Sunday, August 16, 2015

On My Mind: The Incomplete List

This weekend has been all about the ladies, for me. It really started Thursday night. I try to stay a couple days of my blog and set things up to post at least that far in advance. That hasn’t been the case, lately. I did, and still do, have reviews waiting for me to post, but for whatever reason I didn’t feel like typing any of those up. Then I realized I hadn’t done a birthday list in quite a while so I checked into who would be celebrating a big day on Friday. For the record, August 14 is a rich day for movie star birthdays. However, I only wanted to focus on one person and chose the one whose work I was most familiar with, allowing me to quickly put together a post on them. That was Halle Berry. An hour or two later, I had a list of her top 10 performances ready to roll.

This led me to scroll back through the posts I still have in “draft” status back behind the curtains. One of them was a list of Top 10 Actresses of Color Who Deserve Bigger Careers. It was nothing more than a list of thirty or so potential names. It was something I knew I wanted to do, but didn’t know when. What better time than the day after discussing the career of one of the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Actress. I failed to mention the irony of this on that list, but Berry’s work as Dorothy Dandridge did make the cut. Dandridge was the first African-American to even be nominated for the award. What of other women of color who have chosen to pursue acting as a profession? I can’t personally give any of them bigger, better careers. What I could do was give some of them at least a tiny bit more recognition than they had before I sat down at my computer. They may never even know that I did this, but it makes me feel better.

Why is there a need for such a list? That’s one of the questions that repeatedly struck me as I working on it. We already know of Hollywood’s diversification problems when it comes to who makes it onto the big screen. But why? I won’t rehash the whole argument and/or dive deep into the eco-socio-political reasons for this. I’m just going to say that it saddens me this is the case. If parts were truly given on the basis of who the best qualified performers are, a lot of this would work itself out. Woah. I feel myself stepping onto the soap-box, so I’ll stop there.

If you’ve ever made a list, one thing you quickly figure out is that you’re going to screw it up. As I was working on it, I was going back through all the titles I personally reviewed and googling anything I thought might turn up an actress of color and I still didn’t get it quite right. By limiting myself to a top ten, I was already conceding the fact that there would be snubs. However, I wanted to limit these as much as possible. I thought I did a great job. At least, I felt that way until I actually hit the ‘publish’ button when I got done after about five solid hours of research, writing, and finding pictures that didn’t feature the ladies in bikinis, their underwear, or less. Of course, stopping to ogle such pictures goes against the idea of making such a list, but I am who I am. I even entertained the idea of posting some of those pics. The clearer head prevailed and I did not. This ain’t that type of site.

After the list went public, and I tweeted its existence to the world, I trudged off to bed since it was after 2 AM. Once my head hit the pillow I started thinking of actresses I left off. Eventually, I got to sleep despite the names popping in and out of my head. They were still heavy on my mind when I woke up. The very first thing I did when I opened my eyes was grab my phone, check the site for comments and head off to Twitter to see if anyone called me an idiot for excluding someone. Thankfully, you were all tactful enough not to insult me, but you did mention some more great names. Rather than go into lengthy exposition about any of them, I’m just going to put them on display. Some of these came from you. Others came from me. Not saying which is which because that’s irrelevant. If you notice a name you suggested, just silently applaud yourself and know that you have my gratitude. The important part is just giving them a little bit of shine.

Anika Noni Rose
Jurnee Smollett


Alfre Woodard

Monica Calhoun

Diahann Carroll

Regina King

Rashida Jones

Lonette McKee

Yaya DaCosta

Vanessa Hudgens

Feel free to let me know of more that I missed. If you have no idea what all this was about, click here to see the original list.


  1. Great additions including my beloved Alfre, I did think of Loretta Devine and while I'd love to see her have a bigger career she has a solid one in character roles and that seems to suit her particular gifts. LOVED her in Eli Stone, but then I loved everything in that offbeat series.

    1. Thanks. I think you hit the nail on the head for Loretta Devine...and the similarly talented Octavia Spencer, another name I considered.

    2. Love Octavia too. I think either she or Loretta could break through to high profile TV stardom if they found the proper vehicle as Angela Lansbury, who had a similar if considerably longer career as a go to supporting character actress, did with Murder, She Wrote.

      However I'm glad the idea was abandoned to bring a rejiggered version of that series back with Octavia in the lead. Some type of mystery series might work for her but MSW suited Lansbury like a tight glove as Prime Suspect did with Helen Mirren. She needs to create or have created something that is fashioned like that specifically for her.

    3. I'd love to see something like that.

  2. GURL, stop stealing names off my upcoming list!

    1. Ok, Okay fine. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

  3. Thank you for this list. It's a list that is frequently ignored. There are so many wonderful actresses of color who have not the opportunities I wish they would have had. Besides Zoe Saldana, Kerry Washington, and Viola Davis, I can't think of too many A-list black actresses receiving top roles. Diahann Carroll is perhaps my favorite actress of all time. Whenever I write a part (in my short stories) for a beautiful black matriarch I picture her. I would add Carmen Ejogo to your list. and Bianca Lawson (former Buffy alum) and so many others to this list.

    1. Thank you for your words. I will mention that Carmen Ejogo is actually part of the original list from yesterday's post.

  4. Alfre Woodard is sooo awesome! She's had such a varied career and been in so many things but she hasn't been given the big roles that she so clearly deserves!