Forbes has released the 2019 list of the ten highest-paid actresses, and no African-American actress made top spot.
Interestingly, the list was released just a few days after the Black Women’s Equal Pay Day 2019 on August 22. This year’s edition recognized day the significant pay gap plaguing women of colour across all industries.
Despite the success of women of colour and African-Americans in the movie entertainment industry, it was surprising that only one woman of colour made the Top 10 list. Colombian-American actress Sofia Vergara was the only woman of colour to make the Top 10.
The list has continued to draw criticism from stakeholders in the industry who claim that it reveals the marginalization in the sector.
Renowned American writer, producer and director Ava DuVernay took to Twitter to express her concern saying the pay gap “is true in every industry. Hollywood included.”
Dr Darnell Hunt, a professor of sociology and African-American studies at UCLA and co-author of the 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report, also shared her opinion.
“Given the fact that Hollywood is a white, male-dominated industry, it’s not surprising that you would find women of colour underpaid relative to pretty much every other group,” she said.
However, Hollywood Directors have defended the industry saying that women of colour are not often paid less on a role-to-role basis.
A Forbes source confirms that Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington both got paid an estimated $1 million for every episode of the upcoming Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere.
Some industry players have mentioned that it’s the frequency at which they appear in lead roles, compared to other groups that contributes to the earnings shortage among women of colour.
As such, if this is this case, why did popular lead actresses like Lupita Nyong’ o, Tiffany Haddish and Viola Davis not appear on this year’s list.
“If black women, Asian women and Latinas are underrepresented in leading film roles, they’re probably less likely to be among the top earners if you start looking at salaries,” says Hunt.
Actresses themselves have been vocalizing their pay gap frustrations. When news surfaced that Tracee Ellis Ross was paid significantly less than her Black-ish co-star Anthony Anderson, Ellis Ross joined the conversation via Twitter, saying:
“I wanted to be compensated in a way that matches my contribution to a show that I love for many reasons, including the opportunity it allows me to reshape what it is to be a fully realized black woman on TV.”
Viola Davis, also shedding light on the event exacerbated struggles older women of colour face. She opened up about the feeling of being underpaid and undervalued throughout her career at the 2018 Women in the World Los Angeles Salon.
“People say, ‘You’re a black Meryl Streep. There is no one like you,” Davis explained in the interview.
“OK, then if there’s no one like me, you think I’m that you pay me what I’m worth. People who are making decisions about what films make affect who the stars are going to be,” added Hunt.
She further questioned, “If men are making movies about men, then women are going to be secondary roles, for the most part, right?”
Should we be worried? What are your thoughts?