Zendaya Is Calling Out Hollywood's Colorism Problem & This Conversation is Long Overdue

If you ever need to revise your personal moral code, you should aspire to be more like Zendaya (i.e. BMLZ). Beyond striving to be a skilled actress and singer (and high-key professional makeup artist), Zendaya is basically a RL peaceful vigilante. When she isn’t calling out aggressors for their disturbing rape “jokes,” Zendaya is an excellent role model, who also uses her superpowers to prevent potential bad hair days. The actress has fought against racist actions even during trips to the grocery store. Nevertheless, Zendaya has been a longtime proponent for a more inclusive Hollywood and society, and, most recently, she used her platform to incorporate two of her passions—beauty and activism—to discuss Hollywood’s colorism dilemma. (Which was never fashionable, to begin with.)

During the 2018 Beautycon Festival in New York City, Zendaya used her platform to talk about the ongoing colorism problem in the entertainment industry. In case you missed the memo, colorism is a bit different than the usual form of racism. According to Teaching Tolerance, colorism is the prejudice against people of color with darker skin. While colorism is sometimes referred to as “shadeism,” discrimination against people of color with dark skin also gives a certain degree of inherent privilege to people with lighter skin. Thankfully, Zendaya has been using her privilege and voice to speak out against colorism and why representation matters.

As Style Caster notes, Zendaya has been using her privilege as a “lighter-skinned black woman” for a while now. However, Zendaya really delved into the issues at this year’s Beautycon.

Huffington Post reports that during a panel with Bozoma Saint John, Uber’s Chief Brand Officer, Zendaya talked about why it’s vital to cast more people of color with darker skin in Hollywood. “As a black woman, as a light-skinned black woman, it’s important that I’m using my privilege, my platform to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community. I am Hollywood’s, I guess you could say, acceptable version of a black girl and that has to change,” she said. We’re so glad that Zendaya doesn’t just acknowledge this issue, but she also continually speaks on it.

Although Zendaya used her privilege as a light-skinned black woman, yet again, she isn’t immune to receiving racist and bigoted commented. In the past, certain entertainment commentaries, like Giuliana Rancic, have made racist comments around Zendaya’s choice to rock dreadlocks. (Never mind the fact that dreadlocks are one of many pillars of black culture, yet people of color are still criticized for donning them or worse. Meanwhile, white people culturally appropriate this hairstyle pilfer these culturally significant locks with minimal to no backlash.)

Hello Giggles adds that Zendaya continued her necessary monologue about colorism by saying, “We're vastly too beautiful and too interesting for me to be the only representation of that. [It's] about creating those opportunities. Sometimes you have to create those paths. And that's with anything, Hollywood, art, whatever.” Seriously, Hollywood NEEDS to create more roles for people of color (and all POC, especially people with darker skin). Regardless, Producers, writers and directors should be mindful about healthy representation in their productions—after all, representation is important but representation can be nullified if it isn’t portrayed in an uplifting and healthy manner.

Celebs like Zendaya and Yara Shahidi have proven that representation can empower other young people of color to strive for and accomplish amazing things. While recent record-breaking movies like Black Panther has celebrated powerful and healthy portrayals of “darker-skinned” black characters, people of color—especially people of color with darker complexions—are seldom celebrated on and off-screen. Though we love seeing Zendaya as MJ and Anne Wheeler, there is more than enough room in Hollywood for Zendaya and countless people of color with darker skin. (Because we have limitless stanning potential when it comes to inspiring stars.)