too good because of their skin color. Thank you Denzel. When you are the darkest in the family you get the backlash from some extended family members. Because of others ignorance ,that has made me super intelligent and sensitive to others.i knew I had to do better.

  4. There is not a damn thing wrong with this statement. It actually should motivate dark and light skinned artists to work together to end the divisive tactics used by executives to sell product.

    • @Cyle: I agree with Denzel he only told the truth, and as a parent that is his job to help build up his children with the truth do matter what.

  5. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly! If you want to make it as a serious actress in Hollyweird, you have to have some serious chops and/or a side talent. And if you are dark, you betta work it twice as hard because these Hollyweird folk don’t give two shits about a woman of color anyway, but the closer to white and pretty you are, the closer to getting big jobs you are. And 40 is the breaking point. I don’t care how light and beautiful an actress is, when she hits 40-45, it’s all downhill from there. And this is doubly true for dark-skinned Black women. Viola Davis is an outstanding actress, phenomenal even. But, by hollyweird standards, she is not pretty. I personally think she is beautiful, but that doesn’t matter. Hollyweird doesn’t give a rats ass what us regular Black women think. So Denzel is 100% with his statement.

  6. You are telling my story! My sister and I always used to get that “Do you have the same father” question because she looks exactly like our father, who is lighter, and I look just like our mom, who is darker. I have a lot of aunts, cousins, grandparents, etc. who were/are still hung up on skin color, hair texture, etc. It’s sad. And Hollywood is hung up on it times 100. Denzel is absolutely right to relay the message to his daughter about her skin color (and sex and race) in her dealings with Hollywood because it’s the truth.

  7. Too bad Denzel ain’t say this while he was an hot actor. It sure does baffle me that entertainers love to talk the truth once they’re old and irrelevant -__-

    • @Kenny:

      I read through the comments and shook my head in agreements with them all. Then I got to yours and couldn’t help but ask you “Are you for real?” What does Denzel age as to do with him telling his daughter the truth??? How is he irrelvant when he’s on the ” The Actors” roundtable. Please get a grip and check yourself. We are all going to get to his age, that’s something that no one as any control over. I

    • @Kenny: are u crazy he is the man in hollywood get it rt u are the none muthaf—— factor on this web page get it rt denzel love u and im a chocolate girl

    • @Kenny: Perhaps it’s being “old and irrelevant” this outlook on life. It’s as we age that we put all our life experiences together to eventually arrive at what we need to pass on to others.

    • @Kenny: Kenny – Denzel did say it when he was a hot actor.

      He gave an interview with Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes not long after he won an Oscar. He talked about how contrary to popular beliefs he still wasn’t getting lots of scripts and most of the scripts he got were unacceptable. He talked about how hard it is for a Black actor and he talked about dark v. light, etc.

      I also think that as you grow older, you are viewed differently and given opportunities to speak in different venues that may not have been available when you were younger. He has a forum now – he’s using it to school the younger generation. I applaud him for doing it.

  8. The best gift any parent can give their child is THE TRUTH. I have a fair skinned son & a dark skinned son & I treat them as individuals. They both know that no matter your shade or hue, you are a Black Man in America & you will be subject to some trials that others could not dare imagine. My boys were taught to think fasterthan the next man, to always be open to being your best & to make your mark with your intelligence. Both children & adults see the difference in treatment in society (in regard to light/dark skin Blacks). The best thing to do is acknowledge it & prepare for tribulations, prosperity, opposition & opportunity because the shade of your skin may influence them all. I applaud honesty, always.

  9. Denzel is not a new and upcoming actor, he has been doing this for close to 40 years, he has seen the colorism and racism up close and personal. I think he is good warn his daughter so that she is not devastated that she does not get choice roles because she is Denzel’s daughter.

  10. Denzel spoke the truth. My red bone father prepared his dark skinned little girl for this challenge when I was growing up in the 1950′s. That man was on my case all the time until he felt my self esteem was very strong. I am now in my 60′s and thank my late father for preparing me to survive and live a decent life, anyway! Just like racism, change will not come until we openly and honestly discuss “our” intra-classism and colorism; then, it will have nowhere to hide which might make it go away?

  11. I see nothing wrong at all with Denzel’s statement to his daughter! Fact is fact and truth is truth! It’s been a proven thing in Hollywood! She has to work harder like her Dad said period.

  12. I also agree…. I know growing up I had it real hard. I’m a dark skin girl from Grenada. It was tough and it took me a long time to accept who I was. Now that I older and have a daughter I don’t hide how the world will treat her but I remind her how beautiful she is and how blessed she is to have such a beautiful skin tone. I also believe we need to see more of our darker sisters and brothers in film and tv.

