The Darker the Berry…The More Invisible?

Los Angeles Times Magazine celebrated the “50 Most Beautiful Women in Film” in their February, 2011 edition. Someone at the magazine was given the task of deciding what beautiful looks like and they came up with the following fifty:

Note: the little gold and silver circles with numbers in them next to the photos represent Oscar wins and nominations, respectively.

It’s hard for me to take seriously a list of beautiful women in film that boasts Halle Berry, Dorothy Dandridge and Beyonce as the best (and only) representatives of beautiful Black actresses. I definitely don’t mean to take anything from those gorgeous and talented sistas, but they all fit into a light-skinned, Euro-featured standard that excludes gorgeous black women like Angela Bassett (Oscar nominee), Diana Ross (Oscar nominee), Viola Davis (Oscar nominee), Jennifer Hudson (Oscar winner) and Regina King (30+ feature films). I don’t know who composed the list, but the person or persons really should expand their idea of what beauty is to include those who have been gifted with plenty of pigment and may have fuller lips and/or wider noses. (Asian and Native American women weren’t thought of too highly by the judges either.)

The magazine’s masthead proudly proclaims:

“Los Angeles Times Magazine celebrates the region we call home with stories and photos of the people, places and pursuits that reflect our passions, our confidence, our style, our innovations and our possibilities.”

Our confidence. Our possibilities.

Well, I live in Los Angeles, and I see plentifully pigmented Black women on the regular, so I’d like to know why the people whose job it is to uphold the magazine’s mission do not feel inclined to celebrate them too.



14 Responses to “The Darker the Berry…The More Invisible?”

  • GMC262 Says:

    Sad but true

  • redsoledshoe Says:

    And white people wonder why we have black awards shows… SMH :-/

  • FatFriday Says:

    They put Beyonce in there but not Jennifer Hudson? Jennifer is a showstopper. You know her name mustve came up. They were in the room talkin bout “what about that heavy girl that actually won the Oscar?” Shame. I would love to hear their excuse for this oversight

  • Stephanie D. Williams Says:

    Very interesting read. Wow…when will this BS end?

  • Brian Murphy Says:

    You are such a great writer, I agree with what you said fully.

    Brian

  • Dawn May Adams Says:

    It is so sad that we tend to place physical characteristics as our guide to beauty. I thought that the young lady who played the lead role in “Precious” was and is beautiful. I think Maya Angelou is beautiful, as is Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Taylor, Mother Teresa, or any man or woman who loves and cares more about the human condition. My sweet wonderful grandmother used to tell me, “Beauty is as beauty does.” I believe that!! My own mother was movie star beautiful, but my grandmother knew something that I was too young to really know at the time when I would brag about how pretty she was. As years went by her actions proved to be not so pretty, and her outer beauty faded too. She was only 45 when she died.

  • sc Says:

    hollywood is white owned and controlled. its audience is primarily white. I agree with your basic premise, ie hollywood has white beauty standards. but when it comes to down to it. white culture has and psychological and geopolitical state in making sure the world’s dream woman is a white woman. you keep addressing the effects and not the cause. until black people have the wealth and power to control their own destiny and not placate to the white establishment, you are going to get more the same. i even hear people saying “black people are only 12 percent of the popular, they have no right to expect to see more than that on tv, film, etc. Our road must be a much harder, arduous path, look towards a global black community to get the product you want to see.now that i think of it, there is no reason why we cant push and subscribe to magazines based in africa, now that we have digital formatting and the internet. as things stand now, every conversation an african american that writes on this kind of issue uses the same dam* perpective, betting whites to include them more, begging for more crumbs. its pathetic.

    • kathleencross Says:

      Yeah. Just like Rosa Parks was begging the Birmingham bus company to please oh please oh please let her sit down.

      Black and Latino dollars represent %40 YES FORTY percent of US box office profits. Black people represent 25% of all movie ticket buyers (damn, that’s AFTER some of us have watched a few barbershop bootleg movies) so you KNOW we are definitely CONSUMING what Hollywood is producing. Latinos buy more movie tickets than any other ethnicity (per capita).

      I don’t believe in begging anyone for anything. That word definitely does not represent my paradigm. I do believe in assisting other folks to SHIFT their world view. (“It is better to guide one soul than to possess all that is in the heavens and on earth”) is the Word I was raised on, so it’s the paradigm I work from. I’m not averse to educating those who are open to it to do the right thing (not out of “charity” but because it is right.) No ethnicity has a corner on being righteous, nor is any ethnicity excluded from wanting to “be good.” (Unless you believe whitey is the devil, of course. If so, then you’d be stupid to have faith in their capacity to want to do the right thing, ever.) If you’ve read my posts on this blog, you know I believe all of humanity is one creation, so I’m operating from that world view.

      I haven’t spoken to the editors at the LA Times Mag, but I suspect they really thought they were “honoring diversity” by including the three African American actresses featured. Now here’s this new lesson for them to learn about their social programming and how that programming has trained them to exclude gorgeous women who were/are invisible to them because their beauty doesn’t register on the scale they’ve been “taught” to measure with. Or not. Hey, maybe the slight was intentional on their part and the lesson’s not for them, but for blog readers out there who are learning from these discussions. Whatever. I’m just not down for spending this short life swimming around in a pool of bitterness, because that would poison me. Id’ prefer to invite those prodigal family members to the reunion. So sue or disown me.

      Some white decision-makers want to do right but are so far removed from other’s experiences they have no idea how ignorant they are about what “right” is. Others are aware, but don’t know how or where to start the change…others don’t give a rat’s you-know-what about considering anyone’s rights or worth. I don’t focus my energy on that last group of folks — I’d rather invest my time and talent preparing a new generation of decision-makers (all ethnicities) to open their minds to see all humans as kin — Some won’t, some will, and some already have.

