"Perception is Reality" How Some Things in Life Can Be Viewed as Racist But May Not Be
Having been intrigued with the world of entertainment off and on since I was a kid, I am highly aware there are various challenges we face in a very visual environment, especially as African American people. From our hair to our skin tone, many times we are often misunderstood, even by our own people, and it does not surprise me when the very thing that many African Americans are finally embracing again in droves, our natural hair, is something that our counterparts look for when we are placed in mainstream advertising.
As a kid, it was nothing for me to be the only Black child in my acting/modeling classes. I got a few jobs, but nothing consistent. I was once told, when a big named celebrity visited our studio, that they were looking for blond hair and blue eyed children to play many of the roles that were out there. I never really took offense to any of this, I really didn’t know how to, I knew it was common, even as a child for other children to be chosen before African American children. At age 11, when my acting coach told me that she felt like she was on Soul Train, when I sang “Love Takes Time,” by Mariah Carey as one of my song choices for class one day, I was slightly offended, but I didn’t have the same type of “fight the power” attitude that exists in me today.
Let’s fast forward about 23 years, I’m a mother of three a 13 year old bonus daughter, who would love to be in entertainment, a 3 year old son, who is the ultimate entertainer and has been modeling since 7 months and an 11 month old who is getting her feet wet with modeling and acting in plays. My 3 year old and 11 month old are connected with an agency and while my son used to get more jobs with them when he was a baby, my baby girl has not, so I’ve had to hunt down our own opportunities, especially since our son’s opportunities have even slowed down to a halt.
Recently, my daughter was called for her second “go-see” she had an opportunity for the photographers of the particular advertising client to see her, after they requested her to come from a picture selection the agent provided. We woke up early took son to school, and arrived in enough time for her to be seen by the people with whom she would be working. There were a total of about 7-10 babies, which is necessary in case a baby cries or is not agreeable or smiling on set. My daughter and another baby were the only 2 minority babies there, the rest were Caucasian or Caucasian looking. Not long after we arrived, the person who assists with encouraging the babies to smile, came out to do so.
One of the younger babies smiled immediately, one of the older babies talked immediately, the others, including mine with her serious little look, were fixated on toys she brought out, lights that swirled around captured their attention, they were very curious. Before the assistant left our waiting room, she asked for the mom of the smiling baby to join her, meaning the baby would more than likely be photographed for the shoot, naturally, because it did not take much for her to smile. When she returned she asked for about 4 more of the Caucasian moms to join her in the back with their babies, that was fine because the remaining few knew that there was still a possibility for our babies to be photographed.
I stepped out briefly and returned to the assistant asking another mom to join her, she also asked if it was ok if her son could be photographed as a boy and a girl if he was agreeable and one of the girls on set was not. The mother replied, “Yes.” One of the little girls who was being photographed did indeed cry, and was sent back to the waiting room to sit with us, while the boy went back to be dressed as a girl. This is when I became very upset, again, I know the type of industry this is, but this was the kind of thing that took me back to my days when I competed in a well known pageant organization and saw that Black girls really didn’t fit in the same way their counterparts did. While we may have a minority win the overall competition occasionally, the diversity, is still slim to none. We are not selected with the same frequency either.