Scandal star Kerry Washington’s star keeps rising, as she made history as the first African-American woman in eight years to grace the cover of Vanity Fair alone (This follows her first high-fashion magazine cover on Elle’s June cover).
Host Melissa Harris-Perry and her Saturday panel discussed the American media’s representation of black women, often classified as lacking, misguided, incomplete, or simply erroneous. There was a consensus among the panelists that Washington’s successful cover turn is important to black women.
“It’s not to say that this means more, but it is an affirmation,” said Issa Rae, creator and star of the hit web series “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.”
Yet there were other representations that were more problematic for the panel. The choice to have actress Zoe Saldana portray legendary soul singer Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic has drawn much criticism not for the film’s star, but for the choice to have her portray someone who many feel she looks nothing like.
“I think casting someone who looks nothing like her and then happening to have the prosthetics added, just something about it doesn’t feel right. And it also doesn’t feel affirmative for all the actresses who look more like Nina Simone and who they could have cast,” said Joy Reid, the managing editor of theGrio.
University of Pennsylvania religion professor Anthea Butler took it one step further. “It’s like as though blackness is interchangeable for them.” She added, “To just put her in that spot I think denigrates all of us in a different kind of way because it just says we will set the standard of what your beauty is and you don’t know what it is.”