Rashida Jones Reminds Reporter That She's Not Tan, She's "Ethnic"

Photo: REX USA/Picture Perfect.
Red carpet reporters have to interview many celebrities during award show season, so it's only natural that they wouldn't know everything about everyone they encounter. Still, you'd think their respective media outlets would train them for what they shouldn't say when they're speaking to a celebrity about whom it's painfully obvious they know nothing. If TNT hasn't already been doing that for its SAG Awards red carpet emcees, then the network should certainly use this incredibly uncomfortable exchange between Rashida Jones and Danielle Demski to show future interviewers what not to do.

"You look like you've just come off an island or something. You're very tan, very tropical," Demski told Jones during this encounter on the red carpet at the SAG Awards on Sunday.

"I mean, you know, I'm ethnic," Jones said.

"Me too," Demski's co-interviewer JD Heyman chimed in, which made no sense. 

"Shows me nothing," Demski immediately tried to laugh it off in a way that also didn't work.

Rashida Jones is the daughter of Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton, and she has spoken about her mixed ethnicity many times. In one particularly all-encompassing interview that Jones did with her sister Kidada for Glamour in 2005, the sisters discussed their very different experiences of growing up biracial.

Kidada said that even in preschool, she identified more with being black, while her sister "passed" for white. 

Rashida didn't agree with that assessment. "'Passed?!' I had no control over how I looked. This is my natural hair, these are my natural eyes! I’ve never tried to be anything that I’m not. Today I feel guilty, knowing that because of the way our genes tumbled out, Kidada had to go through pain I didn’t have to endure. Loving her so much, I’m sad that I’ll never share that experience with her."

Their mother elaborated. "Kidada never wanted to be white. She spoke with a little…twist in her language. She had ‘tude. Rashida spoke more primly, and her identity touched all bases. She’d announce, 'I’m going to be the first female, black, Jewish president of the U.S.!'"

Still, other people had — and continue to have — trouble with the different adjectives Rashida would use to describe herself. "I get: 'But you look so white!' 'You’re not black!' I want to say: 'Do you know how hurtful that is to somebody who identifies so strongly with half of who she is?'" Kidada told Glamour that "Rashida has it harder than I do: She can feel rejection from both parties." 

"When I audition for white roles, I’m told I’m 'too exotic.' When I go up for black roles, I’m told I’m 'too light.' I’ve lost a lot of jobs, looking the way I do," Rashida said. 

That last statement sounds a lot like what happened on the red carpet. Yes, it was just a quick award-show interview, but it reflected a greater ignorance. It's clear from the rest of the encounter that Demski and Heyman know very little about Rashida Jones — she hasn't been on Parks and Recreation for a while now, for example — but, oof... The interviewers' comments belie an uncomfortable base-level assumption that celebrities are white, and that slightly darker skin indicates a recent tropical vacation, rather than another ethnicity.
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