Following an outpouring of outrage over L.A. Times magazine The Envelope's tone-deaf cover photo of actors "shifting the focus" in Hollywood that featured only white (and mostly blonde) women, Jessica Chastain is speaking out.
After the cover image of Annette Bening, Diane Kruger, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Kate Winslet, and Chastain was published, many on Twitter expressed a desire for the Molly's Game star, an outspoken ally to women and people of color, to explain her participation. An excellent thread on the topic came from WNYC reporter Rebecca Carroll, who asked Chastain how as "as an outspoken voice for equality" she could pose for the image and "not feel absolutely mortified by the blatant exclusion."
Chastain — the only cover star thus far to speak out on the matter — responded by denouncing the cover, calling it "a sad look" to not include women of color and praising Salma Hayek's work in Beatriz at Dinner as her favorite leading role by a woman of color from the past year. Her next tweet, however, addressed a major casting problem with films: Chastain was unable to think of five WOC who had starring roles in movies in 2017.
Multiple people responded to Chastain with praise for Mary J. Blige's turn in the recently released Netflix film, Mudbound, but Chastain pointed out that while excellent, she was in a supporting role rather than a lead. The same for Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip, a film whose entire cast got mentioned repeatedly in response to Chastain's query. And shout-outs rolled in for Jessica Williams in The Incredible Jessica James as well as Ahn Seo-hyun in Okja, both of which were released straight to streaming platforms and may not be heavy on the minds of Golden Globe- and Oscar-voters without a theatrical release.
Stephanie Beatriz of Brooklyn Nine-Nine jumped in to suggest Chastain watch The Light of the Moon, in which she has a starring role.
Chastain makes a good point, that echoes something Carroll said in her original series of tweets to Chastain: Hollywood is not doing enough to put WOC into leading roles. And, as some mentioned in Chastain's comments, she could do more both as a producer to put WOC in those lead roles and as an actress by objecting when opportunities like this come up in which no WOC are included.
Seeing WOC on screen in movies at all levels, from prestige to blockbuster to streaming, shouldn't be an anomaly. Telling the stories of POC and amplifying needs to be a bigger priority, particularly for individuals who have the power to make it a reality. As Carroll puts it best, "I cannot help but to think of the young black girls and girls of color who see an image like this whether aspiring actresses or not and instantaneously getting the message that there is no place for them in mainstream, valued America."
Correction: This article has been edited and updated to include attribution to Rebecca Carroll's original Twitter thread.
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