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Preconceived Notion Of Racial Beauty In Hollywood: Lupita Nyongo

2017 words - 8 pages

Lupita Nyongo is up for an academy award for her debut performance in the blockbuster 12 Years a Slave (Butler 2). Despite not being known a year ago, these days Lupita commands an audience when she speaks (Butler, 3). She has recently joined a select list of actors having won an Oscar for their first performances in a feature film (Dyer Jr. 2). On February 28th, Lupita delivered an acceptance speech during the Essence Black Women in Hollywood awards. In her speech, Lupita addressed the preconceived notion of racial beauty in Hollywood. The following essay will seek to prove that Lupita Nyongo speech inadvertently breaks down the barrios of racial beauty by challenging the notion of that beauty is merely skin deep. I will do so by breaking down each portion of her speech and explain how the ethos of her argument helps to support the fight against racial marginalization within Hollywood.
Born in Mexico and raised in Kenya, Lupita Nyongo represents the polar opposite of traditional Hollywood starlets (Butler 3). For one, her hair is as short as a male, she’s black, and dark skinned to boot (Butler 3). While her debut in 12 Years a Slave put her on the map, her speech at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood awards show launched her into stardom (Dyer 2).
In the beginning of her speech, the actress explains that she was struck by a letter from a fan, who wrote about her contemplation on purchasing skin bleaching cream; until Nyongo “appeared on the world map” and saved her (Butler 3). In Maxine Leeds Craig’s book Aint I a Beauty Queen?: Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race, she explains that depictions of strong willed women “usually presented in a sympathetic light” are limiting in the entertainment industry (Craig 7). She goes on to explain that the core is a racialized construction of gender that excludes black women from more generally accepted ideals of womanhood (Craig 7). Differences in the meaning of white womanhood and black womanhood were grounded in the divergent experiences of work in the disproportionately black experience of poverty (Craig 7). The polarization that was rooted in experience was exacerbated because dominant images of white women had been molded into media as a white being a form of liberation, while black distinguishing positions of darkness (Craig, 7). Craig defines these positions of darkness as prostitutes, servants, and laborers (Craig, 7). As such, she explains that the mentality of racial superiority was inceptualized into the entertainment industry as far back as the early 60’s (Craig 7). With a mentality like this, it’s not difficult to understand why a young woman like the one writing to Lupita would be drawn to wanting lighter skin. While it’s a difficult pill to swallow, our society for the most part, still encompasses this mentality. In James A. Snead’s White Screens, Black Images: Hollywood from the Dark Side, the author touches on the difficulty of colored black females to...

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