Over the weekend, beauty enthusiasts attended BeautyCon Festival in New York City to celebrate beauty through self-expression and engaging panel discussions, meet-ups, and big brand activations. This year, Zendaya sat down for a conversation with Bozama Saint John, the chief brand officer at Uber, and discussed beauty standards and the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
A clip of Zendaya sharing her feelings on inclusion was shared on Twitter. She said, “As a black woman, as a light-skinned black woman, it’s important that I say, ‘Listen, I’m using my privilege and my platform to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community.’”
She continued, “I am Hollywood’s, I guess you could say, acceptable version of a black girl, and that has to change. We’re vastly too beautiful and too interesting for me to just be the only representation of that.”
You hear the audience applauding and cheering on Zendaya’s candour, which clearly illuminates the underlying issue with the choice of black women commonly cast in television roles and other opportunities.
Since Theislanddiva shared her Tweet featuring Zendaya and Bozama’s chat at Beautycon, it has been liked over 9,300 times and shared more than 4,000 times. “This is why Zendaya will continue to be a legend in my eyes as she creates her own wave, openly says her opinion on things whether it be about racial problems/politics or not and she’s so talented yet extremely beautiful and smartGod did that,” one person commented. Another wrote, “I think zendaya is incredible. I am so proud of how she is all inclusive. She recognizes that there needs to be more representation of colored people in Hollywood. And she’s doing her best to have everyone recognize it. What an angel!”
The issue of colorism in Hollywood isn’t new, and this actually isn’t the first time Zendaya has spoken up about it. In a 2016 Cosmopolitan cover story when she was 19 years old, she said, “I feel a responsibility to be a voice for the beautiful shades my people come in. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers.” She added, “If I get put in a position because of the color of my skin where people will listen to me, then I should use that privilege the right way.”
Further affirming Zendaya’s thoughts, actress Lupita Nyong’o has also opened up about colorism in Hollywood. In a 2014 interview with The Telegraph, she discussed her reaction to seeing the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple, “It was the first time I’d seen someone like me on screen. Whoopi Goldberg had my kind of hair and was dark like me. I thought, maybe I could do this for a living.”
The Oscar-winning actress also delivered a moving speech at the Essence magazine’s seventh annual Black Woman in Hollywood Luncheon: “I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. … I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. … And when I was a teenager, my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence.” She continued, “but around me, the preference for light skin prevailed. To the beholders that I thought mattered, I was still unbeautiful.”
Colorism isn’t dead, and thanks to beauty chameleons such as Zendaya, Lupita, and more, it’s being talked about on a mainstream level to bring about change.