Culture Feature

Black Actors Share Stories of Being Ignored by Stylists

While Hollywood and fashion brands are quick to congratulate themselves for casting people of color, inclusive representation requires diversity behind the scenes as well as in front of the cameras.

Professional makeup artists can imitate peeling radiation burns in American Horror Story: Apocalypse, make Margot Robbie look like a 53-year-old Queen Elizabeth I, or, even more criminally, transform Christian Bale into Dick Cheney.

But at fashion shoots and film studios, hair stylists and makeup artists are usually there to enhance models' and actors' natural features. While Hollywood and fashion brands are quick to loudly congratulate themselves for casting people of color, inclusive representation requires diversity behind the scenes as well as in front of the cameras.

Sadly, that is not the norm. This week, model Olivia Anakwe voiced a common complaint that industry hair stylists aren't trained to style black hair. Anakwe ended Paris Fashion Week by posting a condemning message to Instagram about her exclusion from the fashion show's styling. In hopes to "spread awareness," she urged, "No matter how small your team is, make sure you have one person that is competent at doing afro texture hair care OR just hire a black hairstylist! Black hairstylists are required to know how to do everyone's hair, why does the same not apply to others?"

Soon, various black actors took to Twitter to corroborate the oversight, which speaks more to the media's history of erasing people of color than sheer vanity. Malcolm Barrett (Timeless) posted, "Most Black actors get their hair cut or styled outside of set, often at their own expense because Hollywood hairstylists are one size fit[s] all and that 'all' does not include Black hair. This has been my experience for the last 20 years in the business & it hasn't changed at all."

Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) added that makeup artists almost unanimously overlook dark skin tones. She shared her personal experience of having to bring her own products in order to receive the same treatment non-ethnic actors receive. "Most black actresses come to a new set w/ their hair done (me) or bring their wigs & clip-ins w/them," she posted. "It's either that or take a chance that you will look crazy on screen. Many of us also bring our own foundation. One too many times seeing no shade that matches you will learn ya!"

The Twitter thread quickly gained attention from both men and women who'd been dismissed by stylists who didn't know how to work with non-white faces. From Gabrielle Union to Gabourey Sidibe, black actors created the conversation simply to create awareness. As Brown posted: "Those of us responding to this feed are sharing our unique experiences #ActingWhileBlack. No one is dying. We have all adapted. Life goes on. ❤️ I just always think it's important to pull back the curtain so you guys know what the real is. This mess is the real!"


Sadly, this behind-the-scenes exclusion extends to all non-white actors. Half-Chinese, half-white actress Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) has spoken out against makeup artists who have tried to "open" her almond-shaped eyes. She told Us Weekly, "I really like accentuating my Asian features and the almond eye shape that I have. For a long time, a lot of makeup artists would try to open my eyes really wide and I felt like I didn't look like myself and like it changed the shape of my face,"

Likewise, Olivia Munn noted the same problem in an interview with Byrdie: "I'm Chinese and white, and I actually have more of a Chinese bone structure but more white features, and little things completely transform my face. Like putting shimmer in the corner of my eyes can make me look cross-eyed. There are some people who can wear any makeup style, and they will look beautiful. But for me, I can see drastic changes. Like when I work with other makeup artists, sometimes they'll do the same thing to me that they've done to a lot of white girls, and it doesn't work. They don't understand that rimming my eye in black will just make it smaller."

Best Hair Style

To repeat Yvette Nicole Brown, no one's dying from not being styled by a professional makeup artist. However, the oversight underlines continuing inequality between white and non-white performers in media. A production casting people of color is nothing more than a hollow gesture if their representation on screen is not given equal consideration.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Film Lists

Please Enjoy This List of Actors Insulting Their Own Movies

Every actor hates himself a little for their career missteps—except Bill Murray. Bill Murray is too perfect for mistakes.

All actors have taken movie roles they wish to bury like embarrassing middle school yearbooks.

With major movie studios boycotting ingenuity and flooding 2019 with more remakes and reboots than ever before, actors were looking over their resumes in trepidation that their most regrettable roles will be brought into the limelight again. Their reasons span from not reading the script beforehand to being too drunk to film, but every actor hates himself a little for their career missteps. Here are seven actors who insulted their own movies:

1. Jackie Chan - Rush Hour (1998)

Jackie Chan originally regretted Rush Hour.YouTube

When Jackie Chan first saw the script for Rush Hour, he said, "No, I don't like it." After he saw the film, he told his manager, "Terrible movie. They don't allow me to do my own style. The English, I'm not good. Chris Tucker's English, I don't understand. Terrible movie!" At the time, he was still trying to break into American cinema, believing, "Nobody knows who this little Chinese guy is, he speaks no English," as he told Yahoo's Role Recall. Now, as a bona fide action movie icon, Jackie Chan just wants to know when Rush Hour 4 is going to happen.

