straight outta compton or the jim crow era?

ice-cube-director-f-gary-gray-and-dr-dre-pose-with-the-cast-of-straight-outta-compton-the-n-w-a-biopicfor some, the idea that universal pictures is planning to make a movie about the highly influential “gangsta rap” group nwa is a tremendous accomplishment; it demonstrates another facet of the black experience that is being shared with a larger audience.  however, according to the group doing casting for the film, depicting the lives of easy-e, dr. dre and ice cube also includes stereotypical depictions of black women.

in a listing released last week, the group called for women in four categories:

SAG OR NON UNION CASTING NOTICE FOR FEMALES-ALL ETHNICITIES- from the late 80′s. Shoots on “Straight Outta Compton”. Shoot date TBD. We are pulling photos for the director of featured extras. VERY IMPORTANT – You MUST live in the Los Angeles area (Orange County is fine too) to work on this show. DO NOT SUBMIT if you live out of the area. Nobody is going to be flying into LA to do extra work on this show – and don’t tell me you are willing to fly in.


A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: A GIRLS

B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.comsubject line should read: B GIRLS

C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: C GIRLS

D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: D GIRLS

not only are the women categorized by body type, but also by hair and skin complexion — it sounds like a video vixen auction block. such blatant colorism has led universal to distance itself from the casting agent.

as a “medium to dark skin tone” african american woman, the most hurtful part about the listing is that it put in black and white what any conscious observer already knew.  the standard of beauty does not include those considered dark skinned. disturbingly, this isn’t a movie starring a majority white cast where a racially ambiguous woman is needed to play the witty sidekick, but instead a film about black people starring black people and black women who fail the brown paper bag test are still relegated to the back of the bus. even with our precious lupita nyong’o, girls like us continue to struggle to get positive and varied depictions in mainstream media.  yesterday, the casting agent issued an apology for the advertisement, but it was too little too late. colorism is much bigger than one movie.

Weekend Wear 7.21.14


hey good people, i hope you enjoyed your weekend! i was in these streets, busy celebrating a friend’s birthday, vintage shopping for a photo shoot and enjoying lunch with friends at jaleo. i haven’t pulled out this city of  compton t-shirt since my first shoot with michael idiokitas, and it seemed like the best “eff you” to the casting agent who would have placed me in the lowest category for the forthcoming straight outta compton movie. check out my next post for details about the film.

shirt, urban outfitters (sold out) | shorts, urban outfitters (similar here) | hat, h&m (similar here)

Crush of the Week: Professor Tanisha C. Ford

the heavens opened and sent us professor tanisha c. ford, a scholar who studies fashion and feminism with a focus on women of color.  as an assistant professor of women, gender and sexuality at university of massachusetts amherst, she knows her stuff.

tanishacford_1342307948_45-274x300in an interview with feministing, professor ford talked about the inspiration behind her forthcoming book, liberated threads: black women and the politics of adornment:

when i was a kid, [my mother] use to adorn me in african-printed garments and “black is beautiful” t-shirts. as a graduate student, i began researching the civil rights and black power era. i realized that the way that black women activists like my mother dressed mattered because their bodies were contested spaces.  my interest in these stylish women sent me on a quest to understand how and why they adorned themselves in this way.

her book sounds like the politics & fashion manifesto with its investigation of “how black women in the united states, britain and south africa transformed the everyday act of getting dressed into a political strategy.” well, it looks like we have our first bookclub pick!


outside of the academy, you can find professor ford on twitter at @soulistaphd and writing for the feminist wire.

an african city



an african city has been labeled the african version of sex and the city, but a better description is a view into the complex realities afropolitians face when they return home.  created by writer nicole amarteifio, the webseries features five women who left their lives in america to seek fulfillment, meaningful careers and love in ghana. check out the first episode below:

is natural hair only for black women or nah?

natural hair blog curly nikki has been in the natural hair game for a minute. helping to build the natural hair movement, both the website and its founder, nikki walton, have increasingly gained national attention over the past few years. writer jamilah lemieux fired shots at the popular blog last week after it featured a white woman’s natural hair journey (pictured below) on its website. Curly Nikki

in an article titled “white women on #teamnatural?” no thanks,” jamilah stated:

community is important.  black spaces are important, and in the era of self-proclaimed “new blacks” and the gentrification of both black popular culture and neighborhoods, they are increasingly rare. so when the sacred sanctity of black girl space was violated via the inclusion of a white woman on a natural hair blog, it should come as no surprise that a number of people were disappointed. and i’ll admit, i was one of them.

throughout her opinion piece, jamilah was very unapologetic about advocating for spaces uniquely for black women.  she goes on to speak about the commodification of the natural hair movement and cultural appropriation writ large.

not surprising, nikki walton responded on her site; here’s an excerpt:

now, unless you’ve been in the natural hair game for less than 15 minutes, you know this whole argument is old as hell. i’ve come down clearly on the side of inclusion before.  the reasons are simple, but i’ll state them again. success in the natural hair movement is defined by the total acceptance of our hair by ourselves, and then ultimately, others.  i and other bloggers have been working hard to make the natural hair movement popular. it’s obvious now that our impact on the hair care industry and popular culture has been tremendous. generally, this has led to good outcomes like a crap load more product options, and a warmer reception among friends, family and colleagues. without popularity, none of this would have been possible. however, we can’t have popularity without sacrificing privacy. is it worth the trade? hmmm…who knows. as a practical matter, what i do know, is that it is difficult to try to make something popular and accepted by not sharing it with others.

as an attorney, i’m not often neutral in arguments. in fact, i typically choose a side just to argue for sport, but this one is sticky. what say you politics and fashion family? is the term “natural hair” only for black women or nah?