"This Is Just My Skin:" Zoe Saldana And The Neverending Race Question


“My skin is just my skin,” Zoe Saldana told Nylon. She said something almost identical in April Glamour. While other actresses get asked about love and dieting, Saldana has apparently become the media’s go-to girl for race.

For comparison, here’s Saldana in Nylon:

On Hollywood casting:
“When they say ‘We want to go white,’ they have a very smooth way of saying it, and the recent one is the word traditional. [I’ve heard] ‘Oh, you know, you’re just not what we were looking for, your skin is a little darker.’ Compared to what?! My skin is just my skin. It’s dark if you compare it to someone who’s lighter.”

And in Glamour:

GLAMOUR: In past interviews, you’ve bristled on the topic of race. Why?
ZOË SALDANA Because ethnic is a word that doesn’t exist in my vocabulary. In Hollywood, you hear things like, “Oh, they loved you but they want to go more traditional.” That’s the new N word. So when [someone says] I look “dark,” I say, “Dark compared to whom? This is just my skin.”

On the one hand, it’s nice that magazines are asking Saldana substantive questions, rather than the usual diet-and-dating crap. Saldana’s interview is by far the most interesting of Glamour‘s three “Glam New Guard” interviews (she also says, “I love aging. Why would I want to be 21 for the rest of my life? Glamour is about feeling good in your own skin”). But it’s also the shortest — she gets just a tiny sidebar, compared with Amanda Seyfried’s full-length story. And as Irin pointed out earlier this week, Saldana’s the first black woman to grace Nylon‘s cover since 2003. There’s a whiff of tokenism here, a hint that magazines are briefly ushering Saldana in to talk about race for a minute so they can look progressive, before returning to their regularly scheduled programming.

It’s not that magazines shouldn’t ask Saldana about skin color, ethnicity, and casting. Rather, they should be asking all actresses serious questions, including hard-hitting ones about the biases that affect their careers (not just “how do you stay healthy?” or whatever euphemism for skinny they’re using this week). They should be asking about acting, something the Seyfried interview barely touches on. They should be interviewing more women of color, and about all subjects, not just “being a woman of color in Hollywood.” Of course, this would require a retooling of the Ladymag Softball Pitching Machine — but maybe if that device were out of commission for a while, people would actually buy magazines again.

Zoe Saldana: Center Stage [Nylon]
Zoë Saldana: The Most Elegant Member Of The Glam New Guard [Glamour]

Earlier: Zoe Saldana: When Casting Agents Say “We Want To Go White”

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