Colorism, the cousin to racism, plays an active role in Hollywood. Most times mainstream media assumes diversity means casting a few racially ambiguous actors to their films. Unfortunately, the discriminatory practice has been etched into our society, even within our own artistry.
Actress Vanessa Calloway is shedding some light on her casting experience as Imani Izzi in the iconic film “Coming to America,” released in 1988. In the movie, Calloway played the woman Eddie Murphy’s character Prince Akeem was supposed to marry. Instead, he voyaged to Queens, NY to find Lisa, played by Shari Headley, another beautiful actress with a lighter skin tone.
Calloway auditioned for Lisa’s role but was encouraged to play Imani instead. “When you have white people hiring Black people in movies, sometimes a certain look is wanted,” Calloway said in an interview with Page Six. She firmly believes that for Lisa’s character, executives “wanted a light-skinned girl. I just wasn’t light enough, even though Eddie had the final say on who played Lisa.”
“I didn’t want the part of Imani, I wanted to be Lisa — I had read the script and I wanted the bigger role,” Calloway continued. “At that point, I knew I was not going to get Lisa. So I went outside in the hallway, looked over the part with five minutes of preparation, went back in, and did the best I could.”
Despite knowing her worth, Calloway settled for the role of Imani. “The real deal is, when you’re in a situation like that, you wanna be a part of an Eddie Murphy movie. I wasn’t gonna say no! I would’ve loved to have had the lead part, but I was very happy to be in the movie. I can’t lie about that. I said, ‘I’ll make the best out of this and I’ll be the best.’ It was a smaller role but it was a glamorous part to play. And Shari did a great job,” she said.
What do you think? Are you surprised by Vanessa Calloway’s claims of colorism?
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