2. Sally Field - The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Sally Field unhappy she took the part in the Amazing Spider-Man movies.Hollywood Reporter

The Amazing Spider-Man films of 2012 and 2014 (prior to the fan favorite cinnamon roll, Tom Holland) are testaments to why you should never do people favors. Sally Field, who played Peter Parker's Aunt May, told Howard Stern that she only accepted the role as a favor to her friend and the film's producer, Laura Ziskin. Field said, "It's really hard to find a three-dimensional character in it, and you work it as much as you can, but you can't put ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag."

3. Bill Murray - Garfield (2004)

This is what CGI looked like in 2004Slash Film

To be clear, Bill Murray doesn't hate Garfield, the beloved comic strip character; he hated being in Garfield, the 2004 bomb and Golden Schmoes contender for "Worst Movie of the Year" (and he was in the sequel). As he told The Today Show, "I did the Garfield movies, which were just like one crazier than the next... And I didn't really read the script." He only saw the script was written by Joel Cohen and assumed it was one of the acclaimed Coen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski). He recalls, "I'm looking, I go Joel Coen, one of my favorites, I mean the Coen brothers? These guys make great movies. Well, it wasn't that Joel Coen, it was a different Joel Cohen." Rather than modern classics like No Country for Old Men and True Grit, Joel Cohen wrote Cheaper by the Dozen, which is a movie that exists because Steve Martin was bored in 2003.

4. Jared Leto - Suicide Squad (2016)

Jared Leto may have sent cast members dead rodents. Look at him.Wired

One thing we all have in common with Jared Leto is that we hate his version of the Joker in Suicide Squad. But while we wished his portrayal as a meth-head Ronald McDonald had less screen time, he thought there should've been more. When Variety asked if he was disappointed that many of his scenes were cut from the film, he snapped back, "Were there any that didn't get cut? I'm asking you, were there any that didn't get cut? There were so many scenes that got cut from the movie, I couldn't even start. I think that the Joker… we did a lot of experimentation on the set, we explored a lot. There's so much that we shot that's not in the film." Many secondhand reports say Leto vented that he felt "tricked into being a part of something that had been pitched to him very differently." When it comes to Warner Bros., his stance is clear: "F*ck 'em."

5. Michelle Pfeiffer - Grease 2 (1978)

Michelle Pfeiffer regrets Grease 2 Michelle Pfeiffer regrets Grease 2 but still humble-brags about it.Like Totally 80s

Apparently Grease was given a sequel, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and who knows who else. While Grease 2 was critically panned at the time, the A-list actress is harsher than her critics were: "I hated that film with a vengeance and could not believe how bad it was. At the time I was young and didn't know any better." She added, "I hear it's a cult movie now." Indeed, according to the still active Grease 2 "ultimate fansite" and Twitter account, Pfeiffer's terrible movie is "the coolest movie musical ever."

6. Mark Wahlberg - Boogie Nights (1997)

Mark Wahlberg regrets boogie nights A Catholic Cardinal peer-pressured Mark Wahlberg to pan Boogie Nights.EW

Twenty years after the film's release, Wahlberg bowed to his Catholic upbringing when he appeared at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago alongside Cardinal Blasé Cupic, commenting, "I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I've made some poor choices in my past. 'Boogie Nights' is up there at the top of the list." Later on, Wahlberg tried to pull back from the statement, telling People, "I was sitting in front of a couple of thousand kids talking about and trying to encourage them to come back to their faith…" But considering Boogie Nights launched Marky Mark's film career, such a blanket dismissal takes balls.

7. Daniel Radcliffe - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)

Look closely: Is Daniel Radcliffe dead behind the eyes? in Harry Potter Fanpop

It turns out Harry Potter was often wasted. Daniel Radcliffe has been open about abusing alcohol to cope with the pressures of fame and carrying the $25 billion franchise. While he swears he never drank on set, he admits to filming while very much inebriated, "I can point to many scenes where I'm just gone. Dead behind the eyes." Now that he's overcome the self-destructive habit and we know that Harry Potter is well and good, one of the best reasons to rewatch all of the series' films is to try to detect which drunken scenes Radcliffe doesn't want to identify. He's given a few clues, though, saying in a separate interview, "And that's why it's hard to watch a film like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Because I'm just not very good in it. I hate it. My acting is very one-note and I can see I got complacent and what I was trying to do just didn't come across."