As part of our #BREAKFREE campaign, we look at the celebrities taking a stand against racism
The supermodel and wife to the late David Bowie teamed up with Naomi Campbell and joined Bethann Hardison’s Diversity Coalition to call for more diversity on the runway in 2014. ‘Nobody is calling anybody a racist’ she announced, ‘but the action itself, and the absence of black models, is an act of racism.’ Identifying herself as a non-practising Muslim, Iman has always expressed pride in her ethnicity, once calling out Marcia Gillespie for describing her as ‘a white woman dipped in chocolate’. She publicly replied ‘I don’t have any white in me. I’m pure Somali’. Although noticing a ‘palpable change’ since her catwalk days, Iman stresses that there are still changes to be made.
The Hispanic actress is heavily involved with the Vote Latino organisation and plays an active role in getting Latinos into the United States. Last month however she took on Hollywood, teaming up with Eva Longoria to bring attention to the industry’s racism and to call out those who have trouble distinguishing one Latin American actress from another. Prompted by a recent Twitter blunder where the Golden Globes mistook Ferrera for fellow Latina actress Gina Rodriquez, Ferrera and Longoria put them in their place by reminding everyone who they were as they presented an award together at the event. ‘Hi I’m Eva Longoria, not Eva Mendes,’ Longoria opened with, ‘and hi, I’m America Ferrera, not Gina Rodriguez’ Ferrera added, gracefully calling for everyone to take a stand.
Raised in Kenya, the 12 Years A Slave star has spoken out about the lack of dark-skinned women in the media during her childhood and its harmful effects. ‘If you turn on the television and you are not represented on that television, you become invisible to yourself. And there was very little of myself that I saw on TV, or in the movies, or in magazines. Yes, Western beauty standards are things that affect the entire world. And then what happens? You’re a society that doesn’t value darker skin.’ Aiming to change this for the next generation she has become a role model for young girls everywhere, concluding her Academy Award acceptance speech by saying ‘when I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid’.
The Oscar winning actress and member of the Academy has publically criticised the lack of diversity in this year’s nominees, taking to Facebook to announce that she was ‘so disappointed that some of 2015’s best films, filmmakers and performances were not recognized’. ‘Nothing can diminish the quality of their work, but these filmmakers deserve recognition,’ she went on to explain, ‘as an Academy member, I would love to see a more diverse voting membership.’
The female tennis star, currently ranked the world No.1, has been protesting against racist tennis culture since 2001. The Williams sisters have boycotted the Indian Wells tennis tournament for the past 14 years, refusing to compete after receiving racial abuse from a predominantly white audience 15 years ago. ‘The undercurrent of racism was painful, confusing and unfair. In a game I loved with all my heart, at one of my most cherished tournaments, I suddenly felt unwelcome, alone and afraid,’ Serena disclosed. Although hurting her professional ranking and costing her potential prize money, Serena’s boycott made a powerful statement, highlighting the racism of tennis culture every year. Now satisfied that the sports society is changing she gracefully returned to the tournament last year announcing ‘Indian Wells holds a special place in my heart’
Zendaya publicly and gracefully addressed Giuliana Rancic’s racist comments made about her dreadlocks at the Oscars back in February last year. The 19 year-old took to Instagram to showcase her eloquent response to the E! News reporter – ‘There is already harsh criticism of African American hair in society without the help of ignorant people who choose to judge others based on the curl of their hair,’ the actress announced. ‘To me, locs are a symbol of strength and beauty, almost like a lion’s mane.’ We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves, Zendaya.
Emma Watson is certainly a woman who is not to be messed with. It’s been over a year since the 26 year-old launched her inspiring HeForShe campaign and now she’s shining a light on racism too. I have seen some very positive steps toward equality in the industry,’ the actress states in a video for British Vogue’s September 2015 issue. ‘I think there’s a lot of racism, there’s a lot of sexism,’ she adds. ‘I’d really, really love to see a more diverse representation of women and men in any way that makes them feel empowered.’
This Saturday, Jada Pinkett-Smith took to Facebook to express her dismay at yet another year of discrimination at the Oscars. ‘At the Oscars, people of colour are always welcomed to give out awards, even entertain, but we are rarely recognised for our artistic accomplishments,’ the speaker states in her video. The actress and wife to Hollywood sensation, Will Smith, also raises the question of why people of colour are not given the rights to participate in the ways that they should. Whilst this caused a social media uproar, there’s no doubt that the actress is speaking out not just for herself but for many others, too.
Back in July last year, Hunger Games star, Amandla Stenberg caused quite a stir on Instagram after criticising Kylie Jenner for ‘wrongly’ appropriating black culture. The actress shared her view under Jenner’s photo stating, ‘When you appropriate black features and culture but fail to use your position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards your wigs instead of police brutality or racism. #whitegirlsdoitbetter,’. She further addressed the issue of cultural appropriation in a video posted entitled, ‘Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.’ In the post, Stenberg asks, ‘What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?’ That’s definitely a question we would all love the answer to.
Oprah Winfrey has publically acknowledged that racism is still a problem around the world and has suggested that the only way for it to end, is for generations of racists to die out. In an interview with BBC in 2013 which coincided with her role in ‘The Butler’, the chat show host said that generations have been ‘marinated’ in racism. ‘As long as people can be judged by the colour of their skin, the problem’s still not solved,’ the 62 year-old said. Whilst her opinion may have caused some controversy, she continues to campaign for greater equality amongst all races. ‘There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it, in that prejudice and racism,’ she said. ‘They just have to die.’