Sidibe doesn’t conform to Hollywood’s narrow beauty requirements for romantic leads and stars: actresses should be white women, preferably blonde.
Until Hollywood’s executives start looking more like Sidibe and less like Harvey Weinstein, the fat, white guy who founded Miramax, Sidibe’s going to have trouble getting roles.
Because Hollywood is run by white men, their counterparts will star in films regardless of their weight (see Jack Black or any Judd Apatow movie) or age (Daniel Day Lewis, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Denzel washington, Pierce Brosnan, the list goes on and on) or acting ability (Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise). In producing films, white men get to play God just like they do on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, creating their fantasies and selling them to the public. There’s nothing wrong with putting your imaginative stories out into the world, but there needs to be some diversity in the power structure so that other people get opportunities to make their dreams come true too.
There is some evidence Hollywood is slowly changing. The reason “Precious” got made at all is because African Americans busted through the racial/ class barrier. Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry got successful and got rich, so they were able to make and promote a movie. Successful black women in Hollywood include Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Cicely Tyson, Traji Henson, Viola Davis, and Zoe Saldana.
There are more to be added to the list, but they remain a tiny minority. A woman couldn’t be much skinner or “conventionally beautiful,” than Saldana, the light skinned, African-American star of “Avatar” and “Star Trek.” Saldana says in Us Weekly: “In Hollywood, you hear things like ‘Oh, they loved you but they want to go more traditional.’ That’s the new n-word.”
But when it comes to race in Hollywood, even shock jock Howard Stern skates the issue, sticking with the socially acceptable bias, making fun of fat people. On his Sirius talk radio show, Stern said of Sidibe, “There’s the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen. She is enormous. Everyone’s pretending she’s a part of show business and she’s never going to be in another movie. She should have gotten the Best Actress award because she’s never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?” Stern says of Oprah’s speech to Sidibe: “Oprah’s another liar…telling an enormous woman the size of a planet that she’s going to have a career.””
Actress/ signer, Jessica Simpson, no stranger to viscious criticism about her weight, defends Sidibe, but also avoids the race issue, saying of Stern’s comments: “It’s unfortunate because she walked the red carpet at the Oscars and she owned it. She was beautiful. There was no denying that she did not think she was the most beautiful person on that red carpet. She was just owning that moment for herself. She had such confidence and I absolutely 100 percent think she could get anything in the world that she wanted.”
Confidence can only get you so far when white guys run Hollywood. Simpson knows that. Supposedly, in her new show, “The Price of Beauty,” Simpson researched this. I wish Simpson had said something like: “I’ve just done a program abut exploring different standards of beauty around the globe, and here in Southern California, Gabourey has three strikes against her as far as getting part she wants in movies: she’s fat, she’s black, and she’s a woman.”
Here are the Hollywood stats from Martha M. Lauzen’s annual study “The Celluloid Ceiling.” I don’t know what the breakdown is on race.
In Hollywood, women make up:
7% of directors
8% of writers
17% of executive producers
23% of producers
18% of editors
2% of cinematographers
Sidibe does have parts lined up for herself: an upcoming feature film co-starring Zoe Kravitz called “Yelling to the Sky,” and a recurring part in Showtime’s new dark comedy series, “The Big C,” which also stars Laura Linney and Oliver Platt. She also has some powerful people backing her like Winfrey and Perry. But until there are some major changes in the Hollywood power structure, Sidibe will need a back up career