Sanaa Lathan Says Being a Black Woman in Hollywood Has Gotten Easier

ESC: Sanaa Lathan

Vivien Killilea/Getty Photographs for Ralph Lauren Fragrances

Now that Sanaa Lathan has over 20 years of expertise working in film enterprise, she’s reflecting on her evolution, in addition to Hollywood’s.

In honor of the launch of Ralph Lauren Fragrances’ new “Woman” fragrance and its accompanying empowerment initiative, Lead Like a Woman, the star of Netflix’s Nappily Ever After shared her perspective on what it means to be a girl in the trade—and extra particularly, what it means to be a black girl in Hollywood.

“I at all times discuss in regards to the fairy tales that we grew up on—Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Magnificence, Snow White—I imply, these are the tales that we’re learn as little women to indicate us what’s valued and what’s stunning and what we should always need and [black women are] not mirrored in that,” she informed E! Information on the debut of brief movie, Sisterhood of Leaders, hosted by Ralph Lauren Fragrances and Ladies in Movie. “And so, what does that do to your vanity? For me, it is simply so necessary. I am feeling so nice now that we’re beginning to see pictures in promoting, motion pictures and TV that seem like us as a result of it is necessary.”

Diversifying media is not a new initiative she’s getting behind, as she said. Her roles in her early movies, akin to Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar and The Finest Man, introduced a black heroine to the large display in the ’90s and early 2000s. Primarily, she used these cult-favorite movies to inform her personal fairytales for her group, which included romance, but additionally intertwined tales of girls dominating in sports activities and in the work power. 

In case you’re questioning how Sanaa got here to dominate this particular style, the reply is straightforward: She’s a widely-loved storyteller and the competitors wasn’t as fierce as it’s as we speak. There have been solely a handful of working black actresses throughout that point. They performed in the identical motion pictures collectively, and thus grew to become a vital assist system for one another as they handled the distinctive and “harsh” expertise of being a black girl in Hollywood.

“Once we have been arising—and I say we that means like my peer group, you already know, Nia Lengthy, Gabrielle Union, Regina Corridor and Regina King—we weren’t allowed to put on our hair pure,” she mirrored. “And I am not saying we weren’t allowed, however a lot of the suggestions that I might get about my hair was unstated. You needed to put on wigs and weaves to get the function. Now, this complete era, the era of actresses youthful than I, are actually beginning to put on their hair naturally. You are seeing that all through the trade, but it surely’s nonetheless so exhausting…Whether or not it is your dad and mom or your work surroundings, it is a actual factor. It is a actual factor that you simply sort of have to beat. However it’s actually liberating whenever you do.”

That is the place her latest venture, Nappily Ever After, comes into play. Her function is an ode to her buddies, household and any girl that has been conditioned to dislike their pure textures.

“For me, Violet is so many: She is me. She is my mom. She is my little sister. She is each girl,” she continued. “I name it my love letter to little black women. We now have to say our personal energy, our personal magnificence. It is also very common for all ladies, as a result of hair is a metaphor for what society tells says you ought to be and so Violet shaving her hair off is her saying ‘F**ok you. I am going be who I wish to be.’ I believe each girl can relate to that.”

Whereas she’s creating a romances in which ladies are falling in love with themselves (as an alternative of a man), the actress is comfortable that she’s not one among few. As an alternative youthful stars like Yara Shahidi, Storm Reid, Amandla Stenberg and Logan Browning are bringing a new magnificence perspective to Hollywood and serving to to push the agenda for self-discovery and self-love throughout the black group.

Issues are actually getting higher. However Sanaa claims they don’t seem to be fairly the place they should be. As a result of when you might imagine that what occurs on the display is of utmost significance, the actress revealed that the glam squads backstage additionally should be various.

I nonetheless need to battle,” she stated. “Each job, I’ve to battle to get anyone who I do know is aware of learn how to do my hair and generally you possibly can’t get it. And oftentimes, if you cannot get it, you will make your hair choice primarily based on whether or not you will get a hairdresser or not. As an illustration, you will select to put on a wig…Lots of ladies do this…The extra ladies of shade there are working, [the more] we’ve to have the identical reflection behind the scenes.”

Enter Vernon Francios, Nai’vasha Johnson, Nikki Nelms and Felicia Leatherwood—Hollywood’s prime pure hairstylists. However, like Sanaa’s peer group in the ’90s, behind-the-scenes of movie and tv, there must be extra. 

Thankfully, she left us with excellent news: “That is a fantastic time for us as ladies,” she stated. “Something that helps us in being empowered in our personal lives and in careers and brings us collectively, I am all for it.”

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