The prejudice, which is a form of discrimination that happens to women with darker skin from those of the same race, actually affected light-skinned actress Raven-Symoné, who confessed to trying to darken her skin during her time on the classic sitcom “That’s So Raven.”
“When I had my own show, I used to tan three or four times a week in a tanning bed to get darker. I did,” she admitted in the new documentary “Light Girls” while also revealing how much of an impact her efforts had on production on “That’s So Raven.
“It’s funny, one of the lighting guys came up — I love him to death; I love him, oh my goodness — he goes, ‘Raven, I need you to stop tanning. You’re getting too dark, and we have to re-light the whole entire show,'” Symoné added. “I was like, ‘Sorry. I was just trying to be pretty.'”
A sequel to the “Dark Girls” documentary that premiered on OWN in 2013, “Light Girls” features light-skinned African-American women who talk about their experiences with colorism.
In addition to Symoné, Erica Hubbard shared her firsthand experience with having her complexion play a part in landing a role.
“I remember going in for this one production. It was ‘Akeelah and the Bee.’ I wanted to play the daughter to Angela Bassett and the sister to Keke Palmer,” the actress mentioned. “So, I was looking at their complexion because all this time, people — my agents, my managers, people in the industry – [would say], ‘Oh, you’re light-skinned.’… That’s just in your head when you’re auditioning. It shouldn’t be.”
Like Symoné, Hubbard resorted to tanning out of concern about having the right color skin for the part.
“It was such a focus for me that I tanned myself,” she said.
Chris Spencer, a Hollywood writer, producer and industry veteran, confirmed that colorism is alive and well against light skinned female entertainers, no matter how successful they are.
“I see a lot of lighter women deal with colorism, especially in our industry,” he said. “They’ll have an audition and then they don’t get the part. A lot of time — whether it is [true] or not, I’m not sure — they’ll say… ‘I didn’t get it because they wanted to go with someone who looked blacker.'”
“A lot of times, we might be in situations where we want to make sure we cast a dark-skinned girl,” said producer Ralph Farquhar, who noted the reality of colorism in regards to casting certain roles in primetime TV. “So, we’re passing up the light-skinned sisters because, you know, we don’t want to be accused of doing that,” Farquhar explains. “You might have a very talented actress who’s being overlooked because of her complexion.”
“Light Girls” is set to air at 9 p.m. ET Monday (Jan. 19) on OWN. To see a clip of Symoné’s interview for the film, check out the video below: