Aja Naomi King is joining Emily Ratajkowski, Zoey Deutch, Alexandra Daddario, and Janelle Monáe as one of the cover girls of Marie Claire’s Fresh Faces May issue. The How to Get Away With Murder star spoke candidly about her experience as a Black woman in Hollywood, and shared a fear that reflects a heartbreaking truth about the industry’s lack of diversity.
Prefacing her confession with “Maybe I'm outdated in thinking this,” King told the magazine that she still struggles with the possibility that she might not be able to find work in her field. “Because I'm a young black woman and don't see very many being the lead in a film, I have this fear, Will I be working?” Unfortunately, King is actually not a victim of irrational, outdated thinking. Her fear is right on par with the current state of Hollywood, which seems to be in a struggling uphill battle to get its shit together in terms of diversity. There simply aren’t enough roles for the amount of talented actresses of color. And they’re likely to be underpaid for roles when they get them.
In fact, King didn’t even think that she could aspire to have the strong role she currently holds on HTGAWM. She recalls, “When I first started in this industry, my goal was to be some best friend. The sidekick. I thought that would be an accomplishment.” It’s infuriatingly sad that King felt acutely aware that working in Hollywood would most likely mean settling for a background role. Most people expect to have to work their way up in their career, but King previously considered “the sidekick” as an end goal, not a stepping stone.
Luckily for her — and for us, to be honest — she found inspiration and encouragement from the other Black girls around her. “Seeing people like Viola and Tracee Ellis Ross and Gabrielle Union and Lupita [Nyong'o] — who was two classes behind me at Yale — I can hope for more." Which is reason No. 3,683 that we need more faces of color in Hollywood, so that newcomers can see themselves having a seat at the table.
King found hope in her fellow Black actresses. And I would be remiss not to mention that she found the opportunity to play a role far beyond “sidekick” thanks to another Black woman, Shonda Rhimes. However, there are still too many other Black girls who probably feel like there’s no way for them to win before they even get into the Hollywood race. Hopefully King sharing her story may help them start to see otherwise.