  13. Tanya troutman-Dailey

    I’m Dark Skin and beautiful
    Forget those who hate me because I’m more melanin than they are!
    I was raised to be aware how Black and pretty I am . I am educated
    And blessed . Thank God I don’t feel inferior as I don’t use bleach cream
    Because I’m Black and so Proud with my Chocolate sell !!
    Yayyyy!!!! I work hard all the time but not because of my skin complexion!!
    Rebuke Satan and all people Black and White who are against me because I have such a dark complexions on.
    I feel I am a threat to both Whites and light skinned Blacks who act like the prejudice Whites! Dark skinned like Jesus!
    They Are threatened because I am Dark and know I beautiful and educated ‘

  14. He told her right, Be the best talent you can be. Skill/talent dont fade. Color does matter, always has. I think it always will, if things change i dont feel i’ll live to see that change. I’m blessed to have been here to see and vote for our first black president. As you see, as smart and as personable and as light as President Obama is some people still dont give the man the same respect that they would give a white person who held[ the title of President. Dear young lady please listen to your dad, he will tell you no wrong. Your dad has your best interest at heart. The times are a little different for people of your age today. But some things just dont change. We cant forget our past Be the very best .We always have to be tens times better than thr other guy. Your are beautiful just like your mom.

  15. I think that he is aware of the realities of Hollywood and should his daughter pursues the interests of her father, he wants her to also be aware of what the struggle will be for her. I respect his honesty and truthfulness. The reality is that Hollywood has long been unwelcoming to Black actors. This is why I advocate Blacks create their own cinema foundation and stop looking for Hollywood to accept them, because they will not ever accept Blacks on the level they accept their own (whites).

  16. At the end of the day, Hollywood is an arena which so many wants to enter into. And let’s face it everyone is hoping to command that big role on screen, but only a few will manage to do that. No different from football or basketball. There are plenty vying for that big role, though only few will ever make it. So, its going to be harder period. For example, in my industry its no different. Being a black/dark skin woman isn’t the reason a person wouldn’t be chosen, its simply because the positions are limited and the amount of people going after it is in abundant, so you have to work harder, one of the reasons I’m back in school for my Ph.d. Its like the black woman looking for a black man syndrome. Plenty of qualified black women wanting to get married and settle down, but when you do the math, we all won’t make it to the alter with Mr. Chocolate, some of us may have to go with Mr. Vanilla instead. Now, let’s look at the other variables. The gender issue is alive and well in television and Hollywood. Women of the whole, white and black are given a harder time. When we have folks like Angelina Jolie, Kathy, Katherine, or Julia Roberts dominating the market, its harder for anyone else to get those leading roles. Its no different when looking at black actresses. Angela, Sanaa, Jada and Gabrielle commanded the big screen for quite some time, now we see Kerry, Meghan, and a limited few doing the same Well, wait a minute, Julia is a tad bit older now so, I don’t see her hitting up the screen these days, or years for that matter. C’ mon ladies be honest we understand this all too well, men get sexier and command more attention as they age and well, us women are easily discarded as we pass that certain age. What is it 35 these days? Let’s look at Sue Simmons, Dianne Sawyer all these women have spoken out about their own plights with ageism. Ok, my point is, dark skin or not, there are plenty of other variables to consider when these issues are discussed. Let’s not be simple minded and look at this from limited lenses folks. We all know these things exists, but they don’t stand alone, so we must not speak as though they do.

    Signed

    A Dark skinned girl who has no hang ups, and who was taught that black is the standing color, which for me simply means I stand out and I stand strong.

  17. At the end of the day, Hollywood is an arena which so many wants to enter into. And let’s face it, everyone is hoping to command that big role on screen, but only a few will manage to do that. No different from football or basketball. There are plenty vying for that big role, though only few will ever make it. So, its going to be harder period. For example, in my industry its no different. Being a black/dark skin woman isn’t the reason a person wouldn’t be chosen, its simply because the positions are limited and the amount of people going after it is in abundant, so you have to work harder, one of the reasons I’m back in school for my Ph.d. Its like the black woman looking for a black man syndrome. Plenty of qualified black women wanting to get married and settle down, but when you do the math, we all won’t make it to the alter with Mr. Chocolate, some of us may have to go with Mr. Vanilla instead. Now, let’s look at the other variables. The gender issue is alive and well in television and Hollywood. Women of the whole, white and black are given a harder time. When we have folks like Angelina Jolie, Kathy, Katherine, or Julia Roberts dominating the market, its harder for anyone else to get those leading roles. Its no different when looking at black actresses. Angela, Sanaa, Jada and Gabrielle commanded the big screen for quite some time, now we see Kerry, Meghan, and a limited few doing the same Well, wait a minute, Julia is a tad bit older now so, I don’t see her hitting up the screen these days, or years for that matter. C’ mon ladies be honest we understand this all too well, men get sexier and command more attention as they age and well, us women are easily discarded as we pass that certain age. What is it 35 these days? Let’s look at Sue Simmons, Dianne Sawyer all these women have spoken out about their own plights with ageism. Ok, my point is, dark skin or not, there are plenty of other variables to consider when these issues are discussed. Let’s not be simple minded and look at this from limited lenses folks. We all know these things exists, but they don’t stand alone, so we must not speak as though they do.