      I have had too many conversations with white folks (in and outside of Hollywood) whose vision of their “position” in the world has shifted irreversibly toward acknowledging their privilege and trying to create a more just society. I hear in your statements that you’re not interested in educating them and I get why, but I’m investing in a different future than the one you’re hoping to build. I’m not knocking your goal of building separate institutions–I wish you major success with that.

  • Kim Says:

    This is what bothers me about this article. Halle Berry has gone above and beyond to make sure everyone knows she is Black and she believes in the one drop theory, even though she is Biracial. But Black people like you STILL complain about her because she has European features and she isn’t “dark enough”!!! Get real! Now if Halle were to call herself Biracial, Blacks like you would be oh so quick to ram the one drop rule down her throat. Make up your damn mind. Halle and Beyonce are not necessarily light skinned. They are a caramel light brown complexion. Now Black people like you always wanna holla that “Black people come in ALL colors”. Well stop complaining when magazines don’t use the colors you want! Damn hypocrite!

    • kathleencross Says:

      I can’t imagine the size of the chip on your shoulder that would make you go there in response to this piece!

      Read the article again, Kim. I never said these women are not Black, I specifically said they are gorgeous and talented, and I’m not trying to take anything from them here. I would never say anyone isn’t “dark enough” because that is the skin their Creator designed for them, so it is perfect. Their presence on the list is not being challenged by me. My article is about the GLARING absence of darker-skinned Black women whose facial features won’t be found on a Euro-centric beauty scale. Not to get mathematical or anything, but if LA Times Magazine wanted to more accurately “reflect” (as their masthead states is their mission) Los Angeles (one of the world’s most diverse cities), The ethnic breakdown of the women would look something more like this: African American: 6 ; White: 12, Latina: 25; Asian: 5; Native American: 1

      LATM wouldn’t have had to leave out any of the three lighter skinned African American women I mentioned. They could have simply added two or three from this list: Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, Diana Ross Regina King… They missed the opportunity to add OSCAR NOMINEES AND WINNERS (who were excluded because of how they DON’T LOOK). Beyonce has no Oscar nor has she been nominated for one, but her facial features are easier for some people to recognize as “beautiful” (as are Halle’s and Dorothy’s) because of the White ancestry those features reflect. That’s not meant as an insult to any of those stunners. It just is what it is.

      Look, it’s LATM’s product and they get to decide the content. I get that. But, it could have been a great lesson to everyone, and especially to our chocolate-skinned daughters, if the decision-makers in this instance didn’t have blinders on to the obviously deserving women pictured in my post whose beautiful faces should have been there.

      This discussion could also be had about Asian, Native American and darker-skinned Mexican actresses who were also overlooked.

      • Kim Says:

        Hi again. I have read your article, but what you need to understand is the impression I am getting from it. Black people have way too many issues with “color”. They don’t want mixed people to claim Biracial. To them this means we are self-hating ourselves. Fine. But when Halle Berry comes out and screams to the heavens “I’M A WOMAN OF COLOR” you still complain because she is often represented in magazines and commercials as a representation of beauty and she doesn’t look like Jennifer Hudson. What’s the problem? She’s Black now isn’t she? And J-Hud is in Weight Watchers commercials, she has won an Academy Award, was featured in the predominately White film “Sex and the City” etc. What more do you want? It seems to me you and other Blacks will not be satisfied not until you receive equality, but when you gain total dominance. I never stated you said to leave out any of the lighter skin women on the list. However again people who see these mixed women as Black, despite their heritage, claiming that “Black people come in all colors”, why are you complaining about the “colors” being featured? They are all Black. We don’t see paler and tanner White people having these ridiculous conversations do we? Its wrong. Unfortunately our society has ridiculous rules on whats beauty and whats not.

        • kathleencross Says:

          “THEY don’t want mixed people to claim Biracial…means WE are self-hating”

          “You and other Blacks…”

          You don’t need to write another word to me about this, Kim. I get it. You have made your position quite clear. So you are “Biracial” (WE) and are assuming I am a dark-skinned Black woman (THEY), which I am not. I also am “biracial” (not a word I choose to use for myself, because the term “race is in it, but that’s another post). I am very light-skinned with blue eyes and am often mistaken for white.

          The difference between you and me is that I don’t think this is an “US” and “THEM” issue that places you at odds with darker sisters. You continue to do that with your words and that is the hypocrisy in this whole debate. You don’t get to shout from the hilltops how proud you are to be “Biracial” and then walk home with the award for being the prettiest “Black” girl too. Wow. How hypocritical is that? Some (not all of course, but some) White decision-makers will pick you and me every time when they are “adding diversity” to their awards because our proximity to them (visually) makes them more comfortable. That is, because of a white ancestor or two, we have features they can appreciate. You are apparently okay with that. I am not.

          The fact that “Black people come in all colors” doesn’t make it okay at the dance for the darkest of our sisters to be sidelined, while we are whirling around the room thinking we are hot shit, and then side-eying them and calling them jealous (or hypocrites) when they point out how wrong it is.

          SMH

          Enuf said about this. Thank you for your opinion.

          • Goodyman Says:

            Well Kathleen, not on that, the respondent used a phrase that I found to be extremely alarming:

            “It seems to me you and other Blacks will not be satisfied not until you receive equality, but when you gain total dominance.”

            ‘other blacks’ and ‘total dominance’.

            For real? Really? I mean…what?

  • Bronya Says:

    Kathleen your argument is so on point, I understood plain as day what your saying. I’m so happy to have found this website great job.

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