Is Oscar Award-winning “12 Years a Slave” actress Lupita Nyong’o a one-hit wonder because of her dark skin color? The media went all out celebrating Nyong’o intelligence, beauty and talent, but she has yet to announce a follow-up project, though there were rumors of a possible role in J.J. Abrams new Star Wars film. Nothing is concrete and, at this juncture, Nyong’o’s next move is unclear.
A recent Hollywood Reporter article, written by Greg Tilday, talks about the “challenging lack of roles for darker-skinned actresses” in Hollywood, and how this may play a role in Lupita Nyong’o finding more work:
“While the stage would appear to be set for her to ascend to the A-list – just as Jennifer Lawrence did after her best actress win for Silver Linings Playbook last year – it’s not that simple,” he writes. “[There's] never been a black actress who has become the equivalent of a Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie.”
The article goes on to cite quotes from Hollywood insiders and experts. Judging from the comments, Lupita Nyong’o’s future in Hollywood isn’t looking too bright:
Anonymous studio executive: “I don’t think she has an audience – not yet. And there are so few roles for women of color; those roles are just not being written.”
Tracy Christian, talent agent for TCA Jed Root: “Would Beyonce be who she is if she didn’t look like she does? Being lighter-skinned, more people can look at her image and see themselves in her. In Lupita’s case, I think she has two-and-half, three years. If she can find a franchise – a Star Wars or a Bourne Identity – a big crossover film, or if she’s cast by a significant filmmaker, then she’s golden, she’ll have carved out a unique path for herself … [But] it may require some forward-looking director to push for her.”
Dr. Todd Boyd, School of Cinematic Arts professor at the University of Southern California: “If [an Oscar win] didn’t benefit Halle Berry, who would seem to have, appearance-wise, the kind of package Hollywood likes, it’s hard to imagine things are going to materialize for Lupita.”
It’s a sad commentary that a potentially great actress could be sidelined and hampered by biases in Hollywood. Lupita Nyong’o is just as good an actress as Sandra Bullock and certainly better than Jennifer Lawrence, for example. Octavia Spencer, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar award for “The Help” hasn’t had another successful movie role. Viola Davis, who is a dark-skinned sister hasn’t had one that comes close to her success in “The Help” either. Mo’Nique Imes-Jackson, who won an Oscar for her role in “Precious,” hasn’t seen many acting roles since then. Alfre Woodard hasn’t had much success in winning awards either, though she one of the best actresses on the scene today.
The fact is, the entertainment industry hasn’t been kind to black actress, especially the darker-skinned sisters. The amount of role and awards they get prove this point. R&B legend Patti Labelle always said racism still exists in the entertainment business. It’s a shame that we still haven’t overcome…at least the dark skin actresses.