    Signed

    A Dark skinned girl who has no hang ups, and who was taught that black is th

  18. Denzel’s daughter talking about how family members treated her. My question to Denzel is did he tell his daughter how to handle family members treating her differently, now I think that is harder to handle than Hollywood. I don’t totally agree with Denzel. She is a pretty girl and it also depend on where her head is pretty and smart can take you a long way.

  19. I somewhat agree w/Denzel, but I’ve raised 2 daughters of different skin tones. Both have been raised to be proud of who they are and what is on the inside of them. The world wants to grade you by the color of your skin, not the content of their character. I raised them to realize the content of their character is what matters, and not worry about what others think of you. Be the best you can be, whatever color of hue you are. God created the flowers in the garden of all different colors and shades, and if the world can’t see that, they’re missing out on a lot of talent. Both of my girls are beautiful and extremely talented, educated and outgoing. Beautiful Black Women of Character!!!

  20. When the truth is told, there is nothing to be said but. Amen!

  21. Ibrahim Andre KEITA

    Don’t totally agree with big brother Denzel on the fact that she should work quadriply harder because of her skin color and as a women… just be yourself respect others as you want them to respect you stand for your right no matter what. nicest skin color ever and toughest one you have …I raised two beautiful girls (25 & 19) they are the reason of my life and that’s what i always tell they. We all have to work hard at a certain time of our lives but that you turn into a smart work as we heading to the aging up time …

    Peace & Blessings

  22. I think how you’re raised and how your family views complexion will have a lasting effect on your confidence. My mother’s side is heavily Creole so pretty much all of the women are lighter in complexion. When I take a photo with them, I easily stand out. But that never bothered me. My mother is a light-skinned woman and so was my grandmother, great grandmother, great great grandmother, etc. But my mother always bought me chocolate dolls, and I was called pretty by my grandparents and my parents so often that it stuck. My super light great great aunt used to call me her “little chocolate cake,” and I thought that was the CUTEST nickname. It wasn’t until I went out into the world and heard snide comments from other folks that it was an issue. I had a childhood friend who flat out would never date “dark-skinned men because they’re ugly” and was told by a co-worker, “You need to get out of the son. You’re getting black.” That blew me completely because I wasn’t raised like that. I think the only time my parents slipped up was when they kept calling me “chocolate” during a summer trip to Tennessee as though there was something wrong with that. Other than that, I’ve always loved my complexion and anyone who doesn’t can kick rocks. In 2012, if you’re still hung up on complexion, I view that as a problem THAT person has to overcome, not me.

    • @Shamontiel: Typo: I meant to say “sun,” not “son.”

      Also, I do think that the complexion issue can work the other way around. I dated a guy recently who told me he prefers darker-skinned women because melanin is better for your health. He had a point if we bring up cancer stats but he meant “better” moreso in appearance. He wanted me to agree with him BECAUSE I’m brown-skinned, but instead I just gave him a side eye. I told him to look around my living room walls at all of my light-skinned family members. I wouldn’t ever say one is better than the other because that’d be knocking my own mother, grandmothers, etc. We don’t HAVE to make complexion an issue. We CHOOSE to. I had a cousin who told me he preferred light-skinned girls with long hair. I went into the whole slavery history of house versus field slaves and the history of complexion problems. He was bewildered and never learned any of this stuff in school. Then about a year later I saw him at his graduation and a girl slightly darker than me walked up and he hugged and kissed her. I grabbed that boy up so fast and went, “What happened to you only dating light-skinned girls with long hair?” He started laughing and said, “I KNEW you were going to bring that up. She’s got a tan.” I said, “Yeah, a PERMANENT tan” and we both laughed about it.

  23. He is right. He is an African American actor, so he is more than likely speaking from experience. I don’t think it is a dead horse being beat. This is good that it is being discussed.

  24. Denzel is 100% on target. Speak the truth to your child about the real world because that is where they have to live.

  25. Correct me if i’m wrong but you guys never mentioned her name once but you did a story on her. Kinda ass backwards to me don’t you think?

  26. I wish more parents would be honest with tehir children. If someone were to get offended it by this it would be simply because they haven’t faced the truth. Denzel has been around and he has seen things that none of us have r will ever see in HOLLYWOOD. He knows what we are to afraid to face and gave his daughter the gift of truth. He told her what she needed to knwo to be successful and too many of us concern ourselves with not hurting someone’s feelings and less about what info will benefit them/ He was teaching her HOW TO SURVIVE and have longetivity in that business and to NOT just be a PRETTY FACE. I think all fathers should do this.

  27. Sad but true. I think she is a knockout. Beautiful!